I have been a Jewish activist for 45 years, and every time I speak to people about what must be done to bring true and lasting peace to the State of Israel, they always ask, “But what will the world say?” I must admit that this question has always bothered me. After all, isn’t our priority saving Jewish lives and property? Shouldn’t this be our only concern, regardless of what the world thinks, says, or how they vote in the UN? Of course it is! The IDF needs to worry about its soldiers and how to return them home safely. Obviously, if that can be done without harming civilians, then great; but in most cases, Hamas (which stands for: Hides Amongst Mosques And Schools) makes that impossible. Therefore, do we put our holy IDF soldiers in harm’s way to save a Gazan civilian? Absolutely not! Yes, the world will scream, protest, and call for inquiries when an Arab stubs his toe or gets a splinter. The media will give these protests tremendous coverage, far more than they deserve, and liberal Jews across the globe will – once again – be plagued by a horrific anxiety disease called Jewish OCD: “Opinion Compulsive Disorder.”
So, what should we do? Or better yet, what should the Jewish response be to world opinion? The answer, as always, is in the Torah; you just need to know where to look, and the answer to this question is in this week’s Torah portion (read outside of Israel) – Parshas Sh’lach.
We all know the story. Twelve men are sent to scout the land, and ten of them return with a bad report. The people listened carefully to these ten men, and although the two good guys tried everything, they were not successful in convincing the nation. The people cried all night, complained to Moshe (yet, again) and wanted to return to Egypt (yet, again). Moshe and Aharon “fell on their faces” and Yehoshua and Kalev “tore their clothes in grief.” The Torah then tells us an incredible thing: that “the whole community was threatening to stone them to death.” Things had hit rock bottom.
Hashem had enough. He said to Moshe: “How long shall this nation continue to provoke Me? How long will they not believe in Me? I will kill them with a plague and annihilate them. I will make you into a greater, more powerful nation than them.”
Moshe’s answer is nothing short of incredible. Not only does he defend the nation of Israel, he teaches them (which means us) a valuable lesson, as well. His answer is basically six words, but from a perspective we are – unfortunately – not used to. You will be surprised to read that he answers Hashem with that famous question: But what will the world say? Read the next paragraph carefully and remember that Moshe is saying these words to Hashem Himself!
“And what will happen when the Egyptians hear about it? And what if they tell the people who live in this land? The nations who hear this news about You will say that G-d was not able to bring this nation to the land that He swore to them, so He slaughtered them in the desert.”
What?! That was Moshe’s defense? Don’t kill am Yisrael because of what the goyim will say? Yet, Hashem answers that while He will still punish the nation, He will not wipe them out; “G-d said, I will grant forgiveness as you have requested.” Moshe’s defense of “But what will the world say” worked! What’s going on?
It’s rather simple. Today, our minds are so twisted and polluted by anti-Torah concepts that we use that line in the completely opposite way it was said by Moshe. Our great rebbe, Moshe, taught us that when Jews are punished – even when they deserve to be – it appears as though Hashem is weak. Missiles falling on Beersheba and Ashkelon? Jews being knifed in Jerusalem? The world is laughing and saying – “What happened? Why isn’t Hashem protecting His people? G-d is not able…”
That is the world opinion we need to be concerned about – the world opinion that leads to the horrible conclusion that the King of Kings is not able to do what must be done. Moshe was telling us that this can never happen – and Hashem agreed! We must never let the goyim say or believe anything that leads them to such a conclusion. On the contrary! When the IDF is strong, it is clear that Hashem is protecting His people through his holy messengers. We must never be concerned about how strong we are in the eyes of little mice such as the UN or The New York Times. Just the opposite! We need to worry about how weak we appear in their eyes because a weak, defeated Jew is a weak G-d, Heaven forbid.
Therefore, if you are truly concerned about world opinion – as Moshe was! – be concerned about how strong and proud we are. Be concerned that, after 2,000 years of fear, we are no longer running away. The Nation of Israel has returned to its Land and we are building, planting, growing, and having lots of Jewish babies, baruch Hashem. We are learning more Torah today in Israel than ever before in Jewish history, and we are building thousands of new homes all across the land. No longer can the nations say that “G-d was not able to bring this nation to the land that He swore to them.”
Let the whole world know: Hashem has brought us back and, thanks to Him, we are here to stay!
Am Yisrael Chai!
By Shmuel Sackett
Shmuel Sackett is a product of Queens. Born in Middle Village, a graduate of YCQ and YHSQ, he served as Havurat Yisrael’s first youth director and was the founder of two NCSY chapters in Forest Hills. In 1990, Sackett made aliyah and is the co-founder of the Israeli political party “Zehut” (ZehutInterntional.com). He and his wife make their home in Herzliya Pituach and are blessed with six children and many grandchildren.