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Middle East Conflict: The Bright Side

by Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov


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I have a debt that I feel has come due.

It was in 1993, a few days before Rosh Hashanah, when the entire world was shaken up by the unexpected handshake between Itzchak Rabin and Arafat in the presence of President Clinton, after having signed the Oslo Agreement. 

"Peace had finally arrived..."

At one of the many institutional Lechayim's that are the norm in our very close knit community, all the speakers spoke about the historical times we were living in.

I, too, was invited to say a few words and found myself in a dilemma. I was convinced that the scene in the Rose Garden did not represent anything durable; that it was nothing more than a mirage.

That instead of speaking about a "historical" day I should be talking about a "hysterical" day... But, was that my job? I wondered. Was it my responsibility to express an opinion that flew in the face of all those present?

The others started weeping; Rabbi Akiva laughed
I opted for diplomacy, referring to the "historical" day, thinking to myself that indeed it was a historical day, because the results would eventually – unfortunately - prove the Rebbe right; that peace cannot be achieved through negotiating with terrorists territorial concessions that compromise Israel’s ability to defend itself.

What is happening right now in Israel proves once again how right the Rebbe's words are regarding the security situation in Israel, the stand it should take vis-a-vis its enemies and the special protection that G-d affords the Jews living in the Holy Land.

Why did it occur to me to pay this 'debt' up now and clarify the true intentions that I had when I diplomatically described the day as 'historical' rather than 'hysterical'?

Let me answer with a story.

The Talmud1 tells us:

Again it happened that Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria, Rabbi Joshua and Rabbi Akiva went up to Jerusalem. When they reached Mt. Scopus, they tore their garments. When they reached the Temple Mount, they saw a fox emerging from the place of the Holy of Holies.

The others started weeping; Rabbi Akiva laughed.

Said they to him: "Why are you laughing?"

Said he to them: "Why are you weeping?"

Said they to him: "A place [so holy] that it is said of it, 'the stranger that approaches it shall die,'2 and now foxes traverse it, and we shouldn't weep?"


  • 1. Makot, 24b.
  • 2. Numbers 1:51.


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Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
The Messiah. Moshiach is the person who will usher in an era of peace and tranquility for all of humanity when there will be no jealousy or hate, wars or famine. This is a fundamental Jewish belief.
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Rosh Hashanah
The Jewish New Year. An early autumn two day holiday marking the creation of Adam and Eve. On this day we hear the blasts of the ram's horn and accept G-d's sovereignty upon ourselves and the world. On Rosh Hashanah we pray that G-d should grant us all a sweet New Year.
A Chassidic master. A saintly person who inspires followers to increase their spiritual awareness.
Established by King David to be the eternal capital of Israel. Both Temples were built there, and the third Temple will be situated there when the Messiah comes.
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.