[By Rav Yitzchok Fingerer] As Iran becomes more vehement in their cataclysmic threat, inching imminently closer to nuclear power, there are questions that gnaw every thinking person’s conscience: What is Iran’s ultimate motive? Who will preemptively strike Iran? Will it be Eretz Yisroel or America? Will we survive retaliation? How does this tie in to the grand scheme of Hashem’s plan for the Jewish people? Where does the Torah prophesize this?
The Roots of Iran in the Torah:
The prodigious histories of Babylonia and Persia, modern day Iraq and Iran, may be traced to postdiluvian civilization. Shem, Cham, and Yafes, Noach’s sons, were bequeathed distinct divine missions. While some of Cham’s descendants were cursed to be slaves, Yafes’s descendants were ordained with a twofold mission—to be the aesthetic developers and monarchs of the world and the facilitators and catalysts of the spiritual ascendancy of Shem’s progeny. Finally, Shem’s descendants were charged with being the world’s spiritual and moral beacons.
Ancient civilization lived in relative unanimity until Nimrod, Cham’s grandson, unilaterally crowned himself monarch, an act of brazen usurpation. Nimrod appropriated Yafes’s endowed role and established an empire in Babylonia. According to Rashi; Seforno; Rokeach; and others; Ashur, Shem’s grandson, protested this illicit seizure of power, and left the Mesopotamian environs. Nimrod’s eventual successor in Babylonia was none other than Nebuchadnezzar II, who destroyed the first Beis HaMikdash.
Almost two hundred years before the Churban Bayis Rishon, Yeshaya HaNavi prophesied that—in the future—a descendant of Yafes, namely a king of Persia named “Koresh”, would supplant Babylonia as the world power, restoring Yafes’s natural rights to the world monarchy. Yeshaya further astoundingly prophesied that Hashem would commission this “Koresh”, a gentile king, to redeem the Jewish people and rebuild the Beis HaMikdash. Yeshaya’s words proved accurate—Babylonia was destroyed, Koresh ruled the world, and the Jews were redeemed from exile.
There was one critical problem: Only 42,360 Jews returned to Israel. The rest stayed in exile. Koresh didn’t do enough to facilitate the Jewish redemption, nor did he completely rebuild the Temple. Koresh ordered that sections of the Temple be constructed out of wood, lest the Jews rebel and the Temple could then easily be burned to cinders. Alas, Noach’s blessing and charge to Yafes wouldn’t be fulfilled through Koresh the Persian. Instead, Yafes’s illustrious legacy would be assigned to his other offspring, Greece, and eventually, Persia’s arch nemesis—Greek’s successor—Rome.
Not only did Persia (modern-day Iran) forfeit its position as Yafes’s spiritual heir, it also attempted to destroy the Jews. Only a short while later, Haman, Prime Minister of ancient Persia, plotted to annihilate the Jews. As the Zohar teaches, history must always come full circle. Therefore—in the End of Days— kings and nations will be reincarnated and Persia will threaten the world and, in particular, the Jews.
As stunning prophecy from Rav Yonoson Eibushetz:
The Talmud in Avodah Zara and Yoma portends that the final world war will involve Persia and latter day Rome, which Ben Ish Chai identifies as the Western Super-Power—America. The Talmud cites two opinions concerning the ultimate victor in this war. One opinion is that Persia will defeat modern-day Rome because of Persia’s role in constructing the second Beis HaMikdash. The dissenting opinion posits that although Persia helped build the second Beis HaMikdash, they will suffer ultimate defeat. In the words of the Talmud, even though this seems incongruous, “It is a decree from Hashem.” Interestingly, Rav Yonoson Eibushetz (in Yaaros Devash) seems to side with the latter opinion. He emphatically claims that a prerequisite for Moshiach’s arrival is Persia’s downfall. Regardless, it is clear that Rome—or America’s—role as the catalyst of the ascendancy of Shem (i.e. the Jewish people), and the third Beis HaMikdash, remains to be determined. Will America live up to its destined mission or fail?
America & Eretz Yisroel
A fascinating Medrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Yeshaya, 499) further clariﬁes the apocalyptic events:
Rabbi Yitzchok said: The year that Melech HaMoshiach will be revealed, all the kings [leaders] of the nations will be struggling against each other. The leader of Persia will contest with the leader of Arabia, and the leader of Arabia will go to Rome [the leading modern-day Western superpower] to get council from them. The leader of Persia will respond and act to destroy the entire world. All the nations of the world will be trembling and shaking and falling on their faces. They will be seized by labor-like pains.
The Jewish people will be trembling and quaking and saying: “Where can we go? Where can we go?” And [Hashem] will say to them: My children do not fear! Everything I did, I did only for you! Why are you frightened? Don’t be afraid-— the days of your redemption have arrived!”
Shiites and Sunnis:
What is interesting is that the Medrash contrasts Persia with Arabia. Why would the Medrash make a distinction between Arabic Iran (Persia), and another Arab country, Arabia? Why would the Medrash speak about a war amongst kindred Arab nations? And finally, why would Arabia consult with the leading Western superpower?
This Medrash is startling and mind-boggling. While Iranians are Muslim, they are not true Arabs, i.e., they are not Semites; they stem from Yafes and are Indo-European. This is precisely why the Medrash contrasts Iran, non-Arabs, with the rest of the Arab world. The Iranians are largely Shiite Persians. Arabia may refer to Saudi Arabia, the leading Sunni country in the Middle East. The Saudis and Iranians both seek to dominate the Middle East and lead the Muslim world. Their growing rivalry is a major factor in world politics.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s nuclear ambitions, combined with Iran’s sponsorship of the Shiite Hezbollah militia in Lebanon, its backing of Hamas, and its uprisings in Iraq, is proof to Arab leaders that their old Persian rivals are determined to reshape the Middle East (and the world). As early as 2004, Jordan’s King Abdullah warned of a rising Shiite “crescent” running from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon.
Saudi Arabia is concerned about a nuclear Shiite Iran. Therefore, they are dependent on America, the leading country attempting to stiﬂe Iran’s nuclear pursuits, which could explain the part of the Medrash in which Arabia consults modern-day Rome. This Medrash patently teaches that the Iranian threat is a definite signpost and prelude to Moshiach.
Moshiach can come in one of two ways:
1. We will earn Moshiach peacefully by following Hashem’s law.
2. The plight of humanity will become critical and desperate, necessitating Moshiach to salvage the world from chaos.
We have two choices: We can ignore all the prophecies in a binge of self-assertion and hope to survive the outcome of the war on terror or we can allow Moshiach to come in peace and serenity by changing and improving ourselves, personally and collectively, living up to our mission as Hashem’s chosen nation. The power to choose is in our hands.
Much of this article has been excerpted from Search Judaism: Judaism’s Answers to a Changing World (Targum) 2009 available by clicking HERE.
(Rav Yitzchok Fingerer – YWN)