Thursday, Feb 29, 2024

The Role of Poras Iran and Our Tools Against the Enemy

 

It is one thing when evil people commit sins. They are responsible, they may cause some damage, temporary or permanent, but it may not change the world.  However, when nations are involved, let alone empires, nothing remains the same. This applies most of all when Hashem is readying the world for the ultimate geulah.

For the past few weeks, we have been discussing the various roles of Eisav and Yishmoel in Klal Yisroel’s current eis tzarah. However, so far, we have left out the most important player of all, the empire of Poras (Persia), known today as Iran. It is by now well-known that the horrific attack and pogrom inflicted by Hamas on Eretz Yisroel on Simchas Torah could not have been coordinated by Hamas alone. There are many military and political proofs that the primary perpetrator was Iran, but being Torah Jews, we must look at our own ancient sources for the inner meaning of this connection. The importance of doing this should be obvious, but in case this is not clear, let us state at the outset that the connection of these events to ikvesa d’Meshicha and the End of Days helps us know how to daven, do teshuvah, and act appropriately during these crucial times.

First of all, let us determine whether or not the modern-day country of Iran is the same as the ancient Persian Empire. Rav Yisroel Moshe Sorotzkin, who has written extensively on this subject in the four volumes of his comprehensive Keitz Hayamin, cites (1:146) several other opinions about this identification. One is that today’s Persia is actually Russia and another is that it is Rome. However, he concludes that the consensus of Chazal (e.g., Yoma 10a; Sanhedrin 98a; Yalkut Shimoni, Yeshaya 499) and most gedolei Yisroel is that today’s Iran is the contemporary iteration of the Malchus Poras of old.

Another important point to clarify is the relationship between Iran/Persia and Yishmoel. The Tosafos Rid (Bava Basra, Avodah Zarah 2b), Maharal (Chiddushei Aggados, Sanhedrin 98a, and Netzach Yisroel 26) and many others have taught this as a basic fact about the Four Empires. Additionally, my rebbi, Rav Yitzchok Hutner (Sefer Hazikaron Pachad Yitchok, page 56) has explained that although Yishmoel was not formally part of the Four Empires, he had “kavod malchus without koach malchus – meaning the trappings of monarchy without its power.” This might explain today’s relationship between Yishmoel, as presented by Hamas and other terrorist organizations, and Iran. Iran, as the continuation of the Persian Empire, supplies the power of malchus that Yishmoel by itself lacks.

Interestingly, Rashi (Kesubos 66b) refers to Yishmoel as “the arvi’im who are a lowly nation.” The Maharal (Netzach Yisroel 17) adds that they are “uncivilized people (ainom kol kach bnei yishuv) who dwell only in tents.” Elsewhere (Gur Aryeh to Bereishis 25:24), the Maharal states that they “are not careful about what they eat, how they dress and their personal hygiene.” We should note that Chazal (Kiddushin 72a) say that the Persians “eat and drink like bears…are hairy as bears and have no rest like bears.” The Maharal there comments that the Persians are obsessed with lowly physical desires such as food and constantly seek to swallow and devour everything in sight. The Maharal concludes that these animalistic tendencies define the Yishmoelim as well. As a fascinating contrast, the Maharal (Rosh Hashanah 23a) states that while both Yishmoel and Persia demonstrate these primitive traits, “Edom is the opposite.”

This revelation of the Maharal requires some analysis. We know, as has been discussed in these pages, that when Eisav married Yishmoel’s daughter, history replicated the “shidduch” when Hitler and the Mufti yemach shemom joined forces to attempt the annihilation of Klal Yisroel r”l. The so-called civilized Germans, with their intellectual side such as Beethoven and Goethe, would seem antithetical to the backward Arabs and Yishmoel. Yet, especially in light of the recent savagery and barbarism of Hamas in Gaza, it would seem that there is little in common between Edom and Yishmoel. But of course, even the anti-Semitic media has noted that there has been little violence as bestial as Hamas since the Nazis in Auschwitz. So there it is. Beneath the surface veneer of civilization in literature and the arts, the Teutonic nature of Hitler and his henchman resonated with the brutality of Hamas and Yishmoel. The current spate of support for Hamas butchery coming from Harvard, Columbia and the Ivy League universities is proof that without a firm grounding in human civilized behavior, such as the Seven Noachide laws, the worst place to be is with the atheistic professors and their seething anti-Semitism.

Obviously, the most important things that we as Torah Jews need to do is to improve our davening, learning, bein adam lachaveiro, personal middos, etc. But, to the extent that we have any influence upon the Israeli government and our own American representatives, we must lobby for a united front against the enemies of all of civilization. As we have seen, there is no use reasoning with Yishmoel or Iran, given their ancestral and historical DNA and enmities. But even the Eisav connection, which tends to disguise itself and cloak its loathing of Jews and Judaism, has become completely Nazi-like and perhaps worse with its beheadings and infanticide.

Of course, all of this is just our bit of hishtadlus on the human end. We are always obligated to do our best with all the tools Hashem grants us. But if we look a bit deeper, perhaps we will discover what Hashem wants us to do spiritually at this historic but dangerous moment in the eschatology of the Jewish nation. First of all, we must remember that Yishmoel himself is called by that name because of his power of prayer (see Ramban, Bereishis 17:18; Maharal, Netzach Yisroel 10). Someone who works in Manhattan and takes many cabs and Ubers told me that there are certain hours when he cannot get a ride. The Moslem drivers have all taken out their rugs, kneeled down, and are at prayer. I felt that the recent takeover of a minaret to announce the IDF takeover with a call to Mincha and Shema Yisroel was symbolic of our need to overcome their Yishma Keil with our own more heartfelt tefillos. The Megaleh Amukos (end of Parshas Vayeishev) says as much when he exhorts us to “overpower the sound of Yishmoel at prayer.”

But of course this is not only for those who are being moser nefesh in Gaza, may Hashem guard and protect them. We, in our shuls and botei medrash, have that power in our hands and, most importantly, mouth. Rav Akiva Eiger (commentary to Shulchan Aruch, beginning of Hilchos Tefillah, 89) asks why we no longer daven spreading our arms, as the nevi’im of old did. He answers that since the gentiles have begun using their hands in prayer, we have ceased doing so. My rebbi (Pachad Yitzchok, Purim, Number 35) is astounded that of all the things the gentiles have taken from us, only this should have caused a change in something we do traditionally and in kedusha. His answer is beyond the scope of this discussion today, only to mention that he concludes that although we decided to give up on the beloved mode of tefillah that includes hands, this will return to us at the End of Days.

Since we have seen that we are now in a fight for our lives against both Eisav, whose power is in the hands, and Yishmoel, who has the power of prayer, and the rosh yeshiva concluded the Purim maamar with the statement that we will return to davening using our hands at the end of time, perhaps this is a time to strengthen the suggestion of the Arizal to give tzedakah during Vayevorech Dovid, combining our hands and our mouth against our ancient foes.

Secondly, as Rav Don Segal has already exhorted us, saying Amen Yehei Shmei Rabbah loudly can counteract the voice of Yishmoel as well (see also Rav Chaim Vital on Tehillim, No. 124 in his Eitz Hadaas Tov).

Third of all, we know that the gates of tears have never been shut (Brachos 32b) and can counteract those powerful tears that Eisav once shed (see also Shelah Hakadosh, Beshalach).

Also, the greatest power that we have against these united forces (Eisav, Yishmoel and Poras) is what they surely do not have, which is limud haTorah. The Rambam (Sefer Hamitzvos, Number 3) writes that learning Torah brings us closer to Hashem and teaches us His ways. Our enemies may have something spiritual on their side, although we would like to believe that they have lost all credibility with the Creator recently. However, only we have the Torah, which binds us closely to Hashem. Although the Rambam writes (uncensored version in Hilchos Melachim) that Eisav and Yishmoel, by their joint rejection of polytheism, “pave the way for Moshiach,” they have no Torah to learn or elevate them.

In particular, since Eisav excelled at kibbud av, although it was deeply flawed and hypocritical, we should strengthen our own kibbud av v’eim to counteract whatever zechusim he still has. Furthermore, since Yishmoel has, to whatever extent, the power of shemiah – Hashem listening to him (see Gra, Yahel Ohr, to introduction of the Zohar), we should strengthen our emunas chachomim and listening to our gedolim, even when we don’t understand everything they say. It is a much greater zechus to believe and trust when we do not fully understand.

Surely if we do all this, Hashem will help us and protect us, bringing the geulah sheleimah as rapidly as we need and daven for it, bemeheirah beyomeinu. Amein.

The writer would like to acknowledge the important work of Rav Moshe Yisroel Sorotzkin, author of the comprehensive four volumes of Keitz Hayomin. There he catalogues the sources depicting the last seventy years of golus leading to Moshiach. Many, although not all, of the mekoros cited here may be found there in greater detail.

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