The Jewish People Must Stand Up For Their National Rights

“The Canaanite king of Arad, who dwelled in the south, heard that Israel had come by the route of the spies, and he warred against Israel and took a captive from it. Israel made a vow to HaShem and said, ‘If You will deliver this people into my hand, I will consecrate their cities.’ HaShem heard the voice of Israel, and He delivered the Canaanite, and it consecrated them and their cities. It named the place Ḥormah.” (BAMIDBAR 21:1-3)

Rashi teaches that the captive abducted from Israel was actually a female slave taken from the Canaanites during a previous battle. That the entire Hebrew Nation mobilized to rescue the captive indicates the appropriate response to even the slightest provocation. By permitting an enemy to take even a slave girl, Israel would be displaying weakness and inviting further aggression. But by responding with maximum force, the Hebrews sent a clear message strong enough to discourage future attacks.

Rashi further clarifies that the king of Arad was actually not an ethnic Canaanite. Rather, he and his soldiers were descendants of Amalek – a people committed to eternal war against Israel. The Amalekites disguised themselves by speaking in a Canaanite tongue, revealing a central feature of Amalekite propaganda.

While the Amalekite hatred of Israel is an ideological hatred that aspires to genocide and is not dependent on any external factor, the Canaanite animosity towards Israel was different. The Hebrew tribes were coming to conquer a country that had at that time been ruled by a confederation of Canaanite warlords. Therefore, the Canaanite problem with Israel was based on a dispute over territory while the Amalekite problem with Israel stems from a compulsion to remove all Hebrews from the world. By speaking in the language of Canaanites, Amalek hoped to give the impression that its war was based on a territorial dispute rather than on a desire to eradicate the Children of Israel.

In order to neutralize such effective propaganda, Israel requires strong and articulate leaders who possess an unbreakable faith in the justice of Hebrew rights, as well as an appreciation for the necessity of presenting those rights in a clear voice. While the Jewish people might have an unrivaled moral claim to self-determination between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River, our official representatives have on the whole proven incapable of successfully communicating this claim. While dedicated activists who firmly believe in the justice of our rights have largely disdained advocating those rights to the outside world as a sign of inner weakness, those who understand the importance of advocacy are for the most part apprehensive about championing our people’s actual aspirations and instead opt for flimsy talking points aimed at branding Israel as a westernized American client state seeking to win gentile approval through a professed willingness to surrender the cradle of our civilization. But Israel requires leaders who both appreciate the importance of public relations and are unwilling to compromise on Jewish national rights. Leaders internally connected to our people’s deepest yearnings yet capable of communicating those aspirations in a language comprehensible to the outside world.

While situations might exist in which diplomacy is inappropriate, there is generally great value in properly communicating the justice of Jewish national rights. And far from being a symptom of weakness, giving voice to the Hebrew Nation’s deepest aspirations can often serve to strengthen Israel’s position on the battlefield. In fact, some of Jewish history’s most valiant warriors provide us with clear examples of proper Israel advocacy.

In ḤUKAT’s Haftara, Yiftaḥ defends Israel’s right to territory east of the Jordan River that the Hebrews had won from the Amorites (BAMIDBAR 21:23-26) against claims by the king of Ammon that those lands rightfully belong to Moav (who had previously lost the territory to the Amorites).

“Yiftaḥ sent emissaries to the king of the children of Ammon saying, ‘What is unto you and unto me that you have come to me to make war in my land?’

The king of the children of Ammon said to Yiftaḥ’s emissaries, ‘Because Israel took my land when it ascended from Egypt, from Arnon until the Yabbok until the Jordan, so now return them in peace.’

And Yiftaḥ once again sent emissaries to the king of the children of Ammon.

He said to him, ‘Thus said Yiftaḥ: Israel did not take the land of Moav and the land of the children of Ammon… It went through the wilderness, and went around the land of Edom and the land of Moav and came to the eastern side of the land of Moav where they encamped across the Arnon; but they did not enter the border of Moav, for Arnon is the border of Moav. Then Israel sent emissaries to Siḥon king of the Amorite, king of Ḥeshbon, and Israel said to him, ‘Let us please pass through your land until my place.’ But Siḥon did not trust Israel to pass through his border, rather Siḥon assembled all his people and they encamped in Yahatz; and he made war against Israel. Then HaShem, G-D of Israel, delivered Siḥon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and He struck them; and Israel took possession of the entire land of the Amorite, the inhabitant of that land.’

‘They took of the entire border of the Amorite, from Arnon to the Yabbok, and from the wilderness to the Jordan. And now HaShem, G-d of Israel, has driven out the Amorite from before His people Israel, and you would possess it? Do you not take into your possession that which your god Kemosh bequeaths to you? – that may you possess; but all that HaShem our G-D drives out from before us, we shall take possession of it. And now, are you much better than Balak son of Tzipor, king of Moav? – did he ever strive against Israel? – Did he ever do battle with them? When Israel dwelled in Ḥeshbon and its villages and in Aroer and its villages and in all the cities that are alongside Arnon for three hundred years, why did you not recover them during that time? I have not sinned against you; but you do me wrong to make war against me; may HaShem the Judge judge today between the children of Israel and the children of Ammon.’” (SHOFTIM 11:12-27)

Without betraying Israel’s national rights or values, Yiftaḥ made the effort to explain his position and offer peace to Ammon while simultaneously expressing confidence and a willingness to fight for the disputed lands. The Ammonite king refused to heed Yiftaḥ’s warning.

“Then Yiftaḥ passed through to the children of Ammon to do battle against them, and HaShem delivered them into his hand. And he struck them from Aroer until you come to Minit, twenty cities, until the Plain of Kramim, a very great slaughter; and the children of Ammon were subdued before the Children of Israel.” (SHOFTIM 11:32-33)

A similar approach was taken by the Hasmonean leader Shimon HaTasi – last surviving son of the Adon Matityahu – when the Seleucid Greek King Antiokhus VIII Grypus attempted to pressure Israel into surrendering territory.

“He (Antiokhus) sent Athenobius, one of his friends, to him (Shimon) to deal with him, saying, ‘You have in your possession Jaffa and Gezer and the citadel in Jerusalem, cities of my kingdom. You have laid waste their borders, and played great havoc in the land. You have taken possession of many places in my kingdom. Now, then, hand over these cities that you have taken, and the tribute of the places outside the borders of Judea that you have appropriated. If you refuse, then give me instead five hundred talents of silver; for the damage that you have done and for the tribute of the cities, another five hundred talents. Unless you do this, we will come and make war on you.’” (MACCABEES I 15:28-31)

“Shimon replied, ‘We have neither taken foreign land, nor do we hold dominion over other people’s territory, but only over the inheritance of our fathers, from which we were unjustly banished by our enemies. And now we have seized the opportunity to return and hold the inheritance of our fathers.’” (MACCABEES I 15:33-34)

The Seleucid Greek military subsequently invaded the Land of Israel but was defeated by Judean fighters led by Shimon’s courageous sons. The Hasmonean leader’s firm response to the threats of Antiokhus not only clarified Israel’s position to the enemy but also inspired Hebrew fighters with a conscious awareness and unbreakable certainty in the justice of our cause. Proper advocacy therefore not only serves to present our case to the nations but also strengthens us internally with inner fortitude and a willingness to fight.

To refrain from educating the outside world to the justice of our cause is not only a transgression against historic Jewish aspirations but also a disservice to all of the righteous gentiles who genuinely care about indigenous rights, support authentic liberation movements and would likely champion our cause if given the chance to recognize the inherent justice of our struggle.

A central mission of the Jewish people in this world is to bring all Creation to the awareness of HaShem as the one and only absolute Reality that creates, sustains and affectionately empowers all that exists. And a primary step in achieving this lofty goal is connecting people to the story of the Hebrew Nation. As the national expression of G-D’s Ideal in this world, Israel is the leading protagonist of human history and the more we succeed in connecting people to our story the more we actually bring them closer to theKadosh Barukh Hu. By helping mankind to recognize and identify with Israel’s national aspirations and with the challenges we still face on the road to full redemption, we are actively participating in the goal of Creation by means of leading mankind to a state of higher consciousness and bringing all existence to ultimate perfection.

We Need Faith to Conquer the Land of Israel

As the Hebrew Nation mobilized to liberate the Land of Israel from Canaanite rule, Moshe dispatched a team of twelve tribal chiefs – each the spiritual leader of his tribe – to spy out the country in preparation for the assault. Ten of those spies returned with a misleading report meant to demoralize the nation and prevent the conquest from taking place. The other two, Yehoshua and Kalev, courageously challenged the ten in a noble attempt to save Israel from sin. The masses, however, followed the majority opinion and, in doing so, brought about a national catastrophe.

The spies who brought their people a demoralizing report were ostensibly demonstrating a rationalist approach to the situation. They saw and were concerned over the difficulties their people would be forced to confront when fighting to conquer their land.

“The people that dwells in the land are powerful, the cities are fortified and very great, and we also saw the giant’s descendants there… We cannot ascend against those people for they are too strong for us (mimenu).” (BAMIDBAR 13:28, 31)

Because the word mimenu can be understood as either “for us” or “for him” Rashi comments that it was as though they were speaking about HaShem, claiming that those Canaanite nations were even stronger than the Kadosh Barukh Hu.

The ten tribal chiefs weakened Israel’s resolve, leading the people to come forth with such complaints as “Why is HaShem bringing us to this land to die by the sword? Our wives and young children will be taken captive! Is it not better for us to return to Egypt?” (BAMIDBAR 14:3)

Most of Israel sided with the defeatist spies and perished in the desert over a period of forty years. The conquest of Eretz Yisrael was delayed until a new generation could arise that would be psychologically capable of fighting for their country. It was ultimately Yehoshua and Kalev – representing the minority opinion – who emerged victorious decades later, leading their people in the liberation of the homeland.

The ten spies that led the Hebrew Nation to catastrophe were essentially putting forth two basic arguments. The first was that preserving life overrides the conquest of Eretz Yisrael, claiming that if taking possession of the land appears to be dangerous, the people are not required to do so.

The second opinion expressed by these tribal chiefs was that it is possible and permissible to live full Torah lives outside the Land of Israel; that the Nation of Israel need not be within its borders to be loyal to HaShem or to live by His Torah. But this claim itself negates Torah Law. The spies – giants of Israel and leaders of the Sanhedrin– rebelled against HaShem in refusing His directive to conquer Eretz Yisrael. Their treason revealed a terrible lack of faith and was a transgression far worse than that of the golden calf. For the sin of the calf, only three thousand were punished but for the sin of the spies, all male adults aside from Yehoshua and Kalev perished in the desert before ascending to their homeland.

The Sages teach (Tanḥuma, Sanhedrin 104b, Taanit 29a) that the sin of the spies took place on the ninth day of Av and was the foundation for the destructions of both the first and second Temples (both occurring on the same date in future years).

Rabbi Moshe Ḥaim Lutzatto explains in Mesillat Yesharim (chapter 11) that the tribal chiefs “feared a lessening of their honor, lest, upon entering the land, they would no longer be princes of Israel, and others would be appointed in their place.”

It is a regrettable truth that this transgression has repeated itself throughout Israel’s history. Spiritual leaders often refrain from educating their followers that living in the Land of Israel is not merely a commendable personal choice but actually an underlying basis for the entire Torah. But if this error has infected even great scholars, we must question how so many otherwise righteous and learned giants could miss something so vital to the Torah’s full expression. The Gaon of Vilna offers an explanation in Kol HaTor (the Gaon’s teachings on the process of redemption):

“The Sin of the Spies… hovers over the Nation of Israel in every generation… How strong is the power of the Sitra Aḥra that it succeeds in hiding from the eyes of our holy fathers the dangers of the klipot; from the eyes of Avraham our father, the klipah of exile… and in the time of the Messiah, the Sitra Aḥra attacks the guardians of Torah with blinders… Many of the sinners in this great sin of, ‘They despised the cherished land,’ and also many of the guardians of Torah, will not know or understand that they are caught in the Sin of the Spies, that they have been sucked into the Sin of the Spies in many false ideas and empty claims, and they cover their ideas with the already proven fallacy that the mitzvah of the settlement of Israel no longer applies in our day, an opinion which has already been disproven by the giants of the world, the Rishonim andAḥronim.” (Kol HaTor chapter 5)

In his supplement to the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot, the Ramban teaches that it is a Torah commandment for every generation to take control of and inhabit the entire Land of Israel.

“This (a war to liberate Eretz Yisrael) is what our Sages call milḥemet mitzvah(obligatory war). In the Talmud (Sotah 44b) Rava said, ‘Yehoshua’s war of liberation was an obligatory duty according to all opinions.’ And do not err and say that this precept is the commandment to vanquish the seven nations… this is not so. We were commanded to destroy those nations when they fought against us and had they wished to make peace we could have done so under specific conditions. Yet we cannot leave the land in their control or in the control of any other nation in any generation… Behold, we are commanded with conquest in every generation… this is a positive commandment which applies for all time… And the proof that this is a commandment is this: ‘They were told to go up in the matter of the spies: ‘Go up and conquer as HaShem, G-D of your fathers, has spoken to you. Do not fear and do not be discouraged.’ And it further says: ‘And when HaShem sent you from Kadesh Barnea saying, Go up and possess the land which I have given you.’ And when they did not go up, the Torah says: ‘And you rebelled against the Word of G-D, and you did not listen to this command.’” (Positive Commandment 4 of the Ramban’s supplement to the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot)

The Ramban asserts that the conquest of Eretz Yisrael is a mitzvah for Israel in every generation and that we are forbidden from allowing any part of our country to fall into – or remain under – gentile control. It is found in the Shulḥan Arukh that all of the arbitrators of Torah Law (Rishonim and Aḥronim) agree with the Ramban concerning this issue.

“All of the Poskim, both Rishonim and Aḥronim, decide the Law in this fashion on the basis of the Ramban.” (Shulḥan Arukh, Even HaEzer section 75, Pitḥei Tshuva 6)

As for the spies’ claim that preserving life overrides the commandment to liberate the Land of Israel, it is clear that conquering territory from another people is naturally an act that involves physical danger. While the Torah commands Israel in most cases to preserve Hebrew life even at the expense of Torah Law, this cannot be applied to a Divine commandment that is, in its very essence, life threatening. Because the Torah obligates the Jewish people to fight for the liberation of Eretz Yisrael, the notion ofPikuaḥ Nefesh (preserving life) is not considered. Rather, a war of liberation requires great Mesirut Nefesh (self-sacrifice).

“The mitzvot of the Torah are not based on the occurrence of miracles. The mitzvah to wage war is given to us despite the fact that in the natural course of events both sides suffer casualties in the heat of battle. Evidently the mitzvah applies even though there is inherent danger…” (Minḥat Ḥinukh commentary to Sefer HaḤinukh 425)

The Gaon of Vilna writes in his introduction to Paat HaShulḥan that “all of the wisdoms of the world are for the sake of the Torah and are included within It.”

All of Creation, with all of its multiplicity and variety, is actually one organic whole that appears fragmented from the untrained human perspective. Due to our myopic perception, man tends to see everything as disconnected – and often even opposing – forces. But when we learn to view the world from the Divine perspective, we become capable of relating to everything we encounter – with all of their unique functions and distinctions – as exceptional pieces of one giant amazing puzzle.

The study of Emunah is learning to see the Divine light in its unity before its having been distilled into multiplicity from the human perspective – to see not only the seemingly fragmented branches but also the unified roots. This deeper approach to understanding Torah helps us to recognize the One that precedes and transcends the individual parts yet is at the same time revealed through them, thereby giving them their true significance and purpose in our world.

As the national expression of HaShem’s Ideal in this world, Israel must develop a holistic perspective of Torah that recognizes the deep inner unity of everything that exists within time and space. The fragmented perspective that caused the spies to see themselves as grasshoppers in comparison to the giants of Ḥevron is the same fragmented view – dimmed by nearly two thousand years of humiliating exile – that causes contemporary Jewish leaders to miss the significance of the time period we are currently living in and to relate to themselves as insignificant when compared to the leaders of foreign nations. This unhealthy perspective must be replaced by one that views HaShem as the Source of all, guiding world history towards an ultimate goal of universal perfection. Only by attaining this greater perspective can Israel begin to appreciate our true national mission and the purpose of Torah as the blueprint for all Creation.

“Everything in Creation belongs to Him”

“Speak to the Children of Israel and they shall take to Me a portion, from every man whose heart will motivate him you shall take My portion.” (SHEMOT 25:2)

It is important to note that the above verse does not state “give Me a portion,” which would imply that property belongs to people who must now give from what is theirs to HaShem. The verse instead reads “take to Me a portion” meaning that Israel is to take from the Kadosh Barukh Hu what is in reality His and return it to Him as an offering. Man possesses no genuine ownership because everything that exists is the property of HaShem. He bestows it to man for use and even then only according to certain guidelines, the foremost condition being that His supreme ownership be acknowledged. This recognition is practiced in various ways, such as reciting brakhot on that from which one derives benefit, returning terumah and ma’aser to Kohanim and Levi’im, offering korbanot at the Temple in Jerusalem and giving tzedakah to those in need.

The Torah concept of tzedakah differs greatly from the gentile notion of charity. Western civilization views charity as a kindhearted act, as if the property truly belongs to the giver. If one wishes to donate portions of his wealth to the needy, he merits praise for his generosity. This view lies in direct contrast to the Torah concept of tzedakah, which is a Divine commandment based on tzedek (justice) and not on the generosity of a benevolent individual.

Despite significant differences between them, socially constructed economic systems and modes of production are generally based on the false perception that material goods actually belong to man. In this regard, there is little significant difference between conflicting ideologies that all falsely accept property as belonging to human beings.

Productive forces are gifts from HaShem. Not just the tools, materials and technologies used to produce goods but also forces such as human strength, creativity, intelligence and ingenuity. These are all bestowed upon man in order that we use them to construct an ideal world that will bring ultimate blessing to humankind.

Everything that exists is actually a unique expression of the timeless and boundless ultimate Reality we call HaShem. Everything in Creation belongs to Him and is given to man only in order that it attain full elevation in His service. Man is commanded to give in this world. Even one’s very life belongs to the Kadosh Barukh Hu and holds worth only to the extent that it is lived according to His Will. Therefore, whoever relates to property as if it is his own is on some level guilty of stealing from HaShem.

In the nineteenth chapter of Mesillat Yesharim, Rabbi Moshe Ḥaim Lutzatto elaborates on this point through the familiar example of Kayin and Hevel.

“Hevel offered of the first-born of his sheep and of their fats, and Kayin offered of the worst of the fruits of the earth, as we are told by our Sages of blessed memory (Bereishit Rabbah 22:5). What was the outcome? (BEREISHIT 4:4-5), ‘And HaShem gave heed to Hevel and his gift, but to Kayin and his gift He gave no heed.’ And (MALAKHI 1:14), ‘Cursed is the deceiver who has in his flock a male, but pledges and sacrifices an abomination to G-D… for I am a great King.’”

Hevel understood himself and everything he owned to have originated from HaShem. By offering the best of what he had to give, Hevel declared that he personally possessed nothing as everything ultimately belongs to G-D. Kayin, by contrast, was only prepared to offer his leftovers, indicating that he had no obligations to anyone and only gave to HaShem as an act of generosity. Thus his name Kayin – from kaniti (I have acquired) – implied that everything he owned belonged solely to him. By viewing his offering as a charitable act, Kayin essentially related to the Kadosh Barukh Hu as a beggar.

Our time, talents, skills and possessions are all gifts from HaShem to be used in His service. When a Jew puts himself and his private interests above the aspirations and mission of the collective Hebrew Nation, he is in actuality relating to G-D as a beggar. When one places his own pleasure, career or even personal mitzvot above the needs ofClal Yisrael and the broader human collective, he is expressing a base egoism and stealing from HaShem. Even those who immerse themselves in the study of Torah day and night must be careful to keep in mind that doing G-D’s Will is our primary function and that He has tasked the Jewish people with a unique historic mission that transcends each person’s individual success or piety.

Like material possessions and the means of production, our very lives belong to HaShem. This accounts for the Torah’s sharp prohibition against suicide. One’s life is not his own to destroy. Nor is it his own to preserve at the expense of the Hebrew mission. The Torah commands us to lay down our lives rather than commit certain specified prohibitions. Most important, a Jew is required to give up his life for the sanctification of G-D’s Name (how His Divine Ideal is perceived) in this world. InHilkhot Melakhim 7:15, the Rambam states that it is actually forbidden to fear our enemies in times of war. He further teaches that any Hebrew fighter who displays fear on the battlefield and withholds his sword from blood is essentially considered guilty of slaying fellow Jews.

The notion of giving everything to HaShem illustrates the difference between the mentality of redemption and that of the exile. In Israel today, Jews from diverse backgrounds are willing to leave their families and offer everything to their people. They are ready to take responsibility for the future of Israel as they go up to battle with the knowledge they may never return. Infused with a holy valor, the soldiers of Israel are prepared to give all of themselves for the national good because there is an understanding – although not always conscious – that Israel is one and that every individual Jew is responsible for the security and wellbeing of the collective Hebrew Nation. This readiness to give selflessly is true Ahavat Yisrael – the willingness to take responsibility and if necessary forfeit everything not only to ensure a better future for the Jewish people but also to achieve Israel’s goal of bringing humanity to a future of unparalleled blessing in the awareness of HaShem as the infinite Whole that creates all, sustains all, empowers all and loves all.

The exile mentality, by contrast, is not one that focuses on giving everything one has but merely one’s extras as an expression of generosity. These crumbs could be charitable contributions to worthwhile causes, political lobbying and demonstrations, attendance at parades or even travel to Israel on solidarity missions. While some might argue these acts to be of some benefit to the Jewish state, they are often performed out of kindness rather than from a genuine sense of national obligation or a deep understanding of Israel’s inner unity.

The essence of Ahavat Yisrael is the willingness to take responsibility for the future of the Jewish people. It is being prepared to give everything – even one’s life – without fear. Fear originates from the mistaken exilic perception of our selves as individuals detached from the greater collective. Such egoistic perspectives breed irresponsibility, as is characterized by Kayin’s dubious question of “Am I my brother’s keeper?” – a statement that often leads a person to offer only his leftovers, essentially treating the collective Hebrew Nation a beggar. When a Jew suddenly experiences true Ahavat Yisrael, his mind develops a national consciousness and his heart begins to genuinely experience a sense of brotherhood and unity with his people throughout the world. He begins to feel discomfort at living in a foreign country and suddenly begins to yearn for the soil of his native land. This powerful love generally finds expression through active participation in Israel’s collective destiny and the willingness to give everything with the knowledge that it actually all belongs to HaShem. And it is those who find themselves gripped by this all-encompassing emotional force that will ultimately become the heroes who advance history forward.

The Light of Hanukah is the Light of Redemption

For an entire generation, the ancient Judeans waged a struggle for freedom, which, in terms of intensity, has almost no parallel in human history. It was among the first recorded wars of liberation and it laid a model for nearly every revolution that followed. With an unbreakable faith and willingness to sacrifice, a handful of valiant Hebrew fighters forged the eternal covenant that resistance to tyranny is the highest and truest service to HaShem.

In those years, the cultural colonization to which the Seleucid Empire aspired was at its peak. Hellenist values and practices were imposed on the native Hebrews by means of harsh edicts and the swords of foreign soldiers. The victimization of the weak, rampant debauchery and the desecration of the Temple were pinnacles of the Greek culture bestowed upon Judea. In Jerusalem, the urban upper class yearned to be citizens of Antioch and to transform their ancient city into an “enlightened” Greek Polis. When the uprising began, it arose from the mountain folk who remained loyal to the Torah and to the heritage of their fathers. They were led by the Hasmoneans – Matityahu and his five courageous sons. The flame of revolt was kindled in Modiin and quickly spread like wildfire through the hills of Judea. After Matityahu’s death, his third son Yehuda took command. He became the Maccabee and his guerrilla army moved in two decisive channels – resistance to foreign culture and armed struggle against foreign soldiers. Two wars with one goal of Hebrew independence in Judea.

The Maccabean revolt was not merely a struggle to revoke harsh decrees or secure freedom of worship. Hebrew sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael is the foundation for proper Torah observance (see Mishnah Torah Hilkhot anukah 3:1, the Ramban’s supplement to the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot 4, Shulan Arukh Even HaEzer 75:6,Pesikta Rabati 34, Magid Mesharim Parshat Vayikra and esed L’Avraham 3:7) and HaShem’s Divine blueprint for mankind demands Jewish independence in the historic Jewish homeland.

The Hasmoneans were determined. After several Judean victories and the liberation of Jerusalem, the Seleucid Syrian-Greeks offered a truce. Freedom of worship would be restored to the natives in exchange for ending their armed struggle for independence. There were some Jewish leaders naïve enough to accept the terms. A misunderstanding of our Torah caused those weak in spirit and tired of war to believe that they had already achieved their objectives. The Hasmonean faction, however, understood their obligation to liberate the Land of Israel from foreign rule. They also knew that without full political independence, there could be no lasting peace or real freedom of worship, as the spirit of Greece could again seek to dominate. Yehuda declared that the revolution must continue until Judea would be free from foreign influence and foreign soldiers. After nearly three decades of ferocious conflict, the Hasmoneans triumphed and the Kingdom of Israel was restored (Hilkhot anukah3:1).

When the Seleucid-Greek Empire began to persecute Israel, the devout heroism of Matityahu and his sons awakened within their people aspirations for self-rule. This desire for freedom – which had not strongly surfaced prior to the oppression – was catalyzed by the persecution and the fierce backlash it provoked. National independence was eventually declared and this declaration itself served as a sacred barrier against the forces of Hellenization as the very desire for self-determination psychologically impedes assimilation into the culture of an occupying power. Yet without Matityahu and his sons – the warrior-priests who imbued the political ideal with spiritual content – the revolution would have lacked sufficient force to keep fighting and withstand the prolonged hardships of war. This is demonstrated through the miracle of the oil. The pure cruse with the seal of the High Priest shone brightly, its light permeating the collective soul of the Hebrew Nation and bestowing upon Israel the strength to fight on.

Perhaps the most important lesson of anukah is that light is not merely another creation but rather Creation’s ultimate goal. The Maharal of Prague teaches in NerMitzvah that the world was created deficient so that mankind could actively participate as partners in its perfection. Human beings are given free will in order that we choose to involve ourselves in bringing the world to its ultimate goal. As the main protagonist in the drama of human history, Israel is tasked with revealing this truth, thereby leading mankind to its predestined ideal state.

Israel’s mission of bringing the world to the awareness of HaShem can only be accomplished through the Jewish people sovereign over Eretz Yisrael with the Torah serving as our national constitution. Only through this specific formula can Israel thin the veils of human perception and reveal the Divine light constantly present in our world, leading mankind to recognize and experience HaShem as the infinite Whole that creates, sustains and permeates all.

While the light of G-D’s Truth is always present, it is often hidden from man’s consciousness by curtains of perception. It is Israel’s task to remove those curtains and to reveal the Divine light – to bring the world to a state of perfection where all humankind achieves ultimate fulfillment and expression through a higher awareness of our relationship to HaShem.

Although G-D’s presence is hidden in day-to-day events, He continues to work through the system that He created in order to return that very system back to the full expression of His Ideal. Through a Divinely guided historical process, all of existence is sanctified and brought to the collective awareness of its inner relationship to its fundamental Source. Not only supernatural miracles but also the entire world, with all of its natural laws, is being pulled toward Creation’s ultimate goal through the story of Israel’s national rebirth on our native soil. The full restoration of the Hebrew Kingdom in our homeland will dissolve the remaining veils and bring everyone to finally recognize themselves as unique aspects and expressions of a much greater Reality.

Rabbi Moshe aim Lutzatto teaches in Derekh HaShem that G-D placed forces of evil into our story as an essential ingredient enabling free will and human growth. These dark forces have been tasked with working to prevent Israel from bringing Creation to its goal. Throughout history, this evil has manifested itself as four main human empires, each attempting in its own unique way to impede Israel from reaching our full potential as the nation that will express the Divine Ideal in all spheres of human existence. This is the inner battle between light and darkness raging through the annals of human civilization.

The four empires – Babylon, Persia, Greece and Edom – that have dominated the globe throughout most of world history emerged from the inherently deficient nature of existence and aim to maintain the curtains of perception through preventing Israel from reaching our full national potential. Each of these empires, however, has had it’s own unique method for obstructing the Jewish mission.

Knowing that the Hebrews must be in Eretz Yisrael in order to fulfill our national function in Creation, the Babylonians worked to physically separate us from our land. They forcibly uprooted us from our borders and then graciously provided us with material prosperity on foreign soil. This simple separation from our homeland, although Jews remained Torah observant in the Diaspora, was enough to prevent HaShem’s light from being revealed. The soil of Babylon was simply not conducive to Israel accomplishing our Divine historic mission.

The Persians had a different approach. Haman convinced his king to completely annihilate the Jews. By removing the bearers of HaShem’s light from the world, he believed he could succeed in snuffing out the Divine flame.

The Greeks did not try to remove the Jews from our homeland, nor did they initially attempt a physical destruction. Instead, the spirit of Greece sought to pollute Israel’s culture by reducing G-D’s Torah to the level of a human wisdom on par with other notable wisdoms of the time. The Torah’s Divinity was viewed as a threat to Greek philosophy, which valued human intellect above all else and could not tolerate wisdom beyond mortal comprehension. Unsatisfied with the success of this spiritual assault, the Seleucid Syrian-Greeks then sought to forcibly sever the Hebrew Nation from our authentic culture through the brutal enforcement of cruel decrees against adherence to Torah Law.

These three empires each attacked an essential component to Israel fulfilling our national purpose. The fourth antagonist, however, which first emerged as the Roman Empire and has since taken on several manifestations, is a combination of all three attempts in a much more destructive and concentrated form.

Throughout the last two thousand years, the Western world (Edom) has tried its hand at all three methods on countless occasions. Three recent examples are the terrible Holocaust in Europe less than a century ago, the British Empire restricting Jewish entry to our homeland and the Soviet Union forcibly separating its Jews from their Torah. The international community’s insistence on not permitting Israel to assert sovereignty over the whole of our country and the resources spent by Western governments on diluting the State of Israel’s authentic Jewish character are just two modern expressions of this evil force, subconsciously aware that its end is at hand. A candle flickers brightest immediately before it is extinguished and today the world seems ready to amass itself against Jerusalem. As Israel experiences a national rebirth on our native soil, the forces of darkness are gathering their strength to wage a final war to snuff out our light. In the wake of Israel’s triumph, Edom’s depravity will be exposed and mankind’s thinking will be liberated from the cultural tyranny of two thousand years. Concepts of righteousness, morality and truth will be elevated to meanings of newer and higher significance as Israel draws back the curtains of perception and reveals HaShem’s light to all of mankind.


With Redemption Close, Is the Eternal War Between Esav and Yaakov About to End?

After two decades of marriage to Yitzḥak, Rivka’s womb is finally opened as HaShem blesses the couple with children. There is, however, something irregular about her pregnancy.

“The children agitated within her, and she said, ‘If so, why am I thus?’ And she went to inquire of HaShem. And HaShem said to her: ‘Two nations are in your womb; two regimes from your insides shall be separated; the might shall pass from one regime to the other, and the elder shall serve the younger.’” (BEREISHIT 25:22-23)

The Maharal of Prague teaches in his Gur Aryeh commentary that the struggle in Rivka’s womb between Yaakov and Esav was not at all influenced by their personal inclinations of good and evil, as these inclinations could not yet exist before birth. Rather, Yaakov and Esav represent cosmic forces in Creation – forces that transcend the normal course of personality development and existed within them even in their mother’s womb.

Rivka, anxious that the struggle inside her could have resulted from some iniquity on her part, went to Shem (son of Noaḥ) in order to inquire of the Kadosh Barukh Hu. Through Shem, she is informed that her unborn sons represent not only two nations, but also two conflicting ideologies – Israel and Edom – and that the struggle in the womb was the irreconcilable conflict already raging between them.

Our Sages explain (Megillah 6a) that Israel and Edom cannot be simultaneously dominant on the world stage. When one nation rises the other must fall. History has shown that not only the nations but also their cultures have forever been in conflict. And ultimately one will succeed in fully eclipsing the other.

During the early Hebrew kingdoms, when Israel was counted as a major world power, Esav’s offspring were of no major significance to mankind’s political or cultural developments (they were even subjugated under the Israeli Kingdom for many years). It was not until the second Temple period that Esav’s Roman descendants appeared on the scene as central players. Rome exerted political influence over Israel, invaded our country, destroyed our Temple, put down countless Judean revolts (albeit with great difficulty), exiled us from our soil and even sought to abolish the Hebrew character of our country. Since that time, Rome has succeeded in dominating much of the world with its culture, value system and pagan notions of morality.

To fully grasp the eternal conflict between Rivka’s sons, it is necessary to examine the conceptual essence of Edom – how it developed through time and how it clashes with Israel’s Divine Torah culture.

The essence of Esav is to appear righteous on the outside while being internally loathsome (much like a pig that boasts all external signs of kashrut yet lacks the internal requirements of cleanliness). The Roman Empire, Christianity and the modern West all stem from the impure source of Esav. From the time the Roman Empire adopted Christianity, this oppressive dogma was imposed throughout the world, eventually becoming the foundation for what is now Western civilization.

Beginning as a breakaway Hebrew sect, Christianity grew in influence within Roman society and ultimately dominated much of the globe. Through powerful vehicles such as the Roman Legion and later the Crusades, this poisoned doctrine spread far and wide as an efficient means of social control. By abandoning the mitzvot of our Torah, Christianity enshrouded the world in a seemingly legitimate offshoot of idol worship. While superficially mimicking the Torah’s universal values, Christianity actually led the world away from a true connection to the Kadosh Barukh Hu. Under a guise of false righteousness, this man-made religion demanded an unnatural level of piety, repressing man’s basest character traits while breeding a culture of guilt and forbidden desires that built up inside of Western civilization until finally exploding into cataclysmic world wars.

Inwardly sensing his estrangement from HaShem, modern man came to reject the Church and its teachings. Religion became viewed as a prison from which humanity must escape. In seeking freedom from the oppressive chains of theology, society leaped to the opposite extreme. Man’s every passion was declared legitimate and every desire suddenly became permissible. Europeans revolted against the Church’s dominion and the culture of Esav was given new expression. The European “enlightenment” and its ideological derivatives became the natural modern outgrowths of oppressive Christianity and the next incarnation of Edomism in the world. But because Christianity had for centuries stifled the life force of Europe, base traits and suppressed rages festered without any healthy outlets. Like a volcano, they burst forth in the form of devastating global conflicts, granting release to ancient pent-up aggression.

Enlightened civilization was exposed as a mask that had for centuries concealed the same primitive passions and murderous impulses that had hallmarked ancient Rome. No enduring moral progress had been achieved. Two catastrophic wars erupted out of Europe and scorched the entire globe with the slaughter of millions.

The worldview of Edom grew powerful and expanded its influence on the civilized world, first through Roman imperialism and then through the vehicle of Christian theology. Modern civilization, although predominantly secular and often hostile to the Church, is rooted in a value system that springs from Christian dogma. In separating mankind from a healthy connection to HaShem, Christianity remains the core foundation of Western thought.

The ideology of Esav – in all of its various forms – has unquestionably been the greatest cultural influence of the past two thousand years, laying the basic framework for Western morality. While professing to be an enlightened civilization, modern society is still rampant with the profane values of Edom. Rather than refining and uplifting man’s traits, Western civilization leaves him in a primitive state. The greed and exploitation encouraged by the capitalist system, along with the devastating wars of the previous century, underscore Edom’s failure to lift man out of his deep moral prison.

But hope exists for mankind. After a long and bitter exile from our country, the Nation of Israel has begun to experience a miraculous rebirth. Returning to take possession of our homeland, fostering agricultural achievements on a seemingly impossible soil, winning miraculous victories in war and reviving our ancient language to everyday use, the Jewish people are experiencing a full national renaissance. While the physical accomplishments continue to push forward, the Torah character of our state is beginning to take root and flourish beneath the surface of Israeli society. The Jewish people are slowly separating from the contaminated value system of Edom and returning to our authentic Hebrew culture.

Israel’s national resurgence is troubling for Esav’s spiritual descendents. World leaders instinctively feel the threat of Israel’s renaissance, as well as the fate it heralds for Western civilization. The subconscious realization that Israel is ascending to become the dominant moral light in the world compels the international community to try and limit the size and strength of the Jewish state. While pressuring Jerusalem to surrender portions of the Jewish homeland and lending support to regional forces committed to Israel’s destruction, the West bombards our society with its glorified hedonism and consumerist spirit in a distracting attempt to lull the Hebrew Nation into complacency and submission. The disproportionate focus of world media attention on Israel, along with attempts by Western leaders to separate us from the cradle of Hebrew civilization, are merely tools employed by Edom to prevent the Jewish people’s full national rebirth and the moral revolution we aim to bring to mankind.

Rivka was told that “The might shall pass from one regime to the other, and the elder shall serve the younger.” The cosmic force of Yaakov will eclipse that of Esav. The salvation of HaShem is destined to reach mankind through the Hebrew Revolution advancing in our day. The decline of Edom’s power will bring harmony to the world as humanity is liberated from centuries of spiritual tyranny. As the redemption process continues to unfold and Israel rises to the challenges confronting our people, our Divine Torah culture will be bestowed upon man, bringing all of Creation unparalleled blessing.


Liberation is Now

“The King of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, of whom the name of the first was Shifrah and the name of the second was Puah – and he said, ‘When you deliver the Hebrew women, and you see them on the birth stool; if it is a son, you are to kill him, and if it is a daughter, she shall live.’ But the midwives feared G-D and they did not do as the king of Egypt spoke to them, and they caused the boys to live.” (SHEMOT 1:15-17)

It is taught that Shifrah and Puah are alternate names for Yoḥeved and Miriam – mother and sister to Moshe and Aharon. We further learn that the midwives “feared G-D” and therefore HaShem built them “Houses in Israel” (the priesthood emerged from Yoḥeved and the Davidic dynasty descended from Miriam) – a teaching that highlights the necessity of understanding what it truly means for someone to “fear G-D.”

To fear G-D is actually the highest level of courage because when a person possesses genuine awe of HaShem as the Creator and Source of all that exists, he cannot possibly fear Pharaoh, poverty, prison, torture or even death. “Fearing G-D” is essentially a deep awareness and conviction that nothing exists outside HaShem, which in turn eliminates the ability to fear anything subordinate. It is precisely this elevated consciousness that enabled the midwives to give birth to the greatest leadership our people has known.

Because a slave naturally fears his master and the Hebrews in Egypt were brought up to fear their oppressors, the behavior displayed by Yoḥeved and Miriam was a revolution against the social order of their day. HaShem had not promised these women any reward for endangering themselves and they had no guarantee that they would survive Pharaoh’s wrath. What the midwives did, however, was adhere to the most ancient of Hebrew traditions.

When thrown into Nimrod’s furnace for his crusade against idolatry, Avraham had no expectation of being saved. He understood himself to be a soul – a unique expression of HaShem – temporarily playing the role of a character name Avraham on earth. Rather than contaminate his true inner essence, he was ready to give up the role of Avraham.

During the terrible Holocaust in Europe, there were Jews who felt themselves as having no choice but to actively collaborate with the Germans. Faced with unspeakable conditions and desperate to make it through the horrors of the Shoah alive, they pragmatically understood that the answer to their predicament was to try and survive by assisting the Nazis. But there are prohibitions in the Torah for which one must be willing to give his life rather than transgress. One clear example is that a Jew must die rather than participate in the murder of his own people. “Fearing G-D” in such a situation would prevent the soul from being able to contaminate itself through the act of handing over a fellow Jew to be killed. Therefore, one with a deep and genuine awe of HaShem could not have allowed himself to deliver his people to the slaughter. Life itself would simply no longer feel worth living after having betrayed the very essence of his soul.

A person who genuinely fears HaShem has no personal fear for his own private safety and is automatically infused with a spirit of valor. While this is certainly not an easy level to attain, one can begin to approach it through asking honest questions and being prepared to accept the challenges of difficult answers. The true courage of fearing G-D involves emotional maturity, intellectual honesty and the willingness to burden a national responsibility. Yoḥeved and Miriam risked their lives for what was right, knowing that they could have very easily been killed and forgotten. Like Avraham, they feared G-D because that was the truth of their souls and not because they had any guarantees of survival.

“Fear of G-D” is actually a loyalty to one’s deepest inner truth without any preconditions or expectations for reward. Such self-awareness ultimately makes a person unbreakable – even in the face of overwhelming adversity – as anything one can possibly be threatened with simply becomes inconsequential when viewed within the context of HaShem as the timeless ultimate Reality without end that creates all, sustains all, includes all and is beyond all.

In addition to being the wellspring of great heroism, fearing HaShem is the basis for attaining true love – the ability to give freely without expectations. Rabbi Akiva teaches that the commandment, “you shall love your fellow as yourself” (VAYIKRA 19:18) is the mitzvah that encompasses the Torah in its entirety. It is the base that the Torah rests on in order to be fully revealed in our world. Whether it has a personal, national or universal expression, true love empowers one to not fret about whether or not his love is reciprocal because genuine compassion exists only to give. This love, built on courage, is actually the context and most essential foundation for properly understanding Israel’s Torah.

Moshe was destined to liberate Israel from bondage and lead the Hebrew tribes to receive the Torah at Sinai. But he first grew up in the house of Pharaoh, a place embodying the dark forces standing in starkest opposition to his role. In order to develop the personal qualities necessary to lead Israel from slavery to freedom, Moshe grew up surrounded by the very power that stood against the fundamental essence of his mission. It was precisely this environment that forced Moshe to ask true questions, grow to emotional maturity and realize his destiny as Israel’s savior.

“It happened in those days that Moshe grew up and went out to his brethren and observed their burdens; and he saw an Egyptian man striking a Hebrew man, of his brethren. He turned this way and that and saw that there was no man, so he struck down the Egyptian and buried him in the sand.” (SHEMOT 2:11-12)

Moshe witnessed an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave and decided to intervene. His compassion for his people was clearly displayed by his preparedness to forfeit his princedom in order to save his brother from harm. At this point Moshe left the world of Egyptian royalty and began to actively express his inner self.

“He went out the next day and behold! Two Hebrew men were fighting. He said to the wicked one, ‘Why do you strike your fellow?’ He replied, ‘Who appointed you as a dignitary, a ruler and a judge over us? Do you propose to murder me as you murdered the Egyptian?’ Moshe was frightened and he thought, ‘Indeed the matter is known!’” (SHEMOT 2:13-14)

The Torah clearly states that Moshe “saw that there was no man” yet here – only a couple verses later – we see another Hebrew with knowledge of his deed. If the matter was known, then obviously there had to have been witnesses around to see Moshe’s act. When the verse writes that he “saw that there was no man” it is coming to teach that he saw no one willing to intervene. No Hebrew slave would stand up for his brother. Pirke Avot teaches that “where there is no man, be a man” (2:6) – no one was intervening so Moshe neutralized the Egyptian himself, knowing that he could lose his royal status and possibly even his life. He readily took this risk because his soul could not bear the suffering of his brother.

Regarding his deed of killing the Egyptian, the Maharal of Prague teaches inGvurot HaShem that “Moshe’s soul was clothed in greatness” – his soul consciously unified with Knesset Yisrael – the larger collective soul of the Hebrew Nation. Moshe had not yet received any prophecy and he certainly had not been commanded to slay the Egyptian. In fact, the prophesied years of Hebrew bondage in Egypt were not even close to complete. Without receiving any Divine sign or command, Moshe could not bear the sight of Hebrew suffering. And his compassionate reaction to the pain of his brother triggered a process of redemption that transformed him from a prince of Egypt to the savior of his people and history’s greatest prophet.

Not able to stomach strife among his brothers, Moshe attempted to make peace. When one responded by asking “do you propose to murder me, as you murdered the Egyptian?” Rashi explains that Moshe suddenly understood that his people were actually not ready for redemption. And the Maharal explains in his Gur Aryeh super-commentary on Rashi that so long as there were informers within Israel, slavery was an appropriate condition for them. This Hebrew threatened Moshe by implying that he could easily turn him over to the authorities. But by exposing Moshe, the informant would have not merely been turning in one man but actually betraying the entire essence of Israel’s redemption. When slavery runs deep into the psychology of a person, it becomes difficult to express the crucial courage and self-sacrifice necessary to break the chains of mental bondage. But when one cares for another to the extent that nothing can deter him, this compassion becomes the power of Israel’s salvation. Whether in Egypt, Europe, America or even Israel, one who internalizes and experiences this love can never cooperate with those seeking to obstruct our national mission. The courage to resist tyranny and stand strong against injustice is actually the first step in attaining a powerful love that will bestow great blessing not only upon Israel but also on the whole of humanity at large as the Hebrew Nation begins to effectively actualize our role of bringing world history to its ultimate goal.