Parshas Eikev

The Siege, The Story of Israel and Zionism

This morning September 6, 2014, I saw my friend Hart Hasten in Shul. I mentioned to him that I was reading the book, The Siege, The Story of Israel and Zionism, written by Conor O’Brien, an Irish diplomat. Hart Hasten mentioned that he brought in Conor O’Brien years ago to speak and that Conor O’Brien gave him a number of autographed copies of the book. I have to post the following essay I sent to Yair Hoffman on Parshas Eikev.


I read your Parsha Sheet on Eikav.

Shabbos morning I continued my reading of Conor O’Brien’s book titled, “The Siege, The Story of Israel and Zionism”.  It is clear that the Jews were being kicked out of Europe.  It started in 1881 with the Tzar’s decrees and pogroms.    I have written about this on my blog.

How should the Jews have reacted in 1881 moving forward?   Per Amos Elon, the Sfes Emes in 1903 said in response to Herzl that Mosiach can only come through miraculous means, clearly rejecting Herzl and by doing so rejects the Gra’s approach, the Besht, Reb Tzvi Hersh Kalisher, and my Zedi, the Pilaver Rebbe.  Yes – the Gra believed that Moshiach could come via natural means, worked towards bringing Messiach, and sent his students to Israel to start the process.  All these great leaders felt the Moshiach can arrive and probably will come through natural means.   At the time of  Ezra the Jews returned back to Israel by natural means and built the second Temple.  Despite the chance to go back to Israel, a majority of Jews decided to stay in Babylonia, and of the Jews who went to Israel many had non-Jewish wives.  We did have Ezra, who was a prophet.

It is easy to say, do Tshuva, and everything will be okay.  It is easy for right -wing Orthodoxy to say blame the Jews for their own misfortune, after all they are sinners.  This is the standard response of right-wing Orthodox Judaism; however, life is messy and complicated.   The Jews of the Pale of Settlement were basically Frum, yet the Czar went after them with cruel abandon.  We do not know Hashem’s considerations.

After reading some more of The Siege, I had to read through Eikav before going to Shul to find insight.  I did not have any time to read through the Rishonim.  I did not have the Sefer Menachem Tzion from Rabbi Menachem B. Sachs, son-in-law of Reb Tzvi Pesach Frank, for a Zionistic vort on the Sedra.   No insight.   Based on the Sedra, it would appear questionable as to how the Jews merited entering the land of  Israel, the first and second Temples due to their apparent sins.  A generation or two after entering Israel, some Jews worshipped idols.  Moshe Rabbinu’s own grandson was a priest to idol worshippers.

Perhaps the insight is that the Jews are not perfect because life is complicated and messy.  We do not know the ways of Hashem. Perhaps we have to be positive, optimistic, and look at everyone with eyes of Reb Avrohom Yitzchok Kook.  We have to look at life with the approach of Amcha Kulum Kedoshim – your entire Nation is Holy.   We have to be Lubavitch in America. Clearly the Jews were being kicked out of Europe. Perhaps this is what was missed.


Megilah 12A – Missed Opportunity – History Repeats Itself

July 24, 2014

The war in Gaza is continuing.  Let us hope for peace and security.  

 This morning in Daf Yomi I learned an amazing Gemara. It almost mirrors events in the Jewish world from the late 1700s to 1948. It mirrors the period of time when the students of the Besht and Gra start to move back to Israel to settle the land and bring the Messiah, and ends in 1948 when a Jewish state is created, and Jews have a homeland.

 The Gemara in Megillah 11b, brings down two verses that talks about the 70 years in which the Jews will be in the Babylonian exile.   

 Yirmiyahu – Jeremiah Chapter 29, Verse 10

1) . כִּי כֹה אָמַר יְהֹוָה כִּי לְפִי מְלֹאת לְבָבֶל שִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה אֶפְקֹד אֶתְכֶם וַהֲקִמֹתִי עֲלֵיכֶם אֶת דְּבָרִי הַטּוֹב לְהָשִׁיב אֶתְכֶם אֶל הַמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה:

 10. For so said the Lord: For at the completion of seventy years of Babylon I will remember you, and I will fulfill My good word toward you, to restore you to this place.

 Daniel – Chapter 9, Verse 2

ב. בִּשְׁנַת אַחַת לְמָלְכוֹ אֲנִי דָּנִיֵּאל בִּינֹתִי בַּסְּפָרִים מִסְפַּר הַשָּׁנִים אֲשֶׁר הָיָה דְבַר יְהֹוָה אֶל יִרְמִיָה הַנָּבִיא לְמַלֹּאות לְחָרְבוֹת יְרוּשָׁלִַם שִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה:

 In the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, contemplated the calculations, the number of the years that the word of the Lord had come to Jeremiah the prophet, since the destruction of Jerusalem seventy years.

 These two Verses that talk about the 70 year exile, uses different terms for the 70 years. Daniel 9:2 talks about “70 years after the destruction of Jerusalem” and Yirmiyahu talks about “For at the completion of seventy years of Babylon.” At first I thought that the two verses referred to the same start time, the destruction of Jerusalem, the language is different but the meaning is the same. 

However the Gemara on 12a says that these two verses are two different 70 year periods.   Yirmiyahu 29:10 starts when Babylonia became a world power and ended 70 years later when Cyrus took power a few years before the reign of Ahasveiros.

The following is the Talmud on 12a:

“Still, there is a contradiction between the texts? It is written [in one], For at the completion of the 70 years of Babylon the jews will be restored to Israel and it is written [in the other], 70 years afer the destruction of Jerusalem the Jews will be returned to Israel.

 Raba replied: [The first term] was for a remembernce only, and this was fulfilled, as it is written, Thus said Cyrus king of Persia,  God has made me the ruler of the entire world and he has commanded to build him a house in Jerusalem.

 Rav Nachman son of Rav Hisda gave the following exposition. What is the meaning of the verse, Thus said the Lord to his “anointed”  to Cyrus, whose right hand I have taken hold. Now was Cyrus the anointed as a king by the Lord?   Rather what it means is: The Holy One, blessed be He, said to the Messiah: I have a complaint on your behalf against Cyrus. I said, He shall build my house and gather my exiles, and he [merely] said, Whosoever there is among you of all his people, let him go up to Jerusalem (but did not command all to return).

This Gemara is saying that both 70 year terms are true.  Cyrus should have forced the Jews to go back to Israel, built the Temple, and the Messiah would have come during the reign of Cyrus and before Achashveirosh. AMAZING. This would be done via the efforts of a non-Jewish king, and through natural means. Haflah V’Phalah.   The prophecy of the 70 years in Yirmiyahu 29:10 would have come true with Cyrus initiating the return back to Eretz Yisroel and not through miraculous means. In fact the Rashba says that a Jewish king who had been dead for 100 years would come back to life to lead the Jewish people.

 However Cyrus failed, not because he did not start the process. He did start the process, but he did not force the issue and was not strong enough in his efforts.  The failure of Cyrus led to the prophecy of Daniel 9:2 as the actual period of time for the 70 year exile. The return to Eretz Yisroel starts 19 years later when Darius the son of Achashveirosh and Esther allows the Jews to move back to their homeland and rebuild the Temple.  He was Jewish, but presumably, a Persian.  No open miracles.  Despite a Jewish homeland, most Jews elect to stay in Babylonia.

Fast forward to the late 1700s when the Gra’s and the Besht’s students go to Israel to start the process of settling Israel and bringing the Messiah, all through natural means.

Fast forward to 1881, 2 million Jews of white Russia are forced to leave their homeland, there were stirrings of a return to Israel, the Chovevi Zion society is formed, Herzl sees the Dreyfus trial and proposes the Jewish State.  My Zedi, the holy Pilivar – Kotzker Rebbe writes in his book, written in 1885+-, that the land of Israel should be purchased from the Ottoman-Turkish empire to resettle Jews. The Jews must create an agricultural society so that people will have industry and have a means of livelihood. He writes that there is no Mitzvah to settle in Israel to be supported by the diaspora through charity funds. He envisioned an agricultural society, back to the land.   He asks, why are tens of thousands of Jews going to America, when God promised Israel, the land flowing with milk and honey to the Jewish people.

 The Ottoman- Turkish empire refuses to sell the land in the 1880s, however, in 1917 we have the Balfour Declaration. Jews can go en masse to Israel. However, not enough go to Eretz Israel, and stay trapped in Europe. Hitler comes to power and wants to destroy the Jewish people. Unlike the plot of Haman, which was foiled, Hitler destroys European Jewry. The Jews are finally able to get to Israel and create a State of their own.