The Fear of the Jews was upon them: HaRav Nachman Kahana on Parashat Shemini 5774
By Rabbi Nachman Kahana
The Fear of the Jews was upon them
The Megila records that Achashverosh permitted the Jews to defend themselves on the 13th of Adar against their murderous neighbors in the 127 areas under the King’s control. On that day, the Jews killed 75,000 of the enemy in the outlying areas. An additional 800 were killed in Shushan, the capital, on the 14th of Adar. In the two days of fighting on the 13th and 14th of Adar 75,800 Persians were killed!
ובכל מדינה ומדינה ובכל עיר ועיר מקום אשר דבר המלך ודתו מגיע שמחה וששון ליהודים משתה ויום טוב ורבים מעמי הארץ מתיהדים כי נפל פחד היהודים עליהם:
And in every state and in every city wherever the King’s decree reached, the Jews were happy and joyful feasting and celebration, with many of the gentiles drawing close to Judaism because fear of the Jews was upon them
Fear of the Jew is a mighty weapon. It is alluded to in the Song at the Sea (shirat hayam) recited daily in the Morning Prayer (Shemot 15:14-16)
שמעו עמים ירגזון חיל אחז ישבי פלשת: אז נבהלו אלופי אדום אילי מואב יאחזמו רעד נמגו כל ישבי כנען: תפל עליהם אימתה ופחד בגדל זרועך ידמו כאבן עד יעבר עמך ה’ עד יעבר עם זו קנית
The nations will hear and tremble; anguish will grip the people of Philistia. The chiefs of Edom will be terrified, the leaders of Moav will be seized with trembling, the people of Canaan will melt away. Terror and dread will fall on them. By the power of your arm —Eretz Yisrael will be petrified as stone, until your people pass by, LORD, until the people you acquired pass by.
What are the lessons for our time?
Medinat Yisrael was awarded the rare opportunity of “fear of the Jews was upon them”. When we could do no wrong, and the opportunities for a major leap towards our final redemption was in our hands.
It happened in 1967, as a result of the Six Day War. The world, both Jews and Gentiles, were preparing for the devastating, unspeakable destruction of the nascent Jewish State and the annihilation of all its Jewish citizens. Preparations were being made in the US to save the surviving Jewish children; as if there would have been any Jewish children to save had we lost the war. I recall reading that money was collected to erect a great memorial for the gallant State of Israel which is no more!
Israel at that time was small in area and tiny in population. Our army and air force were a mere shadow of what they are today.
The war erupted in the early hours of Monday morning, the 25th of Iyar (June 5th) when Israel made a preemptive attack, destroying the air forces of Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan and Saudia.
The ground war commenced. In 6 days we liberated Yehuda, Shomron, the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights and Azza. On Wednesday the holy soldiers of Tzahal liberated the Old City and for the first time in 2,000 years the Temple Mount was in our possession. Tzahal, with the aid of HaShem, did more in six days than what Yehushua Bin Nun had accomplished in seven years.
The world was aghast – as if they had seen a ghost. For indeed we emerged from the grave of history to take our rightful place at the peak of God’s miracles.
During those six days and even a bit later we could have removed the desecration of HaShem’s holy Mount by demolishing the Al Aksa mosque and the golden domed building in the heat of battle, as was suggested by Rabbi Shlomo Goren, but rejected by Moshe Dayan.
And the world would have been silent.
We could have conquered Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and established pro-Israel puppet governments. And the world would have been silent.
We could have transferred all of the alien peoples from our lands and had a totally Jewish country. And the world would have been silent.
We could have expelled the murderous Arabs of Hevron and other potential threats across the Jordan River. And the world would have been silent.
But we did not do any of these justified acts because we were afraid to act like proper Jews. The ‘fear of the Jews was upon them’ did not register with our leaders.
Today Israel is being accused of war crimes. I admit to one unforgivable omission, when in 1948 and again in 1967 we did not expel all our enemies from the country, including the entire Gaza Strip. This is our crime, for which we, our children and grandchildren might yet have to pay the full price.
We did not learn the lesson of Purim; that when HaShem performs miracles, it is incumbent upon us to advance the opportunities afforded us and proceed with conviction and courage along the path of Jewish redemption.
The Pasuk (verse) says (Devarim 28,10):
וראו כל עמי הארץ כי שם ה’ נקרא עליך ויראו ממך
And all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they shall fear you
Rabbi Eliezer the Great explains (Berachot 6a) that the object that will instill fear in the hearts of our enemies is tefillin (phylacteries) placed on one’s head.
The opportunity for ‘fear of the Jews was upon them’ will again present itself.
In view of the political and security experiences of the last 40 years, and the religious awakening, I am certain that we will know how to seize the next opportunity to sanctify HaShem’s holy name in Eretz Yisrael.
While in the Purim mode, I would like to conclude with a light story with a serious message.
An Arab once entered a bank in Yerushalayim, just as the automatic mechanism closed the safe. In reply to his demand to receive some cash, the teller told him that the safe could not be opened until eight o’clock the following morning. The Arab became very nasty, even threatening the life of the teller. At this point, the manager approached the Arab, picked him up and threw him out.
While the Arab was nursing his wounds, the teller approached him saying: “Didn’t I tell you that the safe is closed until tomorrow morning?” The Arab turned to the teller and said: “Yes. You told me, but he explained it”.
It is senseless to tell our enemies of the folly of their ways. They will understand only when it is explained to them, in the spirit of “Fear of the Jews was upon them.”
HaShem has Many Emissaries
Rabbinic sources use the phrase הרבה שלוחים למקום – HaShem has many emissaries (to do His bidding). His agents range from angels of all ranks to human kohanim and prophets, to nature’s rain, wind, earthquakes and hurricanes.
However, one might lift an eyebrow of wonder at some of the people who were chosen to serve as the Creator’s agent, as we see in our time.
On the one side, there is Barack Hussein Obama – whose place of birth is unclear, whose time of study at Columbia University is not recorded in the records of the institution and whose years at Harvard are cloudy – who now sits in the Oval Office of the President of the United States. On the 10th of September 2001 (Twin Towers), if someone would have suggested that a black man with Moslem leanings, who attended the church of a masochistic self-hating pastor, would be the United States’ next president, he would have been considered mad.
And yet it has happened. The hand of God has plucked out this man from nowhere in order to set the next stage for the changing of gears on the world’s bumpy ride towards the future.
His counter-part is Vladimir Putin, former head of the Russian KGB.
What is transpiring now in Ukraine and Crimea, orchestrated by the ambitious Putin, is just the first instalment in the next phase of HaShem’s plan for the Jewish people.
The people who brought you the Soviet Union opened the gates of their Communist paradise and millions of Jews left. The same type of people now control Russia, and they will be instrumental in repeating the exit of many Jews – but this time from the United States.
The American president wants to decrease the size of his armed forces, however reality will dictate that he will have no choice but to increase all segments of the military.
Several years ago, I wrote:
In the near future we shall see the return of the United States Selective Service Law (draft), to fill the ranks of the military and of the internal security services which are now being set into place. So instead of young Jewish men coming to study in Yeshivot with names like: Hakotel, Netiv Aryeh, Kerem Be’Yavne etc., and young Jewish women coming to the seminaries of Har Nof – or being accompanied by their parents under the chuppa, the dedicated Yiddishe tattes and mamas will be accompanying their children to the Port Authority Bus Terminal for their childrens’ trips to camps with names like: Fort Knox, Pendleton, Quantico, Lejeune and Paris Island.
I recall a poem we learned in high school. It described two soldiers in the First World War who were shooting at each other. One was in the German army and the other in the Russian army – both were Jews. The stanzas revert from the thoughts of one soldier to the other. The German Jew asks HaShem why he has to serve the Kaiser, and the Russian Jew asks HaShem why he has to serve the Czar.
Both take careful aim and mortally wound each other. With their waning strength, they both crawl out to meet the man who is taking away his life. When they are very close, one says, “Sh’ma Yisrael”. The other says, “HaShem Elokaynu”. And then gripping each other’s arms both call out,“HaShem Echad”.
So tonight, go into your son’s bedroom and look at him sleeping so peacefully.
Don’t forget to pull up the blankets. You wouldn’t want him to catch cold.”
In totality, HaShem is telling us, “Jew! Beware! The world is a dangerous place for you, except in your homeland – Eretz Yisrael”.
If world affairs continue to deteriorate, Jews in the galut will find themselves in a most regrettable situation, with no way of escape.