Friday, August 8, 2008

DEVARIM: ASHTEI ASAR-THE ELEVENTH HOUR OF THE ELEVENTH DAY REALITY

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

This Shabbat coincides with the world's riveting attention on the start of the Beijing Olympics.

The modern day scourge of terror debuted most strikingly with the murder of the eleven Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich. And it reached its most recent crescendo with the terror attacks of September the eleventh. The number eleven is thus forever linked to the challenge facing redemption. Even Yosef found himself challenged by the number eleven in his dreams. He found himself stuffed in a pit and sold into slavery over the number eleven!

But not only is the number eleven telling. Most striking is its special spelling: Ayin, Shin, Taf and Yud- AShTeY(eleven in Hebrew is usually either achad asar or achat esreh, not ashtei asar) . This conceivably alludes to the territorial challenge which Israel faces today, especially in view of the territorially themed context of the parsha. Mirroring the lexicon of modern Israel's alphabet politics, Ayin stands for Aza (Gaza). Shin stands for Shomron (Samaria). Yud stands for Yehudah (Judaea). But what does the Taf stand for? The letter Taf stands for Tel-Aviv! It represents the entirety of Israel in symbolic puzzle-board fashion. Israel's fate is thus seemingly tied inextricably to the number eleven. Israel futilely offers piece by piece for the sake of peace yet another part of herself, only to be spurned, mocked and humiliated by her enemies sworn to her destruction. Every act of compromise is viewed as a sign of weakness and strengthens the hands of the radicals.

But why Tel Aviv? Why would the holy Torah in its compulsive eternal relevance deem it worthy to foreshadow seemingly UNholy Tel Aviv? Fun city. The UNJerusalem. It didn't even yet exist until the 20th century! No matter. The Divine Mind has infinite time horizons. So why Tel Aviv?

Because our enemies tell us that locale makes no difference in their goal to eradicate the Jewish presence from all of the Land of Israel, that there is no difference whether a Jew is living in Gaza or Tel Aviv or Judaea or Samaria. To our enemies it is all the same. It's all or nothing! No matter how much or how often we offer land for peace, their answer is always the same. All or nothing.
And because in their obduracy it is always an all or nothing proposition, then in spite of ourselves we will find ourselves subsequently and eventually with an all or nothing resolution.

In this era of post Zionist malaise we are seemingly unable to proclaim our eternal connection to Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel, because we are full of safek, of doubt. Amalek, the letters of whose name according to the Kabbalistic science of numerology equals the numerical value of safek, the word for "doubt," has scored again. We are unsure and afraid. Afraid of taking responsibility for our unique destiny. We are wallowing, mired in doubt.

Our Oslo nightmare began only once we formalized our intent to relinquish the gift. In spite of our relentless efforts for peace at any price, our enemies say that it's all or nothing. It makes no difference whether the Jews are in Tel Aviv or in Jerusalem. "They ALL must go," say their poets and leaders (in Arabic), "and take their dead with them." Not a trace should remain. All or nothing. What is compromise in the Arab mind but a decadent western import, a sign of weakness, of shame and humiliation. Ashtey Asar. Even Tel Aviv.

All or nothing. Us or them, apparently. For one day, at the dawn of the eschaton, all the nations of the world will come up to the Land of Israel and ascend His holy mountain, holy Mount Zion, and sing His praises. The world which now resists Israel will one day open up her eyes and embrace her.

But that will not happen until the other meaning of Ashtei becomes manifest in reality. Not merely that the Arab world's goal remains the entire patrimony of Israel, but rather that only the unity of Israel will be the trigger for our final redemption. Just as sinat chinam - causeless hatred, divided us and exiled us, so too its opposite, ahavat chinam- causeless love, will be the key to our redemption. For only when all our hearts will beat as one and we see each other as true brothers of the same father in heaven will we be really worthy of salvation. The secular resident of Tel Aviv and the religious resident of the territories will see each other as brothers and not as enemies. The heart has two ventricles. The heart of Israel also has two ventricles: the secular ventricle and the religious ventricle. The Great Shabbos is coming soon when the heart of all Israel shall again harmoniously beat as one.

Shabbat Shalom!
Good Shabbos!

© 1999-2008 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

This Torah was written in honor of the memory of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm,
Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Yaakov Hakohen Melman, z"l.

Dedications of these writings are available. Please contact me privately.

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About Me

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I played violin with Reb Shlomo and studied under him for over nine years at hundreds of concerts and learnings. Shlomo wanted to give me smicha before he passed. Deepest influences: My father,obm, who was a great scientist and human being, and my grandfather, obm, who was a great Torah scholar who was a musmach of the Mir Yeshiva and taught in Slobodka in Russia before WW1, and was also personal friends with the Chafetz Chaim and came to America in 1914. He knew the Talmud by heart! You could stick a pin in a word and he could tell you what word was on the other side! And my mother, Esther bat Baruch, z"l, who was a scholar of classical Hebrew and Tanach and who gave me a love for the language. And her mother, Anna (Sucher) Deutsch, who was born in Horodenka, spoke six languages, and shared her aged wisdom and eternal sweetness with me. I studied at Brandeis, Hebrew College, Pardes as well as seven years at The Metivta/ITJ earning my Advanced Semicha (yoreh yoreh)under Rav Halivni. What's truly amazing is that Shlomo and Rav Halivni each received semicha from Rav Hutner! But my deepest influences of them all are my sweetest sweetest girls who have taught me the most!