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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4 comments to Bibi, Haazinu, and Kiddush Hashem

  • Natan Slifkin

    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!

  • micha

    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, we all know we are the people of the Torah.

  • L. Oberstein

    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 military cooperation and they are cooperating on delaying Iran’s bomb. I do not think Obama or any other President will want to start another mid east war and I don’t think the American people will allow it. We have to be realistic about how the interests of the nations affects their friendship with Israel I would prefer an isolated Israel under Bibi to a beloved Tibet in exile under the universally praised Dalai Lama.
    What I do not understand is what if anything the world can do about Islam. Buddist Temples were burned to the ground because one Buddist is supposed to have put a picture of a burned Koran on his facebook Page. It takes nothing to get a riot going, just a rumor that someone somewhere showed disrespect to the prophet or the Koran. How can these killers continue to function and how can the world not react?

  • Raymond

    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 our leader. And what are us ordinary people supposed to do, I mean, those of us who are not saintly or even remotely good in any heroic sense? What if we bring shame to our Jewish people, not out of spite or any particular evil inclination, but simply because some of us are weak, and not moral titans? And the more we Jews emphasize the importance of being morally decent people, the more the world expects from us, which only adds to the pressure we already feel on our collective Jewish shoulders.