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Sunday, 10 August, 2014 - 8:08 am

During the first Gulf War in 1991 a reporter asked General Schwarzkopf, who commanded the US troops in that war, what was his opinion about forgiving terrorists. Is it our prerogative to forgive terrorists? His answer was: It’s G-d job to forgive terrorists, not ours. Our job is to arrange the meeting!

After 10 days as Israel enters Gaza to fight the terrorists, the one guarantee is that Israel will get most of the blame. Already the demands from the United Nations and even the US government that Israel show “restraint” are as predictable as Hamas rockets.

No matter how self-evident the justice of Israel’s cause may be; no matter how extraordinary their commitment to raising the standard of the rules of engagement and preserving innocent life; no matter how wicked, utterly cynical, and murderous the depraved leadership of Hamas demonstrate themselves to be; the criticism will never go away.


We have now entered the annual three-week mourning period, in which we reflect on the destruction of the Holy Temple, exactly 1944 years ago (70 CE—2014 CE), and our launch into a still-ongoing Exile. The fast of the 17th of Tammuz, the day the walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Roman legions, and reach their climax with the fast of the 9th of Av, the date when both Holy Temples were set aflame. This is the saddest day of the Jewish calendar.

But why is it necessary to mourn for three whole weeks?

The three weeks are not to remember the past, but to build the future.

Do we create peace with our enemies through military might or negotiations?

An intriguing Midrash relates a small episode that transpired during the genesis of the universe which captures the calamity represented by the third week‫.

On the first Tuesday of creation, the Bible reports, the earth and all that it contains emerged. Yet, when the trees observed iron, the trees began to shudder at the prospect of being felled by metal ax blades.

Upon hearing their laments, the iron retorted: "Why are you trembling? As long as you don't provide the wood for the axes' handles, you will remain immune from harm."

This exchange between the iron and the trees is, obviously, to be understood metaphorically. The symbolism is moving and it tells us of a great and painful truth about our history:

All the iron in the world may scheme to destroy us, but as long as there is not a single tree who gives it a piece of itself to use as a “handle” in its war against the Jews, the iron will never succeed to fell the tree. It is only when a tree grants assistance to the enemy, that the iron can destroy it.

This has sadly occurred over and over again during our journey. Go back to every war against the Jews and you will usually find direct or indirect assistance coming from our own people.

The destruction of the Second Temple was done by the Romans. But who brought in General Pompey to Judea in the first place? It was the civil war between two Jewish brothers, the Hasmonean brothers—Yochanan Hyrkanus and Aristobulus fighting for their father’s throne.

During the Middle Ages, During the persecutions of the Jews in the Soviet Union was passionately led by the Yevsketzeye, the Jewish sector of the Communist party. And some of the worst blood libels against Israel come from self-hating Jews. It was not an Arab, but a Jew—Richard Goldstone—who compiled the report for the “saints” of the Unites Nations to demonstrate that Israel committed war crimes during its 2009 war against Hamas in Gaza to put a stop to the launching of 10,000 missiles against Israeli civilians.

There were two brothers who had neighboring farms on a mountain. One brother was childless and wealthy. The other had many children yet was poor. They both grew wheat on their adjacent farms. During the harvest season, after they had bundled their wheat into sheaves, the wealthy brother thought to himself, "What do I need so much wheat for? My brother has more bills to pay, and more hungry mouths to feed. Yet I know he won’t accept my charity. I'll sneak some of my wheat to his farm."

Meanwhile, the brother with many children said to himself, "My brother has no children. He gives so much charity with his money. I'll give him some of my wheat. He'll have more money to give. That will make him so happy." Each brother would set out each night, dragging sheaves of wheat to each other's farm.

One night, they bumped into each other at the border of their properties. When they each realized what the other was doing, they laughed, put down their wheat, and fell into a brotherly embrace.

And that is the place where the Bet HaMikdash, the Holy Temple, was built, on the Mountain top in Jerusalem.

With our unity and caring for each other may Hashem grant us again peace happiness and prosperity.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky

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