Monday, July 28, 2003

Titus and a Spy

Titus and a Spy
July 28, 2003

To the Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States of America

To Ariel Sharon
Prime Minister of the State of Israel

Dear President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon,


Prime Minister Sharon should know, but it’s possible he has forgotten. President Bush probably doesn’t know, unless his advisors have informed him. The Jewish people are presently in the midst of ‘the three weeks,’ commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, thousands of years ago.

These three weeks represent a period of mourning, during which we grieve for the most cherished and sacred site in this world, that being Temple Mount, the heart of our existence as a people.

The three weeks begin on the Hebrew date, the 17th of Tammuz. It was on this day that the walls to Jerusalem were breached, both by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE and by Titus in 70 CE. The three weeks end on the ninth day of Av, called Tisha b’Av. It was on this day that the Temples were demolished and burnt to the ground.

Our Sages have taught us the reason why the two Temples were destroyed specifically on Tisha b’Av. It was on that date that the spies Moses sent from the desert to scout Eretz Yisrael, returned home from their journey.  Ten of the twelve spies, rather than seek out the weaknesses of the people living in the Land, concluded that the land was unconquerable, that it was a land of giants, a land which literally consumed its inhabitants.

When the spies returned to Moses and the rest of the people and publicly issued this report to the entire gathering, the people tore their clothing and weeping, demanded to know why they were being led to such a horrendous place. G-d then decreed that the Jewish people would spend the next 40 years wandering in the desert, and would only enter Eretz Yisrael following the deaths of all those people who had torn their clothes and cried, all of those people twenty years of age and older.

But the L-rd also proclaimed that that very day would become a time of weeping for generations. And that day is Tisha b’Av, the day the two Temples were razed to the ground and burnt, a day on which observant Jews fast, from sunset to sunset, a day of mourning, a day of lament, for thousands of years.

Why did the spies choose to reject G-d’s chosen land? Why were all except two, Joshua and Kalev, blind to the splendor of the sacred land? It is written in the holy Zohar that the spies, who were the princes of their respective tribes, were aware that once they entered the Land of Israel, they would no longer be important; they would no longer be leaders. Rather they would be replaced, they would be normal folk, just like everyone else. Therefore they desired to remain in the desert, preferring to be influential there, instead of relinquishing their dominance to live in Eretz Yisrael. For this, and for Am Yisrael’s acceptance of their ‘guilty verdict,’ the Jewish people have suffered ever since.

Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, if you would, take a moment to look back at some of those preceding you. Look, for a moment, at President Harry Truman. True, it has come to light that Truman was not the pinnacle of purity. Yet Harry Truman was instrumental in the creation of the State of Israel and Israel’s acceptance as an independent state by the world. Truman miraculously won a second term of office and is remembered as one of the truly great statesman-Presidents of American history.

Look, on the other hand, at Richard Nixon, who put the screws on Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, delaying an airlift so desperately needed by the Jewish state. What happened to Nixon? Look at Reagan, who put tremendous pressure on Begin. He has been mentally incompetent for decades. Look at George Bush Senior, who was instrumental in knocking Shamir out of office. Look at Bill Clinton, who did everything possible to prevent Bibi Netanyahu’s election in 1996 and who reneged on his promise to release Jonathan Pollard in exchange for Israel’s signature on the Wye accords. All of these people were disgraced, one way or another. And not only on the American side. Examine our leaders. Begin abandoned Sinai, and died a recluse. Shamir went to Madrid and lost power. Rabin needs no explanations. Peres has been nationally embarrassed time and time again. Bibi deserted Hebron, and Barak was willing to forgo Jerusalem.

Why did all of these people assume their chosen roles? Why did they reject the premise that Eretz Yisrael belongs to Am Yisrael? For the same reasons the spies rejected G-d’s will. Because they simply wanted to be important. They wanted to be known in the history books of the future as ‘the peacemakers.’ And that too, is you the two of you, George Bush and Ariel Sharon, are meeting tomorrow in Washington, to try and ensure yourselves first place on this year’s list of Nobel Prize recipients. Because you believe that you will be remembered for eternity as the great peacemakers.

Mr. Bush, Mr. Sharon: Before continuing on your erroneous path of infamy, make sure that this is actually the road you wish to follow. For, as the prophet Samuel said to Saul, so G-d says to you, ‘the eternity of Israel will not be denied.’ Nothing you do, nothing you say, can eliminate the inviolability of the Jewish people and of Eretz Yisrael. As Mordechai told Esther, ‘if you choose not to save your people know that redemption is assured from elsewhere.’ ‘And you and your family will perish.’

So too it is with you. Mr. President, you can choose to be Harry Truman or to be Titus. For your plan, that of a Palestinian State in the heart of Eretz Yisrael, is comparable to Titus’ breaching of the wall. You know, Titus thought he was doing the world a favor by conquering Jerusalem, but according to our sages, he later died an unspeakable death, going totally insane.

Any you, Mr. Prime Minister, can be a Joshua, settling the people in the land, or you can be an evil spy, leading the people to forty years in the desert.

The choice is yours. Do you really want to be remembered as Titus and a spy?

With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder

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