This week’s Perceptions is dedicated in loving memory of Devorah bat Yosef Baer, z”l (Dorothy Shapero)
May her memory always be blessed, and may she be a meilitz yoshar for the Jewish people. May the learning of this parshah sheet be a great merit and source of aliyah for her Neshamah.
Dr. Barry Shapero & Family
- When you go out to war against your enemies, and God, your God gives them over to you and you take captives, and you see among the captives a desirable, beautiful woman who you want to marry, then bring her into your house … (Devarim 21:10-12)
As I write, hurricane Irene is hitting the eastern coast of the United States. As of this moment, nine people have lost their lives (one of whom had decided to surf the big waves), and hundreds of thousands of homes are without power, again. It it was extreme heat, and now it’s extreme winds, even though it is only a Level 1 Hurricane at present.
Last week there was an earthquake that spread out from Virginia to Toronto. A lot of people felt it, but damage was minimal, though the Washington Monument does require some repair work. According to many today, if George Washington could see how his country is being run, he’d roll over a few times at least in his grave. Perhaps this is one of the ways that he is showing his people that he is.
And, it is not just earthquakes, heat waves, and hurricanes. There are also major forest fires doing considerable damage, which has contributed significantly to entire crops being wiped away for the year. It almost seems as if someone is using the United State of America for target practice.
Not to worry. We’re just living through a downturn. Don’t be concerned. All of the damage that is occurring, and may still yet occur is just because we happen to be fortunate enough to be living through a negative period of history. After all, someone has to, since history is full of ups and downs, and the most recent downs seems to be us.
Not that every country is. Some countries are doing perfectly fine, still. And, interestingly enough, as normal as the situation may appear to many who are suffering through it, it clearly wasn’t predictable. Not the financial collapse, or all of the bad weather. Otherwise we could have prepared for it, and as the emergency people of New York will tell you, they were prepared for just about everything like no one else in the world, bar a Hurricane. A lot of good that does them.
Predictability, for us, is a function of pattern. It is consistent repetition that clues us in to what is likely to happen next. Randomness leaves us in the dark; pattern shines a light on history and allows us to make predictions, which is especially important when it comes to making life more secure, be it from human terrorists or natural ones.
The ironic thing about pattern is that sometimes it reveals God, and sometimes it hides Him. For example, there are Fibonacci numbers, which result in sequences and spirals that show up all over physical creation, including man as well. Something as simple as the seeds of a sunflower plant can be a beautiful representation of such a spiral. There are many such examples, some of which have made believers out of some scientists.
Other times it is randomness that best reveals God’s involvement in history. That’s when familiar events happen in unfamiliar ways, for then they catch us off guard, and therefore catch our attention. Yes, earthquakes have occurred before and yes, major droughts have occurred before and yes, terrible fires have wiped away crops before and yes, hurricanes have moved up the east coast before, even as far as New York. But, not as a function of everyday nature.
To someone who sees God in all that happens, especially in the unexpected, major events, be they what they may, it is baffling how non-believers do not. It just seems so obvious that any intelligent person should be able to get it, and yet, there are plenty of intelligent people out there who do not, and refuse to. Just the contrary! They use their intelligence to make a mockery out of the people who do. How does that work?
An example of this, related indirectly to the God issue, is the following from a personal blog, from a Jerusalem Post reporter regarding Israeli deaths from the most recent terrorist attacks on the way to Eilat. I am quoting it at length not just to fill up space, but because the author’s take on the history of the Middle-East conflict, the Peace Process to date, and the people with whom Israel is being forced to make peace, is so off the mark that it makes him seem too mentally incompetent to be called a traitor. Or rather, that he is a Palestinian in Israeli clothing.
- I think a lot of people who realize that the occupation is wrong also realize that the Palestinians have the right to resist it—to use violence against Israelis, even to kill Israelis, especially when Israel is showing zero willingness to end the occupation, which has been the case since the Netanyahu government took over (among other times in the past). But people don’t want to say this, especially right after a terror attack like this last one that killed eight Israelis near Eilat. And there are lots of good reasons for this reticence, such as: You don’t want to further upset your own countrymen when they are grieving, you don’t want to say or write anything that could be picked up by Israel’s enemies and used as justification for killing more of us. (These are good reasons; fear of being called a traitor, for instance, is a bad reason.) But I think it’s time to overcome this reticence, even at the cost of enflaming the already enflamed sensitivities of the Israeli public, because this unwillingness to say outright that Palestinians have the right to fight the occupation, especially now, inadvertently helps keep the occupation going. When we say that the occupation is a terrible injustice to the Palestinians, but then say that Palestinian terror/resistance is a terrible injustice to Israel, we’re saying something that’s patently illogical to anyone but a pacifist, and there aren’t many pacifists left, certainly not in Israel. The logical, non-pacifist mind concludes that both of those statements can’t be true—that if A is hurting B and won’t stop, then B certainly has the right to hurt A to try to make him stop. But if everybody, not only the Right but the Left, too, is saying that B, the Palestinians, don’t have the right to hurt A, the Israelis, then the logical mind concludes that Israel must not be hurting the Palestinians after all, the occupation must not be so bad, the occupation must not be hurting the Palestinians at all—because if it was, they would have the right to hurt us back, and everybody agrees that they don’t. So when they shoot at us or fire rockets at us, it’s completely unprovoked, which gives us the right, the duty, to bash them and bash them until they stop—and anybody who tries to deny us that right doesn’t have a leg to stand on, so we’re just going to keep right on bashing them. And when the Palestinians complain about the occupation, we Israelis can honestly say we don’t know what they’re talking about. This, I’m convinced, is how the Left’s ritual condemnations of terror are translated in the Israeli public’s mind—as justification for the occupation and an iron-fist military policy. But if, on the other hand, we were to say very forthrightly what many of us believe and the rest of us suspect—that the Palestinians, like every nation living under hostile rule, have the right to fight back, that their terrorism, especially in the face of a rejectionist Israeli government, is justified—what effect would that have? A powerful one, I think, because the truth is powerful. If those who oppose the occupation acknowledged publicly that it justifies Palestinian terrorism, then those who support the occupation would have to explain why it doesn’t. And that’s not easy for a nation that sanctifies the right to self-defense; a nation that elected Irgun leader Menachem Begin and Lehi leader Yitzhak Shamir as prime minister. But while I think the Palestinians have the right to use terrorism against us, I don’t want them to use it, I don’t want to see Israelis killed, and as an Israeli, I would do whatever was necessary to stop a Palestinian, oppressed or not, from killing one of my countrymen. (I also think Palestinian terrorism backfires, it turns people away from them and generates sympathy for Israel and the occupation, so I’m against terrorism on a practical level, too, but that’s besides the point.) The possibility that Israel’s enemies could use my or anybody else’s justification of terror for their campaign is a daunting one; I wouldn’t like to see this column quoted on a pro-Hamas website, and I realize it could happen. Still, I don’t think Hamas and their allies need any more encouragement, so whatever encouragement they might take from me or any other liberal Zionist is coals to Newcastle. What’s needed very badly, however, is for Israelis to realize that the occupation is hurting the Palestinians terribly, that it’s driving them to try to kill us, that we are compelling them to engage in terrorism, that the blood of Israeli victims is ultimately on our hands, and that it’s up to us to stop provoking our own people’s murder by ending the occupation. And so long as we who oppose the occupation keep pretending that the Palestinians don’t have the right to resist it, we tacitly encourage Israelis to go on blindly killing and dying in defense of an unholy cause. And by tacitly encouraging Israelis in their blindness, I think we endanger their lives and ours, their country and ours, much more than if we told the truth and got quoted on Hamas websites. There’s no time for equivocation anymore, if there ever was. The mental and moral paralysis in this country must be broken. Whoever the Palestinians were who killed the eight Israelis near Eilat last week, however vile their ideology was, they were justified to attack. They had the same right to fight for their freedom as any other unfree nation in history ever had. And just like every harsh, unjust government in history bears the blame for the deaths of its own people at the hands of rebels, so Israel, which rules the Palestinians harshly and unjustly, is to blame for those eight Israeli deaths—as well as for every other Israeli death that occurred when this country was offering the Palestinians no other way to freedom.
Funny how only Israeli and Western pacifists say such things. If you ask the Arabs themselves, and I have, they beg to disagree. The Middle-East conflict exists because fundamentally, the Arab world does not accept the Jewish right to exist, certainly not as an independent nation. Any compromises that have been made to date have been temporary, the product of Arab guile taught by Mohammed himself, a trick to stall the enemy until the day they can be defeated.
Muslim ideology, which is becoming clearer to some in the West as it spreads there, only knows one kind of peace: Islamization of the world. There are no half-way measures: you’re either one of them, or you’re the enemy. Occupied land? If you’re not a Muslim, anywhere you live you are occupying their land! If you are not living by their laws, then you are, without exception, an infidel worthy of forced conversion, or death.
Those aren’t my words. Those of the words of the teachers whose students are already the leaders of the Palestinian people, and will continue to be forever (they have no intention of changing their ideology). All the Peace Process means to them is a way to get through negotiations what they have been unable to get through war. They will murder Israelis of any type not because they see us occupiers of land that they think belongs to them, but because they see us, period.
It is so incredibly obvious from everything they say, do, teach, eat, breath, drink, etc., that one has to be out of his mind to be a non-Muslim and not see it, and how much more so, an actual Israeli. Is the person mentally insane, or is there another level of mentality that makes a person responsible for his beliefs and actions, in spite of how crazy they are?
Enter Parashas Ki Seitzei, which begins talking about the yafas toar, the female captive. Though it may be normal for other armies to take a female captive as part of the booty of war, it is not supposed to be for a Jewish soldier. The male-female relationship, in Judaism, is very holy, and this soldier’s approach to marriage is about as unholy as a Jew can get. It was only a few parshios ago that we were told not to become enamored by gentile objects of beauty, and certainly we’re not supposed to marry one.
As the Talmud makes clear, this is far from an ideal situation. Indeed, the Torah is only going along with it until the man can calm down and regain his senses and realize what he is doing. It is the Torah’s hope that after having to wait the 30 days and after putting the woman through the entire ritual, he will realize that he was purely yetzer-hara driven, and drop the entire matter and return to his normal, holy, self.
That is the real war. That is the real victory.
We are living in a very yetzer hara driven world. We always have been. It’s just that the yetzer hara can vary from generation to generation, based upon what the world has to offer, and where mankind is holding intellectually and emotionally. The net result may be the same, but the activities will vary from era to era.
There are a few major yetzer haras today, but one of the main ones is peace at all cost in the Middle-East. I say this is a yetzer hara, because when people are prepared to lie about history and fudge the facts to suit their easy come, easy go ideology, then it has to be pure yetzer hara, whose entire drive is to achieve hard results with ease. That usually means cheating.
And, it is the same type of cheating that allows people to overlook the reality of what is happening weather-wise and politically. It is the same type of cheating that turns an Israeli into an ardent Leftist, one that can go so far as to justify the murder of his own people by the enemy. People want an easy life, because life is not easy. So, the yetzer hara tells us to ignore certain truths in life as if doing so will make them go away.
But, when the Japanese entered American airspace on December 7, 1941, and brought World War II to the doorstep of the good old USA, many illusions were completely shattered as the specter of war entered the American psyche once again in no uncertain terms. For, you can cheat reality only so long before it, as in God Himself, puts His foot down and ends the illusions that fueled so many false dreams for so long.
Then, like the yafas toar in this week’s parshah, the dream is revealed for the nightmare that it really is. The only question is, will mankind realize the truth early enough to avoid the disasters destined to follow, or will he simply get swept up in the tide of false realities and bitter truths.
Copyright © by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Project Genesis, Inc.
Rabbi Winston has authored many books on Jewish philosophy (Hashkofa). If you enjoy Rabbi Winston’s Perceptions on the Parsha, you may enjoy his books. Visit Rabbi Winston’s online book store for more details! www.thirtysix.org