Rabbi Sessler D’var Torah

A Quarter of a Century Later

On Monday, August 2nd, the world will commemorate the 26th anniversary of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, which ultimately triggered the First Gulf War, historically known as Operation Desert Storm. Lamentably, within a historical perspective of just over a quarter of a century, we see that the situation in Iraq in particular, and throughout the Middle East in general, has only worsened and deteriorated since the end of the First Gulf War back in 1991.

Back in the 1990’s, Saddam’s Iraq was a despotic and secular regime, which espoused Arab nationalism and ”Socialism” under the banner of the Baath party, which still rules much of Syria to this day. But the cruelties and atrocities perpetrated under Saddam Hussein’s reign of terror all pale in comparison to the current state of affairs in Iraq and Syria today. In our time, Syria and Iraq are what we call in political science ”failed states”.

In fact, Syria and Iraq    no longer exist as cohesive and autonomous political entities, they ceased to exist as nation-states, and the death toll in both civil wars by far exceeds half a million fatalities, not including the millions of civilians who were maimed and suffered severe injuries as a result of these domestic atrocities.

In addition to the gruesome death toll, since the commencement of the Syrian civil war back in 2011, millions of civilians have been fleeing westward, seeking refuge in continental Europe, thereby creating the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since the end of World War Two. The ramifications of this historical migration are incalculable, and are changing the social and political landscape in Europe for centuries to come.

The most abominable ramification of the civil wars in Syria and Iraq is of course the rise of the monstrous phenomenon of ISIS, the cruellest and most fanatical political and military force menacing the free world since the collapse of National-Socialism some seven decades ago. Since the creation of ISIS, radical Islamic terror has been sparing no continent, with attacks ranging from Africa to Australia, the Middle East, Europe, and the US.

The Torah portion which we read this Shabbat is called Pinchas. Pinchas, the grandson of Aaron HaCohen, was a fierce and fearless warrior. Pinchas was ready and willing to take up arms and if need be sacrifice his life, in order to ensure the future of his people and civilized monotheism writ large.

We in the free world today must tenaciously adhere to the relentless combative spirit which Pinchas personifies in our tradition. The battle against ISIS, Al Qaeda, and their offshoots, is a ”search and destroy” universal mission. The global military campaign against Islamic radicalism will not come to an end until these terrorist organizations are utterly vanquished and eradicated as viable political and military forces.

Pinchas, the hero of our parashah exemplifies the courage, fortitude and determination which the free world must summon, if we are to emerge triumphant in this global conflict BH, and rid the world of the radical evil of our time.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Sessler

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