Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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26 Shevat 5763 - January 29, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
Swallowed Up Alive

by B. Hoffman

What do the Arabs want?

This is the question uppermost in those hearts shaken up by the events of this past year. The sharpest political minds and the most knowledgeable media commentators are wracking their brains to enter the heads of the Arabs and fathom their mentality. What do they want? What are they striving for? War? Peace? Further concessions? Or perhaps, this whole business was a sorry mistake to begin with. Perhaps all they want is blood. They're simply thirsty for blood.

When so many attempts are being made to understand the Arab mentality, it is vital, first and foremost, to read the results of character analysis, to scrutinize the fearsome words of Rabbenu Chaim Vital in his commentary on Tehillim, Eitz Hadaas Tov, where he reveals what differentiates the exile of Yishmoel as opposed to the other exiles.

Psalm 124 reads: "A song of the ascents to Dovid: If not for Hashem Who was with us when man rose up against us, they would have swallowed us up alive when their anger was kindled against us."

Says Rabbenu Chaim Vital: There are only four exiles, namely, Babylonia, Medea, Greece and Rome. But at the end of time Israel will suffer under the yoke of Yishmoel, as is mentioned in Pirkei deR'Eliezer, midroshim and in Zohar, Lech Lecho.

In this psalm, Dovid Hamelech prophesied all that would overtake Israel in that final exile. And this fifth one would be the most difficult of all, for Yishmoel is described as savage. Under his rule, Israel will cry out and say, "Were it not for Hashem when this (pere) odom comes into power . . . " For he is odom. Being a descendant of Avrohom, he has a legitimate ancestral merit. Avrohom prayed that "would that Yishmoel live before You." In addition, he has the merit of circumcision, which also entitles him to being called odom. This is also why his rule is much harsher than that of the four regimes preceding him.

Indeed, why was he called Yishmoel? Because he is destined to persecute the Jews to such a degree that they will cry out to Hashem for mercy. And then "Yishma Keil -- He will hear . . . " and come to their aid.

It is written, "When man rose up against us," because all the other regimes ruled other lands as well. Yishmoel, however, has always been a dweller of tents, living a nomadic existence. His descendants are neither domesticated nor urbanized but eat from hand to mouth, and sometimes from hand to hand, that is by the force of their hand through stealing and bloodshed. After brutal forays, they return to their tents. These are the people destined to have power over Israel and over the whole world. This is similar to what is predicted in the Zohar on the phrase, "And a new king arose to rule over Egypt" -- at first, he/they was the lowliest among nations, but then he/they rose to power.

This is what will be said at that time: "Were it not for Hashem Who stood by us when that man, Yishmoel, rose up against us, we would have been swallowed up alive in their anger." In other words, this fifth exile is different from the past ones for during it, our enemies will seek to swallow us alive like the lean sheaves gulped up the fat ones and no outward sign was thereafter visible. Our enemy seeks to swallow us up and leave no crumb behind, to efface us as if we had never existed.

It was not thus with the four previous malchuyos. Then, "The waters would have overwhelmed us, the stream would have gone over our soul." In the exile of those other nations, we resembled one who has been ravaged by flood waters but survives. He still remains.

And this oppression is somewhat easier to bear, for if we do not remain afloat, we are not altogether submerged either. Those rulers sought to subjugate our spirit, to coerce us to accept their religion or at least mitigate our Torah dedication and mitzvah observance. Our subsequent decrease in numbers was a result of the fact that they killed us when we refused to submit. Decimation was the consequence of shmad.

Yishmoel however, is determined to swallow us whole, body and soul, to kill us, to absorb us and our property and leave no trace behind. They are destined to afflict us with dreadful punishments, the likes of which we have never experienced. When this happens, we will not know what to do!

That is the answer to our original question: What does he want?

To swallow us up alive. Make no mistake. Those Arabs never had a land. They were nomads, tent dwellers, barbarous brigands, guerrillas, cutthroat terrorists and criminals.

They are the "man risen against us." These lowlifes have suddenly come to rule. Their design is: "To swallow us alive when their anger is incited against us." The streets of numerous Arab towns and city can truly bear witness thereof.

What will be? This question fills our pounding hearts with fear in face of the wanton wildness and viciousness of our Ishmaelite enemies. R' Chaim Vital has this to say:

"Dovid Hamelech concludes with a plea: `Our help lies in the name of Hashem Who made heaven and earth.' Our confidence lies in the fact that we know that Hashem created heaven and earth. And we know He did this for the sake of Yisroel who keep His Torah, as our Sages said: Bereishis -- for the sake of reishis, which refers to Yisroel, which is called `first,' `foremost' or `primary.' Similarly, it is written, `If not for My covenant by day and by night, I would not have established the laws of the heavens and the earth.' Therefore, it is inevitable that He will come to our aid. Indeed, we have no other hope of rescue from their power save for our trust in His great Name.

And He will liberate us from their power, completely, wholly, speedily and in our days, so that heaven and earth can continue to exist, for without Yisroel, they will of necessity cease to be.

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