They Are Ruthless, But We Are Strong

It’s frustrating to witness the injustice surrounding Eretz Yisroel these days. How can the world not see through the lies of these monstrous murderers? Indeed, Yishmael’s ruthlessness has a long history.

By Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier – The Beis Medrash

It’s frustrating to witness the injustice surrounding Eretz Yisroel these days. How can the world not see through the lies of these monstrous murderers?

One thing we can do to gain perspective and encouragement is to look at history. The past is the best indication for the present and the future.

Yishmael’s ruthlessness is deeply rooted.

As Yishmael was about to die of thirst the Torah tells us what his mother did. “She cast the child under one of the bushes. And she went and sat down from afar, at about the distance of two bowshots, for she said, ‘Let me not see the child’s death.’”

Is that what a compassionate mother does? Instead of spending the last moments with her son, she walks away because she doesn’t want to see him die. Contrast this to the Yiddishe Mammeh in this week’s haftorah. The haftorah says that when one Jewish woman’s son fell in the field, “And he [the father] carried him and brought him to his mother, and he sat on her knees until noon, and he died.”

Hagar’s callousness was passed on to her son. The Baalei Hatosafos explain that another reason for why she sat so far away was because she was afraid that with his last strength, he’d try to shoot an arrow and kill her. Kill her! His own mother! Out of anger.

Then there are Yishmael’s lies.

The Torah says that Sarah saw Yishmael “metzachek” with Yitzchak and she disapproved of this. What does metzachek mean?

One interpretation is that he toyed with bows and arrows, pretending to kill Yitzchak. A most fitting game for Yishmael.

The Seforno, however, writes that when Yitzchak turned 13 his father made a great feast to celebrate his bar mitzvah. At this celebration, Yishmael went around spewing a lie that Yitzchak was in fact not Avraham’s son but Avimelech’s. This was Yishmael’s metzachek, laughing and making a mockery out of Yitzchak; and Sarah couldn’t tolerate such brazen lies.

Yishmael’s lies continue. In the writings of Yishmael’s descendants they say that the akeidah actually happened with Yishmael, and Yitzchak was the one who stayed behind. They have no issue rewriting history.

To be sure, it’s not only Yishmael who does this. Avimelech abducted Sarah and when Hashem punished him and he had to return her to Avraham he changed the whole narrative as if Avraham was the one responsible for what happened!

With this kind of background, it’s no wonder that today’s Yishmaelim are who they are. Cold-blooded murderers and brazen liars shamelessly trying to rewrite history and manipulate the truth.

It’s painful to watch this happen but it’s comforting to remember that this isn’t a new problem and, with Hashem’s help, we’ll overcome this just like we did the challenges of the past.

But our real encouragement comes from yet another piece of history in this week’s sedra.

The medrash says that Og the giant came to Yitzchak’s bar mitzvah where he was taunted because he used to say that Avraham was a “sterile mule and will never give birth” and yet there they were celebrating Avraham’s son’s bar mitzvah. Og responded to them by saying that he’s not intimidated, “If I want, I can squish this child with my small finger.”

Hashem responded to Og’s threat and said that one day Og would die in the hands of Avraham’s descendent, Moshe Rabbeinu.

The Rebbe[1] related this medrash at the bar mitzvah celebration of Asher Kazarnovsky which took place in Crown Heights in the spring of 1942. The Rebbe began by posing a chilling question: How can a young Jewish boy be certain about joining the ranks of the Jewish people when he sees how Jews are being harassed, persecuted, and afflicted?!

The Rebbe then quoted the above medrash and said that it captures the story of the Jewish people. We are and we always have been a small nation. Large and powerful nations have threatened to destroy us, R”l, and by the rules of nature, they could have. But we are still here and they’re on the pages of history books.

The Ogs of the world flaunt their numbers—be it the number of people at demonstrations or the capacity of their armies—and their physical power. They believe that spirituality can’t last when challenged by them.

The Jewish response is not that we can match their numbers or their strength. Our response is that our strength is not quantifiable. It lies in our connection to Hashem through His Torah and mitzvos. And no power in the world can overcome that.

The strength of the IDF is not in their strategy or weaponry; it’s in their prayer, their emunah, their mitzvos, and those of Jews the world over. May Hashem give them the strength to protect Eretz Hakodesh and Am HaKodesh and return home safely.  

And may Hashem bring a final ending to all the harassment, persecution, and affliction with the coming of Moshiach now!

[1] Reshimos 17

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