Haftarat Sukkot: The Universal Nation


[Zechariah 14:1-21]

 

The revival of the Nation of Israel in the Land of its Forefathers was in no way a “wholesome” process.  Zechariah warned us against this idea: "I will gather all of the nations to Jerusalem to wage war, the city will be conquered, the homes plundered" (Zechariah 14:2).  When we read these worrisome words of Zechariah, we can only hope that this prophecy is behind us, that it refers to our War of Independence, and that there is no need to fear such events occurring again.  However, it is incumbent upon us to be certain that in the end, universal peace will reign, "For Torah will come forth from Zion" (Yeshayahu 2:3) for all of humanity: "It will be on that day that living water will flow from Jerusalem…On that day Hashem will be One and His Name will be One" (Zechariah 14:8-9).

 

After the storm, the sun will shine.  "And it will happen that all who will be left from among all the nations that come upon Jerusalem, they will ascend every year to prostrate themselves before the King, Hashem, Master of Armies, and to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot" (ibid. v. 16).  The holiday of Sukkot will be transformed into a universal holiday, which it actually has always been, as our Sages point out: seventy bulls are sacrificed on the altar in the Temple of Jerusalem for the benefit of the seventy nations of the world (Sukkah 55b).

 

The notion of the Nation of Israel’s uniqueness Israel has never contradicted our deep aspiration for the physical and spiritual perfection of humanity.  We have never possessed the concept of proselytizing and missionizing in the Christian style, which aspires to convert every human being to their religion.  And even less so the concept of Islam, whose goal is to force their complete control over the nations of the world.  As is known, the World to Come is not solely designated for the Nation of Israel: Righteous Gentiles also have a place in this exalted future (Tosefta Sanhedrin 13.  Rambam, Hilchot Teshuvah 3:5).

 

Our goal is to be a blessing to all of the nations.  We must respect their natural strengths, and purify and exalt them.  This was exactly the mission of Avraham Avinu: "And I will make you a great Nation…And all of the families of the world will be blessed through you" (Bereshit 12:2-3).  This is the reason that the Nation of Israel is defined by Yeshayahu as "A light unto the nations" (Yeshayahu 42:6, 44:6).  To a certain extent, this aspiration actually found fulfillment during the period of King Shlomo. Then all of the kings of the world, and especially Queen Sheba, could not deny the Kingship of Hashem, which was part and parcel of the kingship of King David's son (Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 1:10).  This vision will come to fruition in the future hope: "For My house will be called a house of prayer for all of the nations" (Yeshayahu 56:7).  And even further: "At that time they will call Jerusalem the throne of Hashem, and all the nations will be gathered to it, to the name of Hashem, to Jerusalem, and they will no longer follow after the stubbornness of their evil heart" (Yirmiyahu 3:17).

 

Despite all of the prophetic promises, we are still occasionally subject to the media's message that "Jerusalem is holy to all the religions," and it must therefore be internationalized.  No!  While all of humanity may absorb its holiness, Jerusalem is ours, only ours, eternally.  After all, we are a universal Nation.  Every Jew finishes his daily prayers with "Aleinu," in which he pleads with the Creator to return all humans to the proper path and repair the world.

 

The Messiah is not a narrow chauvinist, but the bringer of peace for all nations.  "He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore" (Yeshayahu 2:4).

 

All of humanity will then see in the Nation of Israel the source of its joys and the instrument of its success.  If the nations of the world would recognize this truth, they would help us instead of opposing us.  Regardless, this vision will materialize in the end, both for our Nation and for a perfected humanity.  Yeshayahu had the merit to reveal this to us in his prophetic vision: "In the last days, the mountain of Hashem's Temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.  Many nations will come and say: 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of Hashem, to the house of the G-d of Yaakov.  He will teach us His ways, so that we may walk in His paths.'  In the end, universal peace will reign, "For Torah will come forth from Zion, and the word of Hashem from Jerusalem" (Yeshayahu 2:2-3).