by B. Hoffman
Swallowed Up Alive
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
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
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
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
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
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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