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Bamidbar: ‘Israel is on fire’

Israel is on fire this week and we live in an age where this cannot be denied. Footage of skies filled with rockets fired maliciously into densely populated neighborhoods, flood our social media accounts daily. Our brethren live in shelters and too many have been struck. The Iron Dome is majestic and powerful, but it isn’t perfect.

The diabolical strategy of Hamas is clear. Use every available dollar to amass a huge store of rockets and lob them over the fence all at once. Israel can’t defend against them all and the hope is that some will slip through and Jewish blood will be spilled. The hope is that Jews will be brought to their knees. The hope is that we will turn tail and flee. But we won’t.

Daniel wrote that before the coming of Mashiach things will be clarified and purified and the wise will understand. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to distinguish the righteous from the wicked in this scenario. Hamas is intent on killing as many civilians, including children and the elderly, as they can. Israel is responding with laser precision, knocking out buildings in Gaza only after serving notice to those that Hamas use as human shields. Targeting only those who have blood on their hands and are considered combatants.

Yet, the usual complaints are heard from the usual suspects around the world that Israel must deescalate. To these countries, de-escalation means to let the Jews die quietly. To allow Muslim worshipers to riot, loot, and burn down synagogues. And the worst offense of all, weaponize the Temple Mount by turning it into a staging ground for attacking Jews. When Jewish police enter the Temple Mount to break up these attacks, the world cries foul. Yet, they use our sacred space to attack our brethren.

A History of Sanctity

The Torah tells us that the Kohanim (Jewish priests) were instructed to prevent their fellow Jews from entering the sacred space of the Temple.

If a non-Kohen should enter and behave inappropriately in the Temple, he would die.

The Torah tells us that when the Kohanim entered the Temple in the desert to prepare the sacred vessels for transport, they would cover the vessels before removing them. This, so the people would not feast their eyes on the sacred vessels.

The Tanach tells us that when the Philistines took the Holy Ark captive in war, they were struck by a plague and returned it soon after. If a high priest entered the Holy of Holies with an inappropriate thought, he would die.

Yet, when the Jews turned from G-d, the aura of divinity receded, and the Temple was left vulnerable. Marauders could enter, pillage, and destroy, and get away with it. In 420 BCE, the Babylonians captured the Temple Mount and razed the first Temple. Kohanim fought to their last breath to prevent it, but the Temple burned to the ground.

In 61 BCE, Pompey came to Jerusalem at the head of his army and fought his way onto the Temple mount. When his soldiers breached the walls, the Temple service continued. For every kohen that they slay, another stepped up to take his place. In all, 12000 kohanim were killed on that day. After this, Pompey entered the holy of holies with his barbaric sword on his hip. Something stirred in him in that moment, and he stepped out humbly. The kohanim begged him to take their lives and leave the Temple intact. He spared the Temple and left the country.

In 25 CE Pontius Pilot sent his army to the Temple with graven images of the Emperor. Jews begged him to remove the offending statutes, but he refused. They lay down on his palace grounds in protest for five days. When they were threatened by the sword, they cried out that they were ready to die rather than profane the Temple. This moved even the hardened Pilot to rescind.

In 66, when the Roman procurator Florus attempted to assert control over the Temple, the Jews had their fill and rebelled. This led to one of the fiercest wars that Rome ever fought. The harshest battles were fought on the Temple Mount and the Temple’s courtyards. Alas, Heaven decreed against the Jews and the Temple was razed to the ground.

This is a brief history of the Temple. There were many more such events, but these suffice to demonstrate our spiritual, emotional, and historical ties to this sacred place. Today, once again our enemies use our sacred ground to launch attacks against us. Does the world not understand how sacred this mountain is to us? Does the world not know our history on this mountain? Does the world not know the passions stirred in the collective Jewish heart at these devilish images?

Our Space

The answer is no. The world doesn’t know. Sadly, some of our own children also don’t know. And that is our fault because we haven’t told them. Perhaps we don’t know because no one ever taught us. The events of this week, as Israel is on fire, must arouse us not only to stand together with our brethren in the Holy Land but also to stand for the Holy Land.

We need to recognize that this is truly our space. Our G-d promised to dwell amidst our people, on our mountain. The divine presence that suffuses this land is rooted in the depths of our soul. When G-d seems invisible on this mountain, and angry terrorists run through it with no consequence, it tears our hearts and souls to shreds. Our restraint is in fact laudable. Perhaps we are too restrained while Israel is on fire. It is time for the world to see that.

But there is something else that we must see. If our sacred mountain can be a home to people who treat us like their enemy, it is only because Mashiach is not here yet. If Israel is on fire, perhaps it is only because we have yet to be liberated.

When Mashiach comes, G-d will once again be visible on this mountain, its sanctity will return, and no one will profane it. So let us stand together with our brethren in Israel and let the world see our solidarity. Let us also do our utmost to hasten the arrival of Mashiach so that sanctity returns to the land and peace descends upon our people.

We must flood the world with acts of goodness and kindness in our haste to bring Mashiach. We must beseech G-d daily from the depths of our heart for his arrival. We must await him with every fiber of our being, every moment of every day. We must rejoice in true ecstasy as we anticipate his arrival. We must learn about the coming of Mashiach and about the Temple that will be rebuilt so that we can know what we are waiting for and what we are praying for.

Mashiach will usher in a time of peace and tranquility, prosperity, and harmony. Most importantly, he will usher in a time when we will stand shoulder to shoulder to serve the one, true and only G-d. May this time come now. May peace return to our land. And may we all march to Israel, together, forever, as one. Amen.

Source: Rabbi Lazer Gurkow – Arutz Sheva