Benzi Gopstein’s latest “Behind the Flames” column in the Shabbat weekly Matzav HaRuach:
They Are a People Who Shall Dwell Alone – A Blessing, not a Curse
In this week’s parsha, Balak, many blessings of all types appear, which Hashem put in Bila’am’s mouth about Israel. Rabbi Kahane would have taught, according to the phrase that appears twice in the Gemara about the various blessings – that of all the blessings Bila’am gave to Israel, the blessing “it is a people that shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations” – is the cream of the crop of blessings. The solitude of Am Israel, their disconnection from the nations, their culture and from all their ways of life – this is the foundation for the existence of the nation, and so this is something so very basic. However, sadly, there are those who have been influenced by the goyim and their culture, so they think that this blessing – the blessing of Israel’s solitude – is not a blessing but a curse. And there was even a Prime Minister who was proud of the fact that at the ceremony of the signing of the “peace” agreement with Jordan, he ventured to say “No longer shall we be a people who dwell alone, like in the curse of the evil prophet.”
In fact, the fate of our people will be determined by how we treat that blessing – Will we know how to value the blessing and act accordingly, or will we, G-d forbid, snub it and aspire to blend in with the goyish culture.
Last weekend, I stayed with my wife in the north of the country. We received lots of affection from the public at large, from the common people, from the simple people, everywhere we went; everybody stopped us and said – ‘We just wanted to tell you not to pay any attention to the slander and the battles against you, just know that Am Israel is with you’. A Jew came to me and asked me – ‘Please, every time they summon you to an interrogation, let me know, because I want to come with you, the accusations are not just against you but against all of us! We received this warm, embracing treatment from all strata of the people – from completely secular, from Charedim, from knitted kippa wearers. We have seen how the public’s sympathy for the activities of Lehava crosses the boundaries of all segments of the population. But to my sorrow, we have also come across the opposite phenomenon, we have seen the curse that rests on us when we do not act according to the rule of “a people that shall dwell alone”. In many places in the north – not just in the mixed cities – we saw hundreds who were walking on the beach and in places of entertainment. They walk around very defiantly and fearlessly. Last Thursday they even attacked MK Itamar Ben Gvir on a kayak trip in the north. We all saw the attack on police in Dir Al-Assad, too. They lost their fear of the Israeli police a long time ago. Also in the rest of the places, they walk around and try to start up with Jewish girls, while showcasing fancy cars and cash, for the most part. To our misfortune, many girls fall into the net, becoming prisoners of temptation. What will save those girls, what will save all of us, is a return to clear understanding, which is the true blessing of ‘a people that shall dwell alone’. We must relearn who we are and to teach our daughters and sons Jewish pride, without shame. The distinction between Israel and the nations is a basic principle of the Torah upon which the existence of our nation stands, and we must not forget it.
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