Who's Stabbing You in the Back?
“Seeing Israel thrive… is close to miraculous,” said American President Joe Biden during his trip to Israel this past week. He was almost right. But the success of the modern State of Israel in spite of every single threat and obstacle for the last 74 years, is not close to miraculous, it is miraculous. We all know Who makes miracles happen but somehow we find it so hard to give credit where credit is due. Instead, we pat ourselves on the shoulder and conveniently convince ourselves that our own ingenuity and persistence are the reasons we succeed. As for G-d, well, He helps those who help themselves. This somewhat faulty mindset is common for nations and individuals. But the State of Israel is not like any other country nor are the Jewish people like anyone else. We know because G-d told us. And so again, Biden almost got it right when he said that Israel is a nation that will never dwell alone as long as there’s the United States. As the expression goes, “close but no cigar.” Israel and the Jewish people will never be alone because the G-d of Israel lives among them. (Article continue below)
A nation constantly under attack, it’s no wonder that Israel relies heavily on the United States and feels eversafer because of that friendship as well as its great army, the Iron beam, the Iron Dome and Israel’s new peace and trade agreements with one-time enemies. All wonderful things which appear to be going in a positive trajectory, with a caveat, they best not replace the one fundamental that preserves a chosen people and its promised Land, G-d and His Torah. Beware of overconfidence and misplaced trust.
Despite our great successes, in honesty, we must acknowledge in all our worldly affairs we believe one hand washes the other. We work at our relationships to squeeze out the best results for ourselves. Yet when it comes to our relationship with G-d, we are ready to collect with both hands and serve with neither. What right do we have to the Land of Israel altogether if not for the holy Torah? But the Torah is not just an eternal land deed, it is the holy word of Hashem teaching us how to live our lives, i.e., keeping Shabbat, observing kosher laws, giving charity, etc. Therein we also learn time and again the one on Whom we can rely and must rely on: “I shall raise my eyes to the mountains, from where will my help come? My help is from the L-rd, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to falter; Your Guardian will not slumber.” (Psalms 121:1-3)
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Interestingly President Biden cited this week’s parashah in his speech, Balak. Sad that the prez knows which Torah section we are reading when most Jew’s don’t. But that aside, he quotes Bilaam’s words calling us “the people that dwell alone.” That is a blessing not a curse. We are a people destined to stand out, yet we try so hard to fit in by trying to emulate the ways of the world in regards to culture, entertainment, food and fashion. Our job as Jews and a nation is to remain pure and distinct in order to illuminate the world with divine light in our every day-to-day actions. Yet, we seek security, strength and fraternity in ephemeral crutches instead of serving and relying on the Almighty: “Behold the Guardian of Israel will neither slumber nor sleep…The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from now and to eternity.”
In this week’s Torah reading we see how King Balak sought out Bilaam to curse the Jewish people. But Bilaam was unable to curse them. Why? Because the Jewish nation was behaving properly. “How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel.” The Israelites left no void or crevice for curses to sneak in like an open wound accommodating infection. They were impervious to any harm because they didn’t open the door to Satan by sinning. As such, those who cursed them would be cursed, and the haters would drown in the deep end of their own hate. I will never forget the complaint of a disappointed Hamas member years ago who said, “Their G-d changes the paths of our rockets in mid-air.”
Kabbalists teach that each act we do creates an angel--either one that serves as our advocate or as our prosecutor, depending on our deed or misdeed. And so, the question is: What kind of army of angels are you building for yourself and our nation, good ones or bad ones? Are you building spiritual Iron Domes by keeping the commandments or stoking civil war and assisting a nation to turn against itself? When threat comes your way, will your own army deservingly stab you in the back or will it stand as a loyal protector for you, your family and our people, and escort us safely from strength to strength?