Parshat Vaera 5769- Rav Shames
I would like to focus on a chapter of Tehilim that we have just spent the last three weeks saying daily, during the recent war here in Israel (and of course we will relate it to the parsha as well).
Tehilim as a very versatile tool and helps us meet our needs of teffila in each and every occasion that arises. We find the most beautiful works during times of joy as well as during crisis. Amongst the perakim commonly said during a time of war is Psalm 83. I would like to copy the entire chapter bellow, if this gets messed up in your email program please see http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt2683.htm.
Psalms Chapter 83
|א שִׁיר מִזְמוֹר לְאָסָף.||1 A Song, a Psalm of Asaph.|
|ב אֱלֹהִים אַל-דֳּמִי-לָךְ; אַל-תֶּחֱרַשׁ וְאַל-תִּשְׁקֹט אֵל.||2 O God, keep not Thou silence; hold not Thy peace, and be not still, O God.|
|ג כִּי-הִנֵּה אוֹיְבֶיךָ, יֶהֱמָיוּן; וּמְשַׂנְאֶיךָ, נָשְׂאוּ רֹאשׁ.||3 For, lo, Thine enemies are in an uproar; and they that hate Thee have lifted up the head.|
|ד עַל-עַמְּךָ, יַעֲרִימוּ סוֹד; וְיִתְיָעֲצוּ, עַל-צְפוּנֶיךָ.||4 They hold crafty converse against Thy people, and take counsel against Thy treasured ones.|
|ה אָמְרוּ–לְכוּ, וְנַכְחִידֵם מִגּוֹי; וְלֹא-יִזָּכֵר שֵׁם-יִשְׂרָאֵל עוֹד.||5 They have said: ‘Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.’|
|ו כִּי נוֹעֲצוּ לֵב יַחְדָּו; עָלֶיךָ, בְּרִית יִכְרֹתוּ.||6 For they have consulted together with one consent; against Thee do they make a covenant;|
|ז אָהֳלֵי אֱדוֹם, וְיִשְׁמְעֵאלִים; מוֹאָב וְהַגְרִים.||7 The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites; Moab, and the Hagrites;|
|ח גְּבָל וְעַמּוֹן, וַעֲמָלֵק; פְּלֶשֶׁת, עִם-יֹשְׁבֵי צוֹר.||8 Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre;|
|ט גַּם-אַשּׁוּר, נִלְוָה עִמָּם; הָיוּ זְרוֹעַ לִבְנֵי-לוֹט סֶלָה.||9 Assyria also is joined with them; they have been an arm to the children of Lot. Selah|
|י עֲשֵׂה-לָהֶם כְּמִדְיָן; כְּסִיסְרָא כְיָבִין, בְּנַחַל קִישׁוֹן.||10 Do Thou unto them as unto Midian; as to Sisera, as to Jabin, at the brook Kishon;|
|יא נִשְׁמְדוּ בְעֵין-דֹּאר; הָיוּ דֹּמֶן, לָאֲדָמָה.||11 Who were destroyed at En-dor; they became as dung for the earth.|
|יב שִׁיתֵמוֹ נְדִיבֵימוֹ, כְּעֹרֵב וְכִזְאֵב; וּכְזֶבַח וּכְצַלְמֻנָּע, כָּל-נְסִיכֵימוֹ.||12 Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, and like Zebah and Zalmunna all their princes;|
|יג אֲשֶׁר אָמְרוּ, נִירְשָׁה לָּנוּ– אֵת, נְאוֹת אֱלֹהִים.||13 Who said: ‘Let us take to ourselves in possession the habitations of God.’|
|יד אֱלֹהַי, שִׁיתֵמוֹ כַגַּלְגַּל; כְּקַשׁ, לִפְנֵי-רוּחַ.||14 O my God, make them like the whirling dust; as stubble before the wind.|
|טו כְּאֵשׁ תִּבְעַר-יָעַר; וּכְלֶהָבָה, תְּלַהֵט הָרִים.||15 As the fire that burneth the forest, and as the flame that setteth the mountains ablaze;|
|טז כֵּן, תִּרְדְּפֵם בְּסַעֲרֶךָ; וּבְסוּפָתְךָ תְבַהֲלֵם.||16 So pursue them with Thy tempest, and affright them with Thy storm.|
|יז מַלֵּא פְנֵיהֶם קָלוֹן; וִיבַקְשׁוּ שִׁמְךָ יְהוָה.||17 Fill their faces with shame; that they may seek Thy name, O LORD.|
|יח יֵבֹשׁוּ וְיִבָּהֲלוּ עֲדֵי-עַד; וְיַחְפְּרוּ וְיֹאבֵדוּ.||18 Let them be ashamed and affrighted for ever; yea, let them be abashed and perish;|
|יט וְיֵדְעוּ– כִּי-אַתָּה שִׁמְךָ יְהוָה לְבַדֶּךָ:
|19 That they may know that it is Thou alone whose name is the LORD,
the Most High over all the earth.
The first nine pesukim refer to the enemies and their plans to attack the Jewish people. There are two elements that are very obvious in this section; firstly, there is a pact or a coalition that is formed against us. We are not involved in a limited struggle against one clearly defined enemy; rather all of the nations of the area are united in their ultimate goal to wage war against us. It began as “crafty converse” (passuk 4) it developed into a joint statement (passuk 5) and eventually the consultations led to a full fledged pact or covenant.
The players involved are woven from the full array of the enemies of the Jewish people. We do not have an account of all of the nations mentioned waging war against us at one specific time; rather the author has taken hundreds of years of enemies and sat them down at one table and has had them sign the declaration of war.
Geographically, as well, we find nations that shared a border with us on the North, East and South (how fortunate we are to have our Western border be the sea). Even nations that do not share a border us (Assyria) have joined the fray and are giving their regional support to the struggle.
What is it that could join all of these forces, each with their own agenda, into a single unit with such a clear mission?
We find the glue in passuk 5 and passuk 13:
They have said: ‘Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.’
‘Let us take to ourselves in possession the habitations of God.’
The battle is one to simply wipe out the name of Israel and replace us as the residents of God’s land. All other claims that are raised throughout history are simply cover stories for the true impetus of our enemies. We do not have border disputes like other normal countries and we are not attacked for any of an array of geopolitical reasons. We represent God here in Eretz Yisrael and we are therefore, in the eyes of our enemies, the target and the objective to be removed.
In the second half of the Psalm we turn to God with a prayer (pessukim 10-17). We call out for his assistance and asked to be saved. However if we look carefully we can note that we are not simply begging for salvation. In our call to God we point out our history, we ask Him to deal with whatever present day enemy in the same way he dealt with our enemies of the past, generation after generation. The battle is the same, our partner is the same and as we feel a very real threat in our precarious situation. We know that there is a comfort in our confidence that God will help today as he has in the past. The battle is not ours alone, it is all about Godliness or evil.
What is the ultimate goal of the struggle? This we finding the final verses:
18 Let them be ashamed and affrighted for ever; yea, let them be abashed and perish;
19 That they may know that it is Thou alone whose name is the LORD,
the Most High over all the earth.
Military victory is not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to make all aware of Hashem, and recognize his Omnipotence. The concept of “knowing Hashem” or even more specifically “knowing the name of Hashem (YHVH)” as it appears here takes us back to our parsha.
Hashem tells Moshe out the outset of Parshat Vaera that He had made Himself know to the forefathers only as El Shadai but never revealed himself as Hashem- YHVH. It is now time to make use of this new revelation. There are many different explanations of the distinction between these two names of God, many of them well beyond the scope of my understanding. On a simple level (see Rashi and the non Kabalistic parts of the Ramban) the idea of YHVH is the concept of the Eternal. The name is a shortened version of “haya, hove, v’yehiye” (was, is and will be). God is not only powerful, great, kind etc. but as well He is Eternal. He has made us promises in the past and despite the fact that we have not always seen their fulfillment immediately, we have full confidence in what the future holds. Promises were made to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov and now the time has come for fulfilling them.
In the case of our Psalm 83 we see the ultimate goal as bringing the Eternal God to the foreground in making His presence known. It is not our battle it is His. It began back in Egypt and continues generation after generation until today. As we say each year in the Haggadah, V’He She’ umda- In each and every generation they plot to destroy us and it is Hakadosh Baruch Hu who saves us each and every time.
(As a matter of fact I personally was first introduced to this perek of Tehilim 18 years ago this week, while sitting in our “sealed rooms” during the first Gulf War, while Sadam Hussein fired Scud rockets at Israel. At the time the future was not clear and we asked many questions about what would happen with both Iraq and the entire coalition that supported him (including our Palestinian neighbors who eagerly cheered each and every missile). Thankfully we can look back today and see the work of Hashem and so to we can turn to God and hope that our present day enemies meet a similar fate to Sadam).
We have been witness to a miraculous few weeks here in Israel and to incredible statements of faith. Tzahal went to battle like a Jewish army should and I am sure that you have all seen and heard of the stories (including the fact that the vast majority of the Golani Brigade went in wearing tzitzit, which for many was their first time).
Our thoughts and teffilot are still with those who are injured and with the families that have paid the most dear of price. May the ultimate goal of allowing Hashem to be present in this world through Am Yisrael be realized in its full sense.