As the revelations out of Israel regarding the atrocious butchering of more than 1,300 innocent Jews grow increasingly disturbing, one may rightly ask: Why is this happening to a nation the Bible calls a “light unto the nations?” Over the years, people have offered many complicated answers to this problem, but the truth is simple. Some “human beings” want to snuff out the light so that they can be free to perpetrate evil in the darkness.
Hitler summed up pretty well the fundamental motivation behind antisemitism. He said, “Conscience is a Jewish invention” and that he was “freeing man from the restraints of an intelligence that has taken charge. . .” The Islamic terrorists who murdered whole families last week, who kidnapped, mutilated, and tortured Israelis, were rebelling against these same moral restraints.
Even more so, they were rebelling against the Word of God. It’s no coincidence that last week Jews across the world were reading the opening lines of Genesis as part of a scheduled week-by-week reading of the Bible: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
Rashi, the greatest commentator on the Torah asks, why does the Bible begin this way? He was puzzled because he knew God intended Scripture to offer moral guidelines, not a history lesson. Why then start with the story of Creation? His answer was that “if the nations of the world should say to Israel, ‘You are robbers, for you conquered by force the lands of the seven nations,’ they will reply, ‘The entire earth belongs to the Holy One, blessed be He; He created it . . . and gave it to whomever He deemed proper.”
In other words, God begins the Bible the way He does because He wanted to make clear from the start that He created the world, and it was His to distribute as He liked, and He gave what became the Holy Land to the Jews, the people He chose to be a light unto the nations.
In the twentieth century, first the British in the 1917 Balfour Declaration and then the United Nations in 1947 authorized a Jewish nation in Israel, but it was not in 1948 that Israel was truly founded. It was closer to 1,948 years after the Creation, when Abraham was born, that the Jews got their real charter.
When Abraham arrived in the land of Canaan, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I will assign this land to your offspring.” Ultimately, this is the Jew’s true claim to the Land of Israel, one that is accepted by anyone who accepts the Bible, including billions of Christians, Muslims, and adherents of other religions.
But, again, it’s not about territory. Throughout history, people from the ancient Egyptians to the Amalekites, the Romans, the Crusaders, and the Nazis have attempted to destroy the Jewish people wherever they lived. Even now, Hamas and Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Mullahs in Iran are calling for attacks on Jews not just in Israel, but throughout the world. But every time, the Jewish people have endured and emerged victorious.
What has kept the Jews going? The answer is found in the Haggadah, the Passover prayer book that contains the lines, “It is this (faith in G-d) that has stood by our ancestors and us. More than one enemy has risen up against us to destroy us. Rather, in every generation they rise against us to annihilate us. The Holy One, blessed be He, however, saves us from their hand.”
Hamas doesn’t just want to rid the Middle East of Jews, it doesn’t just want to rid the world of the light of Judaism, but of the light of God Himself. And if you read the accounts of the atrocities they committed, you will see what the result of a world without that light would be.
And don’t be fooled. It’s not just the Jews such people want to eradicate. They want to destroy anyone who stands in the way of their animalistic desires. For them, “in the beginning” means start with the Jews, but it doesn’t end there. Like Hitler’s war, Hamas’s war is not a war against the Jews per se but against Jewish and Christian values, the values upon which Western Culture was built. You can see that in their butchery of the 250 peace-loving young people attending a music festival celebrating idealistic, humanist values, in the Negev desert near Gaza.
How, then, can we, as God fearing and loving individuals respond? How can we combat the hate directed against the moral foundation of Western Culture?
Judaism maintains that the purpose of creation is to create a dwelling place for God in this physical world. The land of Israel, the place that God chose as the Holy Land, is the focal point of that dwelling place. It is the place from which light will grow—or darkness spread. So, we must support the defense of Israel.
But we should also cultivate spiritual light wherever we are by recommitting to God’s blueprint, the Bible, by practicing the moral system it lays out for us. Live your life to the fullest, not by indulging the animal within, but by liberating your holiness within. Be kind. Be thoughtful. Create a dwelling place for God in your heart and in your home and share the light with others.