Bamidbar – 5764
The Book of BaMidbar and Yom
This past Wednesday was “Yom Yerushalayim,”
the 37th anniversary of the uniting of the Holy City during the Six Day War
of June, 1967. At that time, events occurred that had all the earmarks of
“Nisim Nistarim,” Hidden Miracles. Once again, for the first time in nearly
2,000 years, the Jewish People were in control of both the Holy Land and the
Holy City, with the potential for rebuilding the Holy Temple. I thought it
appropriate to write a certain type of D’var Torah for Shabbat Parashat
BaMidbar, which begins the description of the forty year sojourn of the
Children of Israel through the Wilderness. These ancestors of ours were a
People that had witnessed “Nisim G’luyim,” Open Miracles in Egypt, at
the Sea, and at Sinai, who had tasted “bread from Heaven,” who had perhaps
seen and experienced too much to ever again be satisfied with a
normal life, and had therefore defaulted on their contractual and covenantal
relationship with the “Ribbono shel Olam;” thereby forfeiting the
opportunity to enter the Holy Land. That type of D’var Torah is a brief
biography of one who had witnessed and experienced a time period in which
the Holy One had kept Himself profoundly hidden.
Menachem Begin witnessed and experienced the Holocaust, a black period in
Jewish History, about which one is permitted to ask questions, but can
expect no answers. He experienced the suffering of the Jewish People in full
measure, but maintained his faith in his Creator and in his people. He was
one of the Great Jewish Leaders, certainly of the twentieth century, perhaps
of all time. He was born in Brest-Litovsk in 1913. He became very familiar
with the classic Jewish sources: the Bible, the Mishnah and Gemara, and the
Siddur. He became intimately familiar with Jewish History. A passionate
Zionist from his youth, he joined Z’ev Jabotinsky’s Betar Youth Movement in
his teens, becoming the leader of Betar of Poland, an organization of
100,000 members, organized to defend Polish Jewry and to help provide the
transport of “illegal” immigrants to Israel.
Begin became the operational head of the “Irgun Z’vai Leumi,” the National
Military Organization that confronted the British, in their attempts to
suppress Jewish immigration to Palestine after the Holocaust.
He organized the Akko prison breakout and the destruction of the central
administrative offices of the British at the King David Hotel, providing
early warning to the British so that they could save their lives. Although
some make foolish comparisons, it is clear that it as an obscenity to
mention Begin’s name in the same sentence as today’s bloodthirsty
In Israel’s War of Independence, Begin combined the forces of the “Irgun”
with those of the “Haganah” (the official defense force of the fledgling
state), and after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Begin
disbanded the “Irgun” and led the opposition party in the Israeli government
for 29 years, until he became Prime Minister in 1977. Some of his diplomatic
achievements that may some day bear fruit was his initiation of the “peace
process” with Egypt and his invitation to the late Anwar al-Sadat, President
of Egypt, to address the “K’nesset,” the Israeli Parliament.
One of his greatest acts as Prime Minister was ordering the destruction by
the Israeli Air Force of the Iraqi nuclear reactor in Osiraq in 1981, an act
that saved the world from calamity at the hands of a rogue Iraqi nuclear
power, an act which was, naturally, roundly condemned by the United Nations.
Why does the world today forget those ominous days, when it attempts to
evaluate Iraq’s mischief-making capability?
He encouraged Ethiopian Jews to immigrate to Israel, resulting in Operation
Moses, that brought thousands of Jews to Israel.
When he spoke at the U.N., his speech and its poor translation highlighted a
problem of the Jewish State. Many of his references to Jewish sources went
right over the heads of the Israeli translators, and foreshadowed the need
and the struggle in Israel for more intensive Jewish education.
In a poignant demonstration of the truth of the idiom that behind every
great man stands a great woman, following the death in 1982 of his beloved
wife, Aliza, Begin retired from public life. He passed away in 1992, and was
buried on the Mount of Olives in his beloved Jerusalem. Parashat BaMidbar -
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel