Parashat Tazriah-Metzora: Waiting for a Sign

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waiting hands
19 Apr 2007

Parashat Tazria – Metzora 5767

Part One:

This Dvar Torah is dedicated to a prominent rabbi in “yeshivish” circles in the United States, whom I met last Leil Shabbat (Friday night). He is very learned and a sweet man, who according to his words is awaiting a sign from Hashem that the time has come to return to Eretz Yisrael.

Rashi in the beginning of parashat Tazria comments on the pasuk (Vayikra 12,2)
דבר אל בני ישראל לאמר אשה כי תזריע וילדה זכר וטמאה שבעת ימים כימי נדת דותה תטמא
which deals with the laws regarding a woman whose has just given birth.

Rashi states regarding the sequence of the laws of kosher and nonkosher animals at the end of last week’s parasha Shemini and the laws of childbirth which begin parashat Tazria:

אמר ר’ שמלאי כשם שיצירתו של אדם אחר כל בהמה חיה ועוף במעשה בראשית כך תורתו נתפרשה אחר תורת בהמה חיה ועוף
R. Simlai notes that just as the creation of man followed the creation of the animal world so too do the expounding of the laws of human birth follow the laws of the animals.

The midrash in Bereshit chapter 8 enlarges on R. Simla’ey’s words and says:
The prophet Yeshayahu says, “And the spirit of God rested upon him” (meaning): If man is meritorious we say to him ‘You preceded the angels in creation, but if man is not meritorious we say to him ‘a fly preceded you, a mosquito preceded you, an earthworm preceded you.”

Man has the ability to rise above the angels, but he can also sink below the level of the most primitive life forms.

I am writing this on the 27th of Nisan, the day we in Eretz Yisrael commemorate the holocaust on a national scale.

It is also the sixtieth anniversary of the hanging of four Jewish heroes of the underground by the British in the Akko fortress: Dov Gruner, Mordechai Alkachai, Yechiel Drezner and Eliezer Kashani – HaShem Yikom Damam (May G-d avenge their blood). They were awakened at midnight without prior warning, ordered to don the red clothing of the condemned to die and were led away to be hung. Dov Gruner sang Hatikva while they were being taken away to the gallows room, and succeeded in finishing just when a black hood was put over his head.

The Germans are the personification of the midrash, whereby man sinks lower than the cruelest life forms. They murdered millions of our brothers and sisters. But they had accomplices, not only in the primitive peoples of the Ukraine, Poland, Netherlands France etc, but even the people who gave us Shakespeare and the House of Windsor stand in the docket of the accused for closing the gates to Eretz Yisrael before tens of thousands of Jews who had succeeded in escaping the inferno of Europe. In the name of historical truth, we should not omit the United States, whose president refused to bomb the rail tracks to the concentration camps, when the disruption of the “train schedule” would have saved 10,000 Jews a day at Auschwitz alone.

When the day of judgement will arrive, when the world will be divided between those who aided the chosen people of HaShem and those who harmed us, the German nation will be called to explain their murderous conduct. The German will reply that their hatred of the Jews is genetic, having received it from their progenitor Amalek, the son of Elifaz, the son of Esau. So the Jews should have known that their place was not to be near the German nation. And furthermore, many could have been saved had the United States accepted the escapees, and not close their borders and had England not initiated the White Paper limiting immigration to Eretz Yisrael.

The next to be asked to explain their conduct will be the British government. They will admit that their policy was pro-Arab and hence anti-Jew, but there was good reason for this.

They will say,” On November 2, 1917 HM Government adopted the Balfour Declaration to establish a “Jewish National Home” in Palestine on both sides of the Jordan river, as stated in the Bible. We expected waves of returning Jews to the holy land, as expressed in the prayers the Jews recite three times a day and in grace after meals and at the close of the sacred passover Seder.

We planned for a western orientated country of the Jewish people to enlighten the primitive Middle East, in which we had strategic interests.

But except for a small trickle, the Jews did not come!

They didn’t come in 1917, nor did they come in 1918, nor did they come in the twenties and not even in the early thirties. Because they were waiting for their Messiah to bring them back on the “wings of eagles” or on “magic carpets.”

So we had no choice but to turn to the Arabs for allies, who demanded limiting Jewish Immigration to zero. Hence the British government’s White Paper of 1939, where section 2 reads: “Immigration: Jewish immigration to Palestine under the British Mandate was to be limited to 75,000 for the first five years, and would later be contingent on Arab consent.”

Then the leaders of Jewry will be called upon to explain their conduct in those years.

“We prayed for a sign from the Almighty that the time has come to leave the galut. But the sign did not come, so we remained in the shtetlach and ghettos of Europe.”

Then Hashem will reply: “You kept shabbat without a sign from the shamayim; as you did with tefillin and all the other mitzvot because they are written in the Torah and Shulchan Aruch. So why did you demand a sign regarding the mitzva of living in my holy land? Isn’t the true reason because you were comfortable in the galut, just as the meraglim (spies) were comfortable in the desert?”

HaShem’s tribunal will continue until the appropriate punishments will be meted out in accordance with the exact halachic letter of the law.

While I was sitting across from the above mentioned rabbi, who was bemoaning the six million Jews who waited for a sign as he does now, my feeling was: “how pathetic is this man and what he represents.”

Part Two:

Next week we will celebrate the 59th Yom Ha’atzmaut of the State of Israel. When I say “we”, I refer to the enlightened among us, who have ever opened a history book of the Jewish nation to learn from where we came and the impossible path of survival which Hashem has taken us.

No one can comprehend the forces which banded together to prevent the return of Am Yisrael to the Holy land. Christianity, Islam, political and economic interest and sheer anti-Jewishness forged a common bond to maintain the 2000 year state of degradation of the Jew, in order to prove that we are not God’s “Chosen People.”

But despite it all, three years after the Germans were making soap of us, the gates of Eretz Yisrael were opened for the return home of Rachel’s children (Yirmiyahu chap. 31.)

In order to proclaim our awareness of the great miracle wrought by Hashem in re-instating Jewish sovereignty in at least part of the biblical Eretz Yisrael, we recite the complete Hallel with a bracha. This is based on the halachic principle quoted in many sources that if we are required to recite Hallel to commemorate our emergence from slavery to freedom (the exodus from Egypt) then certainly one must say Hallel when emerging from near certain death to life.

The dispute regarding Hallel was resolved for me when I ask a known talmid chacham concerning the matter. He replied that if one feels in his heart that the establishment of the State was a miracle from Hashem he must say Hallel; but if one does not feel this he is exempt.

In light (or rather darkness) of the policies of the political leadership of Israel with regard to their inexcusable and unforgettable actions in Gush Katif, the northern Shomron and Amona, people here and abroad are asking me if they should continue to say Hallel.

It is to them that I address these words.

Firstly, let us put the question in proper proportion.

The people governing our holy country have been called many uncomplimentary names for up-rooting Jews from their homes in Eretz Yisrael and then giving Jewish land to our enemies: resha’im (evildoers), traitors etc.

I will not argue with this but I would add, that even when the Sharon-Olmert government relinquished some areas, they are still many degrees better than any Jew living in the galut, who by doing so has de facto relinquished all the land to our enemies?

We must continue to say Hallel because the good in our lives in Eretz Yisrael was performed by Hashem; the evil is the work of man.

We must continue to go to the army and indulge in all walks of life, because the future belongs to those who trust and believe in Hashem, while the others will eventually be thrown off in eternal disgrace from the platform of history.

But the question we must relate to is: Why is this happening to the holy people of Eretz Yisrael. Why are the leaders of this land so blind to the miraculous survival of the State since its inception? Six wars fought against forces many times greater than us, and six magnificent victories?

I suggest:

The prophet Yeshayahu (22:06):

הקטן יהיה לאלף והצעיר לגוי עצום אני ה’ בעתה אחישנה

The small will become a thousand and the young (will become) a huge nation, says God, in its time I will hasten its coming.

The Gemara in Sanhedrin 98a points out the contradiction between the word ‘be’eeta’ – in its appropriate time, and ‘acheeshenu’ – God will hasten its arrival before its appropriate time?

And explains that the redemption will come “in its appropriate time” if the Jewish people are not meritorious; however, if we do merit redemption Hashem will hasten its coming.

What is this special “merit” the gemara is referring to, and how do we gain it?

The Moshiach is not an insular Jewish event. It is the ultimate crescendo of the symphony of all human events, from the first man and woman until the sounding of the great shofar in the farthest corners of the world. The Mashiach will usher in a period when Man will recognize HaShem, the creator, and willingly submit to His will.

This revolutionary period will come about in one of two ways. 1- When the Jewish nation reaches its loftiest level of spirituality, meriting the appearance of the Mashiach, then the nations of the world will recognize Hashem and the unique role for which the Jewish people were chosen. 2- If we fail to realize our spiritual potential and choose to be just one more nation in the world, proud to have a flag in the UN plaza and place our destiny in their hands.

The two parallel redemptions of “in its time” and “in haste” are functions of our trust in Hashem as apart from our choice to rely on the nations of the world for our salvation.

If the Jewish nation conducts itself as a separate entity from the nations, an Am Kadosh – a holy people – than Hashem will hasten our redemption. But if we choose to depend on the moral and ethical mores of the “enlightened” nations then the time for redemption will linger on.

As long as there are sizeable numbers of Jews in the galut where they “play the international scene begging to be admitted to their unholy portals” the next chapter in our redemption will have to wait.

Shabbat Shalom,

Nachman Kahana

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.