09 December 2016


By Roy S. Neuberger

“Yaakov … took from the stones of the place, which he arranged around his head …” (Beraishis 28:11) “because he was afraid of dangerous animals.” (Rashi)

How does a row of stones protect a person from dangerous animals?

Yaakov Avinu was doing his best, but, for real protection, he needed shmira from Hashem, and this – obviously – he received. The entire history of Am Yisroel is a history of protection from Above that is completely beyond the bounds of nature. If Hashem looks favorably upon us, then we can survive anything. Our Father Yaakov was indispensable in world history. His children would become “mamleches kohanim v’goy kadosh.” (Shemos 19:6) They would save mankind. He needed to survive.

My friends, as I write these words, Israel is burning!

We have to understand why this is happening. We can drop chemicals from airplanes, but we have to understand why there are fires. Just as the stones did not save Yaakov Avinu, so fire retardant will not extinguish the hatred against us.

My wife and I were married while we were still undergraduates at the University of Michigan. We had not yet discovered Torah. As a result, our marriage was very shaky. Years later, we found out why. “Rabbi Akiva expounded: a husband and wife, if they merit it, then the Divine Presence is between them. But if they do not merit it, [then] fire consumes them.” (Sotah 17a)

Many years ago, I wrote the following: “If the Presence of G-d is not in the home, there is a ravaging fire. The Hebrew word for ‘fire’ is ‘aish.’ The name of G-d is spelled with the letter ‘yud’ and the letter ‘hay.’ If you add ‘yud’ to ‘aish’ you get ‘ish,’ ‘husband’ in Hebrew. If you add ‘hay’ to ‘aish’ you get ‘ishah,’ ‘wife’ in Hebrew. In other words, if you add the Name of G-d to the fire … G-d controls the fire so that it gives life but does not destroy. Without the name of G-d, the fire rages uncontrollably, destroying everything in its path. Why do you think so many homes are on fire? G-d has not been allowed to enter.” (From Central Park to Sinai: How I Found My Jewish Soul)

Torah is compared to water. As Chazal say, “There is no (metaphoric) meaning for ‘water’ other than ‘Torah.’” (Bava Kamma 82a) If Torah had not saved our marriage, then the fire would, G-d forbid, have engulfed it.

The entire House of Israel needs to be totally filled with Torah. Nothing else will extinguish the flames. We are not speaking only about our brothers and sisters in the path of the current fires. This includes Jews in every corner of the world. The flames are burning everywhere: “kol Yisroel araivim ze ba’ze … all Jews are guarantors for one another.” (Shevuos 39a)

Every day we say “Mashiv ha-ruach u-morid ha-geshem,” but it is not raining this year. The Land is dry. Our enemies cannot start fires unless the Land is dry!

Why is it not raining?

Just after Sukkos, a few drops fell in the Holy Land,

but the rains did not continue. Now the Land is thirsting for water.

We don’t have to look far to understand. Do we not say every day, “Beware, lest your hearts be seduced and you turn astray and serve gods of others and bow to them. Then the wrath of Hashem will blaze against you. He will restrain the heaven so there will be no rain ….” (Shema)

And listen to the words of the Novi: “This people has a wayward and rebellious heart. They have turned astray … and they did not say in their hearts, ‘Let us fear Hashem our G-d, Who supplies rain – early rain and late rain – in its proper time …!’” (Yirmiah 5:23)

It is not good enough that “some” of Hashem’s children are loyal. The time has come to understand that, in order for all of us to survive, the entire House of Israel must come back to our Father in teshuva! After thousands of years and oceans of tears, why are we so stubborn! What are we waiting for? Do we not all desire life? Only when we jump together into the Sea of Torah will Hashem douse the flames!

“From His right hand …[Hashem] presented the fiery Torah to them.” (Dvarim 33:2)  Fire is life. Just as the sun warms the earth and gives us life, so the Torah gives life to the entire cosmos. Death is cold. Without the fire of Torah, we cannot live. But fire is also dangerous!

In a few weeks Am Yisroel will celebrate Chanukah, during which we light flames each night until we reach eight, a number which is beyond this world, which consists of seven days and seven millennia. The eighth day is eternity. The fiery Torah takes us from this world to the World of Truth, the Realm of Hashem. This is the Fire of Life, which burns eternally.

If we keep close to the Torah, then we will live! The Torah will warm us as the sun warms the earth. The choice is ours, but, in reality, Torah is not optional. We have been given free will, but we have to know that cosmic consequences hang on whether we make the correct choice. Fire can heal or destroy; rains can heal or destroy. If we love the Torah and bring it into our home, Hashem will give us fire and water in perfect balance and we will live to see the world of Moshiach!

“Remember [Yaakov] who carried his staff and crossed the Yarden’s water. He dedicated his heart and rolled a stone off the mouth of a well of water, as when he wrestled with an angel composed of fire and water. Therefore You pledged to remain with him through fire and water. For his sake, do not hold back water!” (Tefillas Geshem)

Roy Neuberger, author and public speaker, can be reached at roy@2020vision.co.il.

© Copyright 2016 by Roy S. Neuberger

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