Nehemiah – Chapter 4

Take a Bite Out of Crime

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Sanvalat and Tovia had attracted a group of Arabs, Ammonites and Ashdodites to their cause. They were most displeased to hear that the wall repairs were proceeding unimpeded, so they decided to pick up arms against the Jews and halt construction by force. Nehemiah and the Jews responded in two ways: they prayed and they established a neighborhood watch to keep an eye out for the first sign of trouble.

The people of Judah had a problem, though. All this aggravation was literally draining them and they lacked the physical strength to continue. They were afraid that the opponents would stage an ambush and kill them all. Even before this problem could be addressed, the workers were visited by some Jews who lived among the opponents. Circumstances had forced them to band with the enemy, but they snuck out to warn the builders of an impending attack. Nehemiah took the advice to heart and placed archers, swordsmen and whatever you would call soldiers with spears. He also encouraged the people to remember G-d and to fight to protect their families.

But espionage works two ways and the enemy found out that the Jews had learned of the attack. The element of surprise lost, they called it off. (We might ascribe all this to circumstances, but Nehemiah acknowledged that it was G-d Who upset the enemy’s plan.)

The work resumed, but from that time forward, half the workers were on construction duty and the other half served as security detail. The contractors were armed, with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other, ever vigilant. Nehemiah noted that the perimeter of the wall was very great and the work groups were often out of sight of one another, so he instructed them to listen for the sound of the shofar and, when it blows, to rush to its source. They also started sleeping over near the work site and staying dressed 24/7, so that they would always be ready for battle.

And yes, we know that “snuck” isn’t a real word.

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