Sermon – Parshas Vayetzei – 5784

תְּנָה אֶת־נָשַׁי וְאֶת־יְלָדַי אֲשֶׁר עָבַדְתִּי אֹתְךָ בָּהֵן וְאֵלֵכָה כִּי אַתָּה יָדַעְתָּ אֶת־עֲבֹדָתִי אֲשֶׁר עֲבַדְתִּיךָ׃

Give me my wives and my children, for whom I have served you, that I may go; for well you know what services I have rendered you.”

Yaakov has toiled for Lavan for 14 years for his two wives. Hashem has made his efforts successful and Lavan has prospered greatly because of Yaakov. But Yaakov wants to be free to pursue his own fortune and future. He tells his father-in-law that he has served him faithfully and well but it is time to go.

For the past 49 days, Israel has been in a war to accomplish what Yaakov asked for. On October 7th, as we all know, the monsters of Hamas invaded Israel, massacred and raped civilians, and took over 240 hostages. By any measure, Hamas’ attack on Israel was evil, barbaric, and against all law. Israel was the aggrieved victim and took the only action a nation-state could take under the circumstances. They declared war on Hamas and have waged a moral and just war for the past seven weeks.

As I write this, though, most of the guns are silent. A temporary ceasefire is in effect, dependent on the release of hostages by Hamas. To be perfectly honest, I have been of two minds regarding this deal. First of all, to return terrorists who committed stabbing and shooting attacks against civilians strikes me as a really bad idea. Despite the lunacy of the British Sky News claiming that the 3-for-1 prisoner swap represented an Israeli belief that it took 3 Palestinian lives to equal one Israeli, the ratio is a victory of sorts for Hamas and only provides Hamas and other terrorists with an incentive to commit such heinous acts again. 

Furthermore, if we are to allow Hamas to release their hostages piecemeal, we are giving them leverage that they will use to catch their breath, regroup, rearm, and then cause more casualties down the road. Given my druthers, the only deal with Hamas would have been “return our hostages and maybe we won’t shoot you in the head.” 

On the other hand, 13 hostages (25 if you include the Thai hostages that were released) are back home and out of harm’s way. It doesn’t matter what their political ideals were. Indeed, the Kibbutzim and Yishuvim that were so horribly attacked were among the most left-wing, peacenik communities in Israel. But, none of that is relevant. Returning these 13 victims to their families is a mitzvah and at least we have them. We can only hope that Hamas will keep its word (and yes, I know how ludicrous that phrase sounds) and release the remaining hostages on schedule. 

So, there you have it. From a military and strategic standpoint, I am not sure that this so-called humanitarian ceasefire is good for Israel. The humanitarian aid will go to Hamas, without a doubt, and the people of Gaza will just continue to suffer. Hamas, who seems to be losing some control over Gaza, now has some time to get back on their feet. 

But, from a truly humanitarian standpoint, there is a benefit in that at least these hostages are coming home.

If you think that there will be any other benefits, think again. Already the forces of lies are working against Israel’s agreement. They claim that the Palestinians released by Israel are innocent children. That’s just buffalo bagels. It is not Israel’s fault that Hamas has turned their children into weapons by brainwashing them into believing that the highest form of service to Allah is to kill Jews. Every single prisoner committed at least one act of violence against Israeli civilians. But, don’t expect anything like facts to matter here.

And, it is not just the shills on social media that are lying through their teeth. Even the Pope, the leader of millions of Catholics, is leading with lies. In a recent speech, he implied that both Israel and Hamas were guilty of terrorism.

But make no mistake. I do not believe for a moment that Israel is prepared to let Hamas continue to lead in Gaza. And, for this, I have three reasons. 

First of all, the unimaginable brutality of the October 7 attacks proves that Israel, as a nation, cannot tolerate Hamas on its border.

Second, the people of Israel at this point are, I believe, united in the determination to be rid of this existential threat. I think they have come to understand that peace cannot happen with Hamas and that the terrorists have to be extirpated in order for Israel to even have a shot at some peace.  

Third, and this is the most cynical reason of all, I do not think Netanyahu has a political choice. After the massive intelligence failure that led up to the massacre, Netanyahu is in deep political trouble. Personally, I would be surprised if he survives this debacle politically regardless of what he does. Having said that, I think the only chance he has is to deliver a totally devastating victory against Hamas. 

For these three reasons, I believe that Israel will continue to prosecute this war to the end. Of course, the political situation outside of Israel is a factor too. The propaganda war is still raging and Israel is not winning that. They must do better.

I do believe that Israel’s showing the Hamas-generated video of the massacres to members of foreign governments, including the United States Congress,  and the French Parliament, is an excellent move. Let the leaders of these countries see the truth. I understand that Israel is not making the video generally available out of respect for the victims and their families but maybe they should reconsider that. While many of the brainwashed zombies shouting “from the river to the sea” will not believe anything that shows Israel to be in the right, perhaps some will and create a backlash against Hamas and the pro-ceasefire movement. I am not saying I believe it will happen but I am not sure what Israel has to lose.

Israel has also been releasing proof of Hamas’ war crimes. The video showing the terror tunnels beneath Al Shifa hospital are damning. They were descriptive, clear, and very much on point. Despite this, the Hamas PR arm is working overtime to call them into question as “Israeli Propaganda.” Well, I would expect nothing less from these miscreants, but it is annoying nonetheless. 

Regardless of what is going on, our mission remains the same. We must continue to be vigilant against these trolls and we have to show our support for Israel in any way we can. 

I would like to offer one more perspective. Too often we get tunnel vision on an event or series of events. We think of them one way but the truth is that any event, especially world events, can be more than one thing at the same time.

In this case, I have been thinking about the results of the October 7th attack. There is no denying the evil that this inhuman incident represents. The anguish, loss of life, fear for the hostages, friends and family under fire, and so much more are not good things. And, I do not know about you, but the war in Israel consumes so much of my mental and emotional energies that nothing else seems to be working normally. I awake in the morning and, before I do anything, I pull out my phone to check the news. I WhatsApp with friends and family in Israel to ensure that they are OK. Throughout the day, I keep news playing in my headphones as I try, sometimes in vain, to complete my daily tasks.

But there have been positive outcomes. Before the war, Israel was in a state of turmoil. Today, the country is solidly unified. And, while there are calls for Netanyahu’s ouster because of the intelligence failure, there is unanimity on the primary issue of destroying Hamas once and for all.

You all know that the issue of Achdut, unity, is one I consider to be of primary importance. The Talmud, in many places, makes the point that Hashem’s blessings rest on Israel when we are at peace with each other. When I look at the differences in Israel between October 6th and after the attacks, I even wonder if that might not have been Hashem’s purpose all along. Consider this: 

On October 6th, the issue of Chareidim serving in the IDF was a highly divisive issue. Today, Chareidim are signing up for the IDF in droves.

On October 6th, the Chareidi and Chiloni worlds were at odds. Today, although the communities that were attacked were most definitely not observant, the entire religious world has been pouring blood, treasure, and tears into the fight to support and protect their fellow Jews regardless of their level of observance.

On November 14th, 300,000 people, Jews and non-Jews, gathered in Washington, DC to show their support for Israel. There were no reports of violence, of vandalism, or even disrespect to law enforcement. In fact, one police officer is reported to have stated that he received a career’s worth of Thank You’s in that one day. It was a tremendous Kiddush Hashem, a sanctification of Gd’s name.

And, before I say anything else, I want to say this. Every single soldier who has fought, been injured, or killed while defending his fellow Jews, regardless of their level of observance, is pure and holy. I don’t care if they eat pork Morning, Noon, and Night. They have put their lives on the line for all Jews and for the sanctification of His name.

Conversely, I do not care how observant someone is. I don’t care how much they spend on their tefillin, how long they stand Shemona Esre, how hard they Shuckle while they daven, or even how strict they are in the rules of Shabbat, Kashrut, etc. If they stand in support of people with Jewish blood on their hands, they have no portion in the world to come. To quote my brother Ben, there will be a special place in hell for them.

Can I possibly hope that we might finally learn our lesson? Can it be that perhaps we will finally get the message and realize that we have to stand together? I hope so but, to be honest, I will not hold my breath. Human nature is what it is.

In the meantime, my misgivings about the current ceasefire notwithstanding, I am grateful to the One Above for every hostage who will come home. I pray that Israel will finally break the back of Hamas and eliminate that threat to our people. But, until all the hostages are home and final victory is achieved, my plans are unchanged. I plan on fighting the lies in the PR war each and every day and I hope you will too.

Our cry must be the same as Yaakov’s: Give me my women and children. Bring all our hostages home now. May that day come swiftly and soon.

Good Shabbos.

Posted in: Israel-Hamas War

Leave a Reply