Parshas -- Sukkot (5777)
Suicide Bombings and the "Clouds of Glory"
As we approach the Festival of Sukkos, the beautiful holiday on which Jews traditionally dwell in a Sukkah (hut covered with cut tree branches, bamboo or any other natural, unprocessed materials) and "look up" to G-d for Divine assistance and protection, things don't seem to be "looking up" for Jews living in Israel. Twin suicide bombings, rocket attacks on Jewish settlements, the threat of a nuclear strike from Iran, etc. .... when will it all end? The situation has deteriorated to the point where even some of the most left-leaning, ardent supporters of the peace process, have all but given up, realizing only too late that what Arafat and the Arabs really want is nothing short of the entire "Palestine".
In an article in the Washington Post, Lee Hockstader writes: "Israel's peace activists .... are in retreat. Jolted by the violence and stunned by the hatred they see driving the Arab rioters, many Israeli peaceniks are concluding that the cause they embraced years ago has been a failure ... For some peace activists, it was a rude awakening to observe the depth of hatred among Palestinians, especially in the Palestinian media, which have called on Arabs to attack Israeli army positions and sacrifice their children's blood if necessary. 'Something in me snapped. Something in me broke,' said Tali Amnon, 26, a graduate student at Tel Aviv University. 'If they can call their children to fight, there is no peace process. Maybe we're really at war and it's only us stupid jerks on the left who don't know it.' "
In another article in the Post, Charles Krauthammer writes: "The doves [in Israel] are stunned. Avraham Burg, speaker of the Israeli parliament and one of the architects of the Labor government's bend-over-backward peace proposals, writes perplexedly, pathetically: 'Do we really understand what is going on? After everything was given, there are still demands on the other side.' 'Suddenly we discovered,' he continues plaintively, 'that what we mean by peace -- which is mutual reconciliation -- is not being met by the other side.' "
THE ARAB-ISRAELI CONFLICT AS FORETOLD BY THE PROPHETS
The reality is that what took the "peaceniks" on the left so long to figure out - that a real permanent solution to the fight over the Land of Israel and its Holy Sites is and shall remain elusive (at least until the coming of the Messiah) as well as the sad fact that most of the world sides with the Arabs against us (as evidenced by – among other things – the ridiculously one-sided International Court of Justice’s ruling that the security fence that Israel is building is illegal – remember that?) - is all foretold in Scripture as well as in the mystical writings.
Over 3000 years ago, in a passage that many commentaries interpret as referring to the period immediately preceding the Messianic Age (which, according to many great Rabbis, we are in presently), the great Psalmist King David wrote the following impassioned plea to G-d on behalf of the Jewish people:
"O G-d, do not hold yourself silent; be not deaf and be not still, O G-d; For behold, Your foes who hate You have raised their head. Against Your nation they plot deviously, they take counsel against those whom You protect. They said, 'Come, let us cut them off from nationhood, So Israel's name will be remembered no more!' For they take counsel together unanimously, against You they strike a covenant. The tents of Edom [Rome] and Ishmaelites [the Arab countries], Gevol and Ammon and Amalek, Philistia and the inhabitants of Tzur .... who said, ' We will conquer for ourselves the pleasant inhabitations of G-d” (Psalms 83:2-8,13).
And the great mystical work, the Zohar [Book of Splendor], states that at the time of the "War of Gog U'Magog" [the turbulent time preceding the coming of the Messiah when the world will experience catastrophic events and great upheavals], the Arab nations will fire the entire world to arise against Jerusalem, and they will make a pact between them to turn against Israel in an attempt to eradicate the Nation of Israel.
Even the name Yishmael, which Abraham gave to the child he had with his concubine Hagar, and who was later to become the founder and beginning of the Arab nations, carries with it tremendous significance. The name Yishmael literally means "G-d will heed the prayers", and was given to him because G-d had heard Hagar's prayers and had blessed her with a child. But there's much more to it, because, as a phrase, Yishma-E-l is in the future tense.
The great Midrashic work, Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer, explains that Yishmael was so named not only because of an event from the past, but just as importantly, because of events that are going to take place in the future. In the time right before the arrival of the Messiah, G-d will heed the prayers of the Jewish people who will cry out to Him, because Yishmael's descendants, the Arab nations, will be acting upon the Jews in a threatening and cruel fashion.
Amazing! All the unfortunate events that are unfolding in front of us today in the land of Israel have been predicted millennia ago!
So what can we, who see all these terrible things happening and feel powerless to change anything, do about it? If the peace process is in shambles, and we read about one Arab provocation after another, and the entire world is ganging up against poor old Israel, as predicted by the Prophets of old - is there any hope?
"IT'S A SMALL WORLD (TO COME) AFTER ALL ...."
The Festival of Sukkos is almost upon us - a time when we leave the comfort of our homes for seven days to dwell in G-d's house, the Sukkah, with only a flimsy roof above us and only G-d to protect us. Of course there is much symbolism to this beautiful mitzvah, such as the idea that we can never really "make it" in this world without G-d watching over us, and that even the rest of the year when we sit under our own roofs built from lumber that we bought with our own money from Home Depot, we realize that G-d is really the ultimate provider of our needs for life.
But, the truth is, that the Festival of Sukkos is much, much more. It is a mitzvah with far-reaching impact and universal significance. As we know, the sukkah commemorates the divine "clouds of glory" which literally enveloped the Jewish people traveling through the desert for forty years, as recorded in the Torah. Imagine that - walking through a scorching desert and never having to worry about the oppressive heat or the hot sand or the scorpions!
But these "clouds" were far more than that. They were an actual manifestation of the Shechinah (G-d's Divine presence) that the people could sense and feel during that entire time! And it was that exact same manifestation of the Shechinah which was present in the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount (albeit to different degrees), and which, according to our tradition, will be felt tangibly in the Third Temple and in Olam Haba, the World to Come.
The Kabbalists explain that the Sukkah is a sort of microcosm of the World to Come, a smaller version of what the Next World will be like. So that when we dwell in the Sukkah, we should try and feel what it was like for our ancestors to openly experience G-d's glory, and what it will be like in the future when all of the world will tangibly feel the Divine Presence of the Creator.
This future time, which the Sukkah calls to mind, will bring an end to all the conflicts and the hatred and the pain and suffering which are now taking place in Israel. It will be a time of true universal peace on earth, when all will acknowledge G-d's presence and glory, and will serve Him as the One and Only G-d.
I know it's quite difficult to imagine all this actually happening - just the thought of the Jewish people being left alone to live in peace without having to worry about getting blown to pieces on a bus is hard to imagine! - yet the Sukkah reminds us that our ancestors once lived just such a tranquil life, with G-d's presence in their lives a reality and not just an abstract theological concept, and that we will once again experience that beautiful life in the not too distant future.
The Kabbalists write that the Third Temple will be rebuilt on the Festival of Sukkos in the merit of the Jewish people's sitting in the Sukkah and enjoying the feeling of being enveloped in G-d's "clouds of glory". So, this Sukkos, as we dwell in our Sukkah enjoying our holiday meals, all the while worrying about what's going on in Israel and wondering if it will ever end, let us "dwell" on the future – when we will all live peacefully in G-d's Sukkah, may we all merit to witness that wonderful time. Amen.
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