Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Azza Forever

By Rabbi Yisrael Rosen
Dean of the Zomet Institute
"As for the Avim who dwell in open cities, until Azza, the Kaftorim... destroyed them and took their place" [Devarim 2:23].
Our soldiers have been struggling against the enemy in Azza for several weeks. I do not know what the situation will be when this article is published, but I do know one thing: The enemy in Azza is alive and kicking, and it continues to exist.
Tunnels of the Poisonous Snake
The Ramban suggests that the "Avim" mentioned in the above verse, who "dwell in Chatzerim, until Azza," are "serpents" ("avim" is related to "chivia," a snake in Aramaic), related to the verse. He writes, "named as in the verse, 'a viper's hole, and an adder's lair' [Yeshayahu 11:8], since those who are hidden in the ground are called 'refa'im,' as in, 'Will the refa'im who dwell under the water be stirred, or their neighbors?' [Iyov 25;8], and 'You shall throw the refa'im to the ground' [Yeshayahu 26:19] ...for the serpent lives in holes in the ground." The enemy in Azza digs deep down like a viper in its lair/tunnel, and makes plans to "throw the land of the refa'im to the ground." Like a serpent, it wants to "bite the feet of a horse and throw its rider backwards" (see Bereishit 49:17).
If we look at Azza not only through the eyes of our pilots in their planes but also from traditional sources, we clearly see that Azza is a difficult nut to crack. The phrase "until Azza" appears in six verses. The first is the first time the city appears in the Torah, "And the Canaanite boundary went from Tzidon through Gerara, until Azza" [Bereishit 10:19]. The second time is in this week's Torah portion, quoted above. The third mention is, "And Yehoshua struck them, from Kadesh Barneya until Azza" [Yehoshua 10:41]. The phrase appears three more times, where one of them is a description of the broad expanse of the kingdom of Shlomo, "He ruled the whole area across the river, from Tifsach until Azza" [Melachim I 5:4]. This phrase has a connotation of "ad" – this far and no further, implying a border, a barrier, a fortified wall, a barricade. (We might add that the word "ad" is in effect embedded in the name "Azza," since in some cases the letters dalet and zayin can be interchanged.)
Arrogance and Daring
Actually, the main characteristic of Azza stems from the name itself, where "azzut" refers to intense arrogance – vulgarity, impertinence, and taking an uncompromising stand. This power of Azza is fed by the power of the "other side," Samael. The goat sent to Azazel on Yom Kippur is meant for the power of Satan, as the Ramban explains in his commentary on the Torah, based on mystic reasoning – this is the power of Samael (who is Satan), based on his "Azzut," his audacity. Rabeinu Bechayei in his commentary on the Torah describes the matter in three words: "Azazel – a strong force." A hint of the same root can be seen in the Torah in the war between Moshe and Sichon: "And Yisrael struck him [Sichon] by the sword... until Bnei Amon, for the border of Bnei Amon was strong [Bamidbar 21:24]." What is the source of the arrogance and the strength of "the border of Bnei Amon" when facing Moshe and Yisrael? Rashi quotes the answer of the sages to this question: "What made it so strong? It was the warning of the Holy One, Blessed be He, to Yisrael not to attack them." That is, the arrogance of other nations against Yisrael sometimes stems from spiritual power. It is the audacity which can be ascribed to the angels of Eisav, Yishmael, and Azza.
The scouts sent by Moshe, who are to blame for the guilt and destruction that took place on our day of bad events, the Ninth of Av, used a similar phrase, "However, the nation is 'az' – strong" [Bamidbar 13:28]. The Natziv explains in Haamek Davar, "'Az' here does not mean physical strength but audacity, as in the phrase, 'daring as a tiger.'" This phrase appears in the Mishna (Avot 5:20), but we prefer to bring a comparison by the prophet, "The dogs are impertinent" [Yeshayahu 56:11], which corresponds to the statement of the Talmud, "Three figures have audacity: Yisrael among the nations, dogs among the animals, and roosters among the birds" [Beitza 25b]. The Maharsha notes, "A dog is not the most impertinent among the animals in terms of physical strength, since there are more powerful animals, but rather in the fact that it will not back down, and it is always arrogant." This image of the dogs is also related to the Kabbalistic phrase, "Kalbi D'chatzivin – the audacity of the dogs."The Shem M'Shmuel sees the audacity of the dog as related to Amalek, which is completely arrogant and full of audacity against Yisrael.
What is Needed is National Daring
This arrogance that stems from the "other side" will only be blocked by a contrary audacity, the audacity of Yisrael, the "most impertinent of all the nations" (as quoted above). The only one who can penetrate the fortified wall of Azza is Shimshon, with the audacity of a lion (whose riddle was, "Sweetness came out of strength" [Shoftim 14:14], where "az" can be expanded to "Azza"). He had the ability to become absorbed among the Pelishtim and to uproot their strength from within. (For more about the unique mystic trait of Shimshon, see my book, "Shoftim at the Level of the Sages.") In the middle of the night, Shimshon "took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two doorposts, and he lifted them up with the crossbar, and he took them on his shoulders and carried them to the mountaintop that faces Chevron" [Shoftim 16:3].
We can find a Divine hint in this matter. The audacity used against Azza can be found in the kingdom of Yisrael, which matured in Chevron, the cradle of the kingdom. "Az can only refer to royalty, as is written, 'He will give power to his king' [Shmuel I 2:10], and 'Mighty is the king who loves justice' [Tehillim 99:4].
We are in dire need of authoritative audacity, a feeling that shows no fear at all - not of the other nations of the world or of "what the media will say."

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