Adrian A. Durlester

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Random Musings Before Shabbat Hol HaMoed Sukkot/Simchat Torah 5766
Have We Met The Ally And Is They Us?

A little word play on the well known quote from the classic political comic strip "Pogo" by Walt Kelly-"we have met the enemy and he is us." Not such a far-fetched idea. Take a little creative and imaginative journey with me through Hebrew and Jewish history.

In the haftarah for the Shabbat in Hol HaMoed Sukkot (the intermediate days of Sukkot) from the book of Ezekiel, we read about Gog and Magog. In this text, it would appear Ezekiel is referring to Gog as a being, and Magog as the place from where Gog comes. Ezekiel tells the story of G"d vanquishing Gog of Magog (by implication, a great evil, if not the greatest.) G"d speaks openly and candidly of the tremendous and awesome power that G"d will wield against Gog for daring to cross into the land of Israel, bringing about Gog's ultimate defeat. So great and complete will be G"d's destruction that the people of Israel will spend seven months burying all of them. (It should be noted here that the text specifically speaks of making sure that each and every invader who was killed will be found and buried, and in a specifically designated place within the boundaries of Israel. The common understanding is that their presence defiles this holy and sacred land, and considering what the Torah teaches about contact with the bodies of the dead bringing a state of impurity upon people, it sort of makes sense. The bodies are all placed together in one area as a sort of warning to all who would challenge G"d by trying to destroy G"d's chosen people. However, just to turn things around a little bit, there could also be a hint of teaching us that even the dead of our fiercest and most hated enemies are entitled to burial. Given the recent atrocities by American personnel in Afghanistan, that's a lesson that still needs repeated teaching.)

The place where all the dead of Magog are buried is named Hamon Gog - the multitudes of Gog. This word Hamon is an interesting one. It generally means a multitude, but can also be an epithet (such as "horde.") There is also a connection to our patriarch Avraham, for the Torah tells us that Avram was henceforth to be know as Avraham because G"d was going to make him an "av-hamon goyim" - father of a multitude of nations. Thus Avram was to become an Av-ra(v)-(h) am" a little word play that gives is Father of many peoples. Since Avram was to become the father of many nations, his name itself becomes enlarged by adding the letter hey ( I find this etymology far more plausible than the idea of "father of mercy, " or "av-rakham" changing the hey to a khet.)

So G"d's (and Israel's) ultimate enemy is defeated and buried in the valley of the multitudes of Gog, the "gei hamon Gog."

Now stay with me a bit as I go out on a limb. While there is no linguistic or etymological connection between the the Hebrew word "Hamon" and the name "Haman" there is at least an assonantal connection. Drop the vav from Hamon (hey, mem, holem-vav,nun sofit) and you do have the hey, mem, and nun-sofit of "Haman."

So we have the ultimate enemy of Israel that G"d defeats ultimately who is "hamon" a horde or multitude. And another great enemy of Israel in Haman. And our patriarch Avraham is so named as he is the father of hamon goyim - a horde (or multitude) of nations.

Is the lesson that it is we, ourselves, Avraham's descendants (all of us, Jews, Christians, Muslims and all of G"d's creation) are hamon, the horde that G"d must ultimately defeat to finally bring peace (and as speculated by the rabbis, herald the coming of the messianic age) to the world? It's a likely scenario. We are taught that inside each of us in yetzer tov and yetzer hara (good and evil inclinations.) In creating beings that have free will, G"d had little choice but to have created beings that have good and evil in them, for free will always allows the choice to not do good, or purposefully do wrong. The rabbis argue that the yetzer hara is a necessary part of us, for it is the part that drives us to do work and other necessary things. An all good human being is just like having an all-perfect universe. What god would create such a thing? That god would be bored after five minutes, as would all of that god's creations!

For millennia, it seems that our efforts to maintain balance between these good and evil inclinations often fails and evil dominates. How else can one explain things like the Shoah, like Darfur, Abu Ghraib, and now Afghanistan? We have met the enemy and it is us. We make war. We pollute. We permit injustice. We hate. But we also love, and care, and pursue justice. It's just that the balance is a little off, and we need to work on it.

Torah is our guidebook to maintaining that delicate balance. Torah is the way to avoid our potential fate of being the "horde" that is Gog and Magog, and having our own G"d destroy us in order to bring peace. We have met G"d's (and our own) enemy and we is it. We are called to be G"d's ally, G"d's friend, G"d's partner. We have met our allies, and they is us. Together, with Torah as our guide, we can be more of our own ally than our own enemy. Ken y'hi ratson. Ken y'hi ratsoneinu. Be this G"d's will. Be this our will.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameakh,


©2005 by Adrian A. Durlester

Other musings on the same parasha:
Simchat Torah 5762--Not So Fast

Simchat Torah 5764-Circling the Torah--A Story of Chelm
Simchat Torah 5757-5765--Unbroken Circle

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