It is interesting -- and perhaps more surprising than it
should be -- that we can find a thoroughly appropriate
description of our predicament and our feelings in words
written over 800 years ago by that great sage who provides us
with so much guidance in so much of what we do: the
It is not certain exactly when in his life he wrote his
Iggeres Teiman, but the general background is known.
The Rambam was prominent in Egypt and throughout the Jewish
world, especially North Africa and the Middle East. The Jews
of Yemen were under pressure from without -- in the form of
Shiite Moslem rulers who bid them covert or die -- and from
within in the form of a moshiach sheker who undermined
their steady faith with his apocalyptic pronouncements.
The Rambam replied with his long Iggeres Teiman, much
of which seems addressed to us as well as the residents of
long ago Yemen.
"And you, our brothers, it is known to you that Hakodosh
Boruch Hu has cast us, as a result of our sins, among
this nation, the nation of Yishmoel, whose evil is mighty,
and they exert their minds to do us harm and to despise us as
He, yisborach, decreed upon us: "Ve'oyveinu
pelilim" (Devorim 32:31). There will not stand against
Yisroel a nation with greater enmity nor a nation that has
done us greater and more extreme harm by wearing us down and
making us smaller and despised as they have. Even Dovid
Hamelech o"h, upon seeing with ruach hakodesh
all these tzoros that are to come upon Yisroel, began
to cry and wail in the name of the nation about the harm that
will come from Bnei Yishmoel: "Woe is me . . . that I lived
among the tents of Keidar" (Tehillim 120:5).
"And we who endure their oppression and deceit and lies
beyond our capacity -- that it is not within the capacity of
man to endure this -- and we are, as Dovid o"h said, "
. . . as a deaf man who does not hear and a dumb man who does
not open his mouth" (Tehillim 38:14). Our Rabbonim
have taught us that we must endure the deceit of Yishmoel and
his lies, and be silent, and they attached this to a
posuk that is written about his children: UMishmo
veDumo uMasso (Bereishis 25:15) [which they have
interpreted homiletically:] `Hear, but be silent and endure!'
And in fact we have, all of us, young and old, agreed to
suffer their oppression, as Yeshaya o"h said: `I have
presented my body to beaters and my cheeks to those who pluck
out beards; I have not hidden by face from embarrassment and
spit' (Yeshaya 50:6).
"And with all this, there is no way to escape most of their
wild evil. And whenever we run after them to make peace, they
run after us with war and destruction, as Dovid Hamelech
o"h said, `I am peace and when I speak -- they make
war' (Tehillim 120:7). And all the more so when we try
to protest to the king, we endanger ourselves and can come to
The Arab problem has been going on for more than 800 years.
As the French say: The more things change, the more they
remain the same.
We must take heart from the strong words of the Rambam to
understand that this is part of Hashem's plan for us, as
reflected in the words of the Torah.
All the "answers" are worthless; neither the might of Tzahal
nor the dream of a New Middle East can free us of the burden
What is the Jewish Answer to the Jewish Problem?
There are no permanent or complete answers until Hashem sends
Moshiach. Until then there is no point -- and it is usually
counterproductive -- to look for a "solution." We must endure
and suffer the golus with its shibud malchuyos
as best we can, searching for little answers to local
problems -- which means of course taking whatever steps we
can to stop the bloodshed including fighting when reasonable
and negotiating when reasonable.
The complete and permanent solution will only come with the
Geulah Sheleimoh, bimeheiroh veyomeinu Omein.