Feet of Iron and Clay

Moshe Kempinski

As we painfully experienced this week with murder of four innocent civilians in prayer and a young druse policeman who attempted to save them, Israel is constantly facing two spiritual enemies .While one kills us the other tries to destroy our name. The Biblical text warns us that the people of Israel will have to contend in the end of days with two enemies. One is represented by the heavenly angel 0r spiritual power of Esau and the other by the angel of Ishmael

In the prophecy of Daniel we read of a statue that represents all the kingdoms that will come against G-d’s plans and will eventually fail;

“Your Majesty looked, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. “ (Daniel 2:31-45)

The head of Gold represented Babylon and the chest and arms of silver Persia. The thighs of brass represented Greece and the legs of Iron represented the final kingdom of Edom or Rome. Yet in the final phase we actually see that the feet are partially made of iron and clay.

Our tradition understands the “clay” to represent Ishmael.

Clearly in the end of days both Ishmael and Edom/Rome will not be recognized by their physical or geographic linkage. Rather their identification will be made clear by their spiritual passions and desires.

In the portion of Toldot we read of the birth of Esau and Jacob. At its outset the description bespeaks a dramatic whisper of great events to come
“And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two kingdoms will separate from your innards, and one kingdom will become mightier than the other kingdom, and the elder will serve the younger.( Genesis 25:23)

Rashi points out that in fact though these two will be at odds , their common experience in the womb of Rebecca will leave a lasting impression on at least a minority of Esau. Rashi gives the example of two leaders who should have been antagonists but became good friends, the Roman emperor Antonius and the Jewish leader and teacher known simply as “Rebbi”.

The Meshech Chochma writes that Rashi saw these two as prototypes and declared that though Esau will be a deadly foe of the Jewish people , there would be a segment that would break away from the hatred. That small segment will stand together with the descendants of Jacob as is symbolized by the midrashic story of Esau’s head rolling into the tomb of the patriarchs to rest eternally.

Yet the overall spiritual force represented by Esau will be in eternal battle with G-d’s plan of destiny.

An example of this stubborn animosity to G-d and His plan is displayed by Esau’s grandson Amalek . Despite the miraculous events in Egypt and the cataclysmic experience at the Red sea we read “Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim.”(Exodus 17:8 ). Regardless of all the facts on the ground, Amalek , the descendant of Esau could not countenance the success of Jacob’s descendants. Everything would be ignored on the altar of hatred for this people.

It is that exact unending passion of the descendants of Esav (Esau) to replace and destroy the descendants of Jacob that led to the divine declaration; ”And he said, For there is a hand on the throne of the Eternal, and there shall be a war for HaShem against Amalek from generation to generation. (ibid 16).’

In fact in the final verses of the book of Ovadya ( Obadiah , himself a convert out of Edom) we read the following;

”And saviors shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the LORD’S.”(Obadiah 1:21). That is to say that Hashem’s kingdom will not be complete until the passion of Esau to retrieve the blessings and replace” Jacob both physically and spiritually needs to be blunted.

Yet though Edom remains intractable in its desire to “replace” Israel and in essence to “replace” G-d’s plan of destiny , the more vicious and bloodthirsty of the enemies would be represented by Ishmael .

Ishmael’s spiritual force would be augmented by unbridled passion. When harnessed for good, poetry and the discovery of mathematics would be the result. But when used to fulfill passions for power domination and lust, the opposite would be the case.

In the rules of biblical and modern day Hebrew grammar the adjective always follows the noun. A “Big man” is an Ish Gadol( Man-Big). Yet there is one solitary “seeming“exception to the rule. When describing Ishmael G-d declares

“And he will be a wild donkey (or a wild one) of a man (Pereh Adam); his hand will be upon all, and everyone’s hand upon him, and before all his brothers he will dwell.”( Genesis 16:10).The noun seems to be “Pereh or wild one” , while the adjective is “Adam or man”.

His essence will be his unbridled passion, his adjective will be his being a man. It is that unbridled ferocity that we see in Isis, Boko Harum and in other instances in our world in these tumultuous times.

We painfully saw it here in my neighborhood when a minyan of people in prayer were attacked and innocent civilians were butchered with knives, axes and a pistol. In their frenzy they ended the G-d fearing lives of four men leaving many children and many more grandchildren as orphans and wives as widows. A young Druse policeman that came to help was himself murdered leaving his wife and a four month old child.

The evil part of Esau was not too far away. It displayed its ugly head in its spewing of hatred by using spurious and obscene headlines to describe the attack. The CBC wrote “Jerusalem police shoot two after apparent synagogue attack”.The BBC’s headline was “ Jerusalem Synagogue attack kills four Israelis” and then was unsure if it truly was a terrorist attack. The CNN declare “four Israelis and two Palestinians dead in Jerusalem ‘and then interview Palestinian spokesperson Hanan Ashrawi regarding the “event”.

There seems to be no limits to the venom produced by the union of the legs of Iron and the feet of partial clay.

All this will continue until Hashem represented by “a stone” in Nebuchadnezzar ’s dream destroys these enemies” until one stone was hewn without hands, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay and crumbled them”.

May it be so quickly in our days.

LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved

1 thought on “Feet of Iron and Clay”

  1. I am an American and have been in your store twice. I came in 2007 with 18 college students, bought pearl earrings and learned the true meaning of the Prov 31 verse is not “rubies” but “pearls.” It was life giving. I am now listening to your study on Ruth.

    All this to say, I am grieving over the lose of the five beloved men. I stand with you. Kathy

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