Just as God smote the Egyptians in the Ten Plagues, He also smites other nations for their good * If we strengthen ourselves in faith and in the understanding of God’s governance, there will be no need for trials and tribulations, and the world will be saved from hardships thanks to Israel * On the other hand, if we fail to strengthen ourselves, the difficult situation in the world will also reach our doorsteps * The Arab countries demand for Israel’s withdrawal from Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights has brought upon them economic collapse and deadly revolutions * Western countries obsessions with Arab refugees in Israel brought upon them the plague of refugees in the United States and Europe * Divine processes happen by way of natural turns of events * The world’s healing depends on our faith and our settlement of the Land of Israel
The Reason for the Ten Plagues
As known, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in order to strike him and Egypt with the Ten Plagues and drown them in the Red Sea, as written in the Torah: “God said to Moses, Go to Pharaoh. I have made him and his advisors stubborn, so that I will be able to demonstrate these miraculous signs among them. You will then be able to confide to your children and grandchildren how I made fools of the Egyptians, and how I performed miraculous signs among them. You will then fully realize that I am God” (Exodus 10:1-2), and as written beforehand: “I will make Pharoah obstinate and will thus have the opportunity to display many miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt” (Exodus 7:3).
Our Sages expounded on this, explaining in the Zohar, (Parashat Bo, Vol.2, 36:1), that the Ten Plagues corresponded to the ‘eser sefirot’ (the ten emanations and attributes of God with which He continually sustains the universe) in order that God’s governance in the world would be revealed in every sphere: in each one of the ten spheres in which God governs the world, harsh judgement was revealed to Egypt, and mercy to Israel. “Tanna Rabbi Hezekiah, it is written: “And the Lord will strike Egypt, striking (in Heb., ‘nagof’), and healing (‘ve’rafo‘)” (Isaiah 19:22) – i.e., ‘nagof‘ (striking) for Egypt, and ‘rafo‘ (healing) for Israel… Tanna: At the same time the Egyptians were smitten, Israel was cured”(see, Pri Tzadik, Bo,2).
In other words, the Egyptians were required to receive ten plagues so that Israel could be completely cured. What did Israel need curing from? From the pagan belief that the world operates only according to physical nature, lowly interests of desire and honor, and “might makes right”. All this, so that Israel could strengthen their faith in God, and know that He judges the world justly, punishes the wicked and redeems the righteous, and so that Israel would be prepared to receive the Torah and repair the world in its guiding light.
As a result of the Ten Plagues that God struck the Egyptians, Israel and the entire world became aware that God governs the world in all of its existent spheres, for indeed, the number ten is a complete and perfect number, alluding to all aspects and realms, as our Sages said (Avot 5:1), God created the world by Ten Utterances, and through them, sustains and renews the world.
Israel’s Faith Benefits the World
From this, we learn an awesome lesson: had Israel successfully internalized all the foundations of ‘emunah‘ (faith) in God by means of a single plague, God would have dealt only one blow to the Egyptians.
No doubt, each and every plague the Egyptians received, they deserved; nevertheless, had Israel been able to strengthen their faith and understanding of God’s supremacy with less plagues, the Egyptians would also have been able to repent sincerely with fewer plagues.
This is what God said to Abraham our father: “I will bless those who bless you, and he who curses you, I will curse. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). Israel has a great responsibility to understand and interpret lessons emerging from all of the world’s problems, and the greater Israel’s understanding is, the more blessings the world receives by way of them. But if Israel has difficulties understanding, the world’s calamities will escalate, as happened to the Egyptians. And if after ten plagues Israel still fails to understand, they will also be severely punished for refusing to listen to the word of God, as spelled out in the Torah portion of the curses.
The Logic and Justice in God’s Governance
At the time of Creation, God fixed in His world an intrinsic law that all matters of reward and punishment, success and failure, would be governed by way of nature and reason, and measure for measure. A person who chooses to lie – will falter by lies; a person who chooses to do evil – will fail through evil. In contrast, one who chooses to bless – will be blessed; one who chooses to act justly – will be judged justly; and a person who chooses to act kindly – will merit kindness. From a spiritual aspect, both in an individual’s soul while alive in this world, and also in the World to Come, these matters are revealed immediately; however, their manifestation in the physical world takes time. This is because everything in the world is composed of various sides and facets, and reward and punishment are gradually revealed according to the various factors.
On a broader scale, at times we find a nation which generally adopts evil, however in its initial stages, its positive aspects are revealed, and owing to them, achieves success. Over time, however, their negative side’s surface, until eventually, they receive their severe punishment, and vanish from the world. Other times, the exact opposite is true: at first, the nation’s negative sides are revealed and it is punished, but over time, its positive aspects are increasingly revealed, and the nation thrives. The more resolute the nation’s decision is, for better or worse, the quicker the reward or punishment are revealed. An example of this are the Nazis who chose extreme evil and within twelve years rose and fell, and were obliterated from the world.
The Centrality of Israel
Since Israel is the heart of the nations, having been chosen by God to reveal emunah and Torah to the world, each nation’s relationship to Israel is a crucial litmus test of their moral standing, as written in the Torah: “I will bless those who bless you, and he who curses you, I will curse.”
The lower Israel’s status in the world, the harder it is for the nations to learn the ways of God from them, and disasters grow in number. On the other hand, the more ideal Israel’s situation is, the easier it is for all nations to choose good, as it is written: “All the families of the earth will be blessed through you.”
Understanding Divine Governance
As in the past, God’s governance today is measure-for-measure, in order to teach us how to act in ways of faith, justice, and kindness in this world. If we merit understanding things properly and readily, the learning process will be pleasant. If we refuse to learn, we will be taught through suffering. First, ‘nagof’ (striking), and afterwards, ‘rafo‘ (healing). Initially, the wicked who created the problems will be tormented, so that Israel and those desiring faith and justice, will be healed; but if we continue refusing to learn, the guilt will rest on our shoulders as well, and the difficult afflictions will also arrive at our doorstep – and all this, for us to learn to correct our ways. Strike (‘nagof’), for the sake of healing (‘rafo’).
And now to the consequential issue facing us today: settling the Land of Israel in Judea and Samaria, as commanded by the Torah and the vision of our Prophets. For two generations, world leaders have dealt with this issue a hundred times more than any other national conflict on such a scale.
The Middle East Inferno
Arab countries threatened to destroy us if we do not withdraw from Judea and Samaria, and the representatives of the nations of the world promised that if we withdraw from Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights, we will gain a secure peace and economic prosperity with the stable Arab countries in our region. As a result of the Arab states refusal to recognize our right to our land, God afflicted them: the stable countries acted corruptly and failed to build their societies and economies, for the sake of Israel to learn to ignore their political bravado, and vigorously build Judea and Samaria without even contemplating, God forbid, withdrawal. We still have not sufficiently learned the lesson, and as a result, the Arabs have had to receive more blows – the upheavals are destroying and threatening all of the Arab countries. ‘Nagof‘, and ‘rafo‘ – first the strike, and afterwards, the healing.
Politicians and Middle East experts claimed that the bloody conflict between Israel and the Palestinians was the heart of the troubles in the region, and the world. When we tried to explain, we were accused of being cruel and ruthless, and the Arab world was compelled to receive additional blows, and now, they are bleeding a hundred times more – for all to realize that we are not guilty. Yet, there are still blind politicians, such as Obama and Kerry, who continue claiming that an Israeli withdrawal would lead to a solution. Consequently, the Arabs required further beatings, and the number of victims grows steadily. ‘Nagof’ and ‘rafo‘ – strike, and heal.
The West’s Refugee Plague
Representatives of Western countries, out of hatred of Israel, claimed that the plight of Palestinian refugees touched the depth of their hearts. On behalf of these refugees – who, in the 1948 War of Independence, sought to kill Holocaust survivors, or at the very least, throw them into the sea – the U.N. established UNRWA, through which they are spoiled with huge amounts of money, a hundred times more than refugees from anywhere else in the world. When Israel claimed that by doing so the U.N. was perpetuating the problem, and that their disproportionate treatment stemmed from anti-Semitism – they were offended. As a result, the Arabs were once again required to receive additional blows, and now the number of Arab refugees from their internal wars has already reached tens of millions. Huge refugee camps are springing up in front of our eyes, to the point where the treatment of the refugees from
1948 now seems absurd. ‘Nagof’ and ‘rafo’. Strike, and heal.
European countries still continue nurturing the “unique tragedy” of the 1948 refugees, and as a result they also were required to receive blows: now, they must contend with the millions of Arab and Muslim refugees who are fleeing from their brothers, and are knocking on the gates of Europe. ‘Nagof‘ and ‘rafo‘. Strike, and heal.
They claimed that Arab terrorism against us was because we conquered Judea and Samaria; consequently, they were forced to receive a beating, and suffer the Islamic terrorism in their own countries. ‘Nagof’ and ‘rafo’. Strike, and heal.
‘Mida Keneged Mida’: Measure-for-Measure
Up until now, I have described things as a punishment from Heaven, ‘nagof‘ – for the sake of healing Israel, and the world. Nevertheless, these matters descend from Heaven in a natural manner, as God fixed in the world.
When the nations of the world teach the Arabs, who were defeated in battle that it pays for them to continue on the path of terror and war against Israel, the Arabs learn to continue using terrorism and war with increasing force all over the world.
When European countries choose to ignore Israel’s moral religious and national claims – while minimizing the importance of religion and nationality – as a natural consequence of this, they ignore the dangers Muslim immigration to their countries is liable to cause, and now they are paying the price. This is the case in all these matters – for after all, ‘nagof’ and ‘rafo’ is a natural process.
Healing the Middle East Depends on Building Judea and Samaria
Israel’s healing, and that of the peoples of our region, is dependent on the building of Judea and Samaria. Today, many people have gained inspiration from the heroism of the settlers fulfilling the vision of the Prophets, and their standing boldly and faithfully in the face of Arab-Muslim terrorism. The further we expand construction in Judea and Samaria with increased vigor, the sooner the Arabs will come to understand that terrorism and threats do not pay, and maybe, they might even come to learn from Israel and invest their efforts in making the desert bloom and building society and the economy.
But if, God forbid, the State of Israel fails to learn a lesson from the fire and destruction surrounding our region, and is not wise enough to build Judea and Samaria, their suffering will grow and spread to us as well, so as to heal all of us – Israel, and the peoples’ of the region – for ultimately, all together, we are creatures of God.
“I will cut off nations…
I will devastate their streets. No one will pass through…
I said, “Surely, she will fear me; she will take instruction…
Therefore, wait for me, says the Lord, wait for the day when I rise up as a witness, when I decide to gather nations, to collect kingdoms, to pour out my indignation upon them, all the heat of my anger. In the fire of my jealousy, all the earth will be devoured. Then I will change the speech of the peoples into pure speech, that all of them will call on the name of the Lord and will serve him as one” (Zephaniah 3:6-9).
“The Lord will strike Egypt; striking and then healing. They will return to the Lord, who will hear their pleas and heal them…
On that day, Israel will be the third along with Egypt (the southern countries) and Assyria (the northern countries), a blessing in the midst of the land. The Lord of heavenly forces will pronounce this blessing: Bless Egypt my people, and Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance” (Isaiah 19:22-25).
This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting, informative, and thought-provoking articles by Rabbi Melamed can be found at: