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FLAMES IN THE TREETOPS

Roy Neuberger - Jan. 24, 2020


“I … have heard the wail of the children of Israel whom Egypt enslaves and I have remembered My covenant.” (Exodus 6:5) When we are suffering and cry out to Hashem, He will rescue us.


My friends, the fires of hatred are being stoked. A fire is not easy to start; you have to light the kindling; then, as the flames strengthen, you add increasingly bigger logs. But once the fire becomes strong, it can easily spread. This is clearly demonstrated in Australia, where numerous deadly fires are out of control.


We are still in the early stages, but the fires of hatred are beginning to get out of control.


We may think that the world will listen to rational arguments for peaceful coexistence, but “Esav sone l’Yaakov … It is halacha … that Esav hates Yaakov.” (Rashi on Genesis 33:4). Hatred is controllable only if Hashem saves us. That is why we have to cry out to Him. In Australia, the flames are spreading from treetop to treetop, where no one can reach them.


I recently spoke a beloved and respected member of the Lakewood community, Dr. Howard Leibowitz, who called to my attention an amazing comment by the Ramban on Parshas Vayigash. The Torah describes how, after Yosef reveals himself to his brothers, the family descends to Egypt. “And Hashem spoke to Yisroel in visions of the night, and said [to him] ‘Yaakov, Yaakov,’ and [Yaakov] answered ‘Hineni.’” (Genesis 46:2)


The Ramban wants to understand: is our Patriarch’s name “Yisroel” or “Yaakov?” The angel has already said, “No longer will … your name [be] Yaakov, but [rather] Yisroel, for you have striven with the Divine and with man and you have overcome.” (Genesis 32:29)


Why now does Hashem address him as “Yaakov?”


My friends, when we descend into Exile, we are not “Yisroel!”


When we descend into Exile we are “Yaakov!”


The Ramban is teaching us that, in the future, when Yaakov’s descendants emerge from Egypt, they will able to “strive with the Divine and with man and overcome,” but now, when Yaakov is descending into Exile, “he [is] only Yaakov,” not “Yisroel.”


“Yisroel” is the name applied to us in our strength and glory; “Yaakov” is our name when we are weak and surrounded by enemies.


It is dangerous to pretend that we are strong when we are weak, to believe that we dominate when we are subjugated, or that we are at home when we are among the nations. If we fool ourselves, then we will not “wail” to Hashem, and we need to cry out in order to be saved!


“Favor me, Hashem, for I am feeble. Heal me, Hashem for my bones shudder. My soul is utterly confounded and You, Hashem, how long? …. Every night, I drench my bed, with my tears I soak my couch. My eye is aged … by my tormentors….” (Psalm 6)


Only when, with a broken soul, we implore Hashem for mercy, will we understand that the flames around us are the harbingers of dawn!


PICTURE CAPTION

Dawn lights up the East


 

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