Bibi, Haazinu, and Kiddush Hashem


It was a memorable speech, a moment of truth and clarity after the degredation of the human spirit through the unvarnished evil of Ahmadinejad. The Prime Minister’s presentation before the General Assembly touched on familiar themes: the millennia of continuous Jewish presence in the Land; the miracle of the return and the dividends it has brought mankind; the survival of the Jewish people while its former oppressors have vanished. (One wishes, of course, that he would have mentioned the name of G-d explicitly – as he has in the past.) He spoke with both passion and elegance.

On the other hand, we might wonder why many of us were so delighted and even excited by the address. Other than the red-line cartoon, there was nothing really new in any of his arguments. Why, then, were we so pleased?

One answer may come from a remarkable piece in Pachad Yitzchok (Yom Kippur, Maamar 9). Rav Hutner opines that a key line in parshas Haazinu should, at first glance, “rob us of our tranquility.” Concluding a relatively long section on the sins of Israel and the Divine wrath they will ignite, the pasuk (Devarim 32:26) says, “I have said ‘I will scatter them. I will cause their memory to cease from man’ – were it not that the anger of the enemy was pent up, lest his tormenters misinterpret. Lest they say, ‘Our hand was raised in triumph, and it was not Hashem Who accomplished all this.’” In other words, poised to obliterate us as a people c”v, Hashem relates what stays His Hand, so to speak. We would think that there would be some mention of His love for us, or certainly the merit of all of those pure-spririted Jews who sacrificed so much for Torah and mitzvos. Yet those are not the elements that secure our reprieve, and guarantee that, as the psukim later continue, He will turn His anger on our oppressors.

What works, says the pasuk, is the old argument: “What will all the others say?” It is intolerable that the nations should think they have beaten down the Jewish people, rather than understand that it was G-d’s doing, not their’s. This should indeed be disquieting, says Rav Hutner, until we realize that it does not minimize our importance. Rather, it does the opposite. Hashem’s honor is inextricably bound up in ours. When the nations think they have triumphed over us, it is His image that is tarnished.

Bibi’s presentation excited us because, without telling us anything new, he powerfully reminded everyone else of what they needed to hear again. Some needed to hear it again; others needed to have the truth shoved in their faces, even if they will instantly reject it. Like it or not, that little country and small people they love to hate represents the Honor of Heaven.

Rav Hutner goes on at length to demonstrate that the Honor of Heaven is central to the process of teshuvah. We should not be surprised, therefore, of the difficulty in atoning for chilul Hashem, even though technically one only violates an ordinary lo saaseh in casuing it. The Honor of Heaven undergirds the entire universe of teshuvah. We should not be surprised that besmirching His Name is antithetical to the process of teshuvah. Blackening His Name undoes everything that teshuvah is about.

As our thoughts now turn before Sukkos to teshuvah through ahavah, we might ponder the above, and look for new ways to create Kiddush Hashem rather than its opposite.

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3 years 1 month ago

I am very proud to be Jewish, and would not have it any other way. And yet, there is such enormous pressure to being Jewish. In the antisemitism that I myself have encountered, a lot of it turns out to be a backhand compliment, as they are angry at us for not living up to G-d’s expectations of His Chosen Nation. But what a burden to bear; I cannot really blame Yonah, for example, for trying to run away from G-d, or even Moses for resisting G-d for a full week, in his attempt to avoid being… Read more »

L. Oberstein
3 years 1 month ago

I watched the speech on the internet and find him to be eloquent. The problem is that the Umot Haolom are not going to help us if we are in dire need. Let us not forget that when Israel was attacked on Yom Kippur and Nixon sent armaments, no European country would let them land and refuel on the way. I don’t know what is going on in secret but Israel has to be able to defend itself. I do believe that the US and Israel have enough common intersts in the region that there is a high level of… Read more »

3 years 1 month ago

I fully agree with R’ Adlerstein’s article. That said (and unfortunately on the internet it needs saying — most comments appear to be voicing disagreement), I want to add a second source of happiness:

The media didn’t comment on the opening of his speech, but hearing it gave me such pleasure. Mr Netanahu opened by mentioning King David. And then Yom Kippur. And Avraham, Yitzchaq and Yaaqov.

The fact that the majority of Jews are estranged from observance may at times lead us to despair. Then there are reminders like these that no, we are still not cut off from our roots,… Read more »

Natan Slifkin
3 years 1 month ago

Yasher koach. Incidentally, the titles of the Cross-Currents post appear in Google Reader, and I find that it is always possible, and indeed quite easy, to guess the author based on the title!