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SHOFTIMWhat's The Difference One Tank or A Thousand?
When you go out to battle against your enemies, and see horses, and chariots, and a people more numerous than you, be not afraid of them; for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. (Devorim 20:1).
Ohr Yechezkel - Emunah, p. 14, by Rav Yechezkel Levenstein, Mashgiach of Ponevezh.
Rav Chatzkel, basing himself on this possuk, made a very emphatic statement: "A person has to realize and be aware that there is no independent law of nature in the whole of Creation. Everything that occurs is the will of Hashem Yisborach. 'Cause' has no fact in reality."
Avraham was informed that his wife Sarah, 90 years old at the time, was to give birth. Sarah overheard this and subconsciously laughed. Hashem said to Avraham, "Is any thing too hard for the Lord?" Just as Hashem created the world, so too does He have the ability to change nature at will. We say every morning in davening,åÌáÀèåÌáåÉ îÀçÇãÌÅùÑ áÌÀëÈì éåÉí úÌÈîÄéã îÇòÂùÒÅä áÀøÅàùÑÄéú. "Who in His goodness renews daily the act of Creation." This is our declaration that the universe has no reality in and of itself. (It is like a computer or TV screen. it is continuously renewing itself. Turn off the power and the screen goes blank.) Hashem continuously pours "life" into Creation, so it is very simple to understand that the world order can change any second. Why don't we see this happen? Because we are not worthy of a "miracle."
Pure emuna obligates a person to persevere under any circumstances. Chazal instruct us, "even if a razor-sharp sword is on your neck, do not give up on Divine Mercy" (Brachos 10a). One should always anticipate Heavenly intervention. The only difference is, that in such a life threatening situation it is crucial that one's prayer should be with fervor and total concentration.
"A tzaddik lives in his emuna." This means pure perfect emuna, with no limits or compromise. When one doesn't believe in Hakadosh Baruch Hu's ability to change the rules of nature, he automatically is restricting Hashem's ability. Thus his emuna is not really emuna. We have to know that Hashem is not limited one iota. He can create for an amputee a new leg or a new arm. It doesn't happen because we are not worthy of open miracles.
When you go out to battle against your enemies, and see horses, and chariots, and a people more numerous than you, be not afraid of them; for the Lord your God is with you…" (Devorim 20:1). (See Sota 42a) The possuk is giving us a vivid image of a small force of Jewish soldiers facing a massive army advancing towards them. By all the laws of nature they don't stand a chance. Nonetheless, the possuk tells them to be certain of victory and to have absolutely no fear. Rashi gives us an example of what should be the mindset of the Jewish soldier. The possuk in Hebrew reads: .ëÌÄé úÅöÅà ìÇîÌÄìÀçÈîÈä òÇì àÉéÀáÆéêÈ åÀøÈàÄéúÈ ñåÌñ åÈøÆëÆá Notice that the words "and see horses, and chariots" are written in the singular: "horse and chariot." Rashi comments that everyone should see them as just one horse and one chariot. "And you see… a people more numerous than you…" "In your eyes they are numerous, but in My eyes, they are not very many" (Rashi). This has to be the feeling of the soldier in battle. His enemy is merely one horse and one rider. Hashem is fighting the battle for him and in Hashem's eyes that's all that's there. "The enemy is coming with the victory of flesh and blood, whereas you come with the victory of the Omnipresent" (Rashi). To Hashem it doesn't make a difference if the enemy is 10,000 or 500,000. It's all the same.
Rav Chatzkel added that not only is there really no difference in which strategy you rely on, but the deliverance comes particularly when it appears that all hope is lost. "Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord rescues him out of them all" (Tehillim 34:20). Hashem's salvation comes specifically when it looks as if everything is going wrong and there's just no chance left. This world is full of tests. Therefore Hashem brings a person to the brink where he thinks that there is no hope. This is Hashem's way of testing how perfect his emuna is. When one stands up to the test, Hashem saves him at the last minute. That's the way it is with Hakadosh Baruch Hu. There's no difference between one minute and the next. It only takes a split second.
As long as we trust in natural causes and feel dependent upon them, our emuna is not up to par.
Imagine a person about to stand trial. The government has leveled against him severe accusations that bear the death penalty. Of course, he and his family spare no means or money in order to procure the services of the best defense attorneys. Yet, after all their efforts, these top lawyers could not clear him of the indictment, the prosecution gained the upper hand and the verdict was handed down - the death penalty.
It is clear that they are severely distressed. But they cannot give up. This is not the time for despondency. They appeal to the Supreme Court.
In preparation for the new trial, more lawyers are hired and a fortune of money is invested in order to rescue him from this terrible conviction. In the end, however, the prosecution retains their upper hand and the verdict remains intact - the death penalty!
The situation is really serious now. The outlook is bleak. But there is still hope that they can arrange a special pardon from the King himself.
People of high stature are enlisted to try to persuade the King. The palace is inundated with letters describing the poverty of the poor family, the future of his delicate children, his sick wife, his elderly parents, and on and on, each with different descriptions that hopefully would arouse the King's compassion.
Side by side with the request for clemency, much pressure is put on the government. They enlist everyone they know, relative or friend, far and near, who has some influence with the government bureaucracy. They are asked to use every means at their disposal, all their influential status, and do everything possible to save the condemned man.
But alas, everything fails. The verdict remains. Everyone comes back from the battlefront with fallen spirits as the convict is transported to the special prison ward called "death row" to await the day when the sentence would be carried out.
At this point you would think that it was totally unimaginable to have any optimism. However, a few close friends still hold on to their hope that some miracle will happen. This improbability, however, fades and disappears as the date for execution draws closer and closer.
Finally, the dreaded day arrives. The captain in charge of execution enters the cell and takes the convict to the execution room. The sword is taken from its scathe. He checks it and it is satisfactorily sharp. He hands it to the executioner who lays it on the neck of his victim as he positions himself for the final blow. Until now perhaps it was still possible to puff on a few weak embers of hope - maybe, maybe, perhaps a miracle would happen. But now with the sword already in place on his neck, all sharpened and prepared - there is nothing else to do but to cut off his head. There is nothing in the world upon which to rely.
This is the very situation that Chazal urged us: "Even when a sharpened sword is placed on your neck, do not give up on Divine Mercy." No matter what, daven to Hashem and trust in His redemption.
Rav Yaakov Emden, the Yaavetz, in his biography of his father the Chacham Tzvi, Rav Tzvi Hirsh Ashkenazi (end of chap. 1), writes the following incident, which occurred to his grandfather R. Yaakov in the terrible pogroms of ú"ç (1648).
A group of Jews were brought to the site to be murdered, his grandfather among them. The murderers took out one after the other and slaughtered them by the sword. When the turn came for the Chacham Tzvi's grandfather, HaKadosh Baruch Hu softened the murderer's heart and sudden feelings of compassion surged within him. He looked at him and said, "You're so young.…" He turned the sword around and hit him with the handle, and threw him on the pile of bodies. Then he continued slaughtering the rest of the Jews.
The Jews who were hiding nearby saw the boy being hit but didn't realize that he had merely been hit by the handle. They were sure that he was dead like the rest. When darkness fell the boy crawled out from under the pile of bodies and hid until he was sure it was safe and then returned home.
© Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
Yeshiva Shaare Chaim.
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers) and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop - Lakewood).
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