by Rabbi Mordecai Plaut based on a shiur of a
rosh yeshiva in Yerushalayim
Chazal Tell Us How to Overcome Yishmoel
In view of 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
The following is based on a tape of a shiur that
was delivered more than six years ago.
The first part described several important points that are
part of the background of Yishmoel and his relationship to
us. One is that there a special middoh of hearing, on
the part of Hashem, of our prayers in response to the awful
things that Yishmoel does to us, and also that 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
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.
A Different Shemi'a for a Different Tzoroh
It is clear that anyone who bows to the dust of his feet --
i.e., that every place that he goes he thinks that the
Creator of the world has sent him there -- always presumes to
speak in the name of the Borei Olom.
Such a person is called pere odom (Bereishis
16:12). A pere is one who breaks all order. A pere
odom is one who cannot join with others. Everything is
unraveled. He cannot tolerate any sort of organized living
arrangement. This is the essential power of that nation.
He removes himself from all human settlement. Every
settlement is a place where people live together. A desert is
a place where each person lives alone, as a lone
When that nation is present, no process is possible that
involves joining with it. There is simply no possibility of
coming together with it.
But it attacks us with an awesome power. We have never before
faced this kind of hostile power, a power that is in some
sense equivalent to ours in that Hashem's Name is
incorporated in his name.
What is our greatest power? That we invoke Hashem's Name --
va'anachnu beSheim Hashem nazkir! But they do that all
the time, from morning to morning, 24/7.
We need the voice of Yaakov, a special voice that can
overcome an opposing voice, and not only the hands of Eisov.
It has to overpower a voice that invokes the Name of Hashem
all the time. This is a force that, kevayochol, Hashem
set up against us.
The normal kol Yaakov can overpower the hands of
Eisov. But when we have to overcome something like this, we
need a special promise for a special response: Yishma Keil
veya'aneinu. It is essential that the Borei Olom
hear us (as He usually does), but this time with a special
inyan. It is not the normal Shomei'a
If we merely invoke Sheim Shomayim the way they invoke
Sheim Shomayim, that is, if we utter it only
superficially, then we are no better than they.
We must relate to the Sheim Shomayim in a different
way, so that it can elicit a different kind of hearing, a
This situation was completely anticipated by Chazal. It is
written in the Torah. It was known that the situation would
be as it is now, here, in Eretz Yisroel. It was called "that
which Yishmoel will do to us at the end of days in Eretz
Yisroel" by Chazal. (Eitz Hadaas Tov - on
Tehillim 118-124 bekum oleinu odom azai chaim
belo'unu ---- Maharal)
The pain is awful, really awful. For we are opposed by a
force that is, to some extent, in one important aspect,
equivalent to our normal strength. We must ourselves amplify
our basic nature so that we can overcome it.
When we are opposed by Eisov, then as soon as we enter the
mode of kol Yaakov -- when the voice of Yaakov is
heard in the shuls and botei medrash -- right
away we can prevail. As soon as the kol Yaakov rises,
the hands of Eisov are no longer effective against us.
But here that is not sufficient. We must go deeper. We must
do more. It is not enough to simply make our voice heard. We
must find a voice that can prevail against an opposing voice
that is, in some aspect, similar to ours.
That is the problem situation in which we are now. Everything
is very clear. The Borei Olom shows us very
We must stand against this awful tzoroh which will
bring us to a keening (ne'okoh) that will require a
special middoh, a special revelation, a special
promise that is called "Yishmoel:" Yishma Keil.
What must we do? If Chazal revealed the problem they must
certainly have revealed the answer.
Of course, the first thing we must do is what it says in the
gemora, that in the Ikvos Hamoshiach we must rely on
our Ovinu Shebashomayim (Sotah 49b). That is certainly
true, but what specific action must we take? How must we
invoke the Sheim Hashem so that the sequel will be
fulfilled: "They bowed and fell, but we got up and were
encouraged" (Tehillim 20)?
Physical and Spiritual Propagation
Chazal say (Sefer Yetziroh I:3, and the last
mishna at the end of the sefer): "Hakodosh
Boruch Hu made a double covenant with Avrohom. He made a
covenant between his ten fingers that is the covenant of the
tongue, and He also made a covenant between his ten toes and
that is the bris milah."
Everyone knows about the bris milah. There is also a
bris whose focus is the tongue.
The two covenants have many parallels. There is a parallel in
the locations, since the bris milah is located between
the ten toes and the tongue is located between the ten
fingers. In both cases there is a state of orloh in
which the covenant is covered over and not revealed and there
is a need for circumcision in order to bring out the full
effects. More deeply, the subject of both is propagation: the
bris milah is about producing children, and the tongue
is about producing talmidim.
The Gra says that the two are really the same covenant, but
that one is on the body and the other is on the soul; the one
is in gashmiyus and the other is in
In the case of the bris milah, as long as the
orloh covers things up, the truth of what is supposed
to come out of the system is not revealed. What is really
supposed to come out, does not come out. The bris
milah, when it is performed, reveals the true latent
power, which is the power of propagation: lihiyos lecho
le'Elokim ulezar'acho acharecho (Bereishis 17:7). The
bris ensures that this will happen, so that what
Avrohom has to give over, will in fact be carried over to the
children that he will have.
The power of propagation, of giving birth, is found in two
places. A man can have children and a man can have
talmidim. Veshinantom levonecho -- eilu hatalmidim.
The two powers are closely bound and have common features.
If one is an oreil, then the true power of propagation
is not revealed. He does not produce proper descendants:
lihiyos lecho le'Elokim ulezar'acho acharecho. The
orloh covers up and prevents the revelation of what is
truly there. That is why there is a bris, in order to
ensure that the truth is propagated by children who follow in
the same path.
When the tongue is still areiloh, before its
orloh has been removed, then there is no possibility
of revealing the power of the tongue that leads to the
revelation that Hashem is our Elokim and ensuring that
our talmidim follow after us.
End of Part III of IV
See Part 1
See Part 2
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