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Toldot: Blessings Upon Israel

Isaac and Rebecca endure twenty childless years, until their prayers are answered and Rebecca conceives. She experiences a difficult pregnancy as the “children struggle inside her”; G-d tells her that “there are two nations in your womb,” and that the younger will prevail over the elder.

Esau emerges first; Jacob is born clutching Esau’s heel. Esau grows up to be “a cunning hunter, a man of the field”; Jacob is “a wholesome man,” a dweller in the tents of learning. Isaac favors Esau; Rebecca loves Jacob. Returning exhausted and hungry from the hunt one day, Esau sells his birthright (his rights as the firstborn) to Jacob for a pot of red lentil stew.

In Gerar, in the land of the Philistines, Isaac presents Rebecca as his sister, out of fear that he will be killed by someone coveting her beauty. He farms the land, reopens the wells dug by his father Abraham, and digs a series of his own wells: over the first two there is strife with the Philistines, but the waters of the third well are enjoyed in tranquility.

Esau marries two Hittite women. Isaac grows old and blind, and expresses his desire to bless Esau before he dies. While Esau goes off to hunt for his father’s favorite food, Rebecca dresses Jacob in Esau’s clothes, covers his arms and neck with goatskins to simulate the feel of his hairier brother, prepares a similar dish, and sends Jacob to his father. Jacob receives his father’s blessings for “the dew of the heaven and the fat of the land” and mastery over his brother. When Esau returns and the deception is revealed, all Isaac can do for his weeping son is to predict that he will live by his sword, and that when Jacob falters, the younger brother will forfeit his supremacy over the elder.

from “Toldot in a Nutshell”
Commentary on Torah Portion Toldot

As I write this, it’s early in the Thursday morning, just past 3:30 a.m. If most of you have been keeping up on the events in Israel, you’re aware of the terrorist attacks from Gaza and the response of the IDF.

My wife and children are Jewish. I believe the Jewish people have a right to Israel and a deep connection to the Land. These events may signal not just another round of terrorism and response but a prelude to another war. I can’t know that, of course, but it’s not as if it hasn’t happened before. That’s enough to keep me up at night or to wake me up too early in the morning, but then a friend of mine’s daughter is currently serving with the IDF, so it’s feels personal as well.

But that’s not all I have on my mind.

you realize that israel is the aggressor, right? they’ve been shelling women & children forever… after stealing their land

the US may be the second most evil country on earth, but Israel has 1st place locked up by a few miles.

where do you come up with that? can you show me any evidence? You’re either brainwashed or willfully ignorant.

is that really what you believe? seriously? where do you get your intel? ZionistPress? get real! Israel is the aggressor.

-from my twitter feed

As you can see, I try to follow a variety of opinions on twitter, but as someone on Facebook (ironically) said just recently about twitter, “the noise to signal ratio dropped to nothing but noise.” I want to be fair and give other opinions consideration, but it’s not worth my health or peace of mind, is it?

What does this have to do with Toldot and the story of Esau and Jacob?

I couldn’t help but draw parallels between two warring brothers (and only one becomes the patriarch of the Children of Israel and the Jewish people) and the events in Israel right now. Two related people struggling over what they believe are their rights but with only one, in my opinion and my understanding of the Bible, having the superior claim on the inheritance of the Land promised to Abraham.

The story we read in Toldot ends with Jacob leaving his home for an uncertain future:

So Isaac sent for Jacob and blessed him. He instructed him, saying, “You shall not take a wife from among the Canaanite women. Up, go to Paddan-aram, to the house of Bethuel, your mother’s father, and take a wife there from among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother, May El Shaddai bless you, make you fertile and numerous, so that you become an assembly of peoples. May He grant the blessing of Abraham to you and your offspring, that you may possess the land where you are sojourning, which God assigned to Abraham.”

Then Isaac sent Jacob off, and he went to Paddan-aram, to Laban the son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, mother of Jacob and Esau.

Genesis 28:1-5 (JPS Tanakh)

The conclusion of Toldot is a little easier to take knowing what happens next and the ultimate outcome of the journeys of Jacob, but in a very real way, those journeys have not yet ended. The Jews have returned to the land of their inheritance but it is an uneasy return. They face strife from terrorism within their borders, the threat of war from outside, and the aggression of a world that does not believe that Israel has a right to exist, let alone defend itself from hostile people who use the weapons of rockets and public opinion to chip away at the Jewish land, taking the Land and the lives of the children of Jacob bit by bit.

It was decades before Jacob could return to Canaan and in the meantime, Esau was there, doing as he willed, and remaining a threat and a barrier to Jacob’s blessings in Israel. Jews believe that in the age of redemption, all Jews will live in Eretz Yisrael and motivate all mankind to seek God (see Inwardness: The Path to Posterity). But as the path for Jacob was not easy and required a great deal of suffering and searching, both in the material and the spiritual sense, so too is the future of Israel between now and the time of Messiah.

And the servants of Isaac dug in the valley, and they found a well of living water.

Genesis 26:19

If a person tells you “I have toiled but I have not found”—do not believe him.

-Talmud, Megillah 6b

Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch was deep in thought, struggling with some elusive idea deep in the recesses of his mighty mind. A bowl of soup had been set before him some time earlier, but the Rebbe was in another world; sharp lines of concentration plowed his forehead, as he sat gazing into the bowl and slowly stirring the soup with his spoon.

The Rebbe’s servant, who figured that the Rebbe must be searching for the egg noodles, exclaimed: “Rebbe, dig in further! The lokshen lies deeper down.”

A wave of contentment passed over the Rebbe’s tensed features. “Thank you,” he said to his servant, “You have revived my soul…”

-Rabbi Yanki Tauber
“Digging for Noodles”
from Once Upon a Chassid

Nothing is final. That Israel exists today is no assurance that it will continue as it is between now and the Messiah’s return. The people who govern Israel today are human. Israel is not yet perfected as a nation. As they are today, Israel is not immune from making mistakes out of their humanity. But that doesn’t mean that Israel and the Jewish people deserve annihilation as the Palestinian terrorists (and the Arab nations) and their supporters in the western nations declare.

I have faith that God will not let the Jewish people perish, but what is to happen in the Land of Israel now, I cannot know. Modern Israel has faced crisis after crisis in its young history. There were many times it looked as if it would be destroyed, only to be sustained by the miracles of God. Just as Jacob and his family ultimately returned and established themselves in Canaan, so too have the Jews returned to Israel. Just as Moses lead his people through the desert, there have been desperate struggles for the Jews. Just as Joshua lead Israel over the Jordan and into their Land, the Land promised to Abraham, and to Isaac, and to Jacob, so too will Messiah, son of David, lead his people to take final possession of their Land and into their promised rest.

But there is still much to do between now and then. The first task is to reassure and to fortify ourselves, to lift up and strengthen our faith. Israel is from God. It shall not be destroyed. God urges Joshua, as he takes command of Israel, to be “strong and courageous” four times in the first chapter of the book of Joshua. So too must the inhabitants of Israel today be strong and courageous. So too must we, the supporters of Israel and we who have faith in God’s promises…we must be strong and courageous, though Israel and everyone who loves her will be dragged through the mud and maligned for faith and trust and for obeying God.

Only God knows when the time of “living water” will come. We must be ready.

If you see what needs to be repaired and how to repair it,
then you have found a piece of the world that G-d has left for you to complete.

But if you only see what is wrong and how ugly it is,
then it is you yourself that needs repair.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Perceptive Repair”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson

Blessings upon Israel and her people, the children of Abraham, and of Issac, and of Jacob.

If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill. Let my tongue adhere to my palate, if I fail to elevate Jerusalem above my foremost joy.

Psalm 137:5-6 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

Continue to keep informed on the events in Israel at IsraelNationalNews.com.

Good Shabbos.

Reposted: Missiles Fired on Nuclear Reactor in Dimona

I’m reposting this news item from VirtualJerusalem.com

Palestinian terrorists have fired missiles at the Nuclear Reactor in the Israeli city of Dimona.

The missiles fell in an open field and did not cause any injuries, nor did it hit the intended target.

The missiles were launched shortly after the IDF launched operation “Amud Anan” early on Wednesday, November 14th with the targeted assassination of the commander of Hamas’s “military” terror wing, Ahmed Jaabari.

“Amud Anan” was launched in response to the hundreds of rockets that the residents of Southern Israel have encountered in the past week.

Prime Minister Netanyahu held a press conference on Wednesday evening stating that Israel will not “come to terms” with the attacks on its citizens.

The alert level in Israel was raised to “gimel”

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, the safety of the nation of Israel, and all of the souls she nurtures and protects.

Mattot-Massei: Free At Last

The Torah portion of Masei informs us of G-d’s directive that 48 cities be given to the Levites as dwellings places. Among these cities were three Cities of Refuge located on the other side of the Jordan River.

In the previous section of Matos, we read how Moshe was extremely displeased when the tribes of Gad and Reuven asked to receive their portion of the land on the other side of the Jordan. His displeasure stemmed from the fact that it was inappropriate to desire a permanent place of residence outside Eretz Yisrael proper. (Bamidbar 31:6-15.)

This being so, why did G-d command that the Levites be given the three Cities of Refuge on the other side of the Jordan? And while it’s true that it was vital that Cities of Refuge be established on both sides of the Jordan, (See Sifri, Bamidbar 35:14; Makkos 9b.) this in itself is not sufficient reason to make these “extra-territorial” cities permanent dwelling places for the Levites.

Yes, we could point out that the verse states: (Bamidbar 35:2.) “Command the Children of Israel that they give the Levites residential cities from their hereditary holdings.” Thus, these cities were not given as an inheritance from G-d, but because of an obligation placed upon the Jewish people to give a portion of their inheritance to the priestly tribe.

But this answer is not entirely satisfactory. Knowing as they did that the main dwelling place of the Jewish people was in Eretz Yisrael proper, why should any Levites want to live on the other side of the Jordan?

In the…Torah portion of Matos, we find that Moshe gave half the tribe of Menashe a portion on the other side of the Jordan. (Bamidbar 32:33.) Our Sages point out (Yerushalmi, Bikkurim.) that they did not ask for this land; Moshe presented it to them on his own.

“Levitical Cities”
Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XXVIII, pp. 213-218
and the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson
from the Chassidic Dimension series
Commentary on Torah Portion MattotMassei

What I’m about to say isn’t going to be terribly popular with some people. Israel is never a very popular topic with some folks, especially those who hold to a particular social and political viewpoint. Of course, basing any opinion of current events upon what is written in the Bible is never acceptable to more “rational” human beings who believe that public opinion always trumps the will of (from their point of view) a non-existent God.

But look at what has been written and where we find it in this week’s double Torah portion. Not only did Moses agree to let the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and the half-tribe of Manasseh settle east of the Jordan, outside the boundaries of Canaan, but it was commanded that three of the Levitical cities would also be outside “the Land.”

But these events occurred in ancient times, so what possible impact could they have on the boundaries and borders of the modern state of Israel in the 21st century, especially if you believe the “original” boundaries were fictional or at best, part of an act fo conquest committed by the Israelites of old?

Maybe nothing. But then again, maybe everything. Continuing with the commentary:

He did so because the first entry of the Jewish people into Israel is connected to their final entry through Moshiach, and Moshe is considered “both the first and the final redeemer.” (See Shmos Rabbah 2:6; Devarim Rabbah conclusion of ch. 9; Zohar, Vol. I, p. 253a; Torah Or, Mishpatim, p. 75b.) This being so, his giving this portion to Menashe served to foreshadow the future redemption, at which time the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael will be broadened to include the other side of the Jordan as well.

We thus see that taking a portion on the other side of the Jordan can be an entirely positive act, since it hinted at the borders of Eretz Yisrael in times to come.

OK, this is midrash and mysticism thrown in with what we read in the Torah, but if it’s true; if all this occurs upon the Messiah’s return, then Israel, a very “problem nation” for much of the world, will be a great deal larger in Messianic days then it is right now (and most of the world would prefer it if Israel were a good deal smaller, even to the point of non-existence and extinction).

If you don’t believe in God, the Messiah, religious Judaism, and (arguably) Christianity, you have nothing to worry about. All this is just smoke and mirrors. Even many religious and secular Jews today argue about what the borders of modern Israel should be like or even if Israel should currently exist.

And yet, the world seems to be fighting extra hard against Israel, more than it fights against any other nation. Why?

The wounded victims of Wednesday’s suicide terrorist attack at a Bulgarian airport have arrived home in Israel, with 32 of the wounded victims touching down in an IAF Hercules military transport aircraft at Ben-Gurion International Airport. Among them was Israeli Nurit Harush, photographed by Reuters as she was pushed in a stretcher by medics after her arrival.

Three others who were critically injured have remained in a hospital in Sofia, but will later be flown to Israel.

-Chana Ya’ar
“Israeli Terror Victims Arrive Home from Bulgaria”
First published 7/19/2012 – 1:12 p.m.

The latest act of terrorism against Israel and against Jews.

This is hardly an isolated incident, but because it was so public and so dramatic, the non-Israeli news agencies have been giving it a great deal of space on their webpages and on their airwaves along with Israeli news sources.

One explanation for why Jews are regularly attacked, injured, and murdered, and why Israel as a nation is somehow blamed for this just because it exists in the world, is the historic enmity between the Arab and Jewish people, or between the Muslim and Jewish people. Popular public opinion cites the “fact” that Israel is an “apartheid state” (in spite of the fact that there are Arab Palestinian MKs in the Israeli Knesset) and is “occupying” lands that are “Palestinian” as the root to the actions of these oppressed “freedom fighters” as the reason for these acts of violence (and many of Israel’s critics refuse to call this “terrorism”). And don’t forget that historically, people all over the world have fought against and even murdered Jews just because they were Jews.

But imagine.

Imagine that God is real and the national redemption of Israel in an absolute physical sense is going to occur. It’s just a matter of time. Imagine you are a Jew and you live in Israel and this is what you believe. And it’s no secret that you believe this. It’s no secret that you know God will accomplish this when Moshiach comes.

If you don’t believe in God or at least, you don’t believe in the God of the Jews, that probably sounds pretty arrogant. Even if you think it’s total fantasy, you might be concerned that the Jewish nation will try to expand its borders to ultimately match what they think they should be according to God. That would eat up all of so-called “Palestine” and a significant chunk of the modern nation of Jordan (which modern Jewish Israel does not claim as far as I know).

If you have enough of a social, political, national, or racial interest in all of this, you might get pretty angry. So angry that you light up the Internet with your rage. And a few folks out there might be a good deal more angry.

Angry enough to blow themselves up and to take as many Jews with them as they can.

Even if you believe in the prophesies in the Jewish Bible, we could still argue all day long about whether or not Israel should pursue national expansion now or wait until the coming of the Messiah. It would be a useless argument because, like so many other debates on the web, it would go exactly nowhere. A lot of people would get worked up and nothing; absolutely nothing would be accomplished.

So where do we go from here? People are dying. I call it “terrorism.” I’m sure you’ll be glad to tell me what you call it.

I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that this act of terror happened during what is called Bein Hametzarim, the three weeks between the fast of the Seventeenth of Tammuz and the fast of Tishah B’Av, which commemorates the occurrence of many Jewish tragedies, not the least of which are the destruction of the first and second Temples in Holy Jerusalem.

Parshas Matos is always read during Bein HaMetzarim the three weeks between the fast of the Seventeenth of Tammuz and the fast of Tishah BeAv (the Ninth of Av), which are associated with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Beis HaMikdash. This recalls the negative qualities of a staff’s firmness, the severed connection to the source of vitality.

On the other hand, this period is also connected with our people’s hopes of Redemption. Indeed, Tishah BeAv, the anniversary of the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash is described as “the birthday of Mashiach” a day which generates a new impetus for the coming of the Redemption. Herein lies a connection to a staff’s positive quality of firmness, because: a) in the Era of the Redemption, our people will reap the fruit of their determined resolution to carry out G-d’s will despite the challenges of Exile; and b) it is in the Era of the Redemption that G-d’s essence, the ultimate source of strength, will become manifest in our world, His dwelling.

-Rabbi Eli Touger
“True Strength”
from the “In the Garden of Torah” series
Commentary on Torah Portion Mattot

Perhaps even during this time of double mourning, there is a ray of hope.

In every hardship, search for the spark of good and cling to it. The greater the hardship, the more wondrous the good it bears.

If you cannot find that spark, rejoice that wonder beyond your comprehension has befallen you.

Once you have unveiled and liberated the spark of good, it will rise to overcome its guise of darkness. It may perhaps even transform the darkness fully to light.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Unveiling the Spark”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson

I know that there’s a lot of sadness and anger going on and redeeming “hidden sparks” is probably far from most people’s minds at the moment. All they can do is live inside the pain and sorrow and grief. It’s not yet time to start looking for the sparks, gathering them, and sending them back to their source in Heaven.

But the day will come when the sparks will fly free. The day will come when he will come; Messiah, Son of David, and he will liberate his people Israel and place his nation as the head of nations. And his people will be safe. And grief will be only in the past at last…at long last.

…but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree,
and no one shall make them afraid,
for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.

Micah 4:4 (ESV)

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

Revelation 21:4 (ESV)

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every tenement and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“I Have a Dream” speech, August 28, 1963

Good Shabbos.



Injustice and the Promises

Three years ago, Baby Moshe, one of the unforgettable faces of the Mumbai attacks, escaped the carnage clinging to his nanny not knowing that his parents- Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his pregnant wife Rivika – were killed. Now a four-year-old, Moshe knows they had fallen victim to terrorists. Orphaned by the terrorists, Moshe is now a carefree child, though he remembers his parents whenever he sees their photographs, saying good morning or goodnight to ‘eema’ (mother) and ‘abba’ (father) each day.

from the news story “Moshe still says goodnight to parents”
The Times of India

As Jacob flees from the promised land, he stops at Bethel where God gives him the dream of the ladder and confirms the covenant promises to him. Though the oracle at Bethel is essentially a repetition of the covenant promises bestowed upon Abraham and Isaac, there is an important variation on the wording in 28:14. The seed of Jacob will not only multiply to be as numerous and uncountable as the dust of the earth, it will also “spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south.” Not only will his seed inherit the land of Canaan, they will also be spread in every direction. This dispersion alludes again to the theme of exile. As Jacob descends into exile, he is warned that his seed will be spread in every direction as the result of such exile.

from “The Dispersion and Return”
Commentary on Torah Portion Vayetze

I don’t know what to write about but I do know that I’m angry. Three years ago this month, little Moshe Holtzberg lost his parents in the most horrible way possible. Now four years old, it’s doubtful he fully comprehends what has happened to him or why. But I know what has happened and I’m furious about it. As much as I’m supposed to forgive others for their “transgressions”, remembering the details of the attack that took Moshe’s parents away does not bring thoughts and feelings of forgiveness to me. I’m not alone.

Have you forgiven the terrorists? “No, of course not,” replies Moshe’s grandmother Yudith. His nanny says, “It makes me angry because they could have escaped but they did not do it and I could have done something, which in my cowardness I did not do.”

I have a grandson who’s not quite three years old. If my son and his wife had been killed by monsters and I was raising my grandson under those conditions, I would probably feel just like Moshe’s grandmother. I know that doesn’t say anything good about me, but I cannot get past this kind of murderous injustice.

Welcome to the history of the Jewish people.

I hope you all remember these events from CNN three years ago. I hope you were all shocked and appalled, just as I was, and angry that innocent blood could be shed in such a ghastly manner. Moshe’s parents weren’t just killed, they were tortured and mutilated by their attackers. Now with all that in mind, apply those same images to what has been happening to the Jewish people throughout history, not just the past 2,000 years of inquisitions, persecutions, and pogroms, but during every trial and exile that has befallen the Jewish people since the days of Jacob.

Although the Jewish people have a modern state of Israel, in many ways, they are still in exile. The very legitimacy of Israel is constantly being brought into question by nations from around the world including the U.S. and there is a continual struggle over what is “Israel” and what (if anything) is “Palestine”.

Faith and composure are very difficult for me when considering such manners (I’m making an understatement). And yet there are promises.

Remember, I am with you: I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” –Genesis 28:15 (JPS Tanakh)

It is true that the plain meaning of the text suggests that God is speaking just to Jacob’s sojourn in Haran but, as the FFOZ commentary states, we can also apply this scripture both as prophesy and promise, that God will be with Jacob and his children in whatever exile they might find themselves and will remain with them until they return to their Land, to Israel.

This is not the only such promise to the Jewish people from God.

Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the ends of the earth—
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.” –Isaiah 43:5-7

And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. –Matthew 24:31 (ESV)

The quote from the Book of Matthew is probably interpreted by Christianity as applying exclusively to the church, but put back into the larger panorama of the entire Bible and refactored into its original context (Matthew was writing to a primarily Jewish audience), we can see it has more specific implications.

I periodically rant on the topic of Christian supersessionism and how it has been used as a platform to justify crimes by the church against the Jewish people. I hope that recalling God’s promises to the Jews will serve as a reminder that they have been and always will be God’s chosen people. That God was gracious enough to give “his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16), does not mean that we Christian Gentiles have “bumped” the Jews from their seats on the flight, so to speak, in order to make room for us (read Romans 11:17-20 again if you don’t believe me).

In our nice, peaceful, reasonably safe American homes, we like to think that the persecution and murder of Jews are a thing of the past and that an ugly chapter in the history of the church has now been closed, but if you are tempted to be comforted by those thoughts, remember four-year old Moshe Holtzberg as he kisses the photos of his parents every morning and night. True, this isn’t a crime that can be laid at the feet of the church, but it’s a delusion to believe that men and women of the past who also called themselves “Christian” didn’t perform the same, horrible terrorist acts and worse. How many Jewish children have we orphaned in the name of Christ?

George Santayana made the often misquoted comment, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I could change that slightly to say, “Those who are not outraged by the atrocities of the past will continue to commit them in the present.” That includes committing atrocities by apathy, lack of concern, and the unwillingness to act.

We should mourn the loss of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivika along with Moshe and his grandparents. It’s tragic that Christianity doesn’t understand the significance of yahrzeit for we should all kindle of the yahrzeit candle for Gavriel and Rivika Holtzberg in solemn memory. By inference, we can also mourn all the Jewish victims of terrorism who came before them, particularly those who were murdered by the church, for in remembering and grieving, we can assure the Jewish people and ourselves that we will never participate in such a nightmare again. We cry out against the injustice of the Nazi Holocaust and the murder of six million but we must never forget that countless Jews have their blood spilled across the pages of thousands of years of history.

Jews believe that tikkun olam, acts of repairing the world, will hasten the coming of the Messiah. However, even in Jewish tradition it is understood that anyone, Jew or Gentile, can perform tikkun olam. Gandhi was once supposed to have said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” If the fact that Moshe Holtzberg will never again see his parents this side of Heaven makes you sad and angry, you can stand up and do something about it. You can make sure that through action or inaction, you are never a part of such an injustice. You don’t have to change the whole world. You only have to change yourself. Remember God’s promises to the Jewish people and to all people. If you are devoted to the God of Israel, perform one act of justice and mercy today. Perform another one tomorrow. Let your voice be heard. Light a candle in remembrance. Never let the light of mercy go dark in your heart.

The bridegroom is coming. The Prince is returning to his throne. Be ready every day and every night. Tremble at the thought that he will come and you will not be prepared.

Tremble, and sin not; reflect in your hearts while on your beds and be utterly silent. –Psalm 4:5

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! –Revelation 22:20 (ESV)

Release from Darkness: Gilad Shalit

Gilad and Noam ShalitThe Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisonersIsaiah 61:1

A teary-eyed Israel, headed by the Shalit family, welcome Gilad back home to Israel Tuesday after 1,941 days in captivity at the hands of Hamas and allied terrorists, some of whom continued to urge more kidnappings. He has undergoing [sic] medical tests before returning to his family home in the Galilee.

-From IsraelNationalNews.com

I’m writing this “extra meditation” because I have a selfish reason for being glad Sgt Gilad Shalit was finally released from his captors. My son David is the same age as Gilad and for the entire time Gilad was a captive of Hamas, David was in the United States Marine Corps. David was deployed twice, including a seven month deployment in Iraq. My son, thank God, was never in combat, never shot at, never captured, never injured in an act of war, and was honorably discharged just a little over a year ago. He now lives here in Idaho with his wife and 2 1/2 year old son.

But on David’s dog tags, along with the other usual information about him, it identified him as a Jew.

I’m not Jewish, but my wife is, so that makes my children Jewish. That makes David Jewish. Of course I feared for my son’s safety when he went into war zones but I especially feared that, if captured by the enemy, he would be treated with particular cruelty because he’s Jewish.

I have some small idea of how Gilad’s father, Noam Shalit must have felt when Gilad was in the hands of Hamas.

I also have some small idea of the elation Gilad’s parents must be feeling right now, seeing their son alive and whole for the first time in over five years. Gilad was only 19 years old when he was captured by the terrorist organization Hamas. I can’t imagine what he was put through, though in the days and weeks again, I’m sure the full story of how he was treated in captivity will be released.

But amid the joy of Gilad’s return to his homeland and his family, there are these sobering consequences as reported by the IsraelNationalNews.com story:

The happiness of the fulfillment of the mitzvah of bringing back a Jew from captivity was mixed with the pain and fear that more Israelis will be murdered by the 1,027 terrorists and security prisoners who were freed in exchange for Shalit.

In Gaza and Ramallah, thousands of Arabs wildly celebrated the return of the first batch of terrorists, except for those to be deported.

Hamas leaders, including one of those released from jail, continued to call for more kidnappings of Israeli soldiers to gain the freedom of terrorists who were not included in the swap.

What will happen and how will Gilad and his family feel the first time one of the freed terrorists commits another murder? I’m not saying that Israel shouldn’t have accepted the deal. As a parent, I selfishly would have done anything to free my son from the band of murderers who were holding him and tormenting him daily. But this young soldier’s freedom comes at a very high price.

Gilad is free and he’s home and he’s safe and I thank God for His kindness and His providence, but I must now pray that the criminals who had to be released in exchange for this one young man are prevented from hurting anyone else. I must also pray for all the other IDF soldiers who are in danger of being kidnapped by terrorists, held, tortured, tormented, and finally released years later in exchange for another thousand killers who are dedicated to the extermination of all Jews and the eradication of Israel.

“A Jew never gives up. We’re here to bring Mashiach, we will settle for nothing less.” –Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh

How many sons and daughters will be killed and kidnapped before the Messiah comes? We want Meshiach now.