Parashat Va’era: A Friend of Israel

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Na Na Nachman
18 Jan 2007

Parshat Va’era 5767

“And Yehuda too will make war on Yerushalayim” (Zechariah 14:14)

The Parsha begins with Hashem’s disappointment at Moshe’s emotional shift at the turn of events, from elation that the time for Jewish redemption has finally arrived to the realization that his efforts only worsened an already intolerable situation.

As brought by Rashi, Hashem expresses His yearning for the forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, who unquestionably accepted all the obstacles which were imposed upon them; while Moshe became skeptical because of the downward spiral of events.

Let’s take a 3500 year leap from the parsha to our times and try to imagine what Hashem’s thoughts are today, as He perceives to where we, His “chosen people,” have evolved.

I am not referring to the Jew who for a ham sandwich or for a Gentile companion has betrayed 150 generations of the family’s adherence to Judaism; nor am I interested in the more than 50% of the declared Jews in the US who are non-Halachic, having been “converted” by reform or conservative ritual practitioners. I am distressed at what has happened within our “family” of Torah-loyal Jews.

To begin with, there is a Chassidic segment which adheres to a single rabbi who died 250 years ago, with many of its members shuffling through the day mumbling “Na. Nach” etc., and writing it as graffiti whenever an empty wall beckons. Thousands of them converge yearly on the city of Uman in the Ukraine, the rabbi’s resting place, to usher in Rosh Hashana. This is the same blood drenched Ukraine which brought to the Jewish people Chmielniki and his gangs who in 1648-9 destroyed over 350 Jewish communities, the massacre at Babi Yar, John Demjanjuk (Ivan the Terrible who lived for many years in Cleveland) as well as many infamously efficient concentration camp guards. It is for a staff of very competent psychiatrists to examine why they do so when they have the opportunity to come to Eretz Yisrael, the burial place of the holiest rabbis who were ever born to our nation, and to Yerushalayim where their prayers from the Ukraine will have to come anyway before ascending to where those prayers go!

Another large Chasidic segment sits by the grave of their rabbi in Brooklyn, awaiting his resurrection as the Moshiach (just as Christians in Jerusalem sit by their savior’s grave waiting for him to return. Both parties will be disappointed) and in order not to waste time, they send the rabbi halachic and personal questions for which they mysteriously receive answers. Incredible!

But the most serious deterioration in “Jewish normalcy” is being perpetrated by seemingly sane people, who neither venture to the Ukraine nor wait for a grave to suddenly open. From the exterior they look reasonably normal; but they are carriers of a terminal illness of the soul – they are very, very sick people.

They can be found in various Jewish communities, but they also have an address in Iran. They meet, after the customary kissing ceremony, with the worst enemies of the Jewish people in that country since Haman; and provide the Iranians with a justification for implementing their determination to destroy the State of Israel with its 6 million Jewish citizens.

If the problem were limited to these few demented individuals, they would not deserve more of a mention than the psychiatric patients in a hospital, but I fear that they represent a much larger segment of religious life than we realize.

Granted that only these demented few would actually make the move to Teheran, but ideologically they represent many others who are unfaithful to the God of Israel and to Am Yisrael.

Who are these “others” and where are they hiding?

There is a litmus test to find out.

My dear friends, Mssrs. Howard Rhine and Vel Werblowsky, under the auspices of the OU have produced beautifully printed cards with the prayer for the soldiers of Tzahal.

Go to the leading – even non-Chassidic yeshivot – in the galut. Set up a table before the entrance door and begin distributing the cards, free of charge. In the best case you will be cursed and spat at; eventually your table will be overturned, and if by then you will not have caught on prepare a pair of crutches to help you get to the ambulance.

The supporters of Achmedinejad are only the tip of the ideological iceberg which has spread far and wide. There exists a hatred toward Medinat Yisrael in parts of the yeshiva world.

But don’t be surprised because it is predicted in the Tanach.

The prophet Zecharia writes (14,14): And Yehuda too will make war on Yerushalayim”

The Ibn Ezra and Radak understand the verse in its literal sense. That there will be Jews who will aid and abet the enemies of Yerushalayim. It has come to pass in our time!

Let’s go one step further.

Does your bet knesset recite the prayer for the soldiers of Tzahal, at least on Shabbat? When was the last time your rabbi spoke about Eretz Yisrael in a positive way? When was the last time your rabbi spoke about aliya to Eretz Yisrael? Who was the last rabbi in your bet knesset to have made aliya himself? Why is it that the majority of religious Jews in the USA never visited Medinat Yisrael?

The Gemara in Sanhedrin 27b defines a “sonai” (one who hates his neighbor) as one who out of anger has not spoken to his neighbor for three days.

If three shabbatot pass and your bet knesset does not say the prayer for the Medina and for the gallant soldiers of Israel, the people in that bet knesset are not friends of Israel!

If your rabbi has not spoken of Israel for three weeks, he too is not a friend of Israel!

I know there are synagogues and yeshivot where Eretz Yisrael is anathema. I compare the situation to a case where a person leaves 100 million dollars to his son in a will and deposits the will with an attorney with the instructions to inform his son when the time comes. The father leaves the world, but the attorney never informs the son that he has a treasure waiting for him. So too HaShem left us a heritage beyond money, called Eretz Yisrael. Yet many rabbis and roshei yeshivot do not inform their congregations and students of their rightful heritage.

It is a very sad situation, when a parent, after investing untold efforts in rearing children, discovers that some have misdirected his teachings to the detriment of the larger family. I fear that this is HaShem’s “feeling” when, after performing the greatest chesed and miracle in the last 2000 years for the Jewish nation, finds some of His children denying what He has done for them.

I have just returned from a four day conference of rabbanim from all over the country, dedicated to the halachic implications of the last war in Lebanon.

At one of the sessions, Harav Yitzchak Grossman of Migdal Ha’emek, one of Israel’s most successful rabbis who has “returned to the fold” thousands of ba’alei teshuva, showed a film of his hosting several hundred reserve paratroopers before they entered the battle. He gave each one a shekel with which they were made shlichim (agents) to perform the mitzva of charity when they returned from the battle. And in this merit they will all return safely and healthy.

The film shows how a few weeks later they returned to Rabbi Grossman’s yeshiva at 2:00 AM; dirty, disheveled after marching many kilometers out of Lebanon. They entered one by one; and the film shows how each one kissed and embraced the Rav. You see battle weary Jewish soldiers, each carrying 50-60 kilos on his back, caressing this great rabbi in love, like children to a father. Each was like an angel who HaShem had sent to save the Jewish people.

There was not a dry eye in the room. The 500 people viewing the film were so moved at what they were seeing. But I was crying for an additional reason.

I was thinking from where I had come, and in gratitude was thanking HaShem for permitting me to escape the suffocating, oppressive environment of the galut education based on negativism, and an unwillingness to recognize the great miracles of HaShem. Because this recognition would require accepting the demanding responsibility to return to Eretz Yisrael and participating in the final redemption of our people.

What I have written above is essentially a warning. The Torah and our historical experience teach that when HaShem exhibits disappointment towards a generation or at a leader, it does not remain in the realm of the theoretical – punishment ensues and people are hurt.

I suggest that the leading rabbis and roshei yeshiva in the galut meet and formulate an agenda for the religious world there, to leave the galut to the Gentiles and return in mass to Eretz Yisrael to strengthen Torah learning here; which will hasten the final redemption.

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.