Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The 71st Face, Vayechi, the Haftara

Our sages say that there are "shivim panim l'Torah," 70 faces, or opinions to the Torah. Ok, I'm certainly not a great sage, but I do have opinions.

Last Shabbat, Torah Portion, "Vayechi," "And they lived," while reading the Haftara, the portion from the "Prophets," I realized a very important lesson that was missed by one of Israel's nicest and most noble politicians, certainly the nicest of all those who ever held the position of Prime Minister. I'm referring to Menachem Begin.

King David, whose road to kingship was long and tortuous, gave very important instructions to his young son Solomon, Kings I, Chapter 2, verses 1-12. First of all he reminded Solomon to obey G-d and all of the Commandments G-d gave us. Then David told his successor not to be merciful or kind to those who could be described in today's terms as "loose cannons." Specifically he mentioned his sister's son, Yoav, Solomon's cousin. In order to rule, the young king had to show strength and courage and eliminate those who could endanger his reign. For the same reason David instructed him to show kindness to the children of Barzalai, for their their loyalty.

As I sat in shul, it occurred to me that Menachem Begin did the exact opposite when he became Prime Minister in 1977. Instead of strengthening settlement in all of Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel, and telling the world that we had all rights to any land liberated in wars of aggression against us, instead of supporting and promoting those who had been loyal to him for decades, he decided to try to be a "peace maker." He decided to "change his image," to get the "admiration" of those who had always hated him.

Menachem Begin showed his "nobility" by not firing Foreign Ministry workers, even though legally they were political appointments who could be replaced by the new regime. He didn't give the important positions to those who had been loyal to him. He made Moshe Dayan foreign Minister and allowed him to dictate policies that contradicted Begin's previous positions.

That's how we ended up with Camp David, and The Sinai went to Egypt, and Yamit, Ofira and many agricultural communities were destroyed. This was the precedent for Disengagement. Without Begin's act, none of these "painful concessions," unilateral withdrawals could have ever taken place. The fact that it was Begin, the "patriot," not someone from the left wing, who made it possible, and today, our country is in danger.

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