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20 Elul 5763 - September 17, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
Chazal Tell us How to Overcome Yishmoel

by Rabbi Mordecai Plaut based on a shiur of a rosh yeshiva in Yerushalayim

With the threats faced by those living in the Middle East and around the world from those of Arab extraction, the following penetrating analysis sheds light on important characteristics of the struggle with Yishmoel as described by Chazal. This is not to suggest that every Arab is as detailed here, but that the essential features of the contest are as explained, and the steps we must take -- which are matters of our personal and private avodoh -- are as outlined here.

The following is based on a tape of a shiur that was delivered more than six years ago.

Part IV

The first part described several important points that are part of the background of Yishmoel and his relationship to us. One is that there is a special middoh of hearing, on the part of Hashem, of our prayers in response to the awful things that Yishmoel does to us; furthermore, what Yishmoel does to us comes from his essence. Yishmoel is a talker by nature and he uses his power of speech against us, in addition to his other attacks. Therefore our normal speech, the kol Yaakov that is adequate to respond to the hands of Eisov, is insufficient against the power of Yishmoel. We must have a deeper appreciation of the powers of Yishmoel in order to understand what we have to achieve to counter them.

The second part describes how Yishmoel subverts the Divine service. Everything Yishmoel does, he does in the Name of Heaven, but he does what he wants and proclaims that such is Heaven's will rather than subjecting his will to the Will of Heaven. Yishmoel has the awesome power of chesed that he acquired from the house of Avrohom Ovinu, and at the end of the golus he will ally himself to Eisov. Yishmoel and Eisov are the leaders of all the nations of the world, each standing at the head of 35 of them. We must find the proper response to both.

The third part noted that in Yishmoel we face an enemy different from what we have known in the past. We face an enemy whose name incorporates the Name of Hashem, and who shows this by constantly invoking Hashem's Name. To counter this, we must strive for a deeper and more complete invocation of Hashem. To do this we must understand speech better. There is a covenant of the tongue that parallels the covenant of the bris milah. Both are involved in propagation: one in having children and the other in having talmidim. If they are covered and smothered with an orloh the full power of the propagation is not revealed.


It is interesting that just as we are the sons of Avrohom Ovinu, so we are the talmidim of Avrohom Ovinu. The mishna says explicitly (Ovos 5:19): Whoever has these three things is among the talmidim of Avrohom Ovinu. We are the sons and we are also the talmidim of Avrohom Ovinu. Avrohom Ovinu had both the bris milah and the bris of the tongue.

The twofold bris of both the tongue and the bris milah is necessary in order to have zar'acho acharecho in terms of children and also to have zar'acho acharecho in terms of talmidim.

The verbal message that is transmitted to us from Avrohom Ovinu and that we are to propagate further can be received and transmitted only by one who has entered into the covenant of the tongue and removed its orloh. If that orloh is still present, then one cannot be part of this transmission.

The deep parallels that exist between the bris milah and the bris of the tongue indicate that removing the orloh of the tongue requires a deep, wrenching effort to excise the covering of the internal truth. Any speech that does not come from deep down, that does not come from inside, must be cut off and thrown away. The orloh is that which covers and, as long as it is there, it is seen rather than the truth underneath. That superficial covering must be excised and discarded in order to enter into the covenant of the tongue. This is the most basic step and it is self- evident.

The Gra says in Sefer Yetziroh (I:3): "Milas haloshon is to toil in order to understand divrei Torah." "To toil" means that a person must to some extent and in some way break himself in order to reach the inner truth of speech. Whoever stays on the outside and grasps only the speech that can be achieved without toil, deals only with the orloh of speech -- which should really be discarded. Not only is this speech not the true one, but it is really an obstruction that actually prevents the true, inner part from being evident.

The mishna says: How disgusting is the orloh. We see that Rebbe Elozor ben Azarya says the nations of the world are criticized for having it (Nedorim 32b). To be called an oreil, meaning one who has not mined down through toil in Torah to the inner truth, is the worst insult.

The posuk says: Ve'es berisi okim es Yitzchok (Bereishis 17:21). The bris with Hashem is that special form of speech that is unique to us, the descendants of Yitzchok. It is that speech that comes after the removal of the orloh, after entering into both of the covenants. The bris is ours and ours alone.

We can be mazkir the Sheim Hashem Elokeinu in the way that the posuk intends it, only after entering the bris haloshon. That is a clear precondition.

And it is only with that power that we can stand against this awful attack from Yishmoel that is so strong that there is a situation of tzoroh that is absolutely unprecedented to Klal Yisroel. We note that this is unprecedented despite the fact that we certainly never lacked experience with tzoros. Throughout history we learned the sugya of tzoros very well. We know what tzoros are, Hashem yeracheim.

This tikkun cannot be found anyplace else. Many searched elsewhere for a solution, but the results of their search must be discarded like a disgusting orloh. All of these things -- without exception -- must be excised and discarded.

The only effective tikkun is the milas haloshon, as the gemora says, to toil over Torah and to reach divrei Torah through toil. That is what is called "to kill oneself over Torah (meimis atzmo oleho)." This is not just a literary metaphor. Without fulfilling this fully, it will not be effective against Yishmoel. But if it is fulfilled, it can overcome him.

We must hew the beSheim Hashem nazkir from inside ourselves. We must exert ourselves. It will hurt. We must cut something off of ourselves, something that even appears to be a part of ourselves, and discard it. Only in this way do we achieve milah. If we are mazkir Sheim Hashem Elokeinu in this way, then we can, be'ezras Hashem, overcome the tzoros.

One can reach this madreigoh only with a great effort. It is very hard to reach it, truly hard. One must put in the effort to do something that is parallel to milah, namely, to take something that appears to be part of himself, to slash it off and to cast it aside, with determination and even "cruelty" (achzori'us) if necessary -- only through an effort like that can one be saved. Only though this kind of sacrifice can one overcome this tzoroh that we are in. It is also absolutely clear that whoever exerts himself in this will save not only himself, but will also save many others along with himself.

It is very serious. Truly very serious. Whoever is nimol will be saved. Whoever is too lazy or too late or for whatever reason does not achieve this, is in terrible danger.

What the Borei Olom is waiting for from us, what is being demanded from us at this time, is (Tehillim 50:5): Isfu li chasidai korsei berisi alei zovach, gather together to Me my righteous ones, those who execute the covenant with sacrifice.

This is what the Borei Olom wants at this time. Where are My chassidim who keep My covenant? Gather them to Me.

If we know how and if we are those who beSheim Hashem nazkir, then will surely be fulfilled, heimoh kor'u venofolu, va'anachnu kamnu vanis'odod.

See Part 1

See Part 2

See Part 3

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