HaRav Dov Begon, Head of Machon Meir.
As of Now
“Jacob arrived safely.” (Genesis 33:18)
In times of national struggle and war it is vital to find the good side of things and to take heart in the knowledge that light is waiting at the end of the tunnel and a new stage in the Redemption of Israel.
The Torah says, “Jacob arrived safely” ([שלם] — lit. whole, perfect, unimpaired). Rashi explains, “שלם-Unimpaired in body, שלם-whole as regards his possessions, and שלם-perfect in his knowledge of Torah.” Jacob left Beer Sheva with nothing and he returned to Eretz Yisrael, physically, financially and spiritually whole. Seemingly, the journey, the exile and the long stay under wicked Laban’s roof should have weakened him. Yet Jacob in Charan was like a tree in Autumn. While the tree may seem to have died, hidden processes are taking place inside it which will make it burst into bloom when Spring arrives. Just, so, Jacob’s descent to Charan was meant to help him achieve ultimate ascent. For the Jewish People as well, the descent of seventy souls down to Egypt served a similar purpose, and when they left Egypt, they numbered 600,000.
Right now, the Jewish People are returning to Eretz Yisrael from 2,000 years of exile, and despite all the darkness, all the travails we experienced, it turns out that we are like a tree approaching Spring. We are physically whole and on the rise — we have a strong state and one of the best armies, if not the best, in the whole world. We are economically sound — despite our being a small country, we are considered to have one of the strongest economic foundations of any nation. Finally, we are spiritually whole — the State of Israel is considered the center of Torah in the world, both in the number of students and in the quality of study. Tens of thousands of yeshiva students, hundreds of batei midrash and thousands of synagogues can be found throughout the country.
When Israel’s ingathering is complete — may it be soon in our day — it will be clear to all that not only was Jacob shalem, whole, in every way, but that we, his descendants, will be the recipients of His blessing of shalom, peace (Psalm 29:11): “The L-rd gives strength to His people. The L-rd blesses His people with peace.”
Gifts, Prayer and War
Jacob prepares well for his meeting with Esau. He is set to give gifts, to pray and to wage war (Genesis 32:9; Rashi).
He is set to bring gifts: Perhaps he will be able to appease Esau in that way. He therefore sends a minchah, a tribute (32:14).
He prays: “O G-d of my father Abraham and G-d of my father Isaac… Rescue me, I pray, from the hand of my brother — from the hand of Esau” (32:10,12).
He is set for war: “The other camp will survive” (32:9). Rashi comments, “The other camp will necessarily survive and be saved, for I will fight over it.”
Jacob is full of faith in Hashem the G-d of Israel and in the eternity of the Jewish People. At the same time, he does not sit idle. When danger looms he takes all the necessary steps to thwart that danger. First he takes the path of conciliation. Then he prays to G-d to help him. Likewise, he prepares for the worst scenario of all — war.
Right now the State of Israel is in a situation similar to that of Jacob. Israel’s enemies who have attacked her since the State’s establishment quite a number of times, with intent to destroy us, are still intent on war. They build enormous armies and equip themselves with various types of destructive weaponry. We try to appease them through agreements involving handing over portions of our beloved land as tribute — G-d forbid! Simultaneously, many Jews pray and weep many tears before G-d over the situation, over the weakness and the social and spiritual difficulties from within, and over the dangers and threats of our enemies.
All the same, we must fight with all our strength when war is forced upon us. In addition to being a holy Tzaddik dedicated to Torah study, Yaacov knows how to employ the physical might of Esav in order to uproot evil from the world. Parallel to strengthening our military posture we must strengthen the nation’s spirit and its unity — in order that we should be able to withstand the difficulties of war. All this we do out of faith “that the L-rd will not abandon His people, nor will He forsake his inheritance” (Psalms 94:14).
Looking forward to complete Salavation.