“When we reflect on the aggadah that the descendents of Sisera taught Torah in Jerusalem and descendents of Haman taught Torah in Bnei Brak [and the descendants of Sennacherib taught Torah in public]
(Gittin 37b) we reach the depth of compassion, which call on us not to be caught up in the stream of hatred even of our fiercest enemy.”
Rav Kook TZ’L (Orot HaKodesh:3:326)
The depth of compassion calls on us not to be caught up in the stream of hatred even of our fiercest enemy. That is a challenge.
Let us look at the amazing Talmudic prophecy pointing us there.
The descendants of our great historical enemies are going to be Torah teachers! The heavyweight enemies!
Sisera was Canaanite general who oppressed the Israelites for 20 years until our heroine Yael got him drunk and beheaded him. (1)
Haman, a descendant of Amalek, was the archetypal anti-Semite who tried the first recorded genocide of Jews in exile. (2)
(Unlike Hitler he didn’t succeed.)
Sennacherib was an Assyrian king (705-681 BCE) who also didn’t like Israelis, Judah-ists and Judah-ism. In addition to defeating and exiling the Ten Tribes (now lost) he laid siege to Jerusalem (3)
In his own words:
“Because Hezekiah, king of Judah, would not submit to my yoke, I came up against him, and by force of arms and by the might of my power I took 46 of his strong fenced cities; and of the smaller towns which were scattered about, I took and plundered a countless number. From these places I took and carried off 200,156 persons, old and young, male and female, together with horses and mules, asses and camels, oxen and sheep, as countless multitude; and Hezekiah himself I shut up in Jerusalem…” (Sennacherib’s_Annals).(4)
Hamas would have liked these guys.They certainly see themselves as continuing in their evil tradition.
Does this Midrash suggest that the descendants of Amin Al Husseini (the grandfather of Hamas) will become teachers of Torah?
Its hard to see it based on current evidence. Their immersion in hate seems too powerful and deep for such a transformation to occur.
There are however many ways to teach and learn Torah-directly and indirectly.
is there a Torah that we are to learn from them?
From our blood soaked encounter with them?
Right now the Hamas leadership are coming out of the bunkers and surveying the damage they brought upon themselves while declaring ‘victory’.
In Israel there is general gratefulness that the active war seems to be in respite. Many are in mourning and many will be in rehab for quite some time. The opportunity to destroy as many tunnels as possible is generally seen as a blessing. Apparently they were to be used this coming Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur to surprise attack Israel and murder and kidnap as many as possible.
That the cease fire occurred right before the 9th of Av is certainly appropriate. The Midrash tells us that on the afternoon of this day of mourning, the Messiach is born. In the time of greatest darkness, a great light is also born.
Kabbalistically this is a time of transformation. We have just completed the three week period of mourning that began on the 17th of Tammuz-marking the breaching of Jerusalem’s wall before the destruction of the 2nd Temple. These weeks just culminated in the mourning day of the 9th of Av-when the 1st and 2nd Temples were destroyed. We are approaching the 15th of Av, a great yearly celebration of the world coming back into alignment after a period of great negativity.
[Further explanation of the Kabbala behind this in footnote (4)]
What is the great transformation that humankind awaits, longs for?
We have created a world full of anger, full of war.
How are we to repair that?
Rav Kook wrote in the years prior to WW1:
“It is an art of great enlightenment to purge anger from the heart entirely, to look at all with a benevolent eye, with compassionate concern, without any reservation. It is to emulate the eye of God, the elevated eye, that focuses only the good. This includes the work wrought by the wicked, even those most thoroughly immersed in evil It means to pity them for being sunk in the mire of wickedness, to find their good aspects and to minimize their aspects of guilt.”(Lights of Holiness, 3:326)
What does this mean for us?:
“It is for people of integrity, who concern themselves with holy pursuits in truth and in uprightness, to refine all the ways of thinking that are active in life, from their dross, and to establish them on their clearest basis. It is precisely through the refinements of thoughts in which there is a mixture of evil and impurity that there will emerge great life-renewing light, exceeding in importance the conventional positions”. (Ibid)
Through out confrontation with evil, our willingness to face it, we can participate in its transformation. That process creates an even greater reality.
But what about the hatred? Is it really possible to ‘purge anger from the heart entirely’? Rav Kook continues:
“Hostility and disparagement are to be directed not at what is present in any movement or culture, but at what is absent in it. In other words they are to be directed at the fact that they have not yet completed the process of clarification to a point of being linked with the higher sweep and the penetrating perception of the sublime idea, of the absolute reality of God, in its majestic significance.” (Ibid)
Hatred is to be directed at the fact that humankind has not yet realized their full potential. It is to be directed at the fact that so many people are caught in the mire of evil and are not expressing, experiencing their true and highest self. They are not linked with the higher reality
Our challenge and our work is to participate in helping them extricate themselves from their immersion in evil.
It is clear that the first necessary step to do that is to remove/transform any and all evil within ourselves. Not easy but apparently do-able.
To transform our anger into passion for tikkun-repair.
Perhaps this is the Torah that we are challenged to learn in order to fulfill our goal of creating peace on Earth for all humankind.
“When love possessed people see the world, especially living creatures full of quarrels, hatred persecutions and conflicts, they yearn with all their being to share in those aspirations that moves life toward towards wholeness and unity, peace and tranquility. When they confront the human scene and find divisions among nations, religions, parties, with goals in conflict, they endeavour with all their beingt to bring all together, to mend and to unite…They want that every particular shall be preserved and developed and that the collective whole shall be united and abounding in peace.” (Lights of Holiness, 2-457)
“To bring all together, to mend and to unite.”
This is our work , this is our challenge.
4. The Kabbalistic explanation and background:
It is important to know that each month in the Hebrew calendar has a permutation of the Divine Name-י-ה-ו-ה.
These 4 letters can be permuted into 12 different orders that also correspond to the 12 Tribes.
Each letter is also connected to each week of the month.
This has interesting ramifications.
The first month, Nissan is permuted .י-ה-ו-ה.
The second month Iyar is permuted י-ה-ה-ו.
These continue. Tammuz-the month before Av- is permuted -ה-ו-ה-י.
Here the Divine Name is backwards. During Tammuz we begin the three week period of mourning from the 17th of Tammuz-marking the breaching of Jerusalem’s wall before the destruction of the 2nd Temple. These weeks culminate in the mourning day of the 9th of Av-when the 1st and 2nd Temples were destroyed.
The permutation for the month of Av is ה-ו-י-ה Note that the first two letters are still in ‘backwards order and the third and fourth letters are back to the forward order. We celebrate the realignment at the cusp of the third week-on the 15th of Av-Tu Be’Av. Great time for love to align.
The Translation of the passages from Rav Kook are based on R, Ben Zion Bokser’s translation:
Comments are invited:
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