Reprinted from Eretz Yisrael in the Parashah by R’ Moshe D. Lichtman
I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that the Jewish nation is currently experiencing its most difficult period in over 25 years. The past few weeks have been simply catastrophic. The question, of course, is what – if anything – can be done about the situation? People on the left say, “Give the Arabs what they want…” People on the right say, “Wage war against them…” I do not suspect that any of my readers espouse the first opinion. But, if we are really honest with ourselves, we must admit that the second option is not so feasible either. The situation is very complex. With world opinion being so influential these days, you can’t just go ahead and wipe out thousands of people, especially “civilians.” I have, therefore, come to the conclusion that the only solution is Divine intervention. (Obviously, this is always true, but this time we are prevented from helping God do His work.) If a clear (or at least a “very hard to explain”) miracle would occur, ridding us of our enemies (like HaShem did to Sancheriv in the days of King Chizkiyah), the world would not be able to “blame” us for the outcome.
But how do we get HaShem to intervenee? The answer is obvious, but we need reminders sometimes. This week’s parashah provides us with one of those reminders: – When you wage war in your Land against an enemy that oppresses you, you shall sound a teru’ah with the trumpets, and you shall be remembered before the Lord your God, and you shall be saved from your enemies (10:9). Practically all of the commentators explain that the teru’ah is meant to awaken the Jews to repentance, so that HaShem can intervene and save them. Thus, when our enemies come to destroy us and take away our Land, our main (and sometimes sole) focus must be prayer and repentance. The Rambam codifies this in Mishnah Torah (Ta’aniyot 1:1-2):
There is a positive, biblical command to cry out and sound the trumpets whenever the community is faced with trouble, as it says, [When you wage war in your Land] against an enemy that oppresses you, you shall sound a teru’ah with the trumpets… This is one of the ways of repentance, for when trouble arises and [the Jews] sound the teru’ah, everyone realizes that the evil occurred because of their evil deeds… and this will cause the trouble to be removed from them.
In reality, though, there is something more concrete that we can do. I heard an interview on the radio this week, discussing the recent terrorist attack in Tel Aviv. The interviewee was asked if he thought the Arabs purposely targeted new immigrants from Russia. His answer was eye-opening. He claimed that the Arabs’ ultimate plan has always been to overcome us by outnumbering us. With our birthrate at approximately 3.4 children per family, and theirs at around 8, they would easily become the majority in the Land in a few decades. (By the way, this is also why they are not willing to budge on the “right of return” issue.) The aliyah of close to a million Jews from the former USSR over the past ten years put a bit of a damper on their plans. Therefore, they want to discourage further aliyah from Russia.
Whether or not they really intended to target Russian olim, we can learn a lot from the basic idea, which is certainly true. The way to truly defeat our enemies is to beat them at their own game. We must bring large numbers of Jews into the Land and thus forever thwart the Arabs’ plans. Our motto should be like that of the “settlers,” who say, “In response to every terrorist attack we must build a new yishuv.” We, too, should say, “For every Jew killed (ח”ו), a thousand Jews should come and settle in the Land.” (OK, maybe a hundred. Ten? At least one Jew!)
One might ask, how can you expect Jews to make aliyah during such dangerous and trying times? My answer is: now, more than ever, is the time to come. I will explain with another idea from the parashah.
Chapter 11 begins with the episode of Tav’eirah: – The people were as complainers; it was evil in the ears of the Lord… Rashi and many others explain that they complained about the hardships of entering the Land:
They said, “Woe unto us! How difficult this journey has been! We have not rested from the suffering of the journey for three days.” AND [GOD] BECAME ANGRY – [He said], “I intended it for your good, that you should enter the Land immediately.”
Rashi here is referring to his commentary on a previous verse: They traveled from the Mountain of the Lord a three-day journey (10:33). He explains: “They walked a three-day journey in one day, for the Holy One Blessed be He wanted to bring them into the Land immediately.” Da’at Zekanim explains the underlying cause of their complaints: “They had a lack of faith, and they were worried about war.”
The author of Chiddushei HaRim asks an obvious question. If God wanted to bring the Jews into Eretz Yisrael so quickly, why did He have to make the journey so arduous? Pay close attention to his answer (as cited in Parpera’ot LaTorah):
It is impossible to receive Eretz Yisrael without suffering, as R. Shimon bar Yochai says in Tractate Berachot (5a). Therefore, HaShem wanted to shorten the suffering of those who left Egypt and bring them into the Land quickly. Had the Children of Israel accepted this lovingly, the pains they suffered on their “one-day/three-day” journey would have sufficed to let them inherit the Land immediately. But since they complained… they were punished with fire… Afterwards, this led to slandering the Promised Land, and it was decreed that those who left Egypt would wander in the desert for forty years, while their children would eventually enter the Land…
Too many times throughout history, we have failed to learn the simple rule of “No pain no gain,” and we have always suffered for it afterwards. Hasn’t the time come for us to sacrifice a little for HaShem and His Land? Then we will surely receive Divine assistance and defeat our enemies forever more.