A Serious Thought for a Serious Day

This year the Fast of the Seventeenth of Tamuz fell on Shabbat (Sabbath), so it was delayed until today, Sunday. There are five reasons for this day of fasting, one of them being the breaching of the walls of Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) by the Romans in the year 70 as a prelude to the destruction of the Temple and the Holy City.

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Often I hear people asking: hasn’t the time come to stop fasting? After all, with the establishment of the state of Israel, doesn't that negate the relevance of the wall being breached 1945 years ago?

My simple answer is that the difference in those days between a city with a wall and a city without was the objective fact and subjective feeling of being secure behind massive defensive walls. Breaching the walls is symbolic of tearing away the veil of security and instilling in its place a barely veiled threat of danger. Has this shadow of danger passed from us? The question really is: do we walk the streets and valleys of our land with total security? Do we walk in the narrow alley-ways of every quarter of the Old City with nary a care for our personal security?

There is still a degree of that feeling of insecurity in Israel: you may be shot at on the way home from playing basketball, or after taking a dip in a fresh-water spring, or be stoned while driving with your kids in the car, or run over while waiting for a bus. It doesn't happen often – but even once is too much and causes a feeling of a breach in the wall of safety.

What is to be done? How do we rebuild the secure and safe feeling - as well as reality - that a wall once represented?

The weekly portion read from the Torah yesterday was the story of how Balak, king of Moav, invited the famous spiritual (but evil) prophet Bilam, to curse the people of Israel. Balak apparently didn't know – or didn't care – that the people of Israel had been expressly forbidden by God to make war on Moav. Regardless of that he sought to harm the Jews by having them cursed by Bilam. However, in the end Bilam was forced by God not only to not curse the Jews – but even to bless them, to the point that an exasperated Balak sent him off, preferring to give up on trying to have them cursed since that was only causing them to be blessed even more.

The answer is there, in the meeting this year between the Seventeenth of Tamuz and the story of Balak and Bilam. The goal of Balak was to bring a curse on the heads of Jews. What caused him to desist? When he realized that the more he tried to have them cursed - the more he was getting the opposite result: they were being blessed.

We have to ask ourselves: What is the goal of these terrorists in our land? The answer is not only to kill some Jews, but to cause all Jews to be so afraid - that we will flee our homeland. The solution is to see to it that every attempt to divide us from our homeland will bring about a strengthened bond, every attempt to lessen Jewish presence in our land will being about more Jewish presence. For every terrorist attack - new houses and apartment buildings should be built, exactly where the most pressure is being brought against the Jewish state to separate us from the heartland of our homeland - in Judea and Samaria. That way the opposite of the terrorists' goals will be achieved. The land will be built, affordable housing will be become available, and the terrorists will stop because their actions only trigger an opposite outcome from what the one they want. That way we'll turn a curse into a blessing.
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