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Beit Midrash Family and Society Redemption - Geula

"...My King upon Zion, My Holy Mountain"

The recipe for military success lies in understanding a truth which is not readily obvious: The confrontation is not between Israel and the nations, but between God and the nations. Victory will arise only as a result of our trusting in the Almighty.
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Introduction: "...against the Lord and against His anointed"
1) The Nations Rise Up Against the Jewish People and Against God
2) God's Response to the Behavior of the Nations
3) Dialogue Between a King of Israel and the People of Israel
4) Israel Tells the Nations to Repent and Recognize God's Dominion

(The following article was written two years ago, in Iyar 5761 (2001), approximately half a year after the onset of the so-called "El Aksa Intifada.")

Introduction: "...against the Lord and against His anointed"
"Day to day utters speech, and night to night expresses knowledge" (Psalms 19:3). This past year has taught us a lot. Let us consider a few aspects of God's guiding providence by analyzing the second chapter of the Book of Psalms:

2:1 Why are the nations in an uproar? And why do the peoples mutter in vain?
2:2 The kings of the earth stand up, and rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His anointed:
2:3 "Let us break their bands asunder and cast away their cords from us."
2:4 He that sits in heaven laughs; the Lord has them in derision.
2:5 Then will He speak unto them in his wrath, and affright them in his sore displeasure:
2:6 "Truly it is I that have established My king upon Zion My holy mountain."
2:7 I will tell of the decree: The Lord said unto me: "You are my son; this day have I begotten you.
2:8 Ask of me and I will give the nations for your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for your possession.
2:9 You shall break them with a rod of iron; you shall dash them in pieces like a potters vessel."
2:10 Now therefore, O you kings, be wise; be admonished, you judges of the earth.
2:11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
2:12 Do homage in purity, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when suddenly His wrath is kindled. Happy are all they that take refuge in Him.

Our chapter speaks of a war waged by the nations against the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. It considers this battle an affront upon the Almighty Himself, arriving at the conclusion that, "Happy are all they that that take refuge in Him." The formula for military success lies in understanding a truth which is not readily obvious: The confrontation is not between Israel and the nations, but between God and the nations. Victory will arise only as a result of trust in the Almighty.

We must be filled with the sense that everything that has happened to us during the past half year is not just some isolated conflict between our neighbors and ourselves. Rather, we play a central role in a dialogue which is taking place between God and the His enemies. A strengthened sense of trust in the Almighty is important because it serves to emphasize the unique role which the Jewish people have been assigned - to serve as God's own special people, and to bear His name.

During the past six months, uncertainty has riddled the humanistic hopes of many. Hopes of a peaceful and normal national life like that of any other nation, without any unique destiny. The nation is thirsty for a different approach, a grand approach, an approach that will give it strength to know what we are fighting for. Will we succeed in meeting this demand?

The chapter can be divided into four sections of three verses each, and each section is voiced by a different body:

1) an accusation of the nations against the Jewish people
2) God's response to this accusation
3) a revelation by a leader of Israel concerning what God has said to him
4) Israel's request of the nations: Repent and recognize God's sovereignty.

1) The Nations Rise Up Against the Jewish People and Against God
2:1 Why are the nations in an uproar? And why do the peoples mutter in vain?
2:2 The kings of the earth stand up, and rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His anointed

To which nations is our chapter referring? Perhaps the precise identity of these hostile peoples goes unrevealed here in order to teach us that this sort of conflict exists as a recurrent historical phenomenon. The wars waged by the nations against the Jewish people are not so much an attack on the Jews as they are an attack on God. Yet, later in the chapter, it appears as if we are dealing with a war which is waged when a king of Israel begins to establish his kingdom upon Mount Zion. The commentators explain that our chapter tells either of the era during which King David was crowned king, or of a war which is destined to be played out in the future Messianic Age. We will see, at the end of our study, that this chapter fits the description of the of Gog and Magog war, a war which will be jointly declared by many nations upon the Jews who have returned to their land after a long exile. It is for this reason that no particular nation is given mention; a mixture of nations will come upon Israel.

The third verse of the chapter informs us as to the pretext for these nations joining forces against Israel:
2:3 "Let us break their bands asunder and cast away their cords from us."

The nations are all too aware of Israel's divinely ordained preeminence and of the moral demands which this chosen people makes of humankind. Israel's moral standards disturb the nations, who would just assume shake them off completely. The war against morality centers upon Jerusalem. Sensing the imminent fulfillment of the prophecy, "From Zion the Torah will go forth..." the nations begin to panic.

2) God's Response to the Behavior of the Nations
2:4 He that sits in heaven laughs; the Lord has them in derision.

God responds to the plans of the nations with laughter and derision. It is possible that this laughter finds expression in the Almighty's allowing Israel's enemies to believe that they indeed possess the power to wage war upon God. God let's them reach the gates of Jerusalem. God "plays hide-and-seek" with them. Only later does He reveal Himself and let forth His fury.

2:5 Then will He speak unto them in his wrath, and affright them in His sore displeasure

Initially, the nations are under the impression that the Jews are returning to the Land of Israel as little more than a band of sorry Holocaust refugees, looking for safe shelter; but God will reveal through the divine assistance provided Israel in their wars that…
2:6 "Truly it is I that have established My king upon Zion My holy mountain"

When it comes to the days of thankfulness which we celebrate in the Hebrew month of Iyar (Israel's Independence Day, Jerusalem Day), each of us is called upon to strive to see the half-full side of the cup. Miracles transpire each day and every moment.
Psalms 124:
1. A Song of Ascents; of David. "If it had not been the Lord who was for us," let Israel now say;
2. "If it had not been the Lord who was for us," When men rose up against us,
3. then they had swallowed us up alive, when their wrath was kindled against us;
4. then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul;
5. then the proud waters had gone over our soul.
6. Blessed be the Lord, Who has not given us as a prey to their teeth.
7. Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken and we a escaped.

(According to an explanation attributed to Rabbi Chaim Vital, this entire chapter, a chapter of thankfulness and appreciation for God's aid, deals with the hardships which the Arab kingdom of Ishmael will visit upon the nation Israel as they return home to the Land of Israel after a long and painful exile. This is evidenced by the wording of the beginning of the chapter, "When men rose up against us." Ishmael, not one of the infamous Four Kingdoms which are destined to rule over the world consecutively, appears here in the guise of "men.")

What is the meaning of this divine assistance which we so consistently merit?
In the thirteenth blessing of the daily Amidah prayer, "For the Righteous," we ask of God: "Give goodly reward to all those who sincerely believe in Your name. Blessed are You, God, Mainstay and Assurance of the righteous." What is meant by "Mainstay and Assurance"? The Almighty grants the righteous a mainstay so that they never be in need of assurance. The Almighty does all sorts of little miracles so that when a serious trial arrives we be able to place our trust in Him. The struggle for Jerusalem is destined to be a fierce, international battle. In this war, our entire national substructure will become exposed. God is presently preparing us, via the daily events we face, for an even greater battle.

As far as settling Judea and Samaria is concerned, God was kind enough to grant us years of opportunity in order that we be able to gain a secure footing therein. Who would have dared come and live on the settlements with the foreknowledge that stone throwing was in store? Who would have come knowing that the settlements would eventually become the front line? Who would have come to live in a place where there is nonstop shooting going on? Yet, after the Almighty granted us a long period of mainstay, allowing the settlements to grow and become strong, He provided us assurance in the "stone age." At present God is giving us miracles and wonders in the "iron age." It is impossible to even keep track of the succession of daily miracles. Millions of bullets have been fired in the past year at our settlement, and God has protected us from them. Even when we experience terrorist acts we rest assured that they do not signify exile, Heaven forbid; to the contrary, our grip on the Land of Israel is growing ever tighter as a result of the great self-sacrifice which has been displayed for her throughout this period of crisis and which continues to grow even now. We are astounded by the fact that the spirit of the people does not fall. From where does the nation draw its strength at this trying hour? The Jewish people are a healthy people, and, when put to the test, the nation's inner forces burst forth. The Jews sense that what is happening today is a struggle for existence - a war over the legitimacy of our existence. Many were stuck in the mud of a false vision of peace. "Peace" had become a kind of religion. It spelled a moral and spiritual solution. In the past half year, though, everything has fallen asunder. Perhaps a new period is beginning in which the heart makes room for new ideas. In periods of quiet, progress can take many years. In the heat of battle, on the other hand, things evolve much more quickly. We might describe the national spirit as being marked by anticipation for a new path - a fresh approach.

3) Dialogue Between a King of Israel and the People of Israel
The present war is a period of trial for Israeli leadership. Many fundamental questions arise. The spirit of the masses is riddled by confusion and insecurity. Israeli leadership bears special responsibility. The king chosen to lead the nation must reassure the populace and fill the people with a powerful life force. How is this achieved? Our chapter, to this end, places simple but profound words into the mouth of the king. The course of events which appears outwardly to be quite mundane, is in fact entirely divine. It is God who has chosen to redeem Israel, by virtue of our being His treasured possession.
2:7 I will tell of the decree: The Lord said unto me: "You are my son; this day have I begotten you.

It is necessary to appeal to the hearts of the People of Israel until the words sink in. We must feel that we are God's children and that we are in the midst of a process of birth. Everything which appeared to us yesterday as being nonexistent and unattainable, can, in fact, become a reality overnight. New things can be born. We possess the facets necessary to be more than a plundered people, more than a people whose sole purpose is to sit back idly, We are capable of becoming nation whose true destiny is to be God's son.

We recently celebrated Israeli Independence Day - that day in history on which our public and political leadership demonstrated that when courageously carrying out the necessary steps, like proclaiming the establishment of the state, actions radiate forth impressing all stratums of the population. Indeed, such an act radiates forth to the entire world. In a similar vein, our beloved mentor Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook wrote: "Fearless might and strength of spirit were displayed by our public leaders...they announced to the entire world community and its governments that the State of Israel is a fact. And they (these governments) considered and accepted the fact positively and willingly falling into order one after another in this recognition. This is the very same mighty strength of spirit embodied in our holy and courageous soldiers in each and every field, putting their pure lives on the line for the sanctity of God, His land, His people, and His Torah. This shared strength of spirit springs from a single source - that of 'the One who girds Israel with courage and crowns them with glory.'"

Jerusalem Day is an expression of the dashing victory of the Six-Day War, and a large degree of the force of the spirit of Jerusalem Day was felt as a result of the many days of anticipation which preceded the outbreak of the war.
Today, too, those who are able are called upon to join those at the front. The staying power of the settlers must light the way for the entire nation and for Israel's political leadership. In the face of desperation and lack of confidence we must gird ourselves with faith in the Almighty and trust that He will provide us with the strength and courage necessary for the battle in which we are presently engaged. I have been told that all of what is happening today had been foreseen by experts and was expected to happen exactly as it did. Only one thing came as a surprise - the perseverance of the settlers.
Our steadfastness is dependent upon the simple recognition that everything we carry inside of us, and everything which we ever will, comes from the Almighty. Why is it that God, even after He has decided to redeem the Jewish people and establish a state for us, brings upon us trials?

After many years of exile the Jewish people return to their land, thirsty for a normal existence. This return to normal health causes a kind of drunkenness of the senses. We forget our uniqueness. We are an abnormal people. Abnormal in a good sense. Abnormal in the sense that idealism is the soul of our existence. Our divine role is the goal of our existence. God, therefore, does not allow us to forget Him - He places us into difficult and confusing situations in order that we cry out to Him.

2:8 Ask of me and I will give the nations for your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for your possession.

It is best to turn to God in song and goodness of heart. Yet, when we fail to recognize our unique status as God's chosen people, the Almighty creates a seemingly threatening situation in order that we be awakened and thus turn to Him.
It was the same with the Exodus from Egypt. God brought the Children of Israel to Baal Tzafon (see Exodus 14:1-4) in order to give Pharaoh the impression that it was possible for him to chase after and retrieve the Israelites. And here, the Almighty causes the Jewish people to become frightened. The Egyptians are closing in from behind and the sea stands in the way before them. What can they do? From amidst the pain and fear, the Israelites cry out to Heaven. Why has God placed us in such a situation?
The Midrash (Midrash Rabba, Shemot 21:5) teaches: Why did God do this to them? Because He desired their supplications. To what may this be compared? To a king who was going along his way when suddenly he heard a princess crying out to him to come and save her from bandits. The king hearkened to her cry and saved her. Some time later he expressed a desire to marry her. He wanted her to come and speak with him but she refused. So the king caused bandits to come upon her again so that she would once again cry out to him. When she cried out this time the king said to her, "I have so longed to hear your voice crying out to me." Similarly, when the Children of Israel were enslaved in Egypt they began to cry out and turn their eyes to the Almighty, as the verse states (Exodus 2:23-24): "And it came to pass in the course of those many days… and the Children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out..." Immediately, "God saw the Children of Israel." The Almighty began to take them out with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. Later God longed to hear their voices again but, they were not interested. Therefore, He caused Pharaoh to pursue them. With this the Children of Israel immediately cried out to Him.

The more we hasten to celebrate our national uniqueness in joyful song, the less necessary will it be for God to bring hardships and difficulties upon us.
This section closes with the following verse:
2:9 You shall break them with a rod of iron; you shall dash them in pieces like a potters vessel."

This passage may be interpreted as a description of the prayer and supplication which the Jewish people offer up to God.
Yet it is also possible to explain it as being the continuation of the words spoken by the Israeli leader to the People of Israel. Our having requested of the Almighty to grant us possession of the land gives us the strength to defeat our enemies. One who is wholeheartedly dedicated to fighting for the sake of God can be sure that God will grant him the strength to destroy his enemies.

4) Israel Tells the Nations to Repent and Recognize God's Dominion
Even to the nations of the world do we extend our hand in peace. We tell them that we are not interested in war:
2:10 Now therefore, O you kings, be wise; be admonished, you judges of the earth.
2:11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

Each and every one of us is obligated to serve God. Even if the nations are not yet ready to worship God out of love, they should at least be driven to worship Him out of fear, seeing that they have witnessed God's special providence over the Jewish people.

2:12 Do homage in purity, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when suddenly His wrath is kindled.

In this war between the nations and the Jewish people God's great name will be made known throughout the world. It will become clear that he who places his trust in God is spared of all calamities, and that one who does not do so is bound to lose his way.
Happy are all they that take refuge in Him.

Our chapter sheds light upon the events which we are experiencing at present. The ingathering of exiles, in its initial stages, is a natural process. It happens in such a way that God's involvement goes unseen. The book Kol HaTor explains that the reason for God's incognito involvement today can be attributed to the fact that the present redemption is not the result of our worthiness; it cannot be accompanied by miracles. This very fact, in turn, causes a lack of clarity among Jews as to the Divine origin of the return of the Jewish people to their land. Such a situation allows for the growth of religious schools of thought which remain essentially exilic in approach, while at the same time fostering a secular nationalist movement which does not consciously claim to act in the name of God. Yet there comes the point at which without recognizing the dominion of God and the role of the Jewish people there is no strength to continue. A situation is created in which without faith, there is no ability to persist. With the Six-Day War many questions began to be awakened in the soul of the nation. Who are we? What is our purpose? What does Jerusalem mean to us?
These questions are destined to receive answers in the war of Gog and Magog. In this battle, God's name will be sanctified worldwide. We are witness today to the beginnings of this process. The Almighty, via daily events, is causing us to publicize His great name and to reveal the divine and ethical task which, as God's beloved children, is incumbent upon us. How fortunate we are to have merited being disciples of the school of redemption!
More on the topic of Redemption - Geula

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