While it is really difficult in these days to comprehend the ways of Divine Providence, it seems that some moments of divine revelation are granted to us when we carefully direct our attention to some biblical and rabbinical sources. Bereshith: 16: 11, 12: (*)
When Hagar, after having fled from the home of Avraham, finds herself in the desert she is informed that she will have a son:
“And an angel of God said to her: Behold, you will conceive and give birth to a son, you shall name him Yishmael for God has heard your prayer. And he shall be a Pere Adam (a wild man), his hand against everyone and everyone’s man against him and in the face of his brothers shall he dwell.”
“Rabbi Jochanan and Resh Lakish debated this. Rabbi Jochanan said: It means that while all people are bred in civilized surroundings, he would be reared in the wilderness. Resh Lakish said: It means a savage among men, in its literal sense, for as people plunder wealth, he plunders lives.”
Midrash, Bereshith Rabba 35:9
Pere Adam, what does this mean? “A race of men who do not bow their necks to the yoke of other men.”
Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch, ad loc
“And his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s man against him and in the face of all his brothers will he dwell.” What does it mean?
The subject pertains to his children who will increase and they will have wars with all the nations.
Ramban, ad loc
“His hand shall be against everyone”, in that he will be victorious at first over all nations and afterwards “everyone’s hand shall be against him”, meaning that he will be vanquished in the end.
Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra, ad loc
“Although he will be a man with great potential, intellect and emotions his hand will be against everybody and everybody against him and still “In the face of his brothers he will dwell” i.e. he will honored by the nations.”
Da’at Sofrim, ad loc
Bereshith 15: 12
At the covenant between the pieces God causes Avram to fall into a deep prophetic sleep:
“And when the sun was going down a deep sleep fell upon Avram and lo, dread, a great darkness fell upon him”
“These are the 5 exiles which will in the future fall on the Jews:
Dread: this is Edom (the Roman empire)
Darkness: this is Yavan, (the Greek empire)
Great: This is Madai, (the Persian empire)
Fell: This is Babel, (the Babylonian empire)
Upon him: This is Yismael (the Arab empire)
And only then will Ben David, the Mashiach, come.
And how do we know?
Because it says:
(Tehilim 132: 18)
“His Oiyevav (enemies) I will clothe with shame, but upon him, his crown will shine”
At the end of days, just before the Mashiach will arrive, I will make the enemies to be wearing garments of shame
And then upon him (Israel and all the good nations of the world)
his (the mashiach’s) crown will shine.
Yalkut Shimoni, ad loc
When God blesses Avram He says:
Then I will bless you and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is upon the seashore
And your seed shall posses the gates of oivav, his enemy
Who is your enemy? The sons of Yishmael, the son of Avram and Sara.
When Rivka is asked to marry Yitschak, her family says to her:
Our sister, become you thousands of myriads and let your descendants inherit of those that sonav, hate them
Who are the haters of Israel? The sons of Esav, the son of Rivka and Yitschak
What is the difference between “enemies” and “haters”?
The word Oyev (enemy)is referring to the Arab nations and Soneh (hater) (to Edom, the sons of Esav, the Roman empire often identified with Anti-Semitism) in the West
The enemy is more evil than the hater, since the hater will do evil but will have mercy (on him self) but the enemy will have an eternal animosity and will not spare himself when he tries to kill Jews. And therefore he is called Oyev because this word is philologically related to the expression Oi Va Voy, because somebody who falls into the hands of the descendants of Yishmael will shout Oy Va Voy (How terrible!).
Rabenu Bachai, ad loc (*)
Shir Hama’aloth LeDavid
Had God not been with us… let Israel declare it now.
Had God not been with us when men rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us alive when their anger was kindled against us
Then the waters would have swallowed us alive
“You know that there are 4 exiles. But know that when the redemption will get closer, the Jews will have their final exile with Yishmael.
And this is the reason why he is called Yishmael, because the Jews will cry with painful cries and God will answer them (Yishma-El)
And if you ask me: Why the sons of Yishmael? I answer because the children of Yishmael never constituted a normal nation and were not able to dominate the West but were always living in deserts. Consequently they started to envy the other nations of the world and at the end of the days they will try to show their power and come out of their tents and try to overtake Israel and the whole world
And then we will sing:
“Had God not been with us when men rose up against us, they would have swallowed us alive..
Our souls escaped like a bird from the hunter’s snare, the snare broke and we escaped.
Our help is through the name of God, Maker of heaven and earth.”
And it that way this exile will be different from all exiles before since they will try to use ways to destroy Israel as has never been tried before and God’s interference will be clear.”
Rabbi Chaim Vital, pupil of the Arizal
Sefer Etz Hada’at Tov (***)
(*) For a full and in depth treatment of the following and other sources see my book: Between Silence and Speech, chapter 6, On the Israeli and Arab Conflict, a Biblical Perspective, Jason Aronson, Inc, Northvale, New Jersey, London, 1995.
(**) This is my personal interpretation of Rabenu Bahai’s observations so as to make them intelligible. For a completely different interpretation of these verses see the Gaon of Vilna, Adereth Eliyahu, Ha’azinu.
(***) Free translation. I am indebted for this source to Rabbi Yitzchak Bernstein z.l. from London.