Monday, December 22, 2014

“Har Habayit Biyadeinu!” – It Really Is Up To Us

As I write these words, I am enjoying the wonderful Chag of Chanukah, and hope that it will remain as it ought to be, consisting of warm, fun-filled evenings in front of the Menorah, armed with our dreidels and feasting on latkes, enjoying spending quality time with our family and friends. Lonni & I are enjoying it this year in a very special way – we traveled to Israel and are spending Chanukah with our children. It should be a completely joyous and wonderful time.

But, unfortunately, just under the surface, it is not so. In fact, first among the gifts that I brought for each of my children is a can of mace/pepper spray.

Much like it was many years ago, בימים ההם בזמן הזה, Yerushalyim Ir Hakodesh has become a battlefield of late. We, the Jewish people, are under attack. We are being run over at bus stations, stabbed while waiting for rides, having our children kidnapped and killed, knifed while shopping in supermarkets, shot at with thousands of missile, narrowly avoiding a horrendous Rosh Hashanah tunnel attack, attacked with axes and guns while davening in shuls . . . all while there is supposedly a cease fire. And not just in Israel. There are bombings and killings and rapes in London, Paris, Mumbai, Sydney, and smaller cities . . . and here in the USA. Just before we left for Israel we heard of the stabbing of a yeshiva student at 770 Eastern Parkway . . . and on it goes.

And the world – the same world who sees and condemns the brutal horrific killers of ISIS – ignores the fact that ISIS and HAMAS and Hezbollah and Fatah and Al Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood and other groups, are actually all the one and the same, differing in name and location only. These same savages, who contaminate our holy Har HaBayis and then hypocritically call us the violent aggressors, want one thing only – to eradicate not only the State of Israel but Jews everywhere – from the face of the Earth. And yet, the world sees their brutality and inhumanity when they attack anyone, except the Jews. 

And what is our response to all this? Predictably, there are those on the left who blame Israel for not accommodating the “Palestinians” enough, as we have caused so much of the problems in the first place. There are those on the “extreme” political right who say that we need to respond much more firmly, and adopt an approach that takes no prisoners. (My esteemed colleague Rabbi Steven Pruzansky recently wrote a column – which he was subsequently pressured to retract – in which he offered some suggestions of what might be done, most of which were right on the money in my view, even if one could quibble about some of the others.) Those in the political center, are outraged about what is happening, but basically clueless about what can be done about it, save trying to heighten defensive security measures. Here in Israel, elections are once again in process, in no small part due to the frustrations that arise with the government's limited options in dealing with implacable enemies in the face of hostile diplomatic world.

Of course, the religious response that is mostly heard – the frum papers are full of reports of speeches given this week at the sheloshim for the four martyrs killed at prayer in Har Nof – is to increase our Torah and Tefillah and Teshuvah, and pray that Hashem finally have mercy on us. And while, of course, this is necessary, I wonder if that really ought to be the entirety of our response. To quote the esteemed Rav Berel Wein,

Redoubled efforts at greater acts of charity and more meaningful prayer services are undoubtedly noble goals but are hardly words and actions of comfort, consolation or explanation.”

  It seems to me that the time has come that we must think more boldly and meta-historically.

There was a time, about 2300 years ago, when a few Jews decided enough was enough. It was time to stop playing nice, continuing to avoid conflict with the Greeks who had, so said the accommodationists, brought so many positive ideas to the world. It was time stop pretending that the invaders were basically a benevolent group who only sought to bring modernity and culture to the backward Jews of Judea. They saw their true agenda and character – that if the Jews did not go along with their religio/cultural diktat they would murder, pillage, rape, and destroy – and faced up to the fact they were at war with these invaders. Trusting in Hashem, they fought back, they ignored all the Hellenists who preached pacifism, conciliation and peace, and succeeded in driving the invaders out; achieving peace for some generations.

For too many in Israel (and us who have strong opinions from afar), the realization that we are at war – whether we like it or not – has not yet taken hold. Too many harbor illusions that the present state of affairs of a stalemate and of containment can continue, and that if we avoid unduly provoking and annoying the Arabs we will somehow get through this. Too many accept, for instance, that the proximate cause of the slaughter in Har Nof was because of the Jews who have been attempting to pray on the Har HaBayit (Temple Mount), and if we would just “stay off the Har HaBayit”, and, in essence lend credence to the Arab ranting that our presence there “contaminates” the “Holy Arab soil”, things would improve. We have to avoid provoking them, we are told. If only Jews would accept that the Har HaBayit is forbidden to us for now, and that it is proper that the Waqf be granted full sovereign rights there, the current escalation of violence, which not a few pundits have called the beginning of the “Third Intafada”, would end and peaceful co-existence would be restored.

Clearly there are strong differences of opinion as to the Halachic propriety of entering certain parts of the Har HaBayit. The near uniform Halachic consensus was, and remains, that the large Har HaBayit Plaza contains both sacred areas that were part of the original Temple compound and thus – as long as we do not have the Parah Adumah to achieve the requisite level of Taharah (Ritual Purity) – are off limits to Jews, and also contains areas that were never within the Temple compound and therefore have no Halachic bar against entering them. The dispute is between those, on the one hand, who say that the results of modern research, and an incomparably greater familiarity with the terrain than in years past, allow us to determine exactly which are the forbidden areas, and those, on the other hand, who subscribe to the age old view (formulated largely in the Diaspora far from any access to determining the facts on the ground) that misafek (because of doubt) we must consider the entire area forbidden. Far be it for me to offer my own opinion on these sacred matters.

Furthermore, there is a special poignancy in knowing that despite the amazing gift that Hashem has given us in our time of the State of Israel and the incredible Divine Kindness that is evident (to anyone who has a non-jaundiced view) in the fantastic rebuilding that has occurred there over the past century . . . that the gift is still incomplete. For years my practice was to go to Har Hatzofim (Mt Scopus) on Tisha B'Av, and from that vantage point to recite Lamentations and Kinot, while observing “Mt Zion that is barren – where [human] foxes are walking about”. It was from that vantage point that despite enjoying an incredibly vibrant Jewish life in Yerushalayim, I was able to fully feel the words of the Festive Mussaf “We have been distanced from your land, and cannot go up and be seen and prostrate ourselves before you . . . “ Certainly, there are areas about which Hashem has not yet felt that the time is ripe for us to visit, and we must accept His will.

And yet.

It may be true that for religious or sentimental reasons, one should refrain from going up on the Har HaBayit, even on those parts that may be permissible Halachically, as above. Nevertheless, the ONLY reason that we ought to refrain from going up is because WE have decided not to go there, for our own reasons; NOT because of what the Waqf, or the murderous, crocodile tear Islamic fanatics say. They must be told, in no uncertain terms, that Jews have absolute, inalienable, and permanent ownership over that place that is and was sacred to us, thousands of years before Mohamed supposedly (it is not even agreed upon within Islamic doctrine) ascended to wherever he went after leaving this life from there. It is OUR Temple Mount (which they deny), not theirs. And if Jews, following the Halachic authorities who permit prayer there, wish to exercise their rights, they must absolutely be allowed to do so.

I heard a great Rav in Israel once say that General Motta Gur was a prophet, though he did not know it. In the heat of the Six Day War, when the IDF successfully, and unexpectedly, captured the Temple Mount and the Old City of Jerusalem, the whole world heard the General exclaim over the radio “Har HaBayit Biyadeinu!!!  HarHaBayit Biyadeinu!!!” The Temple Mount is in our Hands!!!. Motta Gur meant that we had won the battle and restored Jewish sovereignty to its rightful position for the first time in 2,000 years. Most unfortunately, Moshe Dayan, despite the overwhelming evidence of the destruction and debasement of every Jewish synagogue and Holy site in the Old city that had been captured in 1948, at a time when Israel could have been fully justified in dynamiting the mosques on the Har HaBayit in return, instead granted full legal rights to the Waqf to have say over everything in that compound. What an unforgivably tragic decision!!! What Dayan did not realize was that the Har HaBayit was now truly our hands, to do with as WE, not them, decide.

Nevertheless, the Har HaBayit is still Biyadeinu. It is in our hands, through our actions, that its fate will be ultimately decided. Certainly, in our actions of Torah, Tefillah, Teshuvah, and Mitzvos, to allow us to have the zechus (merit) in the eyes of Hashem to fully restore us to its sovereignty. But it is also Biyadeinu, in our actions as a proud Nation that will recognize that we are not any longer supposed to take the stance that we did the thousands of years of Golus, and meekly submit to the will of the Nations around us. That, Baruch Hashem, with the restoration of our People to Our Land, a new era has begun in which we will no longer tolerate their anti-semitism, and we will proudly stand up for our rights and our security, and our Holy Places.

This article is long enough already, I will please G-d write a follow-up about what our present relationship with the nations of the world ought to be, in general, post 1948. But clearly it is time that we all acknowledge publicly that which the overwhelming majority of the Jewish people today know to be true – a new era has begun. When we are attacked, we are to react not as the helpless victims of old who had no strength or rights of our own, but as a proud Nation at War, who will not tolerate the violence of those who seek to harm them.

We, too, in America have a role to play. We have to know that there is a war going on, and call it as such. We must protest when the American Administration relentlessly pressures Israel to give more and more concessions to those who will not even recognize our right to exist. We must speak up when and where we can to defend the rights of Jews not only for self defense, but to act as a nation at war, and give no quarter to our evil enemies. And most of all, we must daven to Hashem that once again he give us תשועה גדולה ופורקן a great salvation and redemption, as the many are given over to the hands of the few , and the evildoers into the hands of the righteous.
Let us think -- just for a moment -- about the concluding verse of Maoz Tzur that we all sang so often this week,. presumably while thinking more about latkes or presents than the meaning of the words we were mouthing:

Uncover Your holy arm [power]

and hasten the End - [to bring] salvation

Avenge Your servants' blood

from the wicked nation.

For the triumph is too long delayed for us,

and there is no end to days of evil,

Repel Edom into the nethermost shadow

and establish for us the seven shepherds

הקם לנו רועה שבעה

May we have only the warmth and light of Chanukah continue to shine for us, and the final victory over all who wish us harm, when we can have a Chanukas HaBayis, a rededication of the Holy Temple, speedily in our days.