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Redacted from a much more inclusive article by Roy S. Neuberger
The Jewish Press, September 17th, 2013
They were lining up for gas masks in Israel. Apparently, at the very time of year we are supposed to be full of simcha (happiness), Hashem (G-d) wants us to be aware of the possibility of danger.
Indeed, during the Yom Tov (Holiday) of Sukkos, we read cataclysmic haftaras (Torah portions that follow each Sabbath reading) dealing with the ultimate war, the Milchemes Gog Umagog. Where does that war take place? In the Holy Land, of course, where the eyes of the world are always focused.
Why are these events associated with Sukkos? I spoke with two great rabbis about the threat of war. Rabbi Yitzchak Berkovitz discussed the devastating conflicts predicted for the end of history. Who can know whether he or she will live through these wars? Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl recently wrote the following: “We must internalize that [Hashem] runs the world. He decides what is happening today in the world, not Assad, not Obama, not Netanayahu…. Hashem determines.
We emphasize this in the tefillah (prayers) of Rosh Hashanah: ‘Regarding countries, it is said on this day which is destined for the sword, and which for peace, which for hunger and which for abundance….’ We need not fear any human being, for He is with us. When we do as we are supposed to then He will shower us with good things….”
Since Rosh Chodesh Elul (the Hebrew month of Elul) we have been reading, twice a day, the words of King David (Psalm 27): “Hashem is my light and salvation; whom shall I fear? Hashem is my life’s strength; whom shall I dread? When evildoers approach me to devour my flesh, my tormentors and my foes against me, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army would besiege me, my heart would not fear; though war would arise against me, in this I trust.”
It seems illogical that wars are associated with Sukkos, the culmination of the entire Yom Tov cycle. This is “z’man simchaseinu…the time of our gladness,” when we sit in our sukkah enveloped in mitzvos (commandments and good deeds), drinking in spirituality. The sukkah and the arba minim (the branches covering it) draw a circle of protection around us on every side.
Why does the Torah associate this season with not just war, but the Ultimate War? Why, in general, is war associated with the end of history? Can Mashiach (The Jewish Messiah) not come peacefully? Of course he can – if we merit it.
Read more at: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/145547/2013/09/17/
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