As I write these words, Netanyahu has not yet addressed both Houses of Congress. Though I know the subject and direction of his address, I certainly do not know what he will say. And I suspect that very few people know, though many have already dismissed what he has to say even before he has said it.
Though I am interested in what he will say, I am more interested in the day after the speech. What will the future hold following the speech?
The secular media has constantly quoted Obama supporters on the absolutely apocalyptic effect that Netanyahu’s speech will have on bipartisan support for Israel and on the U.S. – Israel relationship. These predictions, or course, come from Leftists in Israel and the U.S., who have been consistently proven wrong in everything.
As a religious Jew and an American-born Israeli, I would like to offer my apocalyptic thoughts, but these will be of a decidedly different nature than those provided by the secular media, because I will base them on classic Jewish texts which are not an after-the-fact response to current events.
Now, if you actively deny the existence of G-d, you can stop reading here, unless you want the pleasure of reading what you consider errant nonsense. However, if you are not so certain either way, you might want to read on, just in case.
Before presenting those “day after” thoughts, I want to mention that many religious-oriented articles and emails have circulated regarding Netanyahu’s speech being timed so close to the Jewish festival of Purim. This is significant because, in Judaism, there is a concept of “Maaseh Avos Siman L’Banim” – the deeds (and events) of the fathers are a foreshadowing for the descendants. And the timing of the events is also relevant. For Jews, history repeats itself in very many details, at the same time of year.
The festival of Purim, recorded in the Book of Esther, commemorates the redemption of the Jews from a decree of complete physical annihilation. The decree of destruction was issued by Haman (an Amalekite enemy of the Jews) with the approval of the King (Achashverosh) of Persia. (For more details, read the Book of Esther, preferably with a commentary.) As for the connection to Netanyahu’s speech, Persia is now called Iran, and it is threatening Israel with total nuclear destruction. And many wonder if “King” Obama will allow the Iranians the centrifuges they need to build nuclear bombs.
There are other similarities between Purim and the speech that I will not repeat here. But they generally deal with the run-up to the speech. I prefer to get to those “day after” issues, the first of which is the main issue —whether or not Iran indeed gets nukes.
The following is a quote taken from the Yalkut Shimoni, an aggadic compilation on the books for the Bible:
“Rabbi Yitzhak said: During the year in which the Messiah will appear, the kings of the nations will quarrel with one another. The king of Persia [Iran] will quarrel with the king of Arabia (Saudi Arabia), and the king of Arabia will go to Aram [Syria or perhaps Jordan] to seek counsel.
The king of Persia will rain destruction on the whole world and all the nations of the world will be agitated and confused; they will fall on their faces and pains will seize them like birth pangs.
And Israel will be agitated and confused, and they will say ‘What shall become of us? What shall become of us?’ And the Holy One, blessed be He, will say to them ‘My children, have no fear. All that I have done, I have done only for your sake. The time of your redemption has come! And the final redemption will not be like the first redemption. For after the first redemption, you knew grief and bondage from the nations. Whereas after the final redemption, you will not again know suffering and bondage.”
Does Iran get nukes? Rabbi Yitzhak obviously could not mention the word “nukes”, so the answer can be open to interpretation. But the following points are instructive:
1) Rabbi Yitzhak specifically cites Persia (Iran) as the destroyer. He could have cited any other nation (Babylon – Iraq, Egypt, Edom-Rome or Europe, Greece, even Ishmael-Arabs). Bulls-eye.
2) Rabbi Yitzhak did not have to bring the rest of the world into it. He could have made it a local battle between Persia and Israel, yet he clearly involves the rest of the world. And this idea of destroying the world is all the more surprising because battles were fought with bows, arrows, spears, and swords. One might destroy (in Hebrew: machriv), a city or village, often by fire. But applying it to the world is simply NOT normal. (By the way, the world is not destroyed in the total, literal sense. People survive such destructions.) So how does Iran manage to rain destruction on the world? Nukes seem to be the weapon of choice at this juncture.
Before stating the next apocalyptic prediction, let me point out that lately I have heard more and more people saying in the media that World War Three is already underway.
For Jews, this war is called Gog uMagog; and during this war, the nations of the world battle against Israel. (Given today’s climate, that is hardly a stretch.) The leader of the battle against Israel is called Armelius. One Midrash says of Armelius that “He alone will rule the world,” a description that could be applied only to America following the collapse of the Soviet empire.
But an even more telling Midrash (Midrash Talpios) states “Armelius ben Satan will come from an Edomite statue of a woman and Satan.” The Midrash would hardly be suggesting that a statue gives birth. How then can we understand this statement?
Consider this: Through Divine inspiration the writer of the Midrash sees a two part vision relating to America, the one nation dedicated to liberty. In the first vision, he sees the Statue of Liberty – a statue of a woman, dedicated to liberty, and given to America by France (a nation of Edom). In the second vision, he sees tens of thousands of Radical Islamists and Muslims demonstrating and calling America the Great Satan, because they despise America’s freedom and liberty. Two sides of the same coin, pointing to America.
This analysis is certainly more rational than the statue having stone babies. One must ask if that Midrash could have another meaning, or apply to another nation. To which I answer that none comes to mind (though I am open to suggestions).
But this Midrash, which seems to suggest that the U.S. becomes the leader of the battle of Gog uMagog against Israel, is just too troubling. It demands further analysis and consideration.
At the root, one must understand that G-d decreed (via the evil prophet Bilam), that Israel is a nation that dwells alone and that it is not reckoned like the other nations. In other words, friends of Israel will come and go (Israel saw this with France), and that the world will judge and treat Israel differently than it treats other nations (so obvious today).
But even so, America is the best friend Israel has ever had. And this friendship is qualitatively different than Israel’s friendships with other nations. Beyond mutual interest, it is a visceral friendship, based on common values and part of the very moral fiber of both countries. So how can we understand this?
The future will tell how it will actually play out. But I can suggest several possibilities (and this is not an exhaustive list).
- Perhaps the U.N. Security Council will authorize an armed force to go against Israel (the armies of the world). Since the U.S. is the only nation that Israel can count on in the U.N., if the U.S. does not veto such an authorization, it effectively becomes the facilitator (and thus in a sense the leader of) that force, even if no American troops are involved. The same applies if the President allows Iran to go nuclear, and reaches out to and empowers Israel’s enemies in the Muslim world.
- Perhaps the Executive branch of the U.S. government goes against Israel. Given the current abuse of Executive powers, it is entirely conceivable that a U.S. president can unilaterally decide to join Israel’s enemies, even if the Congress and the American people oppose this.
- Hard as it is to say, the American public could turn against Israel. Such a shift has been underway in college campuses (students being future policy makers). Even the Democratic Party is undergoing a shift. Though people blame Netanyahu or Israel, the likely cause is that Democrats (like students) increasingly blame America for third-world woes. They see America as the problem and as less worthy. So why should they not see Israel in the same light?
Such a shift seems far less likely with Fundamentalist Christians with whom we share common G-d based values. (Though some churches are beginning to separate from Israel and are buying into the anti-Semitic BSD movement. So it cannot be discounted.). But even with Fundamentalist Christians and Republicans remaining true friends of Israel, there just might not be enough of them to carry the day.
So if Iran will likely go nuclear, why should Netanyahu go ahead and speak before Congress when there is such vocal opposition? The answer is simple. In Judaism, we are obliged to make the effort, and G-d will determine its success or failure. Even though the Midrash indicates that G-d protects Israel, Netanyahu is obliged to rail against Iranian nukes for the sake of the world which is under threat. That is what is called for; it is the right thing to do. And in the end, G-d will determine if Iran will or will not go nuclear.
As for upsetting friends opposed to Netanyahu speaking: The limits of friendship must be understood. Friendship is great. Mutual support is great. But Israel’s redemption depends only on G-d (and the choices we make in relation to what G-d wants of us). Israel must stand up for itself, and expect the support and respect of its friends. If that support and respect are lacking, Israel must reconsider the friendship, not its decisions. But Israel must never, ever deliberately make a bad or wrong decision to please its friends, let alone its enemies.