The Bitter Truth

Rabbi Reuven Mann

We are at present in the midst of one of the bitterest episodes in Israel’s history, as we have suffered over a thousand murdered and a lot more injured, some in very serious fashion. We are in shock that the nation let down its guard and allowed the most serious border in Israel, the one right outside Gaza, to be completely unmanned. The communities of the south were left unprotected and vulnerable to merciless attack from the most cruel terrorists since the Nazis.

The atrocity took place exactly fifty years after the “surprise” attack of the Yom Kippur War, where Israeli defenses were virtually dismantled and thousands were killed in the initial devastating attack. Israel suffered because it operated under the delusion of infinite superiority over their Arab antagonists, who certainly would not dare to start up with them.

The Jewish State paid a heavy price for its wishful thinking, and the first priority should have been to learn the lessons of the scandalous failure and make absolutely certain that such a thing could never happen again. But happen it did.

Let us turn to the Torah for any light it might shed on the situation we are in. This week’s Parsha, which initiates the new Torah reading cycle, Bereishit, contains the theme of sin and repentance. Both Adam and Chava and their son Kayin violated the commandments of Hashem and were confronted by G-d for their transgressions.

We see from their reactions that man finds it difficult to acknowledge culpability and effectuate genuine Teshuva. The very deeply ingrained emotions which lead to the violation also prevent the person from being honest about what he has done.

Rabbi Israel Chait once pointed out that while Adam and Kayin, when accused by Hashem, failed at first to be forthcoming, the character of their reactions was different. There is a Midrash about a conversation that took place between Adam and Kayin. Say the Rabbis, “Adam encountered Kayin and said to him, ‘How did you fare in your judgement? He answered, ‘I did Teshuva and was acquitted.’ Adam then painfully hit his face and said, ‘Such is the power of Teshuva? In didn’t know that.’”

Kayin’s original response to Hashem’s question about the whereabouts of Hevel was, “I don’t know. Am I my brother's Shomer (guardian)?” In contradistinction, Adam did not deny that he had eaten the forbidden fruit but rather said, “The woman that you placed here with me, she gave me of the fruit and I did eat” (Bereishit 3:12).

Rabbi Chait characterized the response of Kayin as denial, whereas Adam admitted the sin but rationalized and refused to take blame for it. Rabbi Chait concluded that one who rationalizes is further distanced from truth than one who engages in wholesale denial. For when the latter is no longer able to maintain the lie he has no choice but to acknowledge reality, so there is hope for him. But one who is adept at manipulating the truth with all kinds of distortions is very unlikely to ever recognize his flaws.

Israel’s leaders have much to answer for in failing to protect the citizens of her border communities. She needs to introspect and seek to uncover the flaws in her thinking and attitudes that lead to a reckless casualness in protecting her border communities. It was a similar mindset that produced the catastrophic decision to allow the Arabs to get in the first blow in the Yom Kippur War. Israel must not be in denial about its fatal mistakes nor seek to rationalize its absolute responsibility for this latest Mechdal (failure). It is vitally important that the nation look within and seek to repair the defects that produced the latest calamity.

A significant part of the Teshuva entails executing the Torah mandate to utterly destroy Hamas/Amalek. No false sense of mercy may be allowed to interfere with the supreme obligation of Mechiat Amalek (Eradication of Amalek). [Of particular relevance here is the Av HaRachamim (Father of Mercy) prayer, which is recited at Musaf on Shabbat. I urge everyone to read and study it very carefully.]

Do we now understand that the Holocaust has not ended? Do we now understand that there is not an iota of difference between Hamas, Iran, Hezbollah as well as the other terrorist entities and their role models, Hitler’s Nazis? We are obligated to utterly destroy these people, and any extension of sympathy to them constitutes cruelty against the innocent. This is not a time for misguided mercy but for unyielding and brutal retaliation.

Although the price is very great and the suffering too much to bear, we must rise to the occasion and through the tragedy elevate ourselves to a new level of moral greatness. The entire nation, Jew and loyal Druze and Arab citizens have come together in support of the Am and the Army. Let us recognize that we must strive to be better Jews who eschew baseless hatred and keep the Mitzvot in the most intelligent and enlightened manner. That we may be always worthy of Divine protection.

May Hashem give strength to His Nation. May Hashem bless His Nation with peace.

Shabbat Shalom.