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Walk Through Fire

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"See, it is I who created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work. And it is I who have created the destroyer to wreak havoc; no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me," declares the LORD. Isaiah 54:16-17

The Torah portion for this week is Re'eh, which means "see," from Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 54:11-55:5.

In the early 2000s, Israel was under constant threat of terrorism as the Intifada, the Arab uprising, took a gruesome approach, and suicide bombers launched themselves into random cafés, onto buses, and even into a hotel during the Passover Seder.

On one hot sunny, summer day, a would-be suicide bomber walked into the grocery store of a small Israeli town. It was packed with men, women, and children going about their lives. Before anyone noticed the man, who seemed oddly out of place in a trench-coat in the middle of July, the terrorist held a device in his hand and tried to detonate the bombs that were strapped to his body. Thank God, the device jammed, and the people were saved. The community saw it as a miracle, and every year on the anniversary of that day, the supermarket holds a feast of thanksgiving to God.

When I first heard that story, I couldn't help but think about words from this week's Haftorah reading, the third of what we call the "Seven Comforting" haftorahs. We read in the book of Isaiah, "no weapon forged against you will prevail." If God doesn't want a person to be harmed, no person and no thing can touch that individual.

Just before those words, God told His people, "See, it is I who created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work. And it is I who have created the destroyer to wreak havoc." Here, God is basically saying that when bad things do happen, it's because He designed those troubles for a reason. God sometimes sends difficulties our way in order to refine us as fire refines silver and gold.

But God also teaches us, "no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD." Just as God has to ordain difficulties if they are to occur, when God does not desire something to happen, it simply can't. It doesn't matter what the medical report says or what the bank statement says. It doesn't matter how many bombs a terrorist might strap to his chest. The only thing that matters is what God ordains. If He says that nothing and no one can harm us, than nothing will.

Earlier in Isaiah 43:2 we read these encouraging words, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze." May God protect all His people and may the words of the prophet be fulfilled!

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

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