By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz
With a prolonged hiss, the last of the Chanukah lights flickered and went out. Pools of darkened oil, smudged glasses and used wicks are what remain of the eight nights. Each night we gathered our family and held a thin yellow candle to a wick and proclaimed our thanks to the One Who commanded us to light, praising Him for the miracles He performed for our people way back. We prayed that just as He performed miracles in the Bais Hamikdosh at the time of Chanukah, so will He perform spectacular miracles for us in our day.
Dovid Hamelech states in Tehillim (117), “Beshuv Hashem es shivas Tzion, when Hashem returns all to Zion, hayinu kecholmim, we will be as dreamers.”
The Izhbitzer Rebbe explains that the posuk comparing our reaction on that great day to dreamers is a reference to Yosef the dreamer, referred to as the “ba’al hachalomos.” Yosef was mocked, ridiculed and disliked on account of his dreams. His brothers threw him into a pit and sold him as a slave. To all, it seemed at that moment that the dreams had been quashed.
Years later, with the proclamation of two words, “Ani Yosef,” the brothers suddenly grasped the power and importance of the dreams. They understood that all the events that had transpired led up to this moment.
So too, when Hakadosh Boruch Hu will gather us and say the two words “Ani Hashem,” all will be clear. We will understand why everything happened. The significance of each pit, each blow, and each challenge will become clear to us.
Until then, we endure through the darkness as did Yosef. We are a nation that understands little but accepts much as we await that great day.
There are times when we merit a glimpse of clarity and realize that we have a loving Father Who watches over us and that nothing occurs by happenstance.
We may have experienced just such a time now.
We know that the letters on the Chanukah dreidel, nun, gimmel, hey and shin, stand for neis gadol haya shom, meaning a great miracle took place there. In Eretz Yisroel, where the miracle took place, the shin of the dreidel is replaced with a pey, signifying neis gadol haya poh, meaning a great miracle happened here.
This year, perhaps, we in America should have considered purchasing dreidels with those letters, for as we now know, a great miracle happened here. Poh.
It didn’t just happen now. The miracle has been happening over the previous eight years. We just figured it out now.
Two weeks ago, we looked on in alarm as the United States abstained on an anti-Israel vote at the United Nations. Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a lengthy anti-Israel speech couched as a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian quagmire.
On the way out, in the waning days of his administration, the president and his team have shown their true colors. They displayed for the entire world what they would have liked to have done during all their years in power.
It is a neis that they were held back from acting on their desires until now.
It is a neis that come January 20th, the Democrats won’t control the House, Senate or presidency, and will not be able to further their anti-Israel agenda. Hillary Clinton was so close to winning. Pundits, experts and savants confidently assured us that she would soon be in the Oval Office, building on the Obama legacy.
But Donald Trump won. His task will be to dismantle Barack Obama’s approach, especially as it pertains to Israel.
Let’s objectively examine the issue of Israeli settlements, the ones that the world considers an impediment to peace, and see if we can reach an unbiased conclusion. Let us try to understand the recent UN declaration that the Jewish people have no claim to the Kosel, the Har Habayis, Ihr Dovid and other parts of Yerushalayim that our people have basically been “occupying” for thousands of years, way before the notion of a people known as Palestinians even existed.
We have been occupying Yerushalayim with our hearts and eyes, with our tears and written requests, with our hopes and dreams.
A minyan for Maariv was forming at a chasunah, and someone wondered aloud, as often happens, which direction was mizrach. Rav Yitzchok Hutner was walking by and smiled. “Turn in all four directions,” he said. “The one that makes your heartbeat quicken, that direction is mizrach.”
It has always been that way for us, wherever we were, be it Spain, Poland, Germany or Morocco. We were always looking home, to Yerushalayim.
Yet, the haughty John Kerry, descendant of an abdicated Jew, arrogantly lectures us and expects us to believe that the leading lights of democracy and fairness from Venezuela and Senegal, of all places, on their own, dreamed up the necessity for a resolution giving away the Land of Israel weeks before Obama exits the stage.
Kerry, who failed at everything he did while in his current position, has the audacity to lay down six cardinal principles for peace, as if they were never attempted. He makes you think that should his ideas be implemented, they would bring peace to the Mideast.
Before we even get to the question of settlements, is there anyone who takes the Palestinians seriously enough to believe, for a moment, that pacifying them with parts of the land of Palestine that they covet will bring peace to the Middle East?
Thanks to Obama, Kerry and Clinton, hundreds of thousands of Syrian citizens have been murdered, while many more flood the countries of Europe. Will coddling the Palestinians have any impact on that mess in the Middle East? How about ISIS, formed when Obama and Company created a vacuum in Iraq? It was allowed to fester because Obama would not seriously engage the radical Islamic terrorists. Did you hear Kerry speak about them? Obama, hard at work on the golf course, wasn’t even heard from during the few weeks that this sorry spectacle was playing out. For once, he let his actions speak louder than the words of the past eight years that he is so proud of. This doesn’t include the mess in Afghanistan, Iran and other countries.
Yet, of all the awful Mideast states, the one to focus on is the one that has faded from the public consciousness, as even Arab countries realize the vacuous nature of the Palestinian claims and the importance of a strong Israel in the chaparral neighborhood.
While the world now claims that so-called settlements are a “major obstacle to peace,” the fact is that the so-called Palestinians have been fighting the notion of a Jewish state on its historic land since long before Israel captured these territories in a war the Arabs launched in 1967. They were fighting to destroy the entire state of Israel, and had Hashem not caused a miraculous military victory of the few against the many, they would have succeeded. They haven’t given up. To them, Rechovot and Bnei Brak are just as occupied as Yerushalayim and Chevron.
In fact, when the League of Nations took control of the Mideast from the Ottoman Turks, they created the states of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq. The original Mandate for Palestine apportioned to the Jews was the territory from the Mediterranean Sea deep into what is now Jordan. In 1922, the area of the proposed Jewish home west of the Jordan was reconstituted and the Jews were left with the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan. Both pieces were administered by the British.
Even after Winston Churchill removed 80% of the territory from the Jews and handed it over to the Arabs, the Arabs weren’t happy. Colluding with the British, they tormented the Jews living in Jewish Palestine, killing, maiming, robbing, and even once in a while conducting pogroms, massacring dozens, such as the horrific story with which we’re familiar, the Chevron Massacre in 1929.
When Israel was established in 1948, the neighboring Arab states all invaded. Though the new country was miraculously able to survive and hold off its enemies, it did lose territory. When the armistice went into effect, Jordan had control of the so-called West Bank and Egypt had control of Gaza. Jordan and Egypt actually occupied the lands that were Israel’s. Still seeking to eradicate Israel they went to war in 1967 against the small state. When the war ended six days later, Israel had miraculously recaptured the territory lost to the occupiers in 1949.
So, in effect, Israel had now freed the land from its occupiers. For some reason, the world refuses to see it that way and accepts the fictitious notion that Israel stole the land from the Arabs and is an illegal occupier of the territory. Even some of our own people are unaware of the history and believe that the West Bank is occupied.
In 2005, during the era of President George W. Bush, the land that constitutes Gaza was “returned” to the Palestinians in the hope of peace. Hamas grabbed hold of the territory and has used it since as a launching pad for missiles and rockets and three wars against Israel. The land-for-peace gambit failed. And settlements had nothing to do with it.
Left-wing Israeli political leaders Yitzchok Rabin, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert offered the Palestinians basically everything they are officially asking for – and more. Bill Clinton, as president, convened a peace parley at Camp David in the year 2000. The result? The Palestinians walked away on the cusp of victory and returned home to unleash a vicious wave of terror attacks against innocent Israeli Jews.
Kerry himself negotiated for almost one year, finally giving up in 2014, when the Palestinians did all they could to demonstrate that they weren’t really that interested in making any accommodations with Israel after all.
Binyomin Netanyahu, the man the administration loves to hate because he has exposed them too often for what they are, acquiesced to Obama’s request and froze all settlement construction for ten months in order to bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table.
President Obama, like other presidents who preceded him and attempted to bring peace to Israel, repeatedly promised that Israel has nothing to fear if they would give up land, and there would be peace, because he “would always have Israel’s back.” Bush did the same when he basically forced Israel to give up Gaza and hold elections there.
Obama and Kerry know all this. They know that the Palestinians don’t want a peaceful accommodation with Israel. They know of the terror the Palestinians have unleashed on Israel, the world and their own people; but in their irrational arrogance and hatred of Israel, they simply don’t care.
Kerry had the temerity to call for Israel to remove its security checkpoints, because they inconvenience the Palestinians who want to enter Israel. How can he ignore the reason those checkpoints were established in the first place – to keep terrorists out of Israel and away from its citizens? And yet, this pompous politician ignores the facts again just to make Israel appear to be a tyrannical occupying power.
Kerry also called for easing the blockade on Gaza, as if that were some type of humanitarian gesture. Someone should remind him that the blockade is there to prevent Hamas from acquiring even more weapons than they already have to attack Israel and further their goal of driving the Jews into the sea.
The Obama-Kerry-Clinton trio lies, distorts and ignores reality in order to stab America’s strongest ally and the only democracy in the Middle East. Is that leadership? Is that what the American people expect from their leaders? Like petulant children, they kick and smash everything in their way as they are led out of the classroom for misbehavior and failing grades.
It was these same hypocrites who drew a red line in the sand to protect the citizens of Syria and then stood by and did nothing to protect the masses who were mercilessly killed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies. And speaking of Iran, it is this same trio that rewarded the largest state supporter of terrorism with $150 billion and a deal allowing them to obtain a nuclear weapon with which to threaten the world in a decade.
The same trio stood on the sidelines as millions of refugees fled from Syria and other war-torn Arab countries, flooding Western Europe. The same European leaders who lecture Israel and voted for the American-led resolution against Israel sit atop combustible nations on guard of Arab terror threatening their citizens. They themselves are now experiencing what Israel has lived with for decades, yet their hatred of the Jewish people blinds them to the obvious reality.
The same trio caused ISIS to be formed and never engaged it in battle to destroy the nascent terror group that threatens the US, Europe and the world. They failed around the world and became a laughingstock in many capitals.
We ponder what the administration has wrought in its final days of power and we thank Hashem that they didn’t actively promote their corrupt, malicious and evil plans until it was too late to really get something going. They act like a tenant busting up an apartment as the eviction date approaches. Even the British prime minister, whose UN ambassador voted for the UN resolution, slammed Kerry. Theresa May said in a statement, “We do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally. We are also clear that the settlements are far from the only problem in this conflict. In particular, the people of Israel deserve to live free from the threat of terrorism, with which they have had to cope for too long.”
This same tone-deafness they display is, thankfully, what cost them the election.
Americans who just suffered through the election campaign should not be surprised by Obama’s move. As it shifts further left, the Democrat Party is becoming increasingly anti-Israel. The re-energized Bernie Sanders was more upfront about his dislike of the Jewish state. While Hillary Clinton portrayed herself as a friend of Israel, anyone who remembers her term as secretary of state can easily recall the public tongue-lashings that Netanyahu received from her as she attempted to force Israel to take positions that were against its interests.
Her apologists ignored that uncomfortable part of her history and the intense pressure her husband applied at Camp David, but the Democrat platform she ran on exposed her for what she is.
President-elect Trump is an unabashed supporter of Israel and the father, father-in-law and grandfather of Jews. He delivered a masterful speech at the AIPAC convention, clearly laying out his position. Now that he has been elected, he has stood behind Israel, and, regarding the recent Obama-engineered fiasco, told Israel to hold out until January 20th, when he will enter the White House.
How did Trump end up here, reassuring Israel and its supporters? How is he relevant when the media, mainstream politicians and power brokers actively tried to defeat him and literally laughed at the idea that he might triumph?
We have a Father in Heaven Who protects us and arranges all that transpires in this world. We are thankful that He is removing enemies of Israel from positions of power, and we pray that things will look up in the future for Israel, the Jewish people, the American people, and the entire world.
It’s true that we have differences with the government of Israel, but our disagreements with the secular Zionists have no connection to the anti-Semitism that is currently on display. Make no mistake about it: When the nations of the world attack Israel, they are attacking Jews, not Zionists. The founders of Zionism believed that if the Jews would have a state, anti-Semitism would end. They were wrong. It has increased, albeit with different names and guises.
People were fed by the media that Trump is an anti-Semite, and during the campaign, many compared him to Hitler, as ludicrous and false a claim as that is. In fact, it is Obama, a decades-long member in a church led by a known Jew-hater who has delivered so many speeches laden with hatred for Jews and Israel (and America), who has shown a proclivity for Arabs since his election. Although some Jews might give Democrats a pass and concentrate their suspicions on Republicans, that doesn’t change the facts.
Obama objects to Jews living in their historic land, because Arabs can’t tolerate Jews living among them. The Arab country of Palestine, which he and others like him pine for, would be Judenrein, but if a lonely Arab or his donkey claims that their rights in Israel were infringed upon, it becomes an international incident.
We have been around long enough to know that when France, Germany and the entire world hide behind the august states of New Zealand, Senegal, Malaysia and Venezuela to condemn Israel, it is their old anti-Semitism rearing its ugly head. Their actions are not prompted by concern for a refugee people mistreated by an evil occupier. Anybody can see that. The actions of Obama, Kerry and the others betray an inbred bias that Hashem has kept dormant until now. What they have done is not a simple outgrowth of stupidity and intellectually dishonest thoughts, but a furtherance of a stymied agenda.
We proclaim at the Pesach Seder, “Shebechol dor vador omdim aleinu lechaloseinu – In every generation, our enemies set out to destroy us.” Oftentimes, thankfully, we aren’t aware of their plans, for “Hakadosh Boruch Hu matzileinu miyodom – Hashem saves us from them.”
As we read and review the news during these moments of post-Chanukah reflection, we are given one of those rare glimpses to clearly realize just how great is the kindness we’ve been shown by Heaven.
In the Yerushalayim neighborhood of Mekor Boruch, on the second floor of a non-descript building, lives Rav Avrohom Yehoshua Soloveitchik, rosh yeshivas Brisk. Up the well-worn stairs, in his dining room, there is a weekly Chumash shiur. Along with incisive p’shotim and radiant chiddushim, the Chumash shiur presents the crystalline hashkofah of Bais Brisk, stories and divrei Torah that shape a worldview.
Each year, during the week of Parshas Yisro, the rosh yeshiva relates a vort from his revered zaide, the Brisker Rov. I heard it from him over thirty years ago, but its message is still fresh in my memory.
The posuk tells of Yisro’s amazement at seeing the Mitzriyim punished “badovor asher zadu aleihem, according to their own wickedness” (Shemos 18:11). Rashi explains that this is a reference to the middah keneged middah of their punishment. Just as the Mitzriyim had meant to destroy Moshe Rabbeinu and the Jewish children through water, at Krias Yam Suf they were consumed by water.
Targum Onkelos translates “badovor asher zadu aleihem” as “di chakimu, according to their schemes.”
The Brisker Rov explained this with a story about a Russian minister who asked Rav Itzele Volozhiner to translate the posuk which states, “Hallelu es Hashem kol goyim shabchuhu kol ha’umim ki govar aleinu chasdo – Praise Hashem all the nations, laud Him all people, for His kindness has overwhelmed us” (Tehillim 117:2).
Why, the diplomat wondered, should the nations of the world praise Hashem for bestowing kindness on Klal Yisroel?
Rav Itzele replied, “Do we know how many plans were hatched against us in the seat of the government in St. Petersburg? Do we have a clue of how many diabolical plots were created to harm us and weren’t carried out? Only you and others privy to the deliberations and meetings know that as much as you planned and as perfect as your plans were, they were foiled by Heaven. It is only those who plotted and know what could have been who can appreciate that we were spared.
“Thus, hallelu es Hashem kol goyim, the nation of the world laud Him, because they recognize how He showered His kindness upon the Jewish people”
Yisro, the Brisker Rov explained, was one of Paroh’s advisors. He was part of the inner circle and knew what Paroh had in store for the children of Yaakov. He was uniquely able to appreciate the precision of Hashem’s judgment on our enemies.
We know very little of their plans, but from Obama’s nasty UN move and Kerry’s speech, we can recognize some of what Hashem saved us from. We see a bit of what they tried to do for the last eight years.
And so, even though the days of Hallel each morning are over for now, we can still shout, “Hallelu …ki govar aleinu chasdo.”
News stories abound with a single theme: How come the press missed the boat on Trump? Some offer mea culpas, apologizing for getting it wrong. Some ascribe Trump’s victory to Russia, others to James Comey, and yet others to angry white men. Everyone has an excuse.
But we know Who is responsible.
As Yosef told his brothers in this week’s parsha (45:5), fear not about what you have done to me, because the schemes and plots of man are nothing but to fulfill Hashem’s will. It’s all Him.
Rav Velvel Chechik, one of the tzaddikei Yerushalayim who was very close to the Brisker Rov, would often repeat the famed kushya of the Bais Yosef and share an answer from the Alter from Kelm.
Why, if the neis Chanukah was that the oil of one night burned for eight nights, do we celebrate for eight days, if only seven of them were miraculous? The Alter said that the very fact that oil ignites is itself a neis. He ascribed this homiletically to Rabi Chaninah ben Dosa, who said, (Taanis 25a), “Mi she’omar lashemen vayidlok. The Creator must command oil to light.” So, the first night was also a miracle; the other seven simply exposed that miracle in a way that everyone understood it.
The last few weeks of the Obama presidency are an indication of the miracles we didn’t notice. The oil ignites and we don’t even stop to contemplate the wonder.
But now we see it. Ribbono Shel Olam, thank You.
During the weekly shmuess given by the Chofetz Chaim to talmidim, he would often reflect aloud, more in the way of a conversation than a lecture. One year, he began to discuss the story of Yosef Hatzaddik.
“He was like us, like a regular Jew,” said the Chofetz Chaim. “He was a beloved son, torn away from the comfort and warmth of family while he was still developing. He was humiliated, sold into slavery and jailed. But he triumphed. Not only did he triumph, but each one of the obstacles and nisyonos he faced brought him closer to success and happiness.
“So too,” concluded the Chofetz Chaim, “we are nearing the end of the golus of Am Yisroel. All of our travails and suffering will bring us to ultimate victory and light.”
May what happened here serve as a lesson to us.
May the nissim never stop.
May we quickly merit the geulah.