28 Nissan 5783 – 19 april 2023
שֶׁ֭הִכָּה גּוֹיִ֣ם רַבִּ֑ים וְ֝הָרַ֗ג מְלָכִ֥ים עֲצוּמִֽים׃
עֲצַבֵּ֣י הַ֭גּוֹיִם כֶּ֣סֶף וְזָהָ֑ב מַ֝עֲשֵׂ֗ה יְדֵ֣י אָדָֽם׃
It was He Who struck may nations and killed mighty kings…
Then, everyone will know that the idols of the nations are worthless, made of silver and gold, the work of human hands, and unable to help.
You can read the Psalm quite literally. It was and is Hashem who saves His people. Saved them from the hands of the nations. From the hands of the nations of Canaan, but also from the hands of the nations of today. It is Hashem who gives salvation. It is Hashem who makes promises come true. The land of Canaan belonged to Israel. Hashem promised it to Abraham and his descendants.
The nations who went to war thinking they were stronger than Egypt, that they could suppress or destroy Israel, were deceived. Their vain thoughts that the work of their hands – their silver and their gold – could save them did not come true. The nations were often much larger and more powerful in number; it would have been “normal” to have won. But Hashem changed the natural order of nature, so Israel won.
Israel did not need these miracles because they believed in Hashem. It was, however, a sign and a teaching to the nations. Their defeat opened their eyes a they did have to recognise Hashem as the Only King.
We can also read it more “generally”. The 7 nations that were defeated by Hashem in Egypt were symbolic of the 7 “types” of the Yetzer hara. Chazel lists the 7 names in Masechet Sukkah 52a.
Namely: evil, uncircumcised, unclean, hater, stumbling block, hidden one.
If something has a name, we can also fight it better by putting the opposite in its place.
- Evil, – that which draws man away from Hashem – opposite- that which draws man towards Hashem – prayer
- Uncircumcised, – that which removes man’s view of Hashem – opposite- man gets to Hashem by gaining knowledge about Him – Torah study
- Unclean, – that which grieves man in a way that he does not acknowledge Hashem — opposite- acknowledging Hashem in all events – strengthening Emunah and Bitachon. Practising your trust in Hashem that He never makes you sad without a good reason.
- Hater, – that which prompts man to self-hate or incites him to hate others – opposite- liking yourself and others – realising that every human being is essentially an image of Hashem and is loved by Him.
- Stumbling block – that which incites man to do actions he does not want to do — opposite- inciting yourself to do actions you want to increase – mitzvot and Tsadeka
- Stone – that which makes man insensitive – train yourself in increasing your sensitivity – opposite- put yourself in the other person’s shoes for greater understanding and empathy
- Hidden one – that which man himself does not see as bad and which can only be made visible by Hashem – ask Hashem to give you insight into what you need to change – listen to those close to you when they give you advice on areas of improvement.
The hopefulness of these two verses from the Psalm is that when the people enter the land Hashem gives victory. From this we learn if we actively work to improve our Yetzer hatov, we will bless in it with G-d’s help.
Israel did not need these miracles: we do not need to experience this victory as a miracle, but we know Hashem. It is our Yetzer hara that will “open our eyes” and serve Hashem. Because everything that is negative we can also learn to use in a positive way. Consider jealousy, for example. We usually experience that as something negative, but being jealous of the knowledge a Torah scholar has is a healthy form of jealousy, because it will encourage you to study.
Over the past few days, a few things have made me very sad. It makes right that you cannot study Torah properly. That you have no inspiration to get creative. On the other hand, I found it beautiful to notice how with me, that very thing strengthened prayer. That alone made me less sad. How beautiful it is then to notice that prayer is answered, which then strengthens my emunah. Everything works for the better, even when you are sad and don’t understand why things sometimes go the way they do.
That we may only learn to turn the bad and use it for good.
By Angelique Sijbolts
Sources: Malbim on Psalms 135:10:1, Romemot El on Psalms 135:10:1, 7 names of evil inclination
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