The fate of those who attack Israel

Bees die after they sting and this is the metaphor used in the midrash for Israel's enemies.

Professor Gerald Aranoff,

Judaism Prof. G. Aranoff
Prof. G. Aranoff

Syria is suffering 5 years of civil war. Reportedly 470,000 people killed, 11.5% of the population injured, 45% made homeless, 4 million refugees and 6.36 million internally displaced. God smote the Egyptians on the night of Passover. The Bible records the response of Pharaoh---the immediate freeing of the Israelites: “He summoned Moses and Aaron in the night and said, “Up, depart from among my people, you and the Israelites with you!” (Exodus 12:31).

What is the response of God punishing Syria, now 5 years of intense civil war? Alas, Sunday news item: Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Al-Mekdad told Lebanon's al-Mayadeen that his regime will "retake the Golan Heights by any means necessary, including using military force."

The Zohar relates that on the night of Passover, during the 10th plague, while God was smiting the firstborn, Egyptians were killing each other, seemingly much as in Syria today. The firstborns were killing whomsoever they could lay hands on.  Pharaoh himself was also killing whomever he could lay his hands on!

Soncino Zohar Shemoth 45a-b:

“Mark the wondrous punishment that overtook the enemies of Israel. On the night of the Exodus there were three slayings in Egypt. First, the firstborn killed whomsoever they could lay hands on; then, the Holy One executed His judgement at midnight; and, lastly, Pharaoh, on seeing the havoc wrought upon his own household, himself arose and with bitterness and fury smote those princes and nobles who had advised him to persecute Israel. He rose up at midnight; yea, even at the hour and moment when the Holy One Himself began His judgement “And Pharaoh arose in the night, with all his courtiers and all the Egyptians—because there was a loud cry in Egypt; for there was no house where there was not someone dead” (Exodus 12:30). Did Pharaoh likewise rise up in wrath, and kill his officers and nobles, just as a dog, if hit with a stone, goes and bites another dog. Having done this, Pharaoh roamed through the market-places crying, “He summoned Moses and Aaron in the night and said, Up, depart from among my people, you and the Israelites with you! Go, worship the Lord as you said!” (Ib. 31). And in fear he added, Take also your flocks and your herds, as you said, and be gone! And may you bring a blessing upon me also!” (Ib. 32). As if to say, let me live. Then, so eager was he to be rid of them that he himself accompanied them, as it says, “Now when Pharaoh let the people go” (Ib. 13:17).”

Civil War

A civil war erupted in Egypt with firstborns banning together to fight the evil Pharaoh. In the midrash, the Egyptians knew well of the coming of the 10th plague, the plague of the firstborns.

The Midrash on Psalms (136.6):

“As He let loose upon Egypt the plague of the firstborn, the Holy One, blessed be He, said Toward midnight I will go forth among the Egyptians, and every first-born in the land of Egypt shall die, The firstborn of Egypt came in and said to their fathers: `All things that Moses promised, he has brought upon us.  And so, if you wish us to remain alive, go to and fetch forth the Hebrews out of our midst.  For if you do not fetch them forth, we shall die.!’ The fathers replied, saying: `Even  if all the Egyptians should die, the Hebrews shall not go hence.’ What did the firstborns do then? All the firstborns went in to Pharaoh and cried out to Pharaoh saying:  `We beseech thee, O Pharaoh! Fetch forth this people on whose account evil will come upon us and upon thee also.’ But Pharaoh said to his servants:  `Go to, and beat these person until they are humpbacked.’ What did the   firstborns do then?  They went out at once, and each of them took his sword, and slew his father, for it is said “Who struck Egypt through their first-born”(Psalms 136:10).  Scripture does not say here, `To Him that smote the firstborn of Egypt,’ but says Who struck Egypt through their first-born.”

Tosephot Shabbath 87b states:

“Thus Wednesday they slaughtered their Paschal lambs.  We find they went to take their Pascal lambs on the Sabbath for then was the 10th of the month.  For this reason it is called Shabbat Hagadol for a big miracle happened as related in the midrash. That Shabbat they took their Paschal lambs.  Firstborns of the nations gathered, approached Israel and asked them [Israelites] why are you doing this? They replied these are our Paschal offerings to God, for God will kill the firstborns of Egypt.  They [the firstborns] went to their fathers and to Pharaoh to  seek from him [Pharaoh] to send forth Israel. They [Pharaoh and his army] refused. They [the firstborn] killed many of them [Pharaoh’s army], as is written “Who struck Egypt through their first-born”(Psalms 136:10).”

The night of the Seder

We are commanded to tell over the miracles God did for us at the seder. We say the full hallel which contain these powerful blessings:

 “All nations have beset me [סבבוני]; by the name of the Lord I will surely cut them down. They beset me, they surround me; by the name of the Lord I will surely cut them down. They have beset [סבוני] me like bees; they shall be extinguished like burning thorns; by the name of the Lord I will surely cut them down.” (Psalms 118:10-12).

The blessing here is that bees that attack die when they attack. The suicide bomber and the evil terrorist with a knife should die when they attack.  The Amorites that chased and attacked us died.

Numbers Rabbah 17:3:

“Then the Amorites who lived in those hills came out against you like so many bees and chased you, and they crushed you at Hormah in Seir” (Deuteronomy 1:44). What is implied by the expression like so many bees? As a bee, once having stung a person, immediately dies, so in your case also, when any of the Amorites touched you his soul immediately departed.”

The Zohar (Toldoth 146b) states that Psalms 118:10-12 have 3 powerful blessings:

“Here we have three times the words “compass me about” סבבוני, , corresponding to the three remaining benedictions: his father's first blessing, then God's blessing, and thirdly the blessing of the angel. Jacob said: “Those blessings will be needed at that time for use against all those kings and nations: I shall therefore reserve them for that time, but now to cope with Esau this blessing will suffice me.” He was like a king who had at his disposal a numerous and powerful army with skilled leaders, able and ready to engage in warfare with the most powerful adversary.”

In Israel, we’re the start-up nation with a strong economy, prosperous, building homes and infrastructure, growing and absorbing large numbers of new olim. We have God;s blessings in fighting our determined and wicked enemies. God does miracles for us by making our enemies kill each other.  We pray speedily for the day when all the world will proclaim: “And the Lord shall be king over all the earth; in that day there shall be one Lord with one name” (Zachariah 14:9 ).