EXPLAINING THE UNEXPLAINABLE:
THE SHOAH AND LOVE OF THE EXILE
Although no human creature can truly understand the Mind of God, we Jews believe that the Hebrew Bible, the writings of our ancient Sages and our historical experiences have provided us with sufficient guidance to turn our collective existence into a blessing for the generations. Nevertheless, the lessons imbedded in certain events are just too painful to extract. And so it has become a truism among us that the Shoah (Holocaust) is a theological mystery that can never be comprehended.
And, in fact, it would appear, at first blush, that there is theological support for this position embedded in the story of the deaths of the two sons of Aaron -- Nadab and Abihu -- who, in their religious exuberance, had brought before God their fire pans with an unsanctioned alien fire. As the Torah relates: "A fire came forth from before HaShem and consumed them; and they died before HaShem. Moses said to Aaron, 'Of this did HaShem speak, saying, "I will be sanctified through those who are nearest to Me, and [thus] I will be honored before the entire people"'; and Aaron was silent." (Lev. 10:2-3). Why was Aaron silent in the face of the horrific death-by-fire of his two sons? Aaron's silence reflected his acceptance of the Truth that God's Actions are always Just, and yet sometimes -- to the human mind -- Incomprehensible. Ultimately, Aaron was able to take comfort in only one thing, namely, God's Declaration that his sons had died for Kiddush HaShem (sanctification of God's Name). However, while we certainly honor God -- as did Aaron -- by faithfully accepting the incomprehensibility of individual tragedies, we do Him no honor by presuming the incomprehensibility of national tragedies. For, our national tragedies are often comprehensible; and God demands of us that we learn from them.
Accordingly, I believe that our general avoidance of any attempt at a theological understanding of the Shoah as a national tragedy is a form of rebellion against God. This is so because every painful chapter in our long collective history, including the Shoah, demands that we first discern, and then bow to, God’s Will, so that we may avoid any future national tragedy. Only in this way can we hope to turn the Chillul HaShem (desecration of God’s Name) inherent in the Shoah into the Kiddush HaShem inherent in its future nullification.
It is first necessary to comprehend that all things proceed from God. As the Prophet Isaiah, speaking in God’s Name, declared: "'I form Light and create Darkness; I make Peace and create Evil; I, HaShem, make all of these. '" (Isaiah 45:7). Only with this primary understanding can we begin the task of examining the theological underpinnings of the Shoah.
God has raised us up from among the family of nations to be His Chosen People. God said of and to us:
"... So said HaShem: 'My Firstborn Son is Israel. '" (Ex. 4:22); and: "'... My Legions -- My People -- the Children of Israel ... '" (Ex. 7:4); and: "For you are a holy people to HaShem, your God; HaShem, your God, has chosen you to be for Him a treasured people above all peoples that are on the face of the Earth. Not because you are more numerous than all the peoples did HaShem desire you and choose you, for you are the fewest of all the peoples. Rather, because of HaShem's Love for you and because He observes the Oath that He swore to your forefathers did He take you out with a strong hand and redeem you from the House of Slavery -- from the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. (Deut. 7:6-8); and: "For you are a holy people to HaShem, your God; and HaShem has chosen you for Himself to be a treasured people from among all the peoples on the face of the Earth." (Deut. 14:2); and: "And HaShem has distinguished you Today to be for Him a treasured people, as He spoke to you, and to observe all His Commandments, and to make you supreme over all the nations that He made, for praise, for renown, and for splendor, and so that you will be a holy people to HaShem, your God, as He spoke." (Deut. 26:18-19).
If this be so, then what reasons could have possibly justified the Judge of the World in inflicting upon His People the horrors of the Shoah?
God explicitly admonishes the Hebrew tribes prior to their original return to the Land of Israel that, as result of the future Sins which they will commit while residing therein, all due to their future lack of Yirat Elohim (fear of God), they would be punished by suffering mass expulsion therefrom and then by having to endure horrific persecutions in the lands of their Exile: "'And you shall I scatter among the nations, and I shall unleash after you a sword. ... And to the survivors among you I shall bring a weakness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; and the sound of a rustling leaf shall pursue them, and they shall flee as one flees from the sword, and they shall fall without there being any pursuer. They shall stumble over one another as [in flight] from before the sword without there being any pursuer; and you shall not be able to stand before your enemies. You shall perish among the nations; and the land of your enemies shall devour you.'" (Lev. 26:33-38); and "HaShem shall scatter you among all the peoples, from the [one] end of the Earth to the [other] end of the Earth … And among these nations you shall find no ease, neither shall the sole of your foot have rest; but HaShem shall give you there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and despair of mind. And your life shall hang in doubt before you, and you will be frightened night and day, and you shall have no assurance of your survival. In the morning you shall say, 'Who will give [back to me] the night' and in the evening you shall say, 'Who will give [back to me] the morning', for the fear of your heart which you shall fear and the sight of your eyes which you shall see." (Deut. 28:64-67); and, even more ominously: "… I will hide My Face from them, and they shall be as prey, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say on that Day: ‘Are not these Evils come upon us because our God is not among us?’ And surly I will hide My Face on that Day …" (Deut. 31:17-18).
Yet, despite God’s 3,400 year old Warning to our ancestors describing the horrors that awaited us in the lands of the Exile, the Shoah was a disaster of such enormous dimensions that it has, nonetheless, been virtually impossible for us to accept that this too was part of God’s Master Plan for the Jewish people. It was the one event which actually caused many Jews to consider that if God were, in fact, the embodiment of pure Goodness, then He surely would have used His Power to prevent this Evil. That God seemed instead to be silent during those long years of Darkness impelled some Jews to deny His Existence (due to His alleged lack of demonstrated Omnipotence) and impelled other Jews to condemn His Behavior (due to His alleged lack of demonstrated Morality). And in literal fulfillment of the Prophecy of Deuteronomy 31:17-18, many more Jews -- not daring to question either God’s Existence or Behavior -- subjugated their cognitive dissonance by opining that since God embodies only Goodness, the Shoah could not have taken place but for God’s purposeful Withdrawal of His Presence from among the Jews of Europe.
As can be seen from the explicit language of Scripture, all of the prophesied "evils and troubles" that have befallen us throughout the millennia, including the Shoah, are umbilically connected to our presence in the Exile. The Torah explains that, owing to the harshness of the Punishment of Exile, "… perhaps then their unfeeling heart will be humbled and then they will gain appeasement for their Sin. [Then] I will remember My Covenant with Jacob and also My Covenant with Isaac, and also My Covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the Land." (Lev. 26:41-42). However, our Sages have said that: "God regrets having created four things: Exile, Babylonians, Ishmaelites and the Evil Impulse". (Succah 52b). Why? God regrets having created the Exile because, although the Exile and its attendant "evils and troubles" was a just Punishment for our repeated disobedience to Him while we yet possessed the Land of Israel, it did not fulfill its explicit purpose of causing us, through our traumatic sense of loss, to repent of our Sins quickly so that we could be repatriated to the Land of Israel quickly. On the contrary, for the last 2,000 years, the Jews of the Diaspora, both the Secular and the Religious, and especially those living in affluent countries, have instead treated their Exile from the Land of Israel as a well-deserved Reward from Heaven with little or no desire to end it -- this despite our Sages' words that: "Living in the Land of Israel equals the combined weight of all of the Commandments in the Torah." (Sifri, Re’ei 80). Furthermore, our Sages have declared: "A person should live in the Land of Israel, even in a city whose majority is idolaters, and not outside the Land, even in a city that is entirely Jewish." (Tosefta, Avodah Zarah, 5:2). The foregoing is a proof that residence in the Land of Israel is required well before the completion of the prophesied Ingathering of the Jewish people and the advent of the Messiah -- and, just so that there be no room for ambiguity or misunderstanding, the Sages have sharpened the point by exclaiming: "Whoever lives in the Land of Israel is like someone who has a God, and whoever lives outside of the Land of Israel is like someone who has no God, as it says, ‘… to give you the Land of Canaan, to be a God to you’ (Lev. 25:38)." (Ketuvot 110b). This raises the specter that, from God’s Perspective, living in the Exile is, in and of itself, a form of idolatry, because such a circumstance, especially if it persists for a multigenerational period of time, will naturally engender among the Jewish people both Love and Allegiance towards their respective nations of residence, in rebellion against the Will of God.
Unfortunately, the Jewish people’s love for, and desire to prove their loyalty to, the countries of the Exile has proved to be greater than their love for, and awe of, the God of Israel. In this respect a parallel can be seen with God’s Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. As the Torah relates, due to Adam’s disobedience to Him, God declared: "… ‘accursed is the ground because of you; through suffering shall you eat of it all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles shall it sprout for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. By the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread until you return to the ground from which you were taken; for, you are dust, and to dust shall you return.’ … So HaShem God banished him from the Garden of Eden, to work the soil from which he was taken. And having driven out the man, He stationed at the east of the Garden of Eden the Cherubim and the flame of the ever-turning sword, to guard the way to the Tree of Life." (Gen. 3:17-24). Overnight, a World of perpetual ease and tranquility had become one of hard labor and unending conflict. But although the Expulsion from Paradise was initially traumatic in the extreme for Adam and Eve, they adapted to life outside Eden very quickly, and soon ceased to mourn their banishment from it. In short order, Paradise was relegated to the lowly status of distant memory for Adam and his descendants. And so it has been for the Jewish people who, like their ancestor Adam, were expelled from their own Eden, but have long ceased to mourn for it, having whole-heartedly adapted -- in substitution therefor -- to their respective countries of Exile.
However, lest the Religious Elite of the Exile say that, just as Adam could never return to Eden on account of his Sin, neither can the Jewish people return, with God’s blessing, to Israel until they are first cleansed of their Sins, then the Religious Elite should consider God’s Declaration to the Prophet Jeremiah: "'I will reverse the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel, and I will rebuild them as at first. And [then] I will cleanse them of all their Sins that they committed against Me; and I will forgive all their iniquities that they committed against Me and that they transgressed before Me. And this will be for Me for the sake of Rejoicing, for [the sake of] Praise and for [the sake of] Splendor before all the nations of the Earth who will hear about all the Goodness that I will be doing for them, and who will fear and tremble over all the Goodness and all the Peace that I will do for it.'" (Jer. 33:7-9). This Declaration was confirmed by the Prophet Ezekiel, speaking in God’s Name: '"I will take you from [among] the nations and gather you from all the Lands, and I will bring you to your own soil. Then I will sprinkle pure water upon you, that you may become cleansed; I will cleanse you from all your contamination and from all your idols. … Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good, and you will be disgusted with yourselves in your own sight because of your iniquities and because of your abominations. … On the day when I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited and the ruins will be built. The desolated land will be tilled, instead of having been desolate in the eyes of every passerby. People will say, "This very Land, which had been desolate, has become like the Garden of Eden …"'" (Ezek. 36:24-35). Clearly, by the Hand of God, the Ingathering of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel precedes God’s cleansing of their Sins.
The fanatical love of the Jew -- both the Secular and the Religious -- for, and his attachment to, the Exile is the theological root of all of the "evils and troubles", including the Shoah, that have befallen us since we were sent out in disgrace from the good Land that God had chosen for us to possess in perpetuity.
Our people’s perverse alchemic conversion of Punishment into Reward was foreseen by the Prophet Ezekiel when he said, in God’s Name, that: "'I scattered them among the nations and they were dispersed among the Lands; according to their way and according to their acts did I judge them. They came among the nations where they came, and they desecrated My Holy Name when it was said of them, "These are the people of HaShem, but they departed His Land."'" (Ezek. 36:19-20). Clearly, the Jews’ very presence in the Exile, in and of itself, constituted, and continues to constitute, a Chillul HaShem. This is so because the Gentile nations saw that, contrary to God’s Wishes, the bulk of the Jewish people were more than content to remain among them forever. And, astonishingly, the subsequent Crusades, Inquisitions, Farhouds, Fatwas, Pogroms and Jihads which periodically plagued our people prior to the Shoah not only did not diminish their unrequited love for the Exile and, consequently, cause them to yearn for the return to the Land of their forefathers, but rather, such regular eruptions of Gentile hatred towards the Jewish people instead stiffened their resolve to make themselves more palatable to their Gentile neighbors, thereby further exacerbating the original Chillul HaShem inherent in the Jewish people’s presence in the countries of the Exile.
However, lest the Religious among the generations boast that the Prophet’s chastisement does not apply to them because they -- unlike the Secular -- theologically isolated themselves from the corrupting embrace of Gentile society by their punctilious performance of the Torah Commandments, and should they have further convinced themselves that, as long as the Commandments are, in fact, performed, it matters little to God where they are performed, then they should be reminded of our Sages’ admonishment, in God’s Name, that: "Although I exile you from the Land, continue performing the Commandments so that when you return [to the Land of Israel] they will not seem new to you" (Sifri, Ekev 43), and the later concurrence of Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, b. 1040 - d. 1105) that: "Even once you are exiled, continue performing the Commandments. Put on Tefillin and affix a Mezuzah so that they do not seem new to you when you return [to the Land of Israel]" (Rashi on Deut. 11:18), meaning that we have continued performing the Commandments in the Exile only in order to keep our memories sharp (and for no other reason), which clearly indicates the lowly status to which God accords the Exilic performance of the Commandments. As Ibn Ezra (Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra, b. 1089 - d. 1164) commented on Deut. 4:10: "God knew they would be unable to perform His Commandments properly while in Lands under foreign domination." And as Ramban (Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman aka Nachmanides, b. 1194 - d. 1270) noted on Ex. 3:12: "God told Moses two things. Firstly, He promised that He would descend to save the people from the hand of Egypt. Secondly, He could have saved them right in Goshen itself or nearby, yet He promised to remove them from that Land entirely, to the Land of the Canaanites." That God, indeed, exalts the separation of the Jewish people from the Gentile nations cannot be doubted. For, as the Gentile prophet Balaam, speaking in God's Name, publicly declared: "'For, from its origins, I see it rock-like, and from hills do I see it; behold! -- it is a people that [physically] shall dwell in solitude, and [spiritually] not be reckoned among the nations.'" (Num. 23:9). And God even chooses to describe Himself to the Jewish people by reference thereto: "'So I said to you, "You shall inherit their Land, and I will give it to you to inherit it, a Land flowing with milk and honey" -- I am HaShem, your God, Who has [physically] separated you from the peoples.'" (Lev. 20:24); and "'You shall be holy for Me; for, I, HaShem, am Holy -- and I have [spiritually] separated you from the peoples to be Mine.'" (Lev. 20:26). It is clear that God determined, in His infinite Wisdom, that only in the Land of Israel -- separated (both physically and spiritually) from the Gentile nations -- could the Jewish people be adequately shielded from the alien influences, and thereby be able to properly understand and honor the Torah, and consequently be able to create true Kiddush HaShem. The great Jewish Sages of Babylon certainly acknowledged this Truth. In Bava Metzia 85a, it states: "When Rav Zera arrived in the Land of Israel from Babylonia, he fasted a hundred fasts to forget his previous Torah study so that it would not trouble him."
Thus was the Chillul HaShem created by the secular Jew’s denial of God’s Existence firmly joined itself to the Chillul HaShem created by the religious Jew’s denial of God’s Preference.
But the Chillul HaShem of the Exile was not limited to the Jews’ indifference to God; it also manifested itself in the Gentile nations’ erroneous theological interpretations of the Jews’ presence among them. Prior to the rise of Judaism’s monotheistic rivals, the polytheistic idol-worshipping Gentile empires, such as Babylon and Rome, which had subjugated Israel -- not comprehending that God was merely utilizing their empires to punish His People for their lack of Yirat Elohim (fear of God) -- mistakenly believed that their defeat and exile of the Jewish people represented a victory of their false gods over the God of Israel. Stated another way, their military triumphs were used as proofs by them that the God of Israel was a weak and defeated god. In contrast, after the rise of Christianity and Islam, the monotheistic Gentile nations readily accepted that the God of Israel was the one and true God, but they mistakenly believed -- each according to their own religion -- that the Jews’ Exilic presence among them and their ability, at will and with impunity, to murder their Jewish subjects and plunder their assets were incontrovertible proofs that the God of Israel had punished the Jews, not for their lack of Yirat Elohim, but rather for their failure to accept Christianity or Islam as the complete and final religion of the God of Israel.
Martin Luther, y’mach sh’mo (cursed be his name), the proto-Nazi initiator of the Protestant Reformation in 16th Century Germany, expressed this view bluntly and condescendingly as follows:
“Therefore a Christian should be content and not argue with the Jews. But if you have to or want to talk with them, do not say any more than this: ‘Listen, Jew, are you aware that Jerusalem and your sovereignty, together with your Temple and Priesthood, have been destroyed for over 1,460 years?’ For this year, which we Christians write as the year 1542 since the birth of Christ, is exactly 1,468 years, going on fifteen hundred years, since Vespasian and Titus destroyed Jerusalem and expelled the Jews from the City. Let the Jews bite on this nut and dispute this question as long as they wish.”
Due to their conviction, born of military and economic prowess, that their respective religions had thereby superseded Judaism, and that their Scriptures, in cases of conflict, had thereby superseded the Words of the Hebrew Bible, these nations developed such a distorted view of the God of Israel (which they now called by the name of Jesus or Allah) that it may fairly be argued that they do not worship Him at all, but rather, false deities of their own invention. Since the God of Israel, as revealed to the nations through the Torah of Israel, had intended from the beginning of Creation that not only Israel but, as well, the entire Gentile world crown Him as King (-- this is reflected in the Prophets' statements made, concerning the aftermath of the future messianic War of Gog and Magog, that: "HaShem will be the King over all of the Earth; on that day HaShem will be One and His Name will be One." (Zechariah 14:9); and that: "I swear by Myself, Righteousness has gone forth from My Mouth, a Word that will not be rescinded: that to Me shall every knee bend and every tongue swear." (Isaiah 45:23) --), the Gentile nations' subsequent misunderstanding of the true purpose of the Exile, which caused them to further distance themselves from accepting Him as King, caused a great Chillul HaShem which (when joined to the underlying Chillul HaShem created by the Jews’ very presence in the Exile) was more than God deigned to bear. He therefore determined, after almost 2,000 years, that the time had finally come to sufficiently weaken the "Cherubim and the flame of the ever-turning sword" that blocked the way of mass return to the Land of Israel so as to begin the Ingathering of His People, this by permitting an idea to take hold among them towards the latter part of the 19th Century -- that idea was Zionism (the Return to Zion): the mass resettling of the People of Israel in the Land of Israel.
The idea of Zionism would later become both a practical as well as a juridical reality commencing with Great Britain’s capture of the Land of Israel from the Ottoman Empire in 1917 and the League of Nations' subsequent creation of the Mandate for Palestine in 1920 (to be administered by Great Britain as Mandatory trustee thereof). The Mandate was created for the purpose of reestablishing the Jewish National Home in the biblical Land of Israel (notwithstanding the fact that the borders of Mandatory Palestine and the borders of the biblical Land of Israel were, in some places, not identical). The Mandate’s governing instrument explicitly stated as its goal “... the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people ...” (Mandate for Palestine, Preamble, Paragraph 2), owing to the fact that “... recognition has thereby been given to the historical connexion of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.” (Mandate for Palestine, Preamble, Paragraph 3), thereby imposing upon Great Britain, as Mandatory trustee, a legal obligation to "... facilitate Jewish immigration and ... encourage ... close settlement by Jews on the Land ..." (Mandate For Palestine, Article 6).
The Samsonian efforts of the early Zionists -- both before and after the issuance of the Mandate -- towards resettlement and nation-building eventually resulted in the creation of the modern State of Israel. This State, however flawed, constitutes the resurrection of the biblical Land of Israel, as was prophesied in the Torah: "Then HaShem, your God, will reverse your captivity and have mercy upon you, and He will gather you in from all the peoples to which HaShem, your God, has scattered you. If your dispersed will be at the ends of Heaven, from there HaShem, your God, will gather you in, and from there He will take you. HaShem, your God, will bring you to the Land that your forefathers possessed, and you shall possess it; He will do Good to you and make you more numerous than your forefathers." (Deut. 30:3-5). Accordingly, the Torah obligation imposed upon the Jewish people to live in the biblical Land of Israel (-- “'See, I have given the Land before you; come and possess the Land that HaShem swore to your forefathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their offspring after them.'” (Deut. 1:8) --) now applies to the modern State of Israel, even despite the Jews' lack of sincere and complete repentance for their biblical and post-biblical transgressions against the God of Israel and against His Land.
God’s reason for commencing the repatriation of His People to the Land of Israel, even in the absence of their sincere and complete repentance for their Sins, and for utilizing, as His Agents, secular Zionists who denied His very Existence, was declared by the Prophet Ezekiel, speaking in God’s Name: "I scattered them among the nations and they were dispersed among the lands; according to their way and according to their acts did I judge them. They came among the nations where they came, and they desecrated My Holy Name when it was said of them, ‘These are the people of HaShem, but they departed His Land.’ I took pity on my Holy Name which the House of Israel had desecrated among the nations where they came. Therefore, say to the House of Israel: Thus said the Lord HaShem: It is not for your sake that I act, O House of Israel, but for My Holy Name that you have desecrated among the nations where you came. I will sanctify My Great Name that is desecrated among the nations -- that you have desecrated among them; then the nations will know that I am HaShem -- the Word of the Lord HaShem -- when I become sanctified through you before their eyes. I will take you from [among] the nations and gather you from all the lands, and I will bring you to your own soil … Not for your sake do I act -- the Oration of the Lord HaShem -- let this be known to you! Be embarrassed and ashamed of your ways, O House of Israel!" (Ezek. 36:19-32).
This is analogous to God's Motivation for permitting the Jewish people's original return to, and conquest of, the Land of Israel under the leadership of Joshua. As Moses explained to the Jewish people at that time: "Do not say in your heart, when HaShem pushes them [the Canaanite nations] away from before you, saying, ‘Because of my righteousness does HaShem bring me to possess this Land’; for, because of the wickedness of these nations does HaShem drive them away from before you. Not because of your righteousness and the uprightness of your heart are you coming to possess their Land, but because of the wickedness of these nations does HaShem, your God, drive them away from before you, and in order to establish the Word that HaShem swore to your forefathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. And you should know that not because of your righteousness does HaShem, your God, give you this good Land to possess it; for, you are a stiff-necked people." (Deut. 9:4-6).
Stated another way, even the Israelites' original return to the Land was not predicated upon their righteousness. On the contrary, our ancestors' biblical conquest of the Land proceeded, at God's Insistence and with His Blessing, in the absence of such merit. Similarly, since the revealed purpose of the present Ingathering is to effect a Kiddush HaShem among the Jewish people and the Gentile nations, all of whom will then acknowledge His sole Kingship over the World, Israel's prior restoration of spiritual merit was not required for the commencement of this Ingathering. In fact, Ezekiel's prophecy makes it clear that Israel's endemic lack of such merit is the very reason why God has not waited futilely for its restoration. Seen in this light, it is perfectly logical, and a measure of poetic justice, that God would utilize secular Zionists, who denied His very Existence, to initiate the fulfillment of biblical prophecy which will eventually cause the unbelieving Jewish people and the amoral Gentile nations to acknowledge His Kingship -- just as God had previously utilized a "stiff-necked" Jewish nation lacking any collective merit to initiate the process of dispossessing the evil Canaanite nations from the Land of Israel.
For, the God of Israel will utilize those persons most suited to accomplishing His Task, although their overt motivations exclude any thoughts of accomplishing such Holy Task and be otherwise wholly improper. This is one of the main lessons to be learned from the story of Samson, who ruled over pre-monarchal Israel for 20 years (see Judges 13:1 - 16:31). In fact, the theological connections between the secular Zionist leadership which created the modern State of Israel and Samson are quite strong. For, like Samson, the secular Zionist leadership had little regard for God's Injunctions, thereby relying upon their martial prowess to the exclusion of their spiritual potential. As the Hebrew Bible relates: "The Children of Israel continued to do what was Evil in the Eyes of HaShem; and [so] HaShem delivered them into the hand of the Philistines for 40 years." (Judges 13:1). Although God had determined to punish the Jewish people for their Sins, He also determined to inflict a certain measure of Vengeance upon the Philistines, y’mach sh’mam (cursed be their names), for their over-zealous persecution of the Jewish people as well as for their erroneous belief that their deity, Dagon, rather than the God of Israel had subdued the Jewish people -- an erroneous belief which the Philistines would later overtly declare as soon as they had finally seized and mutilated a weakened Samson (see Judges 16:23-24). In order to implement His Plan, God sent an Angel to Samson's prospective mother, a barren woman, in order to inform her: "'For, you shall conceive and give birth to a son; and a razor shall not come upon his head, because the lad shall be a nazirite of God from the womb; and he will begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.'" (Judges 13:5). Yet, Samson was hardly of sterling character. In fact, he concerned himself, not with the discernment and advancement of God's Will, but rather only with the satisfaction of his own primal cravings. Despite the Torah's strict prohibition against intermarriage (see Deut. 7:3-4), Samson insisted upon taking a Philistine woman as his wife, demanding of his parents: "... 'I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines; now take her for me as a wife.'" (Judges 14:2). And, despite his parents' mighty attempts to persuade him, instead, to take a wife from among the Jewish people, he was unmoved, insisting: "... 'Take her for me, because she is suitable in my eyes.'" (Judges 14:3). In retribution for the fact that (through a deception perpetrated by his Philistine wife) his wife’s 30 Philistine guests had solved his wedding feast riddle concerning the lion and the honey -- thereby requiring him to provide each of these guests with a set of new clothes -- he killed 30 other Philistines and gave their clothes to these guests (see Judges 14:5-19). When it was discovered that his wife’s father, having presumed that Samson now rejected his daughter, had subsequently given her in marriage to a Philistine that Samson had befriended, Samson declared in rage: "... 'This time I will be blameless from the Philistines when I do evil unto them.'" (Judges 15:3) -- this despite the fact that Samson’s Philistine father-in-law had sincerely tried to appease Samson by offering his other daughter to him -- as a result of which rage Samson burned down all of the fields and groves of the Philistines (see Judges 15:4-5). When the Philistines, in turn, took revenge on Samson's Philistine wife and Philistine father-in-law by burning them alive, Samson berated them for not doing so at the time of his earlier humiliation, declaring: "... 'If you had [only] done so [before]; because [of this], I will avenge myself against you; and [only] afterwards will I stop.'" (Judges 15:7), as a result of which he slaughtered scores of Philistines (see Judges 15:8). The Philistines thereupon advanced against Israel, and demanded that Samson be detained and turned over to them for punishment. When the Jewish people inquired of Samson the reason for his serial rampages against their Philistine rulers, he bluntly responded: "... 'As they did to me, so I did to them.'" (Judges 15:11) -- instead of even pretending that he sought to inflict God’s Revenge against the Philistines for their oppression of the Jewish people. Samson thereupon allowed the Jewish people to bind him and to turn him over to the Philistines; but he suddenly broke his bonds and, with the jawbone of a donkey, he killed 1,000 of the Philistines, exulting: "... 'With the jawbone of a donkey -- heap upon heaps -- with the jawbone of a donkey, I have struck down a thousand men!'" (Judges 15:16). He thereafter consorted with a Philistine prostitute in Gaza; and, in retaliation for the Philistines' plan to kill him as he slept, he destroyed the main entrance to the City (see Judges 16:1-3). He subsequently became infatuated with another Philistine woman, Delilah, who -- in consideration of the huge reward offered to her by the chieftains of the Philistines -- repeatedly begged Samson to reveal to her the secret of his great strength (see Judges 16:4-16). After lying to her three times, Samson finally capitulated, having so little regard for his nazirite gift from God that he informed her: "... '... If my hair were to be cut off, my strength would depart from me, and I would become weak, and I would be like all [ordinary] men.'" (Judges 16:17). After Delilah lulled him to sleep and collected her bounty, the Philistines cut off Samson's seven locks of hair. Samson then awoke, arrogantly thinking, "... 'I will extricate myself like every other time, and arouse myself', yet he did not know that HaShem had departed from him." (Judges 16:20). After gouging out his eyes and making of him a mill slave, the Philistines brought Samson into their temple in order to further humiliate him by forcing him to entertain the 3,000 Philistines reveling there. Standing between the supporting pillars of the Philistine temple, "Samson called out to HaShem and said, 'Lord HaShem, please remember me and please strengthen me just this one [last] time, O God; and I will take revenge upon the Philistines for one of my two eyes." (Judges 16:28). His strength thereupon restored by God, Samson dislodged those very supporting pillars, thereby causing the temple to collapse and all inside to perish, including (at his own request) himself. As a result of this last burst of personal revenge, "... the dead whom he killed at his own death were more than he had killed in his lifetime." (Judges 16:30).
While it is clear that God chose Samson as His Instrument to begin the process of liberating the Jewish people from the Philistine yoke, it is just as clear that Samson had no thoughts of accomplishing this Task; and, consequently, he was motivated in all that he did, not by a noble urge to effect a Kiddush HaShem among the Jewish and Philistine peoples by leading a national Jewish army in battle against the Philistines' hegemony and idolatry, but rather by an abhorrent combination of unquenchable lust and the compulsion to unleash his personal revenge upon the Philistines for affronts large and small. That Samson himself sought to avoid any ennobling confrontation with the Philistines is evidenced by the fact that he purposefully concealed from his own parents (who well-remembered the Angel's Declaration concerning him) not only the fact that he had torn apart a lion with his bare hands, but also the fact that he had afterward discovered honey -- which he generously shared with his parents -- inside its carcass (see Judges 14:5-9). Samson did not want these two events to become known to his parents and, through them, to the Jewish people at large, precisely because he understood that these events symbolized the prospect that he would achieve a great victory over a seemingly-invincible national adversary, the fruits of which would benefit the entire Jewish people. Moreover, he realized that if he these events became known, then his parents and, through them, the Jewish people at large would correctly surmise that these events constituted a long-awaited Divine Sign that the time had finally come for him to nationally confront the Philistines on behalf of the Jewish people, thereby effecting a much greater Kiddush HaShem than would be wrought by his decimation of the Philistines merely in order to satiate his appetite for personal revenge. As a result of concealing these events, Samson elevated his personal prerogatives over his national responsibilities. Moreover, when the Philistines demanded that the Jewish people detain and turn Samson over to them for punishment, the perfect opportunity was thereby created for Samson to inspire and lead the Jewish people in a war of national liberation against the Philistines; but, instead, Samson merely acquiesced to his detention and extradition, thereby facilitating his war of personal revenge against the Philistines (see Judges 15:1-20). Yet, despite Samson's improper motivations, the God of Israel nonetheless determined that he was, indeed, the person most suited to accomplishing His Task in that Day, namely, to begin the task of inflicting God's Justice upon the Philistines; and, accordingly, He successfully utilized him for that Holy Purpose. In furtherance thereof, God blessed him (see Judges 13:24), repeatedly infused him with His Spirit (see Judges 13:25; 14:6; 14:19; and 15:14), and even brought forth for him, at his request and in a miraculous manner, water to quench his thirst (see Judges 15:18-19). Moreover, even Samson's lust was directly influenced by God -- this in order to create a pretext upon which Samson would be inclined to act in accordance with his natural predisposition to inflict personal revenge upon his enemies -- thereby ultimately effecting God's Purpose (see Judges 14:4), albeit without Samson having intended to do so.
Why did God choose Samson, a member of the small tribe of Dan, as His Agent rather than a member of Judah, the largest and most powerful tribe, which would have logically comprised the bulk of any Jewish army conscripted to fight the Philistine enemy? The sad truth is that, after having been subjugated by the Philistines for four decades, the tribe of Judah -- utilizing a defeated people’s natural survival mechanism -- had long convinced itself that appeasement and submission were virtues, and that provocation and resistance were vices. Accordingly, when the Philistines demanded that the Jewish people detain and turn Samson over to them for punishment, the Jewish people amply demonstrated that which God already knew, namely, that they were not yet ready -- as a national force -- to reclaim their Land. As the Hebrew Bible relates: "Three thousand men of Judah then went down to the cleft of the Rock of Elam, and they said to Samson, 'Do you not know that the Philistines rule over us? What is this [crime that] you have done to us [by attacking the Philistines]?' But he answered them, 'As they did to me, so I did to them.' They said [in response] to him, 'We have come to arrest you, to hand you over into the hand of the Philistines.' …" (Judges 15:11-12). God knew that, although the Jewish people at large were not yet psychologically capable of confronting the evil Philistines, Samson was more than able to do so. And once Samson demonstrated that it was possible to cause serious harm to the Philistines, the Jewish people began to envisage the Day when they would be able to utterly defeat these Evildoers.
As it was with Samson, so it has been with the secular Zionists. For, God determined that they, too, were the persons most suited to accomplishing His Task in this Day, namely, to settle and forcibly retain possession of the Land of Israel, in the face of unrelenting aggression by the Arab and larger Muslim worlds, in order to create a sturdy fortress capable of facilitating the prophesied Ingathering of the largely pacific Jewish people to their biblical homeland in modern times. God chose secular Zionists for this Task despite the fact that these persons were motivated, not by any thoughts of facilitating the fulfillment of biblical prophecy (thereby validating, for the Jewish people and the Gentile nations, the Existence and solitary Kingship of the God of Israel, and thereby effecting the ultimate Kiddush HaShem), but rather by an obsession to create a modern secular State which (although serving as a necessary refuge for the pandemically persecuted Jewish people) would, on the contrary, eschew religious Jewry's ancient belief system. Yet, despite secular Zionists’ contrary intentions and predictions, religious Zionists (who, unlike secular Zionists, recognized the reestablishment of Israel and the great Ingathering thereto as prophetic signposts of the coming Redemption) increased, not only in number, but, more importantly, also as a proportion of the Jewish population that was willingly -- nay, eager -- to confront the Jewish State’s genocidal adversaries on the battlefield. Thus it was that just as God had influenced Samson to declare of his first Philistine wife: "She is suitable in my eyes" only because it furthered His Purpose in that Time, so He had declared of the secular Zionist leadership: "They are suitable in My Eyes" only because it furthered His Purpose in this Time. For, in the same way that the God of Israel chose a flawed Samson to "begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines" of that Time, He chose a flawed secular Zionist leadership to "begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines" of this Time.
It is noteworthy that even the fervent desire of the secular Zionist leadership to create for the Jewish people a "normal" country (which would faithfully emulate the amoral Gentile countries comprising the remainder of the World) has its biblical antecedents. For, the Hebrew tribes residing in the Land of Israel in the generations after Joshua had conquered the Land eventually became dissatisfied with the rule of ad hoc Judges, through whom God’s Will was periodically made known to them; and, despite the prescient warnings of the Judge-Prophet Samuel against doing so, they demanded and received the appointment of a king to rule over them. As the Hebrew Bible relates: "But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, 'No -- there shall be a king over us, so that we will be like all of the other nations; and our king will judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.'" (I Samuel 8:19-20). Approximately 500 years later, in the wake of the Babylonian Empire’s conquest of the kingdom of Judah and the expulsion of most of its population to Babylonia, God, speaking through the Prophet Ezekiel, rebuked the leadership of the exilic Jewish community for its longstanding assimilative inclinations. As the Hebrew Bible relates: "'You [Jewish leaders] say, "We want to be like the nations, like the peoples of the World, who serve Wood and Stone." But what you have in mind will never happen. As I live – the Oration of the Lord: HaShem -- with a mighty Hand and an outstretched Arm and an outpoured Wrath shall I rule over you.'" (Ezek. 20:32-33)
Lastly, just as God’s Confrontation with the Philistines of that Time, although commenced by Samson, was finally completed by King David, so will God’s Confrontation with the Philistines of this Time, although commenced by secular Zionists, be finally completed by King David’s descendant -- the Messiah.
However, just prior to the creation and implementation of the juridical framework for the mass repatriation of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, an enormous Chillul HaShem was in the making, this one tenaciously pursued by the Jewish people as a way of showing their respective loyalties to the mutually-antagonist nations in which they were resident -- this was World War I, a conflict that began on July 28, 1914 when Austria-Hungary declared war against Serbia. The War metastasized into a continent-wide conflagration on August 1, 1914 when Germany (being allied with Austria-Hungary) and Russia (being allied with Serbia) declared war against each other, and France ordered a general mobilization of its armed forces against Austria-Hungary and Germany; this took place on Tisha B’Av -- the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av. As nation warred against nation, the Jews of each -- approximately 1,500,000 Jewish soldiers in total -- took up arms and, without qualm or scruple, did their best to kill their fellow Jews who were conscripted into the Enemy’s military forces, while their homebound brethren prayed for “their” side’s triumph over the Adversary. And during the flush of a victory, the Jew rejoiced with his Gentile comrade over the destruction of the Enemy, including his Jewish brother. It is not that any particular French Jew knew that he was killing a German Jew (at the battles of Somme and Verdun) or that any particular Austrian Jew knew that he was killing an Italian Jew (at the battles of the Isonzo Valley) or that any particular British Jew knew that he was killing a Turkish Jew (at the battles of Gallipoli and the Dardanelles) or that any religious Jew specifically prayed for such a result; it is just that the Jew’s absolute and undivided loyalty to “his” Gentile nation simply caused him to become indifferent to this possibility. Stated another way, each Jew hid his face from his brother. Jewish tradition informs us that God administers Justice according to the principle of mida k’neged mida (measure for measure). If, at the behest of their Gentile masters, the Jewish people so callously participated, by deed and/or prayer, in each other’s destruction under the mistaken belief that this would permit them to secure for themselves a secure and permanent haven in their beloved Exile, then perhaps they needed to be shown, mida k’neged mida, what happens when God, too, decides to hide His Face from the Jewish people, and to thereby permit their decimation.
There was already a precedent for this concept in Jewish history. The Torah states that after the discouraging report of 10 of the 12 tribal leaders sent by Moses to reconnoiter the Land of Israel, then occupied by the Canaanite nations: "The entire assembly raised up and issued its voice; the people wept that night. All the Children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron, and the entire assembly said to them, ‘If only we had died in the land of Egypt, or if only we had died in this Wilderness! Why is HaShem bringing us to this Land [of Israel] to die by the sword? -- Our wives and young children will be taken captive! -- Is it not better for us to return to Egypt?’ So they said to one another, ‘Let us appoint a leader and let us return to Egypt!’" (Num. 14:1-4). And Rashi comments that when the Jewish people wept on that night God resolved that, because they indulged in weeping without cause, He would establish that very night for them as a time of weeping throughout their generations -- this is Tisha B’Av, the very date upon which Jerusalem’s First Temple (in 586 BCE) and Second Temple (in 70 CE) were destroyed, the very date upon which the royal edict was signed authorizing the expulsion of the Jews from 13th Century England (in 1290), the very date upon which the Inquisition expelled the (non-converting) Jews from 15th Century Spain (in 1492), and the very date upon which, in 1914, the theological stage for the Shoah may have been set.
That the God of Israel will severely punish the Jewish people for their eagerness to engage in internecine violence against each other was already clearly established by the circumstances of the horrific civil war fought among the Hebrew tribes of biblical Israel (see Judges 19:1 - 21:25). In those days, the Jewish people had not yet been forged into one nation by the existence of a king (see Judges 19:1 and Judges 21:25); consequently, each Jew considered himself bound only to his particular tribe. And, from this starting point, the parallels between the advent of the War between the Hebrew tribes and the advent of World War I become uncanny.
Prior to World War I, Bosnia-Herzegovina, a province populated mainly by ethnic Serbs (both Christian and Muslim), was occupied by the Austro-Hungarian empire (which also included, in addition to modern Austria and modern Hungary, portions of what are now Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, Slovenia, Croatia and Italy). In a plot to unite Bosnia-Herzegovina with Serbia, the Black Hand, a terror group based in Serbia, sent a squad to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Empire, and his wife, while the two were visiting Sarajevo, the capital city of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The plot succeeded; but some members of the squad, having been captured, implicated some of the Black Hand's leadership in Serbia, as a result of which the Empire made immediate demand upon Serbia for the extradition of the identified culprits for trial and execution. Since Serbia's Constitution barred extradition of its citizens to other nations, Serbia rejected this extradition demand and, instead, offered to commence, in cooperation with the Empire, its own investigation of the crime, following which it would try the planners thereof in Serbia under the latter’s Criminal Code. Three days later, in response to Serbia's rejection of its extradition demand, the Empire declared war upon Serbia, as a result of which each side's allies began to join the fray until all of Europe was at war with itself. This avoidable war thereupon caused the deaths of millions, among them tens of thousands of Jews, many of whom were likely killed by their fellow Jews.
In this context, it is sobering to note that, although Jews then constituted only 1% of Germany’s total population, almost 20% of Germany’s Jews enlisted in its armed forces, thereby risking their lives to prove their loyalty to “their” country during World War I. Emblematic of the total identification that German Jews felt with Germany is the following declaration issued by the Central Association of German Citizens of Jewish Faith in 1914:
“We cannot turn anyone away who sacrifices his all for the Fatherland -- Christian or Jew, Aryan or Semitic. The Fatherland supersedes everything else -- the holy Fatherland.”
Like World War I, the Hebrew tribes' biblical conflagration was ignited by a single criminal act which quickly and inexorably acquired a life of its own. A man from the tribe of Levi, while lodging in a city of the tribe of Benjamin, turned over his secondary wife from the tribe of Judah to a besieging mob in order to deflect the mob's attention away from himself, as a consequence of which she was raped so brutally that she died from her injuries; and then the man, upon cutting his wife's corpse into pieces and sending them to representatives of all the other tribes of Israel, thereupon demanded of them that they join together to take immediate revenge for the atrocity (see Judges 19:1 - 20:11). After the tribe of Benjamin rejected the confederated tribes' demand for the extradition of the perpetrators to subject them to summary execution in order to "eliminate the Evil from Israel" (Judges 20:13), the confederated tribes declared war against the tribe of Benjamin; and all of Israel was thereupon at war with itself (see Judges 20:12-20). God reacted by inflicting Punishment upon both sides of this avoidable conflict by permitting, over the course of three battles, the slaughter of 65,000 Jewish warriors (25,000 from the tribe of Benjamin and 40,000 from the confederated tribes) plus all of the women and children of the tribe of Benjamin (see Judges 20:21-48).
Why did God inflict this Punishment upon His People? The confederated tribes were wrong to have gone to war against their brother tribe without first having given the Benjaminite elders a reasonable opportunity to investigate the crime and to punish the perpetrators thereof in Benjaminite territory in accordance with the latter's judicial procedures. Moreover, the elders of the confederated tribes had presumptuously requested of God that He inform them which tribe was to advance first against Benjamin rather than whether they should even resort to war (rather than mediation) in the first instance (see Judges 20:18). And the elders of Benjamin were certainly wrong not to have coupled their rejection of the confederated tribes’ extradition request with a solemn promise to expeditiously investigate the crime and punish the perpetrators thereof themselves. Lastly, since these events took place during a time when all of the Hebrew tribes tolerated widespread idolatry among their members (see Judges 17:1 - 18:31), it must have been galling to the God of Israel that the Jewish people were so willing to "eliminate the Evil from Israel" by waging an internecine war in order to vindicate the honor of a dishonorable man (who, at the outset, had sacrificed his wife to the mob and then, in an effort to incite his fellow Jews into a frenzy, had mutilated her corpse), yet were so unwilling to "eliminate the Evil from Israel" by removing idolatry and idolaters from the midst of Israel in order to vindicate the Honor of God.
Like the Jews of World War I, the Jews of biblical Israel paid dearly for their rash haste to kill each other on the battlefield. For, in neither conflict, were the Jewish people fighting for Kiddush HaShem.
In the years between World War I and World War II, the political, military and economic upheavals which shook the Gentile nations unleashed many a massacre against the Jews of Europe. Although the Zionist Movement was gaining adherents among those who yearned for a practical solution to the Jew-hatred, dislocation and death that enveloped them, the non-Zionist elite, both the Secular and the Religious, opposed the Movement -- the secular elite because Zionism drew unwanted attention to Jews as a people distinct from their Gentile neighbors and brought with it the implication of dual loyalty which threatened to undo all of secular Jewry’s past achievements in assimilating into Gentile society, and the religious elite because they believed that God wanted them to continue living in the Exile until the arrival of the Messiah (even if it was then possible to live in the Land of Israel due to the enactment by the League of Nations of its Mandate for Palestine) and because they could not believe that God would utilize secular Zionists, who denied His very Existence, to herald the mass return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel -- this despite the fact that the lack of religious merit among the secular Zionist leadership is rendered irrelevant once it is acknowledged that God began the great Ingathering of His People only in order to sanctify His own Name among His People and among the Gentile nations.
However, that being said, although the secular Zionists did not -- for the most part -- observe the personal Torah Commandments, such as those of Shabbat (keeping the Sabbath) and Kashrut (consuming only kosher food), they did perform the important national Torah Commandments of acquiring and maintaining possession of the Land of Israel so as to facilitate the great Ingathering of the Jewish people that would commence in earnest in the aftermath of the Shoah, as promised in the Hebrew Bible (see Deut. 30:1-6; Isaiah 54:7; Ezek. 36:18-35 and Ezek. 39:28-29). Unfortunately, due to the fact that the early secular Zionists substituted belief in the Land of Israel for belief in the God of Israel, the non-Zionist religious elite, in reaction thereto, spiritually distanced themselves from any reverence for the Land even to the point of calling the Zionists' love of the Land a form of Avodah Zarah (idolatry and other deviant worship), when, in point of fact, the Hebrew Bible itself both extols and mandates love of the Land of Israel: "HaShem said, ‘… a good and spacious Land … a Land flowing with milk and honey …’" (Ex. 3:8); and: "For HaShem, your God, is bringing you to a good Land: a Land with streams of water, of springs and underground water coming forth in valley and mountain; a Land of wheat, barley, grape, fig, and pomegranate; a Land of oil -- olives and date-honey; a Land where you will eat bread without poverty -- you will lack nothing there; a Land whose stones are iron and from whose mountains you will mine copper. You will eat and you will be satisfied and bless HaShem, your God, for the good Land that He gave you." (Deut. 8:7-10); "But the Land, to which you cross over to inherit, is a Land of hills and valleys; from the rain of Heaven shall you drink water; a Land that HaShem, your God, seeks out; the Eyes of HaShem, your God, are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year." (Deut. 11:11-12); and: "The commander of HaShem's legion said to Joshua, 'Remove your shoe from upon your foot; for, the place upon which you stand is holy.' And Joshua did so." (Josh. 5:15). It seems that, in their disdain for Zionism, the non-Zionist religious elite distanced themselves from the national Torah Commandments of settling and defending the Land primarily because these important Commandments were being performed by the impure secular Zionists (albeit not out of a desire to observe the Torah). And as for their complaint that, since the Jewish community in Israel was controlled by the Secular, it was not a suitable place for the Religious, an immigration of one million of the Religious to the Land of Israel could have easily resolved that demographic problem (and would have spared that particular assemblage from the fires of the Shoah).
Although their reasons were different, due to their mutual attachment to the Exile, the non-Zionist Jewish elite of Europe -- both the Secular and Religious -- acted the part of the biblical meraglim (spies), tribal leaders all, who gave their defamatory report to the Jewish people concerning the Land of Israel, thereby causing that generation who refused to abandon the Exile to, instead, mida k'neged mida, perish in the Exile (see Num. 13:27 - 14:35).
From 1933 (when Adolf Hitler, y’mach sh’mo, was appointed as Chancellor of Germany, y’mach sh’mo) until 1939 (when Nazi Germany, y’mach sh’mo, changed its solution to the “Jewish Problem” from Mass Expulsion to Mass Extermination in reaction to the collective refusal, with the exception of the Dominican Republic, subsequently joined by the Philippines, of the World's other nations, including the United States, at the 1938 Evian Conference to accept even modest Jewish immigration emanating from the territories then controlled by Nazi Germany, y’mach sh’mo, and when Great Britain, as Mandatory trustee, in abject contravention of the dictates of Morality as well as its legal obligations to the Jewish people under the Mandate for Palestine, issued its infamous Palestine White Paper of 1939, which severely restricted Jewish immigration to the Land of Israel in an effort -- largely unsuccessful -- to wean the Arab populations of Mandatory Palestine and the larger Middle East away from their open support of Nazi Germany, y’mach sh’mo, as the latter was beginning its conquest of Europe), Jews still had a window of opportunity -- albeit subject to British whim -- to escape the full brunt of the Destruction by fleeing to Mandatory Palestine (which, under God’s Protection, remained unscathed by the Shoah, although it did suffer from periodic Arab terrorism and British indifference thereto). But, too few heeded the signs. After that, virtually all avenues of escape were closed. And, while the fires of the Shoah yet consumed Europe's Jewry, Great Britain ruthlessly implemented its illegal White Paper, this despite the fact that the League of Nations had refused to approve it. In furtherance thereof, Great Britain barred tens of thousands of Jewish refugees from the gates of Mandatory Palestine during the Shoah; and it forced them, at the point of a gun, to return to those very lands where only annihilation awaited them. So it was that, at the malevolent hands of Great Britain, the internationally-sanctioned Jewish homeland was closed to Jewish immigration during the Jewish people's time of greatest need for sanctuary. The Shoah thereafter consumed more than six million of our fellow Jews, including approximately 1.5 million children. Love of the Exile -- which, of psychological necessity, had produced a misplaced trust in the benevolence of the Gentile nations -- had sealed their fate.
While the Shoah did not create the State of Israel, the absence of the State of Israel did create the Shoah. It is often alleged that the existence of the modern State of Israel was the direct result of the Shoah; but this is certainly False. For, Israel exists neither due to Europe's alleged guilty conscience over its complicity in the Shoah nor due to United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 (commonly known as the Palestine Partition Plan) issued in the wake of the Shoah -- which resolution was nonetheless rejected by the Arab leadership of Mandatory Palestine as well as by each and every Arab and (non-Arab) Muslim state which was then a member of the United Nations -- but due only to the fact that the God of Israel enabled the renascent Jewish State to militarily defeat the seven Arab states which, together with local Arab militias drawn from Arab-populated communities throughout the Land of Israel, had subsequently sought to annihilate the Jewish State from the face of the Earth. Yet, it is undeniably True that the Shoah was the direct result of the non-existence of the modern State of Israel. For, had the Jewish State already existed when Nazi Germany, y’mach sh’mo, arose from the ashes of World War I, virtually all of those who perished in the Shoah would, instead, have been forcibly expelled by Nazi Germany, y’mach sh’mo, to a welcoming Israel; and, consequently, there would have been no Shoah.
Jewish tradition informs us that the lives of our ancestors serve as guideposts for our own conduct. In our unending love for, and attachment to, the Exile, we are like our tribal ancestors who descended to the Land of Egypt and found such a good life waiting for them that they decided to permanently settle there. As the Torah relates: "Thus Israel settled in the Land of Egypt in the region of Goshen; they acquired property in it and they were fruitful and multiplied greatly." (Gen. 47:27); and: "The Children of Israel were fruitful, teemed, increased, and became strong -- very, very much so; and the Land [of Egypt] became filled with them." (Ex. 1:7). God was displeased with our ancestors’ growing love of, and attachment to, Egypt; and, in order to remind our people that they should not regard Egypt as if it were Gan Eden, He created the geopolitical circumstances which induced the reigning Pharaoh, y’mach sh’mo, to fear and hate the Israelites. As the Torah relates: "And a new king arose over Egypt who did not know of Joseph. He said to his people, ‘Behold! The people -- the Children of Israel -- are more numerous and stronger than we. Come, let us outsmart it, lest it become [even more] numerous; and it may be that if a war will occur, it too may join our enemies, and wage war against us and go up from the Land.’ So they appointed taskmasters over it in order to afflict it with their burdens … The Egyptians enslaved the Children of Israel with crushing harshness. They embittered their lives with hard work, with mortar and with bricks, and with every labor of the field; all of their labors which they imposed upon them [were] with crushing harshness." (Ex. 1:8-14). What does the Torah mean when it states that the new Pharaoh "did not know of Joseph"? Since the survival of Egypt and, consequently, his own reign, were made possible only through the administrative skills of Joseph, the new Pharaoh was surely acquainted with the fame of Joseph. Rather, the Torah’s statement means that the new Pharaoh did not feel beholden to the Jewish people on account of the loyalty and accomplishments of Joseph. On the contrary, despite the accomplishments of Joseph, the new Pharaoh felt nothing but scorn for the Jewish people. Yet, even then, our ancestors did not desire to leave the Egyptian "paradise". As the Torah relates: "…and the Children of Israel groaned because of the work and they cried out. Their outcry because of the work went up to God." (Ex. 2:23). They complained only because of the harshness of the work imposed upon them by the Egyptians and, accordingly, they cried to have their burdens lightened; but they had no desire to leave their Egyptian homes and Egyptian lives. Indeed, God redeemed Israel from slavery not because of their merit -- they had very little -- but only to sanctify His Own Name. As the Torah relates: "And Egypt shall know that I am HaShem, when I stretch out My Hand over Egypt; and I shall take the Children of Israel out from among them." (Ex. 7:5); and: "HaShem spoke to Moses, saying, … ‘I will be glorified through Pharaoh and his entire army, and Egypt will know that I am Hashem.’" (Ex. 14:1-4). Even against their will did God take our ancestors out of Egypt. As the Torah relates: "They [the Israelites] said to Moses, ‘Were there no graves in Egypt that you took us to die in the Wilderness? What is this that you have done to us to take us out of Egypt? Is this not the statement that we made to you in Egypt, saying, "Let us be, and we will serve Egypt"? For, it is better that we serve Egypt than that we should die in the Wilderness!’" (Ex. 14:11-12); and: "The Children of Israel said to them [Moses and Aaron], ‘If only we had died by the Hand of HaShem in the Land of Egypt, as we sat by the pot of meat, when we ate bread to satiety, for you have taken us out to this Wilderness to kill this entire congregation by famine.’" (Ex. 16:3); and: "The rabble that was among them cultivated a craving, and the Children of Israel also wept once more, and said, ‘Who will feed us meat? We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt free of charge, and the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. But now, our life is parched, there is nothing; we have nothing to anticipate but the manna!’" (Num. 11:4-6).
Finally, the Jewish people came to the border of the Land of Israel, then occupied by the Canaanite nations. Moses sent 12 tribal leaders from among the Jewish people to reconnoiter the Land in preparation for their invasion and conquest thereof. Ten of the spies urgently recommended to Moses against the invasion. As the Torah relates: "They reported to him and said, ‘We arrived at the Land to which you sent us, and indeed it flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people which dwells in the Land is powerful; the cities are very greatly fortified; and also the offspring of the giant we saw there. Amalek dwells in the area of the South; the Hittite, the Jebusite and the Amorite dwell on the mountain; and the Canaanite dwells by the Sea and on the bank of the Jordan [River].’ Caleb silenced the people towards Moses and said, ‘We shall surely ascend and conquer it, for we can surely do it.’ But the men who had ascended with him said, ‘We cannot ascend to that people; for, it is too strong for us.’ They brought forth to the Children of Israel an evil report on the Land which they had spied out, saying, ‘The Land through which we have passed, to spy it out, is a Land that devours its inhabitants. All the people that we saw in it were huge. There we saw the Nephilim, the sons of the giant from the among the Nephilim; we were like grasshoppers in our eyes, and so we were in their eyes.’ The entire assembly raised up and issued its voice; the people wept that night. All the Children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron, and the entire assembly said to them, ‘If only we had died in the Land of Egypt, or if only we had died in this Wilderness! Why is HaShem bringing us to this Land [of Israel] to die by the sword? -- Our wives and young children will be taken captive! -- Is it not better for us to return to Egypt?’ So they said to one another, ‘Let us appoint a leader and let us return to Egypt!’" (Num. 13:27 - 14:4). The basis for their impassioned recommendation against the invasion and conquest was the doctrine of Pikuach Nefesh (avoidance of danger to life). They argued that the Jewish people were entitled to be excused from performing the national Torah Mitzvah of forcibly possessing the Land of Israel because this Mitzvah was extremely dangerous; and they logically reasoned that Jewish lives would be more endangered by performing this Mitzvah than by desisting therefrom. Yet, God Himself rejected this assertion. Seeing that His Gift of the Land of Israel to the Jewish people was despised, God adjudged that generation, except for Caleb and Joshua, unworthy to leave the Exile, and He thereupon pronounced Sentence upon it, declaring: "‘And your young children of whom you said they will become a prey [for the Canaanite nations], I shall bring them; they shall know the Land [of Israel] which you have rejected. But your carcasses shall drop in this Wilderness. And your children will roam in the Wilderness for 40 years and bear [culpability for] your strayings, until the consumption of [the last of] your carcasses in the Wilderness. Like the number of the days that you spied out the Land, 40 days, a day for a year, a day for a year, shall you bear your iniquities -- 40 years -- and you shall comprehend straying from Me. I, HaShem, have spoken -- [I am not HaShem] if I shall not do this unto this entire evil assembly that gathers against Me; in this Wilderness shall they be consumed, and there shall they die!’" (Num. 14:31-35).
Astonishingly, despite their past enslavement in the Land of Egypt and the horrific conditions they had endured there over a long period of time there, the Jewish people nonetheless preferred to live there rather than in the Land of Israel. For -- against God’s Will -- the Jewish people were eager to overlook every Egyptian atrocity that had been perpetrated against them in the hope that a comfortable Jewish future in the Land of Egypt might yet be secured. Unfortunately, in every way do the contemporary Jews of the Diaspora resemble the generation of the Exodus.
God knew that the Jewish people's adaptation to the ways of the Exile would soon cause them to favor life there over repatriation to the Land of Israel. He also knew that the Jews of the Diaspora would tend to misinterpret the millennia long crescendo of violence directed against them by the Gentile nations hosting them as something other than ever sterner Warnings from God that the Exile was not to be regarded by the Jewish people as their permanent Home -- and certainly not as a reward from Heaven -- but rather as a severe Punishment for their Sins against Him as well as for their Sins against the Land of Israel itself (such as their failure to observe the Land's sabbaticals, mandating a year's rest for the Land every seventh year -- see Lev. 26:34-35). In order to afford the Jewish people an opportunity to avoid or, at least, limit the sufferings to come, the Merciful One had long ago warned His People of the consequences of misinterpreting their future tribulations: "If despite this [series of Punishments] you will not heed Me, and you behave toward Me with casualness, so I will behave toward you with a fury of casualness …" (Lev. 26:27-28). And we were told that even our children would suffer for our persistent indifference to God's Will: "Your sons and daughters will be given over to another people -- and your eyes will see and pine in vain for them all day long, but your hand will be powerless." (Deut. 28:32); and: "… HaShem will make extraordinary your blows and the blows of your offspring -- great and steady blows, and evil and steady illnesses." (Deut. 28:59).
Not only did God provide His People with numerous directive Warnings, but He also gave them several narrative Warnings. One such narrative Warning is represented by the 6th Century BCE episode which is described in the Hebrew Bible and commemorated by the Jewish people as the holiday of Purim (see Esther 1:1 - 10:3). Although Purim is traditionally portrayed and celebrated as a holiday of merriment and mirth, it bears a dark Message wrapped around an unheeded Warning. The Jews of Persia, descendants of those Jews exiled from the Land of Israel to Babylonia after King Nebuchadnezzar's destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE, rose to positions of power in the court of King Ahasuerus (Xerxes I also known as Xerxes the Great) and throughout the vast Persian Empire. Ancient Persia, however, proved itself to be a paradigm for all successive nations and empires which would initially welcome -- but eventually persecute -- the Jewish people, thereby serving to periodically remind our people that, regardless of the depth of their integration into a particular Gentile nation's economic and societal power structures, ultimately they could never rely upon such nation or its leaders to provide them with a safe and permanent Home. As recorded in the Hebrew Bible, King Ahasuerus first invited his loyal Jewish subjects to a great feast; then, at the instigation of his evil viceroy, Haman, y'mach sh'mo, he impulsively ordered the mass annihilation of the Jews residing throughout his vast empire, despite knowing that a local Jewish leader, Mordechai, had recently saved his life by thwarting an assassination attempt by officials of the royal court; and finally, in a stunning reversal orchestrated by his Jewish wife, Esther, he once again became the friend and benefactor of his Jewish subjects by permitting the Jewish people to defend themselves and thereby eradicate their persecutors.
Yet, even more amazing than the king’s rapid serial turnabouts in attitude towards the Jewish people is the fact that, in the midst of the Purim saga, the king’s instruction to annihilate the Jewish people actually coexisted with his instruction to honor a Jewish leader. As the Hebrew Bible relates: "So the king removed his signet ring from his hand, and gave it to Haman, son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. Then the king said to Haman, 'The silver is given to you, the [Jewish] people also, to do with them as you see fit.'" (Esther 3:10-11). In making the foregoing declaration, the king not only agreed to the annihilation of the Jewish people, but -- incredibly -- he also exonerated Haman, y'mach sh'mo, from having to comply with his promise to personally fund the enormous cost of the campaign (see Esther 3:9). However, as the Hebrew Bible subsequently relates, with respect to the king’s belated decision to honor Mordechai for thwarting that assassination plot: "Then the king said to Haman, 'Hurry -- take the attire and the horse as you have said, and do all this for Mordechai the Jew who sits at the king’s gate. Do not omit a single detail of all that you have suggested. '" (Esther 6:10). In sum, the king of the Persian Empire was the epitome of the enigmatic, mercurial and capricious Gentile leader who held the fate of his Jewish subjects in his untrustworthy hands.
Moreover, the fickleness of the circumstances under which the Jews of the Persian Empire existed is revealed by the very name of the holiday -- dictated by Scripture itself -- which commemorates this episode of Jewish history: “Purim”, which means “Lots” (see Esther 9:24-26). While the name “Purim” literally refers to the random process -- the creation of a lottery -- by which Haman, y'mach sh'mo, determined the date of the Jewish people’s destruction (see Esther 3:7), the name prophetically constituted a Warning to future Jewish generations that choosing to live among the nations of the Exile rather than in the Land of Israel would always be akin to participating in an Existential Lottery.
Consequently, Purim is, at its core, a case study in loyalty and assimilation to no avail.
Although all of the Jews of the Persian Empire were given permission by a prior monarch, Cyrus II (commonly known as Cyrus the Great) to return to the Land of Israel and to thereby begin the process of rebuilding the Temple (see Ezra 1:1-11 and II Chronicles 36:22-23), only a paltry 42,360 of them actually deigned to do so (see Ezra 2:64). The Jewish community of Susa (modern Sush in Iran), capital of ancient Persia, thereafter participated in a seven-day lavish celebration made by the new king, Ahasuerus, for the enjoyment of all of his subjects (see Esther 1:5), despite the fact that the festivities traversed the holy Sabbath. Mordechai, a leader of the Jewish community in Persia as well as Esther's first cousin and adoptive father, although a God-fearing man, nonetheless permitted Esther to successfully compete for the position of wife to that Gentile king (see Esther 2:5-11), despite God’s strict ban on intermarriage (see Deut. 7:3-4). Mordechai also instructed Esther to pretend before king and public that she was a Gentile (see Esther 2:10 & 2:19-20), thereby rendering himself complicit (notwithstanding his subsequent rebuke to her) in her initial refusal to disclose her Jewish identity to her husband, the king, in order intercede with the latter to save the Jewish people from annihilation (see Esther 4:5-11). Furthermore, at the risk of his own life, Mordechai thwarted a conspiracy to assassinate the king (see Esther 2:21-23). Moreover, as can be discerned from their names, both Mordechai and Esther were raised within an assimilative Jewish culture, as the name “Mordechai” is a derivative of the Babylonian god “Marduk” (identified with the planet Jupiter), while the name “Esther” is a derivative of the Babylonian goddess “Ishtar” (identified with the planet Venus). In sum, the Jews of the Persian Empire were so loyal to the Empire that they were willing to violate the Torah and even endanger their own lives in order to prove that loyalty.
Yet, in a twist of irony that would repeat itself throughout History, the God of Israel -- in response to the decision of the Jewish community, including its secular and religious leaders, to reject mass return to the Land of Israel in favor of comprehensive integration into Persian society -- raised up an implacable enemy who sought to destroy the Jewish people despite their collective loyalty to the Empire. For, immediately after it details the above assimilationist conduct on the part of the Jewish people, the Hebrew Bible continues: "After these things, King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and elevated him; and he placed his seat above all of the officers who were with him." (Esther 3:1).
Intriguingly, the ascendancy of Haman, y'mach sh'mo, reveals an additional aspect of the assimilationist conduct of the Jewish residents of the Persian Empire. For, when the king’s servants asked Mordechai (with whom they were already acquainted) the reason for his refusal, despite the king’s universal decree, to prostrate himself before the king’s viceroy, Haman, y'mach sh'mo, they were enlightened with the following explanation: "… because he [Mordechai] had told them that he [Mordechai] was a Jew." (Esther 3:4). Mordechai’s explanation was ambiguous, as it could have meant either: (a) that Mordechai, for purposes of occupational and/or social advancement, had previously concealed from the king’s servants the fact that he was a Jew; or (b) that, although the king’s servants knew that Mordechai was a Jew, so many Persian Jews were then regularly engaged in idolatrous conduct that Mordechai felt constrained to explain to the king’s servants that Jews were, nonetheless, prohibited from engaging in such conduct. The former interpretation implicates Mordechai’s level of assimilation, while the latter interpretation implicates the Jewish people’s level of assimilation.
And, in reaction to the rise of Haman, y'mach sh'mo, and the public dissemination of his evil intentions towards the Jewish people, the latter reacted as Jewish communities -- being boundlessly loyal to their countries of residence -- have reacted to the hatred directed against them from Time Immemorial. As the Hebrew Bible further relates: "The couriers went forth hurriedly by the order of the king, and the decree [of annihilation] was distributed in Susa, the capital. The king and Haman sat down to drink, but the [Jewish community of the] City of Susa was bewildered." (Esther 3:15). Stated another way, the Jewish community -- which had tried so mightily to integrate itself into Persian society -- was simply unable to fathom why its unshakable Allegiance to the Persian Empire was about to be repaid with such Cruelty.
Yet, the story of Purim constitutes more than a generalized Warning to the Jewish people not to rely upon the fickle protection of the Gentile nations. In fact, this episode of Jewish history constituted a specific Harbinger of the Shoah.
For, Haman, y'mach sh'mo, like his spiritual descendant Hitler, y'mach sh'mo, demonized the Jewish people as being an alien and disloyal element which had insidiously embedded itself among the indigenous population, the only solution for which was wholesale Annihilation. As the Hebrew Bible relates: "And Haman said to King Ahasuerus, 'There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom; and their laws are different from those of every other people, and they do not keep the king's laws; so, it is not befitting for the king to tolerate them [the Jews]. If it pleases the king, let it be written that they [the Jews] be destroyed' . . . And letters were sent by courier to all of the provinces of the king, [instructing the Gentile peoples of the Empire] to destroy, to slay, and to exterminate all of the Jews, from young to old, children and women -- in one day -- on the thirteenth [day] of the twelfth month, which is the month [of] Adar, and to plunder their [the Jews’] possessions." (Esther 3:8 & 3:13).
However, in an epic event which ushered in a 2,500-year existential reprieve for the Jewish people, Haman and his army of multi-ethnic collaborators, including his 10 sons, y'mach sh’mam, were killed in battle with Jewish forces before they could carry out their cataclysmic plan (see Esther 9:1-19).
It is the unique circumstances of the confrontation between the Jewish people and their pan-ethnic enemies, y’mach sh’mam, of the Purim saga which most crystallizes God’s Specific Warning to His People. That the repentant Persian king neither rescinded his royal edict that the Jewish people be annihilated nor sent his army to defend the Jewish people against the implementation of that edict (see Esther 8:3-8) is hardly unique. However, that the king issued a second royal edict permitting the Jewish people to arm and defend themselves against those enemies (see Esther 8:8-14) is, indeed, unique. The Jewish people were thereby meant to comprehend the deadly consequences that would normally flow from a host country’s decision to either directly persecute its defenseless Jewish citizens or permit the Jew-hating segments of its population to do so. And the Jewish people were thereby meant to further comprehend that they ought not to expect the unique circumstances of the Jewish people’s salvation in the Purim saga to be replicated in the Exilic Future. On the contrary, only through the process of the Jewish people’s returning to -- and again becoming the rulers of -- their own Land would those unique circumstances thereafter become the norm. The Shoah, consequently, represents the Exilic epitome of the normative absence of those unique circumstances which had existed in the Purim saga.
Another prophetic connection between Purim and the Shoah is the concept of the “Aryan race”. The designation “Aryan” is derived from the ancient Sanskrit word “arya”, which means “noble”. While -- from Antiquity until 1935 -- the outside World chose to refer to them as “Persians” and to their country as “Persia” (derived from the ancient Persian word “parsa”, which was the name of the clan from which Cyrus the Great hailed), the “Persians”, believing that their progenitors came from a uniquely noble race, instead always identified themselves as “Aryans” and always denominated their country as “Iran”, which means “Land of the Aryans”. Hitler and his Nazi Party, y'mach sh'mam, seizing upon popular German mythology, appropriated this Persian (and northern Indian) tradition in order to institutionalize that preexisting belief among the German people, y'mach sh'mam, that they too were descended from this special “Aryan race”. However, the Nazis, y'mach sh'mam, declared that (unlike the Persians and northern Indians who, according to the Nazis, had intermarried with “non-Aryan” peoples over the past several millennia) the German people, y'mach sh'mam, constituted the purest extant strain of the “Aryan race”, from which it was extrapolated that the German people, y'mach sh'mam, had thereby attained the status of being a “master race”, whose destiny it was to subjugate the “non-Aryan” World, except for the Jewish people, who were, instead, to be completely extirpated from the planet Earth. It is indeed chilling that both Haman and Hitler, y’mach sh’mam, strove to annihilate the Jewish people on behalf of the “Aryan race”.
A further prophetic connection between Purim and the Shoah -- this one representing the implementation of God's retributive Justice against those who would annihilate God's "Firstborn Son" (see Ex. 4:22-23) -- is manifested when one considers the seemingly illogical post-battle request of Queen Esther that the 10 already-dead sons of Haman, y'mach sh'mam, be hanged on the gallows (see Esther 9:13) together with the mysterious appearance of four abnormal-sized letters (-- one enlarged letter, being "vav", and three reduced letters, being "tav", "shin" and "zion" --) interspersed among the enumeration of the names of the 10 slain sons of Haman, y'mach sh’mam (see Esther 9:7-9). In light of the Shoah, it is clear that the 10 hanged sons of Haman, y'mach sh’mam, represented, not merely the 10 biological sons of Haman, y'mach sh’mam, but also the 10 spiritual sons of Haman, namely, the 10 high-ranking Nazi officials, y'mach sh’mam, who would be hanged upon the gallows in Nuremberg, Germany on October 16, 1946 (which date fell on Hoshana Rabba, the seventh day of the Torah holiday of Sukkot -- known, in the English language, as the Feast of Tabernacles -- when Jewish tradition posits that God finalizes His annual Judgment upon the nations). This incredible otherworldly prophetic assertion is substantiated by the fact that, commencing with Rosh HaShana of that year, the Gregorian calendar year 1946 corresponded to the Hebrew calendar year 5707. Since the Hebrew language does not possess separate numeric symbols, it uses Hebrew letters to represent numbers, including those for the days and years of the Hebrew calendar. Accordingly, the Hebrew calendar year 5707 is expressed by the Hebrew letter "vav" (representing the number "6") for the Sixth Millennium of the Hebrew calendar, and by the Hebrew letters "tav" (representing the number "400"), "shin" (representing the number "300") and "zion" (representing the number "7") for the 707th year (400 + 300 + 7) of the Sixth Millennium. In other words, the abnormal-sized Hebrew letters that are contained within the names of the 10 evil sons of Haman, y'mach sh’mam, who were hanged some 2,500 years before the Shoah, specifically directed the Jewish people to the future time -- the Hebrew calendar year 5707 corresponding to the (post Rosh Hashana) Fall of 1946 -- when the 10 evil "sons" of Hitler, successor to Haman, y'mach sh'mam, would be hanged, as well. Ironically, additional proof of this Portent came forth from the mouth of Julius Streicher, the last of the 10 Nazis, y’mach sh’mam, to be hanged at Nuremberg. His otherworldly parting words at the gallows were: "Purim-fest, 1946" (See the New York Times newspaper of October 16, 1946, page 1; and the Newsweek magazine of October 28, 1946, page 45).
The story of Purim even contains an accurate portrayal of the psychology of Jew-hatred that would later permeate Nazi Germany, y’mach sh’mo. As the Hebrew Bible relates: "That day Haman went out joyful and exuberant. But when Haman noticed Mordechai in the king's gate, and that he did not stand up and did not stir before him, Haman was filled with wrath at Mordechai. [Nevertheless,] Haman restrained himself and went home. He sent [for] and summoned his friends and his wife, Zeresh. Haman recounted to them the glory of his wealth and of his many sons, and all [the ways] in which the king had promoted him and elevated him above the officials and royal servants. Haman said, 'Moreover, Queen Esther brought no one but myself to accompany the king to the banquet that she had prepared; and also tomorrow I am invited by her together with the king. Yet all of this is worth nothing to me so long as I see Mordechai the Jew sitting at the king's gate.'" (Esther 5:9-13). The obsessive hatred of Haman, y'mach sh'mo, for the Jewish people rendered meaningless his great wealth, successful family life, exalted social status and high political office, all of which he eventually forfeited. This is because Haman, y'mach sh'mo, was so focused on annihilating the Jewish people, that nothing else mattered to him. Similarly, the obsessive hatred of Hitler, y'mach sh'mo, for the Jewish people rendered meaningless the military gains of Nazi Germany, y’mach sh’mo, in the early years of World War II, all of which it eventually forfeited. This is because, Hitler, y'mach sh'mo, was so focused on annihilating the Jewish people that -- even during a time when Nazi Germany, y’mach sh’mo, was fighting and losing a two-front war -- he irrationally diverted essential funds, men and material to that obsessive Cause, thereby depriving his armed forces of the critical resources needed to avoid an unconditional surrender and to thereby preserve at least some of their initial war gains.
There are also several aspects of the Purim saga that have a symbolic prophetic connection to the Shoah. For example, after having fully planned the annihilation of the Jewish people, Haman, y’mach sh’mo, delayed putting his plan into effect until he had first secured a positive reaction from and the permission of King Ahasuerus (see Esther 3:6-9). In the context of the Holocaust, the king symbolizes the nations of the World. Like Haman, y’mach sh’mo, Hitler, y’mach sh’mo, did not put into immediate effect his plan to annihilate the Jewish people. Instead, he delayed implementing the mechanisms of mass murder until he was able to gauge the reaction of the World to the gradual, but systematic, process by which he was dehumanizing his captive Jewish populations. Once he determined that the nations of the World either approved of, or were apathetic to, his harsh persecution of the Jewish people, he concluded that he had obtained the World’s permission for their complete extirpation. Moreover, (as further discussed below) Queen Esther -- due to reasonable fears that her preexisting favorable relationship with the king might be fatally jeopardized thereby -- initially rebuffed Mordechai’s urgent plea that she immediately intercede with the king to save her fellow Jews from Haman’s plan. In the context of the Holocaust, Esther, in her capacity as the queen, symbolizes the Jewish elites of a number of host nations (principally, the United States) who -- due to reasonable fears that their preexisting favorable personal and/or institutional relationships with their host governments might be jeopardized thereby -- refused to lobby their respective governments to prevent the initial persecution and subsequent mass murder of their fellow Jews by Nazi Germany and its pan-ethnic collaborators, y’mach sh’mam. However, although Queen Esther soon reversed herself and did intercede with the king before Haman’s plan could be implemented, thereby saving virtually all of her fellow Jews therefrom, the Jewish elites of the Holocaust era so belatedly lobbied their respective host governments to thwart Hitler’s plan that only a remnant of their fellow Jews were saved therefrom.
Lastly, there is one final prophetic connection between the events of Purim and the Shoah -- namely, the fact that the Scroll of Esther is the only narrative book of the Hebrew Bible which does not mention God's Name even once. Moreover, the salvation of the Jewish people recounted in its pages appears to have been accomplished in a non-miraculous manner. The omission of God's Name, coupled with the Jews' seemingly mundane salvation from their adversaries, has been traditionally explained to mean, not that God was absent during the events of Purim, but rather that, even if God's Presence was not manifest, God was nevertheless always present, orchestrating in a concealed way the salvation of His People by the manipulation of persons and events. In fact, proof of God's Presence during the events of Purim inheres in the text itself. For, when Mordechai, through palace intermediaries, informed Queen Esther of the king's decree of mass annihilation and requested her immediate intercession with the king, she demurred, reminding Mordechai of the well-known Persian law that any unsummoned person, even the queen, who dared to approach the king's inner court risked death (see Esther 4:5-11). The text thereafter continues: "They related [Queen] Esther's words to Mordechai. Then Mordechai said to reply to [Queen] Esther, 'Do not imagine in your soul that you will be able to escape in the king's palace any more than the remainder of the Jews. For, if you persist in keeping silent at a time like this, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another place, while you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether it was just for such a time as this that you attained the royal position!'" (Esther 4:12-14). Mordechai's response to Queen Esther seems very strange indeed. Logically, Mordechai should instead have responded: "If you do not immediately intercede with the king, then all of the Jews -- except for you -- will be destroyed, and you will be forced to live out the remainder of your life with a survivor's guilt upon your head!" Clearly, Mordechai's actual response assumes something otherworldly, namely, that the Jewish people, as a collective entity, would be protected from ultimate harm without regard to Queen Esther's actions. This response is a powerful proof of Mordechai's complete faith that the Protector of the Jewish people -- the God of Israel -- was firmly in control of events and that, while He might permit individual Jews -- even large numbers -- to perish, He would never permit the entire Jewish nation to be destroyed, despite its many Sins (including those in which he -- Mordechai -- was personally complicit). For, God had made this explicit Promise to the Jewish people almost a millennium earlier: "'But despite all of this, while they will be in the lands of their enemies, I shall not reject them and I shall not abhor them [in order] to obliterate [all of] them [in order] to annul My Covenant with them; for, I am HaShem, their God. But I shall remember for their sakes the Covenant of their Ancestors, whom I took out from the Land of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be God unto them; I am HaShem.'" (Lev. 26:44-45). And, through the Prophet Jeremiah, He had subsequently declared to His People: "'For, I am with you -- the Oration of HaShem -- to save you; for, I will bring annihilation upon all the nations among whom I have dispersed you, but upon you I will not bring annihilation; I will chastise you with Justice, but I will never eliminate you completely.'" (Jer. 30:11).
Accordingly, it is clear that God's apparent Absence during the events of Purim was a harbinger of His apparent Absence during the events of the Shoah. In fact, God’s earlier Warning to the Jewish people that: "… I will hide My Face from them, and they shall be as prey, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say on that Day: ‘Are not these Evils come upon us because our God is not among us?’ And surely I will hide My Face on that Day …" (Deut. 31:17-18) not only accurately portends the normative and apogean Concealment of God’s Presence during the events of the Holocaust, but it also explicitly connects itself to the events of Purim, during which the Concealment of God’s Presence first became normative, as the events of Purim heralded the approaching closure of the Era of Prophecy. For, the operative Hebrew-language phrase in God’s Warning is “haster astir” (traditionally translated as: “surely I will hide”), “haster” (idiomatically translated, in this context, as: “surely”) being a variant doubling and a linguistic echo of the first person future tense verb “astir” (translated as: “I will hide”), thereby emphasizing the certainty that the prophesied Concealment would come to pass; and the word “astir” (spelled “aleph”, “samech”, “tav”, “yud” and “resh”) contains within itself the same sequence of Hebrew letters, except for the “yud” (to wit: “aleph”, “samech”, “tav” and “resh”), as constitutes the name “Ester” (translated as: “Esther”). Accordingly, there is a profound symbolic significance in the fact that the letter “yud” appears in “astir” (“I will hide”), but is missing in “Ester” (“Esther”). This is because the letter “yud”, being the first letter of the Tetragrammaton (God’s Ineffable Name: “Yud” “Heh” “Vav” “Heh”, reverentially rendered for translation purposes as “HaShem”, meaning: “The Name”), symbolically represents God. Consequently, the removal of the “yud” from “astir” (“I will hide”) converts that word into the name “Ester” (“Esther”), thereby symbolically representing the initial fulfillment of the Torah’s Concealment Warning during the events of Purim. Moreover, even the variant word “haster” (“surely”) (spelled “heh”, “samech”, “tav” and “resh”) transforms itself into the name “Ester” (spelled “aleph”, “samech”, “tav” and “resh”) after the letter “heh” of “haster” is removed and replaced with the letter “aleph” of “Ester”. Since “heh” is the second letter of the Tetragrammaton (and coupled with the first letter “yud” thereof spells a shortened version of God’s Ineffable Name: “Yah”), and since “aleph” is a silent letter, symbolic of God’s apparent Silence, the substitution of the “aleph” for the “heh” also symbolically represents the initial fulfillment of God’s Concealment Warning during the events of Purim. Moreover, perhaps the doubling which inheres in the phrase “haster astir” (“I will surely hide”) is also a hint of the multi-layered relationship that God created between His Concealment Warning, Purim and the Holocaust. Consequently, as revealed by the foregoing, it cannot be doubted that, although God's Presence was not manifest during the Shoah, He was nevertheless always Present, manipulating persons and events in order to fulfill Prophecy, even if -- this time -- He permitted the Jewish people to be decimated by their supranational enemies, y’mach sh’mam.
Contrariwise, the story of Purim also contains the Prescription for future Jewish survival in a fickle and hostile World. For, although the Persian king neither rescinded his edict of annihilation nor ordered his army to protect the Jewish people therefrom, he nonetheless permitted the Jewish people to arm and defend themselves without hindrance (see Esther 8:3-14), with the result that the Jewish people, standing alone against a huge multi-ethnic army, successfully defeated their enemies (see Esther 9:1-18). In fact, so important was this military achievement that Scripture enumerates enemy deaths (see Esther 9:6 & 9:15-16) and then glorifies the Jewish victory by declaring: “And these Days should be remembered and celebrated by every generation, every family, every country, and every city; and these Days of Purim shall never cease among the Jews; nor shall their remembrance perish from their descendants.” (Esther 9:28). The Message was -- and is -- unmistakable. Only in a place where Jews have the sovereign right to defend themselves without hindrance would they be able to prevent their intergenerational enemies from implementing serial annihilationist plans. And only one place in the World fits that description -- the Land of Israel.
Unfortunately, the Jewish people's historical failure to properly understand the Message of Purim caused them to falsely believe, throughout the next 2,500 years, that they could -- and would -- eventually find a safe and permanent Home in the Exile. However, with the rise of Hitler, y'mach sh'mo, this fundamental misunderstanding of the true nature of the Exile contributed greatly to the substantial annihilation of Europe's Jewish populations.
However, lest one believe that the Holocaust was limited to the Exilic Jews of Europe, it is pointed out that, commencing in 1940, Vichy France (as occupier of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia) and fascist Italy (as occupier of Libya), both of which were allied with Nazi Germany, y’mach sh’mam, began -- with the indispensable cooperation of local Arab officials and supportive Arab populations -- to systematically strip the Exilic Jews of North Africa of their civil rights, livelihoods, assets, and access to public facilities and services (paralleling the dehumanization process which was already well underway in Nazi Germany, y’mach sh’mo, as well as in those European countries under Nazi occupation or hegemony, y’mach sh’mam). However, due to delaying tactics employed by Vichy France’s Governor of Tunisia, this process of dehumanization was not fully implemented in that country until it was occupied by Nazi Germany, y’mach sh’mo, in 1942. Ultimately, more than 13,000 North African Jews were sent to myriad slave labor camps scattered throughout Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya, staffed by Occupation officials and local Arabs, where thousands died of disease and starvation, while others were murdered by camp guards. Moreover, hundreds of Tunisian and Libyan Jews were deported to European slave labor camps. Only the Anglo-American invasion of North Africa, resulting in the defection of Vichy forces and the decimation of the Italo-German army, which surrendered to Allied forces in 1943, saved North Africa’s Jewish populations, at large, from eventually joining their European brethren as wholesale victims of the Holocaust.
The destruction wrought by the Shoah was so enormous that, for many surviving European Jews, it forever changed the way in which they had perceived life in the Diaspora, thereby impelling them to abandon their illusions of Exilic paradise and to return to the Land of their forefathers, even as the Jewish community there braced for its own existential conflict -- Israel's 1948 War of Independence. But, alas, for most Diaspora Jews, the Shoah constituted, not a reason to abandon the Exile, but merely an incomprehensible testament to Man's inhumanity to Man which could be harnessed to improve the Exile by building Holocaust museums and spreading the gospel of toleration among the nations.
More than a half century after the Shoah (and more than 3,400 years after the Exodus from Egypt), Jews who continue to reside in the countries of the Exile also continue to bathe in the very same waters of Chillul HaShem in which the Jews of pre-Shoah Europe were drowned. A new leadership of meraglim -- both secular and religious -- has arisen which does not understand the lessons of the Shoah and which refuses to advocate that their Jewish flock leave the Exile, thereby showing contempt for God’s Will and His beloved Land.
But wait -- Does not God require us to bless and pray for the welfare of those countries of the Exile in which we now find ourselves? For, did not the Prophet Jeremiah, speaking in God’s Name, instruct us: "'And seek the peace of the City to which I have exiled you and pray for it to HaShem, for through its peace will you have peace.'" (Jer. 29:7)? The answer is that this Instruction was part of a specific set of Instructions that Jeremiah, at God’s Behest, sent from Jerusalem to the Jewish captives in Babylonia ordering them to submit to their Exile in Babylonia for the next 70 years after which they would be repatriated to the Land of Israel (see Jer. 29:1-10), while Babylonia itself would eventually be judged by God and thereafter be destroyed (see Jer. 50:1 - 51:64). In fact, almost immediately following this Instruction, the Prophet declares: "For thus said Hashem: 'After 70 years for Babylonia have been completed, I will attend to you and I will fulfill for you My favorable Promise, to return you to this place [the Land of Israel].'" (Jer. 29:10). Clearly, God intended that any Jewish imploration for the protection of any Babylonian city be time-bound. Assuming, however, that this Instruction applies as much to the present Roman Exile as it did to the earlier Babylonian Exile, then it is pointed out that this Instruction, by its specific terms, requires us to pray, not for the protection of each “nation” to which, or each “people” among whom, we have been exiled, but rather only for the protection of each “city” to which we have been exiled. God’s limitation of the object of our imploration to the smallest governing unit in the Exile indicates that He did not want the scattered Jewish people either to develop loyalty to any host nation or to contemplate assimilating into any host people. Moreover, no portion of this Instruction enjoins the Jewish people to love the Exile, let alone to abandon their longing for repatriation to the Land of Israel. Furthermore, this Instruction, in context, clearly refers to a situation of involuntary exile that was imposed by God upon the Jewish people during which they were forbidden to return to the Land of Israel. In light of the re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty in, and the commencement of the great Ingathering of the Jewish people to, the Land of Israel more than 100 years ago, it can hardly be claimed that the Jews of the Diaspora presently find themselves in a situation of involuntary exile.
On the contrary, Today, the Jews of the Exile can freely emigrate to the State of Israel. However, Tomorrow, the countries of the Exile may prevent a modern Exodus. The Jews of the Exile (especially those who live in the United States -- an immigration magnet for the entire World, including, unfortunately, the Jews of Israel) should know that the State of Israel will endure until the arrival of the Messiah and beyond, not because God finds any merit in the actions of its leadership, but only because God has so identified Himself with the Jewish people -- including with their reestablishment of sovereignty in the Land of Israel and with their Ingathering thereto from the far reaches of the Earth -- that Israel’s destruction at this juncture in History would be wholly misinterpreted by the Gentile nations, thereby causing a catastrophic Chillul HaShem.
After the Sin of the faithless Hebrew spies, Moses successfully pressed this very argument upon God Who, in His Burning Anger against the undeserving Jewish people, had just declared to Moses that He would now annihilate them. As the Torah relates: "HaShem said to Moses, ‘How long will this people provoke Me, and how long will they not have faith in Me, despite all of the Signs that I have performed in their midst? I will smite them with the Plague and annihilate them, and I shall make you a greater and more powerful nation than they.’ But Moses said to HaShem, ‘Then Egypt, from within whose midst You brought up this nation with Your Power, will hear [of Your Annihilation of the Children of Israel], and they will say to the inhabitants of that land that they have now heard that You, HaShem, are in the midst of this people, that You, HaShem, appear Eye to eye [with them], and that Your Cloud stands over them, and that in a Pillar of Cloud You go before them by day and in a Pillar of Fire [You go before them] by night. And yet You killed this people as if they were a single man; then the nations that heard of Your Fame will say, "Because HaShem lacked the Ability to bring this people to the Land that He had sworn to give them, He slaughtered them in the Wilderness." And now may the Power of the Lord be magnified as You have spoken, saying: "HaShem is slow to Anger, and abundant in Kindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and clearing [the penitent but] not clearing [the impenitent], visiting the iniquity of fathers upon children unto the third [generation] and unto the fourth [generation]." Please forgive the iniquity of this people due to the Greatness of Your Kindness and as You have forgiven this people from Egypt until now.’ And HaShem said, ‘I have forgiven [them] because of your words.’" (Num. 14:11-20). Notice that Moses’ argument is here based upon the explicit claim that the nations would misinterpret the Jewish people’s complete Destruction as proof that the God of Israel was not Omnipotent. As discussed above, even the partial Destruction that was the Shoah caused many Jews to deny God’s Existence due to that which they misperceived as His demonstrated Lack of Omnipotence.
Similarly, after the earlier Sin of the idolatrous golden calf, Moses had also successfully implored God not to destroy the undeserving Jewish people based upon a similar argument. As the Torah relates: "HaShem said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people; and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. And now, desist from Me, and let My Anger flare up against them, and I shall annihilate them, and I shall make of you a great nation.’ But Moses pleaded before the Face of HaShem, his God, and said, ‘Why, HaShem, should Your Anger flare up against Your People whom You have taken out of the Land of Egypt with Great Power and a Strong Hand? Why should Egypt say the following, "With Evil Intent did He take them out, to kill them in the mountains and to annihilate them from the face of the Earth?" Relent from Your Flaring Anger and reconsider the Evil against Your People. Remember [Your Promise to the Children of Israel] for the sake of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Your Servants, to whom You swore by Yourself, and to whom You told, "I shall increase your offspring like the stars of Heaven; and this entire Land of which I spoke, I shall give to your offspring, and it shall be their heritage forever."’ And HaShem relented regarding the Evil which He declared that He would do to His People." (Ex. 32:9-14). Notice that Moses’ argument is here based upon the explicit claim that the nations would misinterpret the Jewish people’s complete Destruction as proof that the God of Israel was not Moral. As discussed above, even the partial Destruction that was the Shoah caused many Jews to condemn God’s Behavior due to that which they misperceived as His demonstrated Lack of Morality.
Moreover, the Prophet Samuel would later affirm the nature of God’s Special Relationship, including His Self-Identification, with the undeserving Jewish people. As the Hebrew Bible relates: "Samuel said to the people, ‘Fear not; you have done all of this Evil; yet do not turn from following after HaShem; rather serve HaShem with all of your heart. And you shall not turn to follow after vanities which cannot benefit [you] and cannot rescue [you]; for, they are vain. For, HaShem shall not abandon His People for the sake of His Great Name; for, HaShem has sworn to make of you a people for Himself.’" (I Samuel 12:20-22).
The State of Israel endures, and will continue to endure, only in order to ensure that God's Holy Name will be sanctified among the Gentile nations and among His unbelieving People. As the Prophet Ezekiel says concerning the powerful and arrogant Gog with respect to his future defeat at the hands of a tiny and vulnerable State of Israel led by the Messiah at the End of Days: "Thus said the Lord HaShem: ‘Surely on that Day, when My People Israel dwells securely, you will come to know, when you come from your place in the uttermost parts of the North, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding horses, a vast horde, a mighty army, and you advance against My People Israel like a cloud covering the Earth. It will be at the End of Days that I will bring you upon My Land, in order that the nations may know Me, when I become sanctified through you before their eyes, O Gog!’" (Ezek. 38:14-16). As the Prophet continues, in God’s Name: "‘I will manifest My Glory among the nations; and all of the nations will see My Judgment that I have executed [against them] and My Hand that I have placed upon them. Then the House of Israel will know that I am HaShem, their God, from that Day onward. Then the nations will know that the House of Israel was exiled because of their Sins -- because they betrayed Me; and I hid My Face from them; and I delivered them into the hand of their enemies, and they fell by sword -- all of them. I dealt with them in accordance with their contamination and their Sins, and I hid My Face from them.’" (Ezek. 39:21-24). Clearly, only as a result of their defeat at the hands of the Messiah will the Gentile nations, as well as the victimized Jewish people, publicly acknowledge the sole Kingship of the God of Israel; and only as a result of this defeat will the Gentile nations finally come to understand that the Jewish people were exiled from the Land of Israel, and thereafter subjected to millennia of depredations and annihilations, not due to their failure to embrace the false religions of the nations, but rather only due to their failure to observe the Commandments, and heed the Warnings, of the Torah while they yet dwelled securely in the Land. Finally, the Prophet declares, in God’s Name, concerning the ingathered Jewish people residing in the resurrected nation-state of Israel at the End of Days: "‘Then they will know that I am HaShem, their God; for, having [previously] exiled them to the nations, I [now] gather them back into their Land and leave none of them there [among the nations]. I will never again hide My Face from them; for, I will pour out My Spirit upon the House of Israel -- [this is] the Oration of the Lord HaShem.’" (Ezek. 39:28-29).
Yes, because it is the Foundation Stone of God's Plan, the State of Israel will endure until the arrival of the Messiah and beyond; but the blind and "stiff-necked" Jews of the Diaspora, like the generations of the Exodus and pre-Shoah Europe, may not live to see it.
© Mark Rosenblit and Jesse Rosenblit
Note: This Essay does not assert (or imply) that the Holocaust was an individual punishment for the private Sin of any particular Jew. On the contrary, it undoubtedly true that the vast majority of Jews never did anything that might have justified the use of even the slightest bit of violence against them, let alone the horrors of the Holocaust. Rather, this Essay asserts that the Holocaust was a Collective Punishment for the public Sin of the Jewish leadership (both the secular and the religious), namely, their contagious Love of the Exile, which constitutes nothing less than a Rejection of the Land of Israel.
That the God of Israel utilizes Collective Punishment to chastise peoples, including the Jewish people, is established throughout the Hebrew Bible. As is set forth and analyzed in this Essay: "The Children of Israel continued to do what was Evil in the Eyes of HaShem; and [so] HaShem delivered them into the hand of the Philistines for 40 years." (Judges 13:1); and "The Children of Israel were fruitful, teemed, increased, and became strong -- very, very much so; and the Land [of Egypt] became filled with them. And a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know of Joseph." (Ex. 1:7-8); and "After these things, King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and elevated him; and he placed his seat above all of the officers who were with him." (Esther 3:1).
Yet, neither the Philistine oppressors, y’mach sh’mam, nor malevolent Pharaoh and complicit Egyptian society, y’mach sh’mam, nor evil Haman and his army of multi-ethnic collaborators, y’mach sh’mam, are rendered any less culpable for their heinous crimes against the Jewish people upon the theological basis that they were simultaneously fulfilling God’s Higher Purpose, the proof being that God exacted a horrific Revenge against all of these enemies of the Jewish people.
Moreover, there are many similar examples to be gleaned from the Hebrew Bible in which evil kings were utilized by the God of Israel to persecute and wreak destruction upon the wayward Jewish people in order to fulfill His Higher Purpose, after which they and their kingdoms disappeared into the detritus of History.
Accordingly, this Essay does not assert (or imply) that Hitler and his supranational horde of collaborators, y’mach sh’mam, are theologically exonerated from their Evil upon the grounds that the God of Israel -- for His Reasons -- permitted them to perpetuate the Holocaust upon His People.
For a deeper analysis of the reasons why God deems Collective Punishment to be Just, please see my Essay entitled “THE LIFE OF ABRAHAM: A COMMENTARY”, in the Section thereof entitled “THE DESTRUCTION OF SODOM AND GOMORRAH”. For a deeper analysis of the reasons why Evildoers remain theologically culpable for their evil conduct even though such conduct is in furtherance of God’s Will, please see the same Essay, in the Section thereof entitled “THE WAR AGAINST THE FOUR KINGS AND THE GIFT OF THE LAND”, at my exegesis therein of the following Declaration by God to Abraham (which is the prelude to the Covenant Between The Pieces): “And He said to Abram, 'Know with certainty that your offspring [the Jewish people] shall be aliens in a land not their own; they [the Jewish people] will serve them, and they will oppress them [the Jewish people] for 400 years. But also the nation that they shall serve, I shall judge, and afterwards they [the Jewish people] shall leave with great wealth.” (Gen. 15:13-14). -- Mark Rosenblit