This week's parsha begins with Yaakov leaving Eretz Yisroel, running for his life from Eisav, to live with his uncle Lavan. When he arrives, Lavan welcomes him and brings him into his home. After working for Lavan for a bit, Lavan, always wanting to be "fair," asks Yaakov what he wants as payment for his service. Yaakov answers, "I want to marry your youngest daughter, Rochel." No problem! Yaakov works seven years, prepares to marry Rochel, and in the end, Lavan pulls a fast one, and switches Leah in her place. As a result, Lavan gets yet another seven years work from Yaakov to finally marry Rochel. With this, the foundation of the nation of Israel is built. After many more years of work and success, Yaakov sees clearly that Lavan is now openly hostile to him, and when commanded by Hashem, finally leaves without Lavan's permission. After a several day chase, Lavan catches up to Yaakov, yells at him for leaving so quickly and suddenly, claims that everything that belongs to Yaakov really belongs to him, and then demands that Yaakov make a peace treaty with him, warning him not to be an aggressor in the future.
Let's think about this. Because it sounds rather familiar.
It seems that Rav Moshe Sternbuch, one of the heads of the Eida HaChareidis (B'datz) in Yerushalyim has been warning people about upcoming events, even before Simchas Torah. Nobody knew exactly what he was talking about, obviously, but it seems, that he had some feelings "in the cosmos" that we were unable to feel.
Shortly after Yom Kippur, he said, "We do not know what the coming year potentially has in store for us, and if we are not worried, that means that our emuna is deficient. Every Jew must realize that any calamities in Eretz Yisroel, G-d forbid, will spread to the whole world eventually, and we have to increase our emuna so that we will have the strength to face any eventuality."
Right before Sukkos, at a bar mitzvah (it seems to have been recorded on video as well), he started speaking in a similar vein saying, "… People are very cold today. It's very dangerous. Especially this year, it's such an important year, when we don't know what's going to happen. There could be all sorts of surprises. We can be sure that many decisions are being made for us now … it's impossible to speak about the situation which we're in today …."
He said that we can only merit redemption when we come to the simple and absolute realization that "we have no one to rely on except our Father in Heaven." This, he explained, is practically impossible to achieve if we fill our time with what's happening in the army, politics, news, etc., since in our mind, we begin to think that these are what will bring about our redemptions. We should keep updated based on what we need to know, but more than that we should stay away from. Rather, we need to use our time more appropriately, now more than ever.
I was giving thought to this last bit, over the following several days. And I realized that whenever I think of Hamas, my hatred for them is nothing compared to the United Nations, WHO, or the Red Cross. When I hear anything about THEM, I cringe and curse their name. But Hamas, the ones who planned and executed the actual slaughter? My hatred for them is not as strong. Strange, isn't it?
But, then after much thought I realized why. Hamas is pretty straight forward. If anything, you have to give them credit for that. They have an official charter. In it, is says, "Kill the Jews." They have a motto, "Kill the Jews." They teach their children, "Kill the Jews." So, when it comes down to Hamas, what do you expect? It's their job in the world to kill the Jews.
However, all these other third-parties that are involved … they officially are neutral, or worse, their job is to promote peace and equality. Yet, when Arabs kills Arabs or Arabs kill Jews, the United Nations is silent. Yet, when Jews kill Arabs as a result of Arabs killing Jews, wow! A storm is brewed. Their schools are used for weapon depots and to teach "Kill the Jews." The Red Cross and WHO are similar. For decades it's been known that terrorists use their hospitals and ambulances illegally, and they are silent. Groups like Black Lives Matter openly celebrated the massacre of Simchas Torah, and all the women's rights groups? Silent when Jewish women are being attacked, openly hostile when Palestinian women are being attacked (only by Jews. If by fellow Arabs, they are silent).
It's mind-boggling! But why is it mind-boggling? Why does it bother us more when we hear from them then when we hear from Hamas?
And, while not making any moral equivalency, why do we get so upset with the upper levels of Israeli society? The government, the army? Reports have been coming out of how lower-level soldiers were warning their superiors of things happening on the ground, before the attacks, and they were roundly ignored and told to "stop bothering us." Even former generals have given their warnings, but knew that since the general staff is more focused on their own personal gains, nothing will come from such warnings. Why do the Israeli people feel betrayed by those running the show, knowing that this was not simply a series of understandable mistakes, but rather a series of foolish and chutzpadik decisions? Why do our stomachs churn more when we hear about these, then they do when we hear about Hamas?
Because deep down inside, we believe that all of these parties are ultimately responsible, or should be responsible, for our safety and peace. And that's where the problem lies.
If we truly believed that the UN or the Red Cross was just as bad as Hamas, we wouldn't get so upset. If we truly believed that our safety is not dependent on Israeli politicians and generals, we wouldn't get so upset. But, we DO believe it in some way. That's why we get so upset.
We have expectations, and they are not living up to those expectations.
Lavan started off nice to Yaakov. However, slowly, but surely, he started turning against him. He tried this trick and that trick to stunt Yaakov's growth, but Yaakov was successful, nonetheless. In the end, Lavan accused Yaakov of aggression and demanded a peace treaty warning him against "further aggression."
Nothing is new in this world. Today's Lavan is no different than yesterday's Lavan. We cannot expect Lavan to save us from Lavan. Only Hashem can save us from Lavan. The more we internalize this idea, the more we are forced to acknowledge it, and more importantly, believe it.
Have a wonderful and meaningful Shabbos!