Just as we thought we were emerging from the Covid pandemic and started feeling the bite of steep inflation, months of intelligence warnings we did not want to believe have now culminated in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, plunging the entire world into deep crisis and thick gloom.
Personally, I am not too fazed by the threats of imminent nuclear war, because I remember my Bar Mitzva day in October 1962, when fist-thumping Nikita Khrushchev had placed Russian missiles in Cuba facing the U.S.A. and JFK was ready to go to war if they were not removed immediately. We all feared we would be obliterated within days, yet Khrushchev backed down, and here I am, still alive, nearly 60 years and numerous crises later!
Nevertheless, the present threat of serious escalation, with more bloodshed, death and destruction, is all too real, and even if some kind of calm is restored in the near future, there seems to be little hope that the pain, rage, mutual hostility and deep divisions across the world can be healed anytime soon.
The pain of war
All decent people have a revulsion for war, violence and bloodshed, none more than the Jewish people, whose ancient greeting until today is “Shalom” – peace – and whose every prayer day by day concludes with a request for peace. Not only are many of our fellow Jews in Ukraine, Belarus and elsewhere in dire distress, many of them refugees in flight. Moreover, we are taught that God weeps for all His creatures when they are suffering. Likewise, the prophets of Israel mourn over the chastisements that befall the nations of the world (Rashi on Isaiah 15:5). Yet we must not allow our emotions to sway our perceptions: some people’s knee-jerk equation of “hero” Zelensky and Ukraine vs. “deranged” Putin and Russia with David and Goliath, good against evil, is overly simplistic.
The situation can only begin to be understood in the light of many centuries of history up to events in the recent past that most people have forgotten (such as the repeated occupation of Ukraine by Poland, czarist and communist Russia, Germany, etc. time after time; the bloody pogroms and persecutions of Jews again and again, corrupt exploitation of Ukrainian resources after the fall of communism to enrich billionaires, the scandals surrounding Burisma, etc. etc.)
Students of Torah seek to find God’s wisdom within each and every detail of creation and all events and developments. Is Vladimir Putin entirely to blame for the present war? Powerful individuals can certainly change the course of history, as we see in cases like Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar and others. Yet our prophets teach that such leaders are nothing but God’s agents, the rod with which He chastises the wicked nations, and that the crazy ambitions and maniacal impulses that eventually lead to their downfall are sent into them from on high. The question of how humans can have free will yet God ultimately controls all our actions is an unanswerable philosophical conundrum the solution to which cannot be revealed as long as we are in this finite world (Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Teshuvah chapter 5; Rabbi Nachman, Likutey Moharan I:64).
The Almighty is in complete control
Though we may not know the answer to this question, it is our faith, our Emunah, that in spite of the endless apparent diversity and complexity of creation and of ever-shifting human events, God is ultimately in complete control on all sides – as if we are all live puppets playing out His story on the stage of history.
Clearly the question we ask is: What’s going to happen? How will it affect us? Are all these cataclysmic events a sign of imminent redemption with the coming of Mashiach???
In dire times like the present, as at the time of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, the massacres of hundreds of thousands of Jews in the 1648-49 Cossack-Polish War and the Holocaust and others, it is natural for people to see signs portending the coming of Mashiach, even clutching at straws as they fight against despair over his coming.
But in the words of the classic Yiddish saying: Ver zogt, veisst nisht; ver veisst, zogt nisht, “He who says does not know; he who knows does not say.”
In my case not only can I not say, but also I do not know, nor do I have the faintest idea when Mashiach will actually appear. The saying of the rabbis that Mashiach comes only when no one is paying attention (Sanhedrin 97a) gives me hope that he could come at any time. I do wonder how low things would need to descend, God forbid, for him to have to appear – like Moses in Egypt – to save the day. Yet of far greater immediate concern should be what we must do to face up to today’s challenges
New World Order
It can no longer be discounted as a mere “conspiracy theory” that a powerful elite of exceptionally wealthy and influential families and their proteges are systematically working to establish what they call the New World Order in which the entire globe will be under the control of single world government. Their official (as opposed to covert) goals are set forth openly in a readily available document about the so-called “Agenda 2030” which has been officially adopted by the so-called “United” Nations.
From the Torah point of view this can only be described as a war against God intended to erase traditional faith and values from the world and cancel the pursuit of Torah by both Jews in their way and Noahides in theirs. Indeed, faith and the service of the supreme God are not mentioned in the entire document. With the purported goal of “re-educating” humanity for a sustainable future (where only the elite are allowed to consume meat and fly around in gas-guzzling private jets, etc.), the raising and education of the children of the masses are to be taken from the hands of their parents and traditional schools and placed entirely in those of state-supervised institutions (as in present-day communist China and N. Korea).
One of the main organizations promoting this agenda is the World Economic Forum, whose executive chairman, a very well-fed German by the name of Klaus Schwab, has been recorded on video boasting that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Turdeau (who has distinguished himself recently as a tyrannical dictator) as well as half his cabinet are graduates of W.E.F. leadership programs, together with top members of the governments of Argentina and other countries. This is what is publicly revealed.
Globalism vs Nationalism
Despite the narrative in the mainstream media that the war in Ukraine is an entirely unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russia on an innocent nation, several “alternative” commentators have brought abundant evidence that the conflict has been building up since the early 1990’s when Ukraine broke away from the former Soviet Union and turned to the European Union, NATO and the USA. The latter are well meshed in with the New World Order (as was publicly stated by President George Bush senior at the time of the 1991 Gulf War). George Soros has pumped enormous funding into Ukraine promoting LGBT and other such causes. In contrast to the countries of the west, Russia remains a largely nationalistic and traditionalist country. This means that the wider context of the present conflict is the long-term war of Globalism vs. Nationalism.
There can be no greater threat to Jews and Judaism, as indeed to all people of Faith, than this war against national and traditional cultural identity. Several generations of secularized Jews who have strayed further and further from traditional belief and observance pose no threat to the globalists, and indeed are often their loyal supporters. The true target of the globalists – who in Israel have penetrated the highest echelons of the government, the judiciary and the police – can be seen in secularist Israel’s relentless war against those Jews who remain firmly attached to the Torah and national tradition in their various different ways, be they the dark-coated Haredim who oppose the secular government, or the disparaged settlers and idealist “Hilltop youth” who despite everything still dream of the Greater, i.e., Biblical Israel. The present secular government of Israel are doing all in their power to undermine traditional Torah education, while cutting into the pockets of Torah-observant families through ruthless slashes in allowances at a time of steep inflation. At the same time they are “reforming” the rabbinate and kashrut authorities, while importing thousands of Ukrainian refugees who according to the Halachah are simply not Jewish and who tare most unlikely to favor an Israel ruled by Torah.
People who not only have faith but who actually live their faith are a thorn in the side of the globalists, because they bow only to the Supreme God and accept only His authority and that of His true sages. None are more universal in their goals and aspirations than the Jews, as can be seen in all the prophets, who look forward to the day when all the world will know the God of Israel. But the stubborn devotion of Torah-observant Jews to every nuance of the Divine Writ as explained by our sages evokes the same rage and anger in the secularists and globalists as did Mordechai’s refusal to bow to the supremely arrogant Haman.
Repeated incidents evidencing the war against faith have been seen increasingly in recent times both in Israel and throughout the world, as exemplified in the responses of many governments to the Corona pandemic and other cases of literal persecution, such as the arrest of a lawmaker in Finland for “hate speech” for tweeting that the Bible forbids homosexual marriage and the freezing of bank, credit cards and PayPal accounts of faith-based organizations in Canada.
Ironically, it could be suggested that Putin’s Russian expansionism should serve as an example for the true nationalist Torah Israel of the future, who have perfect moral and legal justification for swiftly destroying the terrorists of Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, etc. etc. etc. all of whom have proved to be far greater existential threats to Israel than Ukraine has ever been to Russia. We may need to leave that one to Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David?!?
Protecting ourselves and our children
Our immediate task is to protect our minds and souls and those of our children and dear ones from being poisoned and corrupted by the aggressive secularism that is rampant today in Israel and in countries around the world. This adds greater significance to our service on the coming festivals of Purim and Pesach, when we celebrate our deliverance from physical annihilation and slavery, and also – more importantly – our deliverance from spiritual slavery and destruction.
On these festivals, and even every day we must reaffirm our commitment to the Torah and her true sages as our sole authority in matters of faith, belief and religious practice. We need to separate ourselves from the raging secularism that invades our very phones and computers 24/7. At the very least we must close them on Shabbat and take times away from them during the week for opening our hearts before God, contemplating His glory and the might of His works. This glory is all around us – from the skies above down to the humblest weed in the most unlikely of places or a tiny ant.
The daily set prayers of the Siddur and our blessings over food and at other junctures throughout each day serve to lift us above the mundane grind to attach ourselves to God, thus steadily priming and infusing our consciousness with the awareness of the Divine. Our daily Torah studies in Torah, NaKh, Mishnah, Halachah, Talmud, Midrash, Chassidut, Kabbalah etc., deepen our knowledge and understanding, further enhancing our connection with God.
The ultimate Redemption necessarily takes place in This World, the material world as governed by the laws of nature as we know them. Its climax is the ingathering of all the exiles of Israel – which includes the Ten “Lost” Tribes – to the Holy Land and the building of the actual, physical Third Temple as prophesied in Ezekiel (chapters 40ff).
But the process of Redemption must necessarily begin in people’s hearts with a movement of deeper self-understanding and self-reckoning, regret, contrition, refining one’s traits and behavior, cultivating practical kindness to others and taking responsibility for that which is within one’s power to change, even if all we can do is to pray.
Surrounded on all sides by ideological and psychological assaults of the most subtle kinds, we must strive to maintain a clear head and think critically for ourselves, and teach our children and students to do the same. We need to cleanse our minds of the accumulated chametz of secularism and profanity that have invaded our lives on all sides.
With Torah we have no need for the proposed reeducation offered by the World Economic Forum and their co-workers. As Daniel’s companions, Hananyah, Mishael and Azariah, hinted to Nebuchadnezzar when they refused to prostrate to his idol even at the cost of their lives: “When it comes to taxes you may be the king, but when it comes to matters of FAITH, you and a dog are equal in our eyes” (Midrash).
I wish you a good and blessed month of Adar II and a very Happy Purim
Shalom from Yerushalayim
Avraham ben Yaakov
Jerusalem 1 Adar II 5782 / March 4 ‘22