Judaism: Elul, the Days of Awe, and John Kerry
Dr. Phlip BrodieThe author worked at the University of Pittsburgh where he received his doctorate. He made aliya recently with his wife and lives in Maaleh Adumim.
Some days, it's tough to turn on the computer in the morning. The news is that bad.
For example, convicted murderers have been released from Israeli prison as a ‘peace gesture’. The Wall Street Journal asks, why does setting murderers free bring peace? Does it make them stop hating Jews?
Israel has privately told US Secretary of State John Kerry that it will issue new construction tenders for areas not affected by peace talks. Mr Kerry accepted that explanation. But when Israel made that decision public, Kerry joined the world’s condemnations by declaring that all construction in those areas is illegitimate.
He betrays Israel.
The European Union (EU) wants a Palestinian state along 1949 armistice lines. It calls Israel, ‘occupier’—and announces it will boycott all Jewish businesses and institutions across those lines. But the argument underlying their boycott is bogus. Those armistice lines were never intended to be borders.
The EU bears false witness against Israel.
It is not coincidence that these anti-Israel stories began around Tisha B’Av (July 16, 2013) and continue well into the Jewish month Elul, which began this year on August 7.
Elul is unique. It helps Jews prepare for the Days of Awe. The Days of Awe begin on the Jewish New Year (this year, September 5). They end on the Day of Atonement, ten days later.
These Days of Awe are filled with fear of Heaven. This is when G-d decides our fate for the new year. It is the moment of Heavenly Judgment.
Elul reminds us that Judgment comes. It is a month when our Father the King leaves His Palace and goes out ‘into the field’. He beckons us to Him. He wants us to come to Him before that Judgment begins.
During Elul, we say special prayers. We add Psalm 27, where we read about enemies surrounding us, war coming to us and G-d helping us.
These prayers—and Elul’s emphasis on recognizing the Power of G-d—create a context for these anti-Israel news stories. The context is, G-d is the ruler, not John Kerry or Mahmoud Abbas.
We note this context because two weeks ago US Secretary of State Kerry warned Israel that it must sign a ‘peace’ agreement with Abbas. Kerry has been told that such an agreement would create Auschwitz borders for Israel. But he ignores that. He ignores Abbas’ racist calls for a Jew-free Palestine. Instead, he demands that Israel sign off on the agreement.
Then he warned that if Israel does not accept this arrangement, Israel will be subjected to world-wide isolation "on steroids".
That warning sounded ominous. It sounded like extortion.
During this Elul:
We see men rise to bear false witness against Israel (Psalm 27).
We see men (the released prisoners) chafe to breathe violence against Israel (ibid).
We see evildoers exalt themselves (Psalm 94:4, from the Ramban’s comments on Devorim, 21:14 in the weekly Torah portion for August 17, 2013).
Elul reminds us that the troubles we see in the news have been foretold (Psalm 27). They’re a pre-recorded message. They come from our Tanach (Jewish Bible).
We have known for more than 3,000 years that the day will come when the nations will hate Israel, conspire to harm Israel and plot to destroy Israel. This is what we see now—exactly as foretold.
This is the context for today’s news. It is the context of Jewish Destiny.
In Elul, we are reminded that G-d watches. He records. He prepares an accounting. He prepares for the Days of Awe when He Judges us--measure-for-measure.
The Master of the Universe Judges everyone. Individuals will be punished, measure-for-measure. Nations will be punished, measure-for-measure.
It’s a simple concept. For the nations, it means that every evil committed against Jews during the last 3,000 years will be accounted for. Every act of hate, every false accusation and every murder accumulates as testimony before G-d’s Judgment.
The nations will pay a price for their evil. As some have said, what goes around comes around; that is, what you have done to others will now come to you, measure-for-measure.
This punishment will not be spread out over the next 3,000 years (to equal the evils committed during the last 3,000 years). The punishment will be compressed. The Heavenly Judgment for 3,000 years of evil will unfold over months or weeks, not centuries.
Here’s some advice: you don't want to be punished in any compressed way for every sin you have ever committed. You couldn’t bear the weight of it.
When we compare this month’s anti-Israel stories to Elul’s special prayers and readings, we realize that Edom (the West) and Yishmael (the Arab) are destined to be judged. Their account of sins will be settled. They will pay for all the killings, lies and betrayals they have ever plotted and committed against Israel.
For them, that judgment will be Days of Awe "on steroids".