"May your ears hear what your ears are hearing"

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Location: Kochav Yaacov, Israel

Sunday, November 27, 2005

And now a word from someone else

It was early December, 2003. I was at a Shiva minyan between Mincha and Maariv, and a young but respected Rav gave a D'var Torah on Parshat VaYishlach which I would like to repeat for you here. Unfortunately, I can't tell you his name. I have asked several people who were there, and gotten several different guesses, but no one remembers for sure. All I can tell you is that he was Israeli, he lived in Kochav Yaakov, and as I said he was well respected. He was NOT a Massachusetts-born liberal like me.

Before he began, he pointed out that it is usually not allowed to give a regular D'var Torah on the Parshat Ha'Shavua in a Shiva house, but it is permitted for an IMPORTANT D'VAR MUSSAR (emphasis mine). (If I had tried something like that I would have been shouted down as an apikoris.)

At the beginning of the Parsha, Yaakov hears that Esav is coming with an army. He is afraid and so he makes elaborate plans: he prays, he sends gifts, and he prepares for war. But the next day, when Esav actually arrives, gone are all the preparations; he basically just walks up to him (with a few bows.) Why? What happenned to all his fear?

To answer this question we have to look at a paradox we encounter on Pesach. At the Seder, we make a big deal out of the fact that it is Hashem HIMSELF who kills the firstborn Mitzrim. "I and not a messenger..." But the Torah seems to contradict that! Shmot 12:23: "...He will see the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts and He will not allow the destroyer to come to your house to strike." Who or what is the destroyer? It sounds like a Shaliach, a messenger! So what gives?

The answer is that the most important part of a Divine judgement is not the final execution, but the decision in the Heavenly court. THAT is the decision that Hashem will not delegate to any Shaliach. Once that decision is made, the carrying out of that decision is automatic so it doesn't matter if Hashem does it directly or sends a shaliach.

Similarly by Yaakov. When he first heard Esav was coming, he was afraid and took precautions. But that night, he had a fight with the angelic representative of Esav, and won. In other words, he won the spiritial battle in the Heavenly court! Once that decision was final, he had nothing to fear in the physical world. (My own note: now I understand why some of Chazal criticize Yaacov for bowing 7 times...there was no longer any need.)

Similarly today: the important thing is not how many planes or guns we have to fight our enemies, but how we present ourselves in the Heavenly court. We have to change our emphasis to win THAT battle, and the rest will take care of itself.

Let me add one thing. I am not saying, nor I'm sure was this Rav saying, that we should NOT fight our enemies, that we should put aside our weapons and simpy rely on Hashem. That's nonsense. As long as people are trying to kill us, we have to do whatever we can to protect ourselves. The difference is the emphasis. When an army is fighting a war, it must protect its flanks, but the commanders must never forget that the front line is the main war. Our external enemies -- Arabs, Chilonim, Dubya, and Western pseudo-liberals -- are the flanking attacks. The MAIN enemy is ourselves! (Walt Kelly, author of the political comic strip Pogo, said it years ago: "We have met the enemy and he is us.") We MUST concentrate on winning the SPIRITUAL battle in Bet Din Shel Ma'ala or Hashem will just keep throwing more enemies at us, and if we DO win, then none of them will be able to touch us, as I have said before.

So let's turn the main force of our efforts to the home front, to the main battle to make our own people truly once again an Or Lagoyim (light unto the nations.)