Op-Ed: Another State Visit
Levi ChazenLevi Chazen is the Director of the English Division of Yeshivat HaRa´ayon HaYehudi in Jerusalem. He has been working tirelessly over the years in the yeshiva´s many charitable projects in Jerusalem and nationally.
The excitement was in the air, the city had just received a brand new coat of paint, and the streets were newly paved - all in honor of the head of state. Undoubtedly, he was the most powerful man in the world. The foreign flags flew proudly throughout the holy city of Jerusalem.
No, this is not about the visit of President Obama to Israel 2103; rather, this is about the visit of the most powerful head of state at that time, which took place some 3,000 years earlier.
It was early spring when King Hezekiah of Judea became deathly sick. The Book of Kings tells us: "In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz, went to him and said, 'This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.' But this harsh prophecy was not fulfilled, for G-d the Merciful, saw that King Hezekiah would return to Him with all his heart, so He add 15 years to Hezekiah's life."
It was then that King Hezekiah asked the prophet for a sign that he would recover. Hezekiah asked Isaiah, “What will be the sign that the Lord will heal me and that I will go up to the Temple of the Lord on the third day from now?” The sign was given to King Hezekiah, the sun would miraculously stop for a few hours…and so it came to be. The sun stood still, and King Hezekiah was healed.
Far away from Jerusalem in the mighty city of Babylon, this miracle did not go unnoticed. "At that time Marduk-Baladan, son of Baladan king of Babylon, sent Hezekiah letters and a gift, because he had heard of Hezekiah’s illness. Hezekiah received the envoys and showed them all that was in his storehouses - the silver, the gold, the spices and the fine olive oil - his armory and everything found among his treasures. There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them."
Hezekiah was so overwhelmed that the great king of Babylon had noticed and honored him, that he went overboard and received the envoys and ambassador of Babylon with great honor. All the government officials met them at the seaport, the red carpet was laid out and the Jerusalem band played all the fine tunes of Babylon. Nothing was spared; all the gates were open before them, the Temple treasures, with the highlight being, of course, a tour of the Holy of Holies - the innermost chamber of the Temple.
This excessive flattering of the foreign king did not go unnoticed by the L-rd, and He sent His prophet to rebuke the King: "Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah and asked, 'What did those men say, and where did they come from?' 'From a distant land,' Hezekiah replied. 'They came from Babylon.' The prophet asked, 'What did they see in your palace?' 'They saw everything in my palace,' Hezekiah said. 'There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them.' Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, 'Hear the word of the L-rd: The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the L-rd. And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.'”
Years later, long after King Hezekiah passed on, this harsh prophecy was unfortunately fulfilled, ending 410 years of the Temple service, and over 800 years of a Jewish presence in the Land of Israel. The Jewish people were led to exile, into the very same country, Babylon - from whence they came years earlier to honor the Jewish King.
Why did all this misfortune befall the Jewish people? All because the Jewish King of Judea literally fell before the foreign powers and went overboard with flattery, which borders on profaning G-d's Great Name. Trusting in man and not in G-d!
That envoy of Babylon would return one day to the Land of Israel; years later he came to destroy the Holy Temple. His name was Nebuchadnezzar.
And Barack Obama?