Parshas Ki Seitzei
When It Measures Up
You shall not have in your house a measure and a measure - a large one
and a small one. (Devarim 25:14)
As the Talmud points out, G-d punishes measure-for-measure (Sanhedrin
90a). For those of us who were devastated by disengagement, it seemed like
Divine retribution. There was serious flooding in several parts of the
world right after the removal of the settlers from Gush Katif, and raging
fires in others. There is, without question, amazing parallels between the
stories of heartbreak and destruction in Azza, and that of the southern
states that were pummeled by Hurricane Katrina, except that they seem
greatly magnified in the case of the latter.
It is not a question of being vindictive or gloating over the suffering of
others, G-d forbid. America has been a good friend for many years, and
does much chesed the world over, including playing host to millions of
Jews who are free to pursue their religion in peace and even affluence.
Nevertheless, from a Torah perspective, in spite of all of her good, she
has made some drastic mistakes regarding the handling of Eretz Yisroel and
the people who live there. However, at the end of the day, it may not be
about America, but about the Jews so firmly planted in her soil.
It is reminiscent that right on the heels of the suicide bombing in the
center of Jerusalem at the Sbarro restaurant (August 9, 2001), George Bush
insisted that the Road Map be implemented in spite of the tragedy that
claimed 15 lives, just to spite the terrorists who were trying to derail
it. The attack on the World Trade Center occurred only one month later.
Overnight, the Americans were made to feel first hand what the Israeli
people lived with daily, on a larger scale.
Indeed, after almost every suicide-bomber terrorist attack in Eretz
Yisroel, a calamity occurred somewhere else in the world, and always on a
much larger scale. It is as if G-d is saying to the Jews of Israel: It
could have been far worst than it was.
It is hard to see the mercy of Divine judgment at such times, except when
something worst happens elsewhere. Then, all of a sudden you realize that
even though it seemed as if G-d had abandoned us during our time of need,
the truth is that He was there all along limiting the damage that
seemingly had to occur.
The bottom line is, in spite of the "coincidences" that connect Katrina to
Katif, something terrible has happened to a lot of people, and the effects
will be very long term and have the potential to trigger other larger
catastrophes as well that will touch the entire world. G-d is not into the
wholesale slaughter of people, and certainly not without reason. And, for
whatever reason Divine Providence decided to allow so much destruction to
occur, it is too large and sublime to simply assume that G-d is getting
back at the American people for their handling of Jewish land.
I have to admit that I, like many others, have been doing exactly that.
However, after watching the devastation occur while in Toronto, and after
hearing updated reports about the effects of Hurricane Katrina, you have
to wonder about those deeper reasons. Like in the case of so much
Hashgochah Pratis throughout history, things are not necessarily what they
seem to be at first. The immediate effects on an event are not always the
underlying reason for the event itself, and sometimes the basis for a
crisis can be just the opposite of what it first seemed to be.
For example, as I mention in Parashas Re'eh, there was a very positive
side to hitnatkut. Not that the government planned for this effect, but it
was intended by G-d. As part of the small picture, abandoning Gush Katif
was an illogical act that probably has more to do with American survival
and Arab oil, not to mention the political and legal survival of Sharon,
than it does with appeasing Arabs who are not interested in appeasement.
They're the only ones being honest about the situation.
As part of the larger picture, for all we know, hitnatkut may have been
part of the transition from a heart of stone to one of flesh, a necessary
prerequisite, the prophet has told us, for Yemos HaMoshiach to take place.
It was a heart-breaking situation, and perhaps, a heart-revealing one,
part of the final preparation for the late, great period of Yemos
What might the Big Picture say about the events of today?
G-d, your G-d will then end your captivity and have compassion upon
you, and will return and gather you from all the nations to which G-d sent
and scattered you. Even those at the far corners of the earth G-d, your G-
d, will gather and take you. G-d will bring you into the land which your
fathers possessed, and you will possess it. He will do good for you, and
multiply you beyond previous generations. (Devarim 30:3-5)
America has to go. Or better yet, the Jews of America have to go, at some
point in time. Anyone who believes in Torah cannot disagree with this, for
belief in the Final Redemption is one of the Thirteen Principles of Faith,
and it includes complete Kibbutz Golios. However, as to when they have to
go is up for grabs, with the Jews of Eretz Yisroel saying the time has
come, and many of the Jews of America saying, "NO WAY!"
This is not a popular discussion with American Jewry, to say the least.
Let's face it: if making aliyah in the near future is not threatening,
then talking about aliyah now is no problem. However, if the idea of
making aliyah interferes with one's peace of mind, then such a discussion
is, at the very least, annoying, and at the worst, heretical and
Whatever it is that keeps Jews glued to American soil has to be removed. A
situation has to develop that eliminates the reasons that make Jews feel
more Jewish in America than in Eretz Yisroel. People seem to expect
Moshiach to show up all of a sudden one day and say, "Okay guys, time to
come home," and lo and behold, they will all come in joy immediately. "If
so, then why get upset about the issue before that time?" people ask.
It would be nice if that were so, but it is also unlikely. Rather, part of
G-d's mercy includes a transition from exile to redemption; it is not
meant to be an overnight thing. The Final Redemption is not a matter of
simply picking up a paycheck and going out for supper, necessitating only
a change of clothing. Quite the contrary! Our very essence will change,
and that cannot simply happen at the winking of an eye.
Until Katrina came along, the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center
in 2001 was the last major disaster to affect the United States in a big
way. It shut the country down for four straight days, and resulted in the
deaths of just under 3,000 people. Recovery was slow in coming, but for
the most part, it came, albeit with a war against terrorism as well. That
was America's response to an "Act of G-d," to shoot the messengers, and to
avoid the soul-searching that Nineveh once did to avert national disaster.
Who will America go to war against this time for this "Act of G-d," which
is clearly far larger in scale than the destruction of the Twin Towers,
especially if George Bush and Condoleezza Rice cannot see any Divine
mussar in what has just happened?
In other words, the two events, the Twin Towers attack and Hurricane
Katrina, are not isolated and disconnected from one another, but the
second is in addition to the first, and an upping of the ante if you will.
More importantly, they are both part of a process whose end goal may be
the fall of the American Empire. Something that has to happen to make
Kibbutz Golios possible.
In other words, though Hurricane Katrina only became part of our
consciousness when it was first spotted forming out over the Atlantic
Ocean just days before it attacked the southern coast of the United
States, in reality it had probably been coming for years, if not longer.
It simply wasn't just a new response to a new crisis to do with Eretz
Yisroel, but an event that had been coming for some time, even before
Ariel Sharon agreed to unilaterally abandon Azza.
If so, then what is its connection to hitnatkut? Why did this world
disaster come so close on the heels of the expulsion of the settlers from
that part of Eretz Yisroel, and why are there so many ironic similarities
between the two events?
So said the L-rd G-d: "Because Edom acted in wreaking vengeance against
the house of Yehudah, and has incurred guilt by taking vengeance on them,
therefore," so said the L-rd G-d, "I shall stretch forth My hand upon
Edom, and I shall cut off from her both man and beast, and I shall make it
desolate from the south, and Dedan will fall by the sword. And I shall lay
My revenge upon Edom by the hand of My people Israel, and they will do to
Edom according to My wrath and according to My fury, and they will know My
vengeance," says the L-rd G-d. (Yechezkel 25:12-14)
The following discussion is part of the answer we seek:
Whether we are talking about the redemption of the Jews or the plagues
against the Egyptians, it was supernatural. For, it is known that the
Jewish people were not fitting for redemption, and likewise with regard to
the plagues in Egypt, it says in the Holy Zohar (Noach 61b; Chaye Sarah
121b), that they had not yet filled their measure. There they answer the
question in the Talmud (Megillah 10b; Sanhedrin 39b): Does The Holy One,
Blessed is He, take pleasure in the fall of the evil? The Holy Zohar
answers the question by saying that there is a difference: regarding those
who have filled their measure there is joy . . . (Sha'arei Leshem, p. 402)
What does this mean? It means that even if G-d wants to punish a nation,
He won't do so until that people truly deserves it. G-d created every
nation, and He knows the nature of each, what it is capable of doing for
good or for bad. He knows what to expect from each individual nation,
rewarding each for the good it has done and punishing each for the evil it
should have avoided, based upon its individual strengths and weaknesses.
What if Hurricane Katrina was meant to come for some time now, to satisfy
some ultimate historical goal? Say it was pushed it off with the good
America performed, like coming to the rescue of the tsunami survivors, or
through the money it has supplied Israel over the decades. What if America
was being saved from further disaster in the merit of the Jews she hosts
and makes comfortable?
And, what if America's overt involvement in hitnatkut was the threshold
she crossed over to override all those merits? What if America's pushing
of the Israeli government was the measure necessary to bring the fall of
America, Part 2? It would certainly explain why, in spite of all the
efforts of so many, and the tefillos of so many more to stop the process
of disengagement, it went ahead anyhow. There is something greater at
stake here than the abandonment of one area of Eretz Yisroel for the time
If so, then it doesn't make a difference if the U.S. government sees the
connection between what they were a part of and what happened to them in
response. The connections are for us, for us to see the hand of G-d in it
to know that, though it seemed as if G-d had abandoned us in Gush Katif,
the real truth is that He was there with us, crying on the shoulders of
both soldiers and settlers alike. However, unlike man, G-d sees only the
Big Picture, and that included events still yet to come, but events that
were still invisible to us.
And, if so, then hitnatkut and Hurricane Katrina portray a different
message to a different crowd. There is no question that the fall of Gush
Katif must send us soul-searching here in Eretz Yisroel, and it probably
represents one of the final acts of secular Zionism. But, on a grander
scale, it probably represented the filling of America's measure that
allowed Katrina to do her thing.
The question is, what's next? Many of us over here in Eretz Yisroel know
that the hitnatkut of Gush Katif, which is now history, was only the
beginning of a process that might end up causing the loss of control over
this country for about nine months. And, let's face it, since America is
now in a survival mode heavily dependent on Arab oil, making Israeli
democracy an issue of the past, one does not have to be a rocket scientist
to predict the extent of American pressure in the future to surrender more
land to the Arabs.
And, should those forces succeed in doing so, causing holy Jewish soil to
fall into the hands of thieves and murderers, then without a doubt, the
rooster will come home to roost. And, just as Hurricane Katrina out did
the attack on the World Trade Center, the next disaster, whatever it will
be and from wherever it will come, will be even worst, until living as a
Jew in America will no longer be a viable option.
It is not something we pray for, or unlike the Arabs, celebrate when it
happens. However, it is something that we acknowledge is in the cards if
the process to bring it about is not aborted.
You shall not have in your house a measure and a measure - a large one
and a small one. (Devarim 25:14)
At the end of this week's parshah there is a discussion about keeping
accurate weights and measures, so that no one is cheated through a
transaction. Following this is Parashas Zachor, the recounting of the
attack by Amalek, which we read as the Maftir the week before Purim.
These pesukim are the famous source of the Vilna Gaon, who found a hint to
his name in the posuk about complete weights, that he could have led the
Jewish people in their final battle against Amalek. However, the Midrash
simply sees the juxtaposition of the two parshios as mussar about the
spiritual and eventual physical effects of cheating in the market place.
However, perhaps there is a third explanation. Perhaps the Torah is
informing us what it will take to overcome Amalek at the End-of-Days, if
the Jewish people do not hasten the redemption: the measure of Amalek to
be completed through his attacks against the Jewish people and on Eretz
Yisroel, after which, as the GR"A and the Torah points out (Ki Savo
follows the account of Amalek), we WILL come to the land.
If so, then this also sheds a new light on the following Talmudic passage:
Rav said, "All the dates of redemption have already passed, and now it
depends upon repentance and good deeds." Shmuel said, "It is enough that
the mourner remains in mourning!" This is like an earlier disagreement:
Rebi Eliezer said, "If Israel will repent then they will be redeemed, and
if they will not, then they will not." Rebi Yehoshua said to him, "If they
do not repent they will not be redeemed?! Rather, The Holy One, Blessed is
He, will cause to rise a king who will make decrees as difficult as those
of Haman and Israel will repent and return to the right path." (Sanhedrin
This will not only bring about national teshuvah of the Jewish people, but
will also give Amalek a chance to complete his fill of evil against the
Jewish people, so G-d can finally take His revenge against the enemies of
the Jewish people. Indeed, it says:
After Moshiach comes, a major war will be instigated against Israel, as
mentioned in the Holy Zohar (Shemos 7b); see this at length until page 10.
It is also in Parashas Vayaira (119a) and Parashas Toldos (139). This is
the "War of Gog and Magog" spoken about in Yechezkel (38, 39), and
Zechariah (14), as well as in Midrash Tehillim (Mizmor 118:9): Three times
in the future, Gog and Magog will war with Israel and go up against
Jerusalem; they will assemble and anger the nations to go up to Jerusalem
with him, as it explains there. Also see Vayikra Rabbah (27:11), and many
other places. After, The Holy One, Blessed is He, will take His revenge
against them, as spoken about in Yechezkel, and the Jewish people will
dwell in their land in security and with much good . . . (Sha'arei Leshem,
Not showing enough sympathy over the Sbarro attack and pushing the Road
Map in spite of logic to the opposite, perhaps resulted in the attack on
the World Trade Center. Actually forcing the evacuation of Jews from
Jewish land for the sake of extremely unreliable partners in the peace
process has resulted, perhaps, in Hurricane Katrina. The Midrash is
predicting that the attempt to wrestle Jerusalem away from the Jewish
people will result in nothing less than the complete annihilation of Gog
and Magog, and the final stage of transition to Yemos HaMoshiach.
Uncannily, the final death throes of the nations that are fermenting into
the reality of Gog and Magog is dictated by those very nations themselves.
It will NOT be an easy road for us Jews along the way, but we will
survive. They, on the other hand, will not.
As 5766 rolls in with less than two-and-a-half weeks until Rosh Hashanah,
the stage for the final act of history is set far more than people care to
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.