Humanity at the Abyss
June 27, 2002
Today is the 17th day of Tammuz, the day on which the walls of Jerusalem were breached following a prolonged siege. The story hasn't changed much, though there does seem to be some role reversal: today, it is Israel that is building a wall around Jerusalem and through the country, voluntarily entering into a state of siege. Today is a fast day that begins a 3 week period of national mourning, culminating with the fast of Tisha B'Av, the day on which both the First and Second Temples were destroyed. The historical precedent for sorrow on that day, leading to the anguish of later generations, began with the debacle of the men who journeyed to spy out the Land of Canaan, and the negative report that 10 of them delivered to the people of Israel. The Torah records that Israel's lack of self-confidence and negative self-image played a major role in that fiasco, and it was that lack of self-confidence which exploded into baseless national hysteria:
"The Land through which we have passed is a land that devours its inhabitants! All the people that we saw in it were huge! There we saw... the sons of the giant... we were like grasshoppers in our eyes, and so we were in their eyes!"
"The entire assembly lifted up their voice and cried, and the people wept that night (Tisha B'Av)." (Num. 13,14)
Our rabbis have commented that "even if they felt like grasshoppers, it doesn't mean that others perceived them as grasshoppers". What right did the spies have to interpolate their own feelings of vulnerability on others? How could they assume how others view them? It's that old Jewish self-image problem, judging ourselves by our fear of what others will say. This is what causes us to build walls around ourselves, instead of around our enemies. It leads to disaster, as we are taught: "G-d said, 'Because you cried that night for no reason, I will see to it that in the future you have a reason to cry on that night'."
Last week, we read the Torah portion of Balak (Num. 22-25), in which the Moabite king Balak engaged the powerful heathen prophet Balaam to curse the Jewish people. "Please come and curse this people for me, for it is too powerful for me, perhaps I will be able to strike it and drive it away from the land." Balak was counting on Balaam to settle his Jewish problem and was waiting breathlessly for the latter to arrive to give his speech. How coincidental that all throughout last week, the week of the Torah portion of Balaam's speech, the world waited breathlessly for President Bush's address on the Middle East. Reports indicated that contrary to the "Bush Doctrine" of fighting terror, the President was poised to call for the immediate declaration of a "provisional" Palestinian state, thus effectively rewarding 20 months of unmitigated terror that has claimed the lives of over 550 Israelis, created hundreds of widows and orphans, and maimed thousands for life.
But inconveniently for those who seek to curse Israel, that discourse had to be postponed repeatedly, as throughout last week tens of Israeli men, women, and infants, including a grandmother and her toddler granddaughter, and a mother with three of her children, were brutally murdered, in cold blood, in near-daily attacks by bloodthirsty Arab... creatures. "Creatures" I say, because the exact biological classification of these murderers presents some difficulty. They are not animals, because animals only kill to eat. Anyone who has seen photographs of the bodies of the Israeli soldiers lynched in Ramallah or the two young boys murdered in the cave near Tekoa, anyone who has seen the many pictures of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl's murder on the internet, knows that animals would never do what was done to these.
Outwardly, these monsters appear to be human beings. Yet mothers who carried them in the womb and bring them into this world, joyously encourage their children to kill themselves. Are not human mothers generally known for zealously protecting their children, cherishing them and protecting them with their own life? Are there any mothers reading this? What would you not do to keep your child alive for even one more moment? But these are mothers who make send-off video clips with their sons, both brandishing assault rifles, joyously anticipating the son's death and the death he is about to inflict upon other children. These are fathers who say that their only regret is that they don't have another 70 children who could die so that more Jews would die, but even so this one will be an example to the other siblings. "How beautiful it is to kill and to be killed," wrote one bomber in a note. Hizballah's Secretary General Nasrallah revealed the truth in a recent interview: "We have discovered how to hit the Jews where they are the most vulnerable. The Jews love life, so that is what we shall take away from them. We are going to win, because they love life and we love death."
Is there any other "people" in the world that has elevated cold-blooded murder to a position of worship? Is there any other "people" in the world who are so amorous of killing that mothers who gave birth to children, gleefully send them off to kill themselves? It has been pointed out that even the Nazis, who had previously been unsurpassed in their hatred for the Jews, were not willing to kill themselves or their children for the sake of killing Jews. And all of this is done as a religious duty, in the name of a god who promises Paradise. Even in the idolatrous rites of Moloch of old, so despised by G-d, parents sent their children through the fires, but they were not sent to murder others. The new Palestinian Moloch has surpassed all previous forms of death worship; an all-encompassing orgy of killing for its own sake. Yet British Prime Minister Tony Blair's wife Cheri and others have expressed "understanding and compassion" for these humanoids, still propagating the myth that their actions are caused by "hopelessness." These monsters are not hopeless. The bombers have been educated young people, some pursuing degrees, some engaged to be married. On the contrary, they are quite hopeful, for they have been taught that their hope lies in the demise of every last Jew, and the world has taught them that terrorism pays. By equating the perpetrators with the victims, by comparing the suffering of parents whose child has been murdered with the suffering of the family who has sent their son off to kill that child, these actions are condoned... and the boundaries of what it means to be a human being become blurred. All of humanity stands poised at the abyss. Once over the edge, there is no return.
Palestinian "squalor" is self-induced, since Arafat lines his own pockets with millions of dollars from donor countries, and uses the rest to finance terror... like the $20,000 payment he authorized for the Al Aksa Brigades, a part of his organization who claimed responsibility for some of last week's victims. Consider this: if it is hopelessness that is causing this phenomenon, there is hopelessness all over the world. Despair is not unique to the Middle East; there is even worse despair in other places. Why is that no other people in the world have taught their own children to become professional death machines? No other people in the world have declared a love affair with death. This region will appear "hopeless" until the rest of the world will take off the blinders of political correctness and summon the courage to admit the truth... that Israel is dealing with an insidious force the likes of which the world has never seen. "Stand here by your burnt offering," Balaam said to Balak, "and I will see if G-d happens upon me." We have been standing by our burnt offerings long enough. Human look-alikes are burning Jewish children alive. And Israel should be left alone to deal with this situation exactly as it should be dealt with.
"...any man from the Children of Israel and from the stranger who lives with Israel, who shall give his seed to Moloch, shall be put to death. The people of the land shall pelt him with stones. I shall set My face upon that man, and I shall cut him off from among his people... But if the people of the land avert their eyes from that man when he gives from his offspring to Moloch, not to put him to death - then I shall set My face against that man and upon his family... " (Lev. 20)
In addition to appearing human, these Arabs also appear to be very religious. All their frenzied slaughter is done as a religious duty, in the name of a god who promises Paradise in return for dead Jews.
Balaam also appears to be extremely religious - saying "Even if Balak will give me his houseful of silver and gold, I cannot transgress the word of the L-rd, my G-d" - he still went and did just that. Though it was against G-d's will - "G-d's wrath flared because he was going" - He was all for trying to curse Israel, and did his very best.
On his way over to curse the Jewish people, Balaam came to a "tight place, with a fence on this side and a fence on that side." An angel stood to greet him, ready to confront him over his zeal to curse Israel. The angel went further and stood in "a narrow place, where there was no room to turn right or left." Balaam was a wicked prophet who prided himself on his spiritual visions. But on this particular occasion he could not see that which stood directly in front of him... he was less spiritually attuned than his own ass. The beast perceived the angel of G-d who stood positioned to block the excursion, and she wanted nothing to do with the mission.
Balaam continued with his plan, but was not successful. Although he tried twice, looking at a portion of the camp of Israel from two different vantage points, he saw that G-d would not allow him to curse. The words got mixed up, twisted around inside his mouth, and just wouldn't come out the way he wanted. Beautiful blessings came out instead, much to Balak's chagrin.
Balaam was not used to this situation... not being in control of his own mouth. His ass, however, was by contrast intelligent and articulate. Nachmanides teaches that the purpose of the miracle was to show Balaam that if a beast could speak intelligently, then surely Balaam could be forced to say what G-d wanted him to say.
Balak was angry and discouraged - after all, they had an agreement - but then he hit upon an idea, to utilize Israel's own negativity, as the Midrash relates. "Balak said to Balaam, Even if G-d does not allow you to curse, it doesn't matter. When the Jews look up and see you standing up here and moving your lips, they will think that you're cursing them, even if you are really blessing them. So the words don't really matter... "
Thus we see more grave consequences of the same predisposition towards negativity that was present in the spies' report. Indeed, the affliction of our own lack of confidence is our enemy's best weapon, and they know it, too.
As everyone knows, cursing the Jewish people is an extremely popular pastime today as well. There are many different "vantage points" from which to look at Israel in order to formulate the curse, as Balak told Balaam: "Go now with me to a different place from which you will see them, however, you will see its edge but not see all of it - and you will curse it from there."
There are many "places," vantage points from which to look upon the Jews in order to curse them, and each is politically correct in its proper time. We're not against Jews, we're just against Zionists... or Occupiers, or Settlers, or whichever direction the current evil eye is looking.
And so on his third attempt to curse Israel, seeing that G-d was insistent upon blessing them, Balaam set his face towards the wilderness. Those who seek to curse Israel can never see more than the edge. They will never have a full clear picture, an understanding of who these people are. Not wanting to recognize who the Jewish people really are, what they have accomplished, and the benefit they have brought the world, like Balaam they "turn and face the wilderness."
"The words of Balaam son of Beor, the words of the man with the open eye; the words of the one who hears the sayings of G-d, who sees the vision of Shaddai, while fallen and with uncovered eyes... "
These verses emphasize that Balaam, like President Bush, had a "vision thing." For the longest time, and now in his most recent address, President Bush has been talking about his vision: "My vision is two states, living side by side in peace and security." Like Balaam, President Bush found himself in a "tight place." And although he concluded his address by quoting from the Bible, he advocated Israel abandoning the Divinely-appointed right to dwell in all of her land, to become a "narrow place, with no room to turn right or left." But the very Bible from which the President quoted is the only source to our exclusive rights to all of this land. It is also the only source that matters, and the only one that cannot be removed. Can one pick and choose through the Bible, and use only those quotations that are politically expedient?
Our sages state that through the words that Balaam uttered, we can discern what it was that he really wanted to say... the opposite. "Balaam raised his eyes and saw Israel dwelling according to its tribes, and the spirit of G-d was upon him. He declared his parable and said: 'How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel. Stretching out like brooks, like gardens by a river, like aloes planted by G-d, like cedars by water'."
Today this can be translated as "How beautiful are your settlements, O Jacob! Wherever you dwell, you are settlers, O Israel!" For every Jew in the Land of Israel is a "settler" today. Thus we can get a good idea of what it was that Balaam really wanted to say... in the words of President Bush: "Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories must stop." Calling for Arafat to be replaced and declaring his corrupt regime a source of terror is a step in the right direction, because it is the beginning of recognizing that the entire Oslo peace process is based on lies and nothingness. But if surveys of the Palestinian street reveal that over 60% are in favor of suicide bombings, getting rid of Arafat is not enough. Replacing Arafat will not change Arab culture or the way they raise their children.
In concluding his vision for the Middle East, President Bush chose these words from Deuteronomy: "I have set before you life and death, therefore, choose life."Ê Ironically, however, he did not quote the entire verse, nor examine its connection to the next passage. Had he done so, he would have seen that this verse really is the perfect conclusion to his address. We would be well-advised to study it carefully:
"I call heaven and earth today to bear witness against you: I have placed life and death before you, blessing and curse; and you shall choose life, so that you will live, you and your offspring - to love the L-rd your G-d, to listen to His voice and to cleave to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days, to dwell upon the Land that G-d swore to your forefathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them." (Deut. 30:19-20)
With blessings for the Redemption,
PO Box 31876 Jerusalem, Israel 97500
home | about | news | events | study tools | gallery | articles | temple mt. | red heifer | donate | donors wall
Universal Torah | youTube | Facebook | twitter | mikdash kids | bar/bat mitzvah