Sunday, 30 July 2017

A Prophecy for our time: Do not Surrender Jerusalem

The following talks (Simchas Torah 1976) in the wake of the interim agreement between Israel and Egypt were signed under coercion from the USA on 25th Elul 1975 (1.9.1975). Israel surrendered to Egypt the Abu Rhodes oil fields and retreated from territories vital to her security. As reward, the USA gave Israel fighter jets and money. The Rebbe stormed with his warning that Egypt will not adhere to the agreement, exactly as they reneged with the cease-fire signed in 1970, publicizing that for every jet and dollar received from the USA, they contribute to the Arab world three times as much!  

In the times of the Prophet Isaiah, King Sennacherib of Assyria initiated war against Israel. Sennacherib conquered the entire land of Israel reaching the gates of Jerusalem. As Sennacherib was encircling Jerusalem to conquer her, he sent messengers into the city to sign a peace treaty under certain conditions. One of these was the surrender of Jerusalem. Shebna, a member of the Sanhedrin argued that since it was clear that Sennacherib would overwhelm them, Israel should submit in order to attain peace with him.

Ancient prophecies of Isaiah
King Hezikiah argued that it is forbidden to submit as commanded by Isaiah the prophet in the name of G-d. The community within Jerusalem was split into two camps: Shebna and his supporters, and King Hezikiah and his supporters. 

Isaiah the Prophet turned to Hezikiah, regardless that Shebna was a member of the Sanhedrin and that he and his supporters were the majority against Hezikiah and his followers, (one must follow the majority) telling him: “Do not join forces with them because all of their representations are no more than a pack of the rebellious” [Isaiah 8.12]. Do not connect to their views and do not sign the peace agreement because a pact with Sennacherib is a pact with the wicked. 

Isaiah said to King Hezikiah: “Do not fear them and do not be overwhelmed by them. He commanded him to tell all of Israel not to fear Sennacherib, but to the contrary, stand strong and do not hand over Jerusalem. Finally Hezikiah was saved from Sennacherib. Shebna on the other hand and his supporters were punished. 

This event recorded in the Tanach is vital for our time! At first glance it seems inexplicable. The Torah does not speak disparagingly even of an unclean animal, and certainly should not do so of Shebna who was a Torah giant, a member of the Sanhedrin of the Temple precinct. How could the Torah malign him, publicizing the fact that he spoke against a command of G-d through the Prophet Isaiah? 

The explanation is as follows: This event bears relevance to future generations required by Halacha.  [Megilah 14.1] A prophecy not needed for generations to come was not recorded. Therefore it is obligatory to recount in T’nach and the Talmud the entire episode for future generations to learn the message. 

The practical law which we need to extract from our story is that even though prophecy in our time remains idle and we do not have guidance from Isaiah the Prophet as did Hezkiah, nevertheless today there are Rabbis - and the Talmud deems Rabbis to be the kings – who lay down the law that it is forbidden to relinquish the territories. It is imperative to abide by their ruling of Jewish Law.

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