Why was Noah commanded to build a skylight in the ark?
Noah and all the fascinating people in the Bible weren’t just characters in a novel, but they were real people and they experienced up and downs, as we all do in life. The key to remember is that there is always a window where we can see our relative good fortune and everything we have to be grateful for, where we can keep an eye on the light at the end of tunnel (as my father used to say about bad things, “this too shall pass”), and we can look up to our Father in Heaven and remember that He will bring deliverance to us. Even in the mightiest of floods that devastated the world, G-d was still there for us, and He was, is, and always will be!
Over the course of our history, the Jewish people have grown from a passive and helpless people during 2,000 years of exile to become, once again, an assertive and strong nation in the Land of Israel as we once were in the days of Joshua, King David and the Maccabees.
In the end, we need to be as faithful as “Jacob” and as strong as “Israel.” As we learn in the Torah and from the rest of Jewish history: inside every Jacob, who just wants to serve G-d in peace as the “People of the Book,” there is also a determined, strong, and brave Israelite fighter and innovator who can stand up for his people and his faith.
From Amalek to Iran, Israel can never be caught off-guard again and this means both operationally as well as from mistaken assumptions and thinking. Operationally, we need to always have the best technology, intelligence, planning, and training, as well as continually test those with Red Teaming to simulate enemy attacks and our readiness to counter with winning defensive and offensive operations. Moreover, we need to be on our guard in our thinking, as former Prime Minister Ehud Barak says in his book, My Country, My Life, that when he became head of Aman (Defense Intelligence), he sought to address the problem of misperceptions, overconfidence, and groupthink by strengthening “a unit whose sole function was to play devil’s advocate.” They would begin “with the opposite conclusion, and through a competing analysis of data and logical argument, try to prove it.”
Just as when we left Egyptian servitude, we defeated Amalek through a combination of our faith and fight, so too we will be successful in defeating those that threaten the modern State of Israel. Like Moses we all must turn to Hashem, and like Joshua, the Israel Defense Forces must stand ready to defeat all our enemies, as many times as it takes, to achieve a secure and lasting peace.
I was overjoyed this week when the IDF captured the sick murderer of Esther Horgan. Esther, a wife and mother of six children, was jogging in the forest near her settlement of Tal Menashe in Shomron, when the bloodthirsty Palestinian attacker in waiting came upon her and smashed her head in with a rock.
Thank G-d, now there are over 400,000 settlers in the West Bank and another 200,000 around East Jerusalem. Esther Horgan and her family represent the best of the Jewish people giving of themselves, and putting themselves at the front line, in order to fulfill G-d’s commandment to us to settle the land and safeguard the country for the rest of the Jewish people.
For two thousand years, the Jewish people exiled from their land, widely dispersed, and inhumanly persecuted among the nations developed passivity and learned helplessness. They eagerly awaited, year after year, G-d’s salvation and redemption. As a tiny minority attempting to hold firm to their religious beliefs amongst the world’s powerful majorities, the Jews found themselves a convenient scapegoat, suffering landlessness and joblessness, taxation to the point of near-starvation, conscription of their Jewish children for military service of 25-years, forced conversion on pain of torture and death, horrible violent pogroms that sparred no one, and expulsions from country after country. During these times, the Jewish people learned passivity in the hope of not inflaming the hate and anger of the goyim that would make things “even worse!”
Certainly, there is no mitzvah to being passive and helpless, and this was undoubtedly in large measure a result of being homeless and suffering under the weight of relentless and brutal anti-Semitism for 2,000 years. Yet, as we each roll up our sleeves to actively work and fight for the modern State of Israel, our independence, and our right to practice our religion freely, we must do so with full knowledge and thanksgiving to G-d, our creator and sustainer! Whether King David against the giant Goliath, Samson against the mighty Philistines, or our modern-day strong and brave soldiers in the IDF defending the borders of Israel from historical enemies’ roundabout, they stand strong against all the natural odds, because G-d stands right there with them and us.