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Dov Lipman
Member of the 19th Knesset

The Gaza War: Our destiny on our way to salvation

The Hamas Massacre and the ensuing war in Gaza and along the Lebanon border have left all of us in a state of shock and confusion. We have so many questions. 

Of course, after the war is over, practical and logistical questions will have to be answered by our leaders and military brass as we all try to comprehend how this massacre could have happened in the first place. Those responsible will undoubtedly need to answer for their actions or inaction.

But none of that will address the larger question about the challenge we face as a peace-seeking country and nation. Why do we suffer so much? Why can’t we just be left alone? How could innocent people  experience these horrors? Why does it seem impossible for so many to be fully supportive of Israel? Why does so much of the world seem apathetic to or even in favor of our annihilation? 

Sadly, we don’t have answers to most of these questions. And we may not  get them during this lifetime. Going as far back as our humble beginnings as a people, Jewish tradition teaches that Moses himself asked God why good people suffer. God replied that we, as limited human beings, cannot possibly understand His ways. [1] While that leaves us with difficult lingering questions, the suffering that we have experienced historically, and are currently experiencing as a Jewish people, does not run counter to our tradition. In fact, it is consistent with our tradition, which explicitly states that all this will happen.

I am not referring to Leviticus Chapter 26 and Deuteronomy Chapter 28, which describe the horrific curses that we will experience when we go against the word of God as a nation. Rather, I refer to our national destiny as revealed to Abraham during the “Covenant of the Parts” in Genesis Chapter 15, verses 12-18.

“As the sun was setting, Abraham fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him.

“Then the Lord said to him, ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated for four hundred years. 

“But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.

“You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age.

“In the fourth generation, your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.’

“When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking furnace with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 

“On that day, the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river…’”

Rav Joseph Soloveitchik, one of the greatest Torah scholars and philosophers of the 20th century, wrote in Abraham’s Journey [page 138] that this covenant “includes all the elements of the historic Jewish covenantal experience.” 

First, the sun setting, the smoking furnace, and the blazing torch. This, Rav Soloveitchik teaches, describes “the toll we pay for any historical achievement in terms of blood, tears, and toil – an uncommon phenomenon in the history of other peoples.” Unlike other nations, nothing will come easy for us. Our sun always must set before it rises. We only grow and achieve as a nation on the heels of intense suffering and national darkness.

Second, there is “thick and dreadful darkness” followed by horrible persecution alongside an awareness that salvation will ultimately come. In Rav Soloveitchik’s words, “the feeling of dread and awe on the one hand, and of intense hope and firm, unshakable faith with which we anticipate future events on the other.” We suffer terribly and feel the pain deeply, but we get through it knowing that better times lay ahead.

Third, our persecution and suffering are not based on any cause and effect. It is simply predestined. “The historical occurrence is a great mystery, unwarranted and completely irrational if seen under the aspect of universal causation,” Rav Soloveitchik explains. 

Fourth, Avraham was all alone during this covenant ceremony. Rav Soloveitchik teaches that this reality captures “the awesome loneliness that the covenantal community experiences.” We are alone, and there is nothing we can do about it. God decreed it and He has His reasons for making this our lot. This doesn’t mean that we should remain silent. We have to always tell our side of the story and raise our voices for truth. But there will always be a loud voice against us. This explains the masses who are marching and protesting against Israel despite the horrific massacre which included Hamas terrorists raping Israeli women, beheading Israeli babies, and taking Israeli children and elderly as hostages. 

We can question why God determined that these elements would be part of our destiny but we must know that answers will only come after we leave this Earth. In the meantime, knowing that God decreed this thousands of years ago makes it an easier pill to swallow. We don’t know why, but suffering, persecution, faith in the midst of pain, national loneliness, and growing and coming out even stronger is the hand that we have been dealt as a people.

This part of our national destiny, made clear by God 3,300 years ago, has most certainly come true. We have been persecuted continuously, we have persevered with deep faith, emerged from the suffering, and eventually found ourselves even stronger – and we have been essentially alone throughout.

And now for the good news. Our tradition also says that a time will come when our suffering will come to an end. That process of salvation begins with the ingathering of the exiles. [2] My organization, Yad L’Olim, has helped over 35,000 Olim families from 40 different countries in just the last two years, a clear sign of Jews returning home from all around the world as God promised. Our tradition teaches that the land of Israel will lay fallow and desolate while we are in exile, [3] but it will flourish again once we return [4]. History has proven that to be true. All of this is meant to set the stage for the final, eternal redemption and era of peace. [5] 

The Maharal of Prague, Rabbi Yehuda Loew, taught in the 16th century that the final war for Israel to achieve peace will be fought against Persia and Ishmael together. They will join forces to attack Israel. We will face a challenging foe, will eventually win, and that will pave the way for our final redemption. [6] Persia is Iran. Ishamel are the Arab nations, i.e., Hamas and Hezbollah.

Regardless of why this is our destiny, we can see all the pieces of our tradition coming together in the wake of the October 7 Hamas Massacre, funded and encouraged by Iran.

On the more positive side in terms of what we are currently experiencing, there is a remarkable spiritual awakening in Israel in the wake of October 7.  The number one item soldiers are asking for – in the tens of thousands –  is Tzitzit. [7]  The stores in Israel cannot keep up with the requests for soldiers who want their own pair of Tefilin.  [8]  Numerous survivors of the massacre and those who have read their miraculous stories have accepted to start observing the Shabbat. The initiatives to help soldiers, evacuees, hospitals, farms, etc.  that people in Israel and around the world have initiated to help with the war effort has generated millions of acts of kindness and unprecedented unity. Our traditional sources are clear that spiritual awakening [9]  and unity [10] play a significant role in sparking salvation and redemption Israel. 

As we suffer the intense pain of the losses, injuries, hostages, and the national trauma from October 7, and recognize the spiritual awakening which we are experiencing, may we find solace and comfort in our tradition which states that this combination sets the stage for our ultimate salvation. May we be blessed to soon experience that  of peace and tranquility in which we fulfill our ultimate destiny as a true light unto the nations.  

[1] See Exodus 33:18-23 and Tractate Berachot 7a

[2] See Deuteronomy 30:3-5, Isaiah 11:12; Jeremiah 29:14; Ezekiel 20:41-42; Eichah Rabbah 1:41

[3] See Leviticus 26:32

[4] See Ezekiel 36:8; Isaiah 51:3; Amos 9:13-15

[5] See Tractate Megillah 17b; Tractate Sanhedrin 98 & Rashi: “When the Land of Israel gives forth its fruits in abundance, the End [of exile] will be near and there is no clearer sign of the End [of exile].” 

[6] Netzach Yisrael Chapter 37

[7] “Fringes” worn on the corners of a four-cornered garment. See Numbers 15:38 and Deuteronomy 22:12

[8] “Phylacteries” See Exodus 13:9 and 16; Deuteronomy 6:8; Deuteronomy 11:18 

[9] See Deuteronomy 30:2-3

[10] See Midrash Tanchuna Nitzavim 1: “The Jewish people cannot be redeemed until they are unified” as an example among many.

About the Author
Dov Lipman was elected to the 19th Knesset in January 2013. He is the author of nine books about Judaism and Israel, and holds rabbinic ordination from Ner Israel Rabbinical College and a masters in education from Johns Hopkins University. He has been at the forefront of combating religious extremism in Israel and is a leader in efforts to create Jewish unity both in Israel and around the world. Former MK Lipman is invited to speak on behalf of the Jewish state both in Israel and around the world and serves as a political commentator for i24 News and ILTV. He is the founder and CEO of Yad L'Olim, an NGO that assists and advocates for Olim from around the world.
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