By Yochanan Gordon
The Baal Shem Tov once said that he had an answer for every question and a subsequent question that could rebut his initial answer.
Back to that in a little bit.
The current war between Israel and Hamas is not just being fought on the battlefield, but just as much in the media and in the court of public opinion.
In fact, the uptick in anti-Semitism as a result of this war is solely on the inability of the media to present this as a war between good and evil. In a speech given at the Boca Raton Synagogue this past week, conservative commentator and media mogul Ben Shapiro said that everyone with a smart phone is an activist. He explained that the western media is not looking at this as a contest between good and evil, rather between oppressor and oppressed. He said in the west today anyone who is successful is seen as the oppressor versus the unsuccessful, who are oppressed, and it is in those terms that this conflict is being viewed.
We often view the news as a form of entertainment or commentary to what is going on in the world at any given time. The reality is that the average person is receiving updates all day from a plethora of channels, some of which they pass on to others and others that do not get forwarded. Forwarding a message can be seen as a benign act, since it’s something that we all do instinctively. However, depending on the circumstances, a tweet, comment, or forwarded message can be impactful depending on the number of people who see that message and their sphere of influence in the event that they decide to retweet or pass on that message.
I mention this here because the nature of the media war is such that whether or not something reported actually took place or not is sadly immaterial. The news doesn’t care about the truth. In fact, the nature of this foe is to disseminate reports that make Israel look as barbaric and indiscriminate in their manner of fighting as possible, so the advocates of the poor Palestinian victims make a loud enough commotion to turn global support away from Israel.
Just the other day, Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, was quoted as saying that it’s a fact that Hamas has won the war. That is the most ridiculous thing that anyone following this conflict can say. But he floated it out there for anyone interested in listening to it.
Remember the hospital strike from the IDF that supposedly killed 500 Palestinians? They reported the number of casualties faster than they could count to 500, let alone sift through the singed bodies and begin the lengthy process of determining how many died and where the fire came from. If you’ll recall, even after the IDF produced evidence that the hospital was brought down by an errant rocket that was shot by a terrorist, the mainstream media maintained their initial story for as long as they could, without being called out on it.
Beyond the political realm, like all things in this world, even this is rooted in the realm of Kabbalah. So while this is a discussion that most people can relate to on a political level, please indulge me for the next few paragraphs to explore what I feel is the origin of this discussion in thought.
Back to the Baal Shem Tov. The Besht said that he had an answer to every question and a subsequent question that would rebut his initial answer.
Debate is built into the fabric of Judaism. There isn’t a page in the entire Talmud Bavli that doesn’t possess an argument of some sort. We are often too busy analyzing the cases of the Gemara from up close and forget to take a step back and to analyze from afar what the purpose of it is. Think about it: The written Torah consists of revelations of G-dliness. The truth is that there is no limit to how much a person can understand the information being shared within the written Torah. Therefore, as much as we understand, we really don’t understand. That is why the law mandates that we make a blessing prior to learning the written Torah irrespective of whether we understand what we are reading or not, since essentially nobody truly can grasp the infinite light of G-d. However, when it comes to the Oral Torah there is a law, at least according to the letter of the law, that mandates a berachah only be recited if one understands the subject matter being learned on some level.
The need to ask questions and devise answers only to rebut those answers and reveal a deeper truth is for the purpose of using the intellectual faculties of the nations of the world and not be led on an ego trip, instead to recognize that it all is Divinity.
There is a Midrash in Shemos on the verse: “And they embittered their lives with difficult work [avodah kashah].” The Midrash says that we fulfill this through asking questions [kushya], ub’leveinim [this corresponds to libun hilchesa] clarifying the laws, ubechol avodah basadeh [this corresponds to Braisa], which means outside in the field, asher avdu bahem b’farech [this corresponds to pircha], which means asking questions on one’s initial answer. What emerges is that everything that the Jews had to do during their Egyptian enslavement has a counterpart within Torah, as the Mishnah in Avos suggests: “Anyone who accepts upon themselves the yoke of Torah is spared the yoke of government and the way of the world.”
We build structures through questions and answers. A question represents the first story of an edifice and an answer represents a higher story. However, when one asks a question on an initial answer, it is an attempt at negating the edifice that one has built up until that point. However, although negation seems to be a negative expression, the truth is that it is required at times to make way for a much larger building than existed previously. The only type of destruction that is prohibited on Shabbos is that which is for the sake of building, which is what we are discussing here.
Using this logic, I wanted to seek to shed light upon a teaching of our sages that we seem to be living through now. Chazal say that Moshiach will arrive in the year following Shemittah. It bothered me, what is it about Shemittah and the year following it, that makes way for the revelation of Moshiach? Chazal also teach that the coming of Moshiach can be potentially predicated upon large conflagrations. Now, the truth is, as I wrote above, and the tzaddikim have ruled, we can fulfill the need for wars in a spiritual sense. But I wanted to try to understand why the close of Shemittah would be the harbinger of wars and the coming of Moshiach.
The number seven, as the Maharal famously taught, is associated with the dimensions of this world. That is true about the number seven as well as multiplications of the number seven. That’s why after 49 years we observe the Jubilee, when everything reverts to its original owner. So although G-d recreates the world with every passing moment, naturally, the world can only exist for periods of sevens. Therefore, with the conclusion of a seven-day period that leads into Shabbos, as well as a seven-year period that leads into Shemittah, the world has reached its natural limit and can no longer go on into the eighth day, or the eighth year, and so on. It is the manifestation in time what a question upon an initial answer represents in the cognitive process. In Kabbalah terms it is the level of ayin [nothingness] that exists between the false sense of self, which everyone begins with, and the sense of Divine self that we are seeking to become enlivened by.
Motzaei Shevi’is is associated with wars because it signals the end of time wherein the world can no longer exist. However, what we hope for is for the world to be running on the Divine autopilot; maybe Elon Musk is on to something. Perhaps it is that “thing” that is compelling the woke society that we live in to hunt him down and to malign him in the way that they have of late. If you count back to every Motzaei Shevi’is you will begin to realize that they have been accompanied by events that had the potential, and even did, on some level, change the world from the way that we had known it up until that point. September 11 was a Motzaei Shevi’is, Obama was elected on a Motzaei Shevi’is as well as the recession of 2008, Donald Trump was elected in a Motzaei Shevi’is, and now we are in the midst of a war that has been compared potentially to the previous World Wars. The point is not to instill fear, but to raise the level of messianic expectancy.
While it may seem like these debates represent good entertainment, there is great value within them at the political level in the media war that is being fought alongside the war on the battlefield, and on a metaphysical level in our quest to give way to a new, Divine reality, with Moshiach at the helm leading the way.
Yochanan Gordon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of Yochanan’s articles at 5TJT.com.