This has been one hot summer. All over the world the temperatures have been soaring above normal. Here in Israel it has been a steady heat wave with the average hovering in the mid-to-high 30s Celsius. In Canada and United States, the weather has been relentless as forest fires and droughts wreak havoc throughout their respective countries. Israel has been subjected to constant infernos devouring the trees and wildlife as well, but sadly these were mostly attributed to arsonists taking advantage of the sun-dried, flammable kindling. The enemy in our midst seeks any means at its disposal to bring chaos and destruction to our land.
While today, here in Bet Shemesh, we are having a slight reprieve from the blazing sun at a breezy 28 degrees Celsius, the residents of southern Israel are feeling a different type of heat. They are being fired at by rockets and missiles from adversaries who seek to destroy us and force our People from our land. Thank G-d, those who chose to make the Land their home are strong in their resolve and hold the Country together for the rest of us. Just last night, a grad rocket made a direct hit on a house in Netivot. Miraculously, although the home was totally destroyed, the lone occupant was able to run for cover to his bathroom where he felt the explosion with an earth-shaking, deafening shock.
Even though summertime is generally known for higher temperatures, the extreme nature of these recent events should give us reason to pause. All things in the world are controlled by the Master of the Universe, the Creator of all. It is not simply a matter of science or chance. If we reflect on the why it may be happening, we can come to some likely conclusions.
A fire can destroy all that’s in its path, but at the same time, it cleanses all the impurities. Torah itself is referred to as Aish, fire. It is this G-d- given warmth that sustains us. It is said we also drink from the waters of Torah, a seeming contradiction. Normally water extinguishes fire, but like the burning bush which was never consumed, the fire of Torah burns eternally. Both fire and water are vital for life and it is this combination which is essential for our survival. Like emuna, despite our inability to comprehend things which make no sense to us in the material world, rest assured it is very clear in the spiritual plane.
To gain more understanding, perhaps we should look at the prayer we say over the fire of Havdalah (the prayer concluding Shabbat): “Blessed are You, HaShem our G-d, King of the Universe, Who creates the illuminations of the fire.” Why is the word ‘illuminations’ used in the plural rather than the singular ‘illumination’? There is a dispute between Bet Hillel (house of Hillel) and Bet Shamai (house of Shamai) as to which form of the word to use, so we use Hillel’s version, the plural. Brachot 51b and 52b explains that the plural refers to the various colors of fire. This discrepancy is also why we use a candle with several wicks for Havdalah. According to Hillel, the blessing also refers to the way fire is constantly recreating itself in multicolored fashion. If we apply this to the fires burning throughout Israel and elsewhere, one concept becomes crystal clear; Unity! Regardless of our color (that is, differences of all kinds), as the Havdalah candle, the Jewish people must meld together as one to bring the world to perfection, to bring unparalleled illumination – to be A Light unto the Nations. It is only by sanctification of His Name in harmony and solidarity that salvation will arise out of the flames.
At this point in time, the people in the south of Israel are like sitting ducks, scapegoats for the rest of mankind. Don’t be fooled by illusions though – we are ALL sitting ducks, we are ALL settlers and we are ALL powerless to control anything. Even the best-planned intentions of our respected army cannot succeed without the help of our Heavenly Father. The future is out of our hands as all is determined by His Will and only His Will.
We can make an effort to affect the judgments already in place. We can alter harsh decrees for pleasant ones; we can fight fire with fire. We can replace the bullets, the missiles, the weapons of mass destruction with the fire of Torah. We can drown the evil, the wicked and immoral lusts of the world with the waters of holiness. But we can only do this while loving each other as ourselves (paraphrased from Rabbi Akiva), through unity, compassion and kindness.
In Ethics of the Fathers, Mishnah Pirkei Avot 2:15, Rabbi Eliezer said: “Let the honor of your fellow be as dear to you as your own. Be not easily moved to anger. Repent one day before your death. Warm yourself before the fire of the sages, but be heedful of their glowing coals for fear that you be burned.” While yearning to emulate our Tzadikkim is paramount, we must act in moderation. We should refrain from fanaticism and overbearing stringencies.
Be part of the effort to subdue the unrestrained firestorms raining upon us. If you are not already in the Holy Land of Israel, join the Ingathering of the Exiles and be part of history. As Hillel said, if not now, when?