What Now?

The Iran negotiations
have concluded, and a deal has been struck. Depending on your perspective, there are many different ways to perceive this deal. It’s either a calamity or the worst thing ever.

There’s no sugar-coating it: The United States has been had. I don’t know if it is a product of President Obama’s policy of “leading from behind” — meaning that we, as a country, no longer can dictate the terms our allies will agree with — or of rank incompetence on the part of our negotiators. In any event, the P5+1 more or less gave the farm to Iran, in a deal that doesn’t accomplish any of the objectives they said it would at the outset.

For example, one of the preconditions to this deal which was spoken of time and again was the increased inspections Iran would have to submit to in order to get the sanctions lifted. These were referred to as “anytime, anywhere” inspections, meaning that inspectors would need to be granted unfettered access to any site in the country, including military sites, to be able to do their jobs effectively.

As it turns out, “anytime, anywhere” is anything but. Only confirmed nuclear sites are open for snap inspections, and any other site (including but not limited to military sites) needs to be requested by the IAEA. Iran then has what amounts to a 24-day window to allow access. If they do not, the consequence is not automatic sanction snapback. Rather, an eight-member commission comprised of the P5+1 (the U.S., UK, France, Russia, China and Germany), together with an EU representative and another from Iran, decide what happens next — which means that so long as Russia, China and Iran can peel off one of the remaining members, they can defy the requests with impunity.

Hardly an agreement which can make anyone confident they will not get a bomb.

A little more than nine years ago, I was walking in the streets of Yerushalayim with the Raavad of the Eidah Hachareidis, Harav Moshe Sternbuch, shlita. At the time, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the president of Iran and was vowing to “wipe Israel off the map.” Rav Sternbuch said that Chazal say that in the time before Moshiach comes, all the nations of the world will tremble from malchus Paras. He remarked that 10 years earlier, nobody would have believed that would ever be possible. The prescience of Chazal, however, was apparent in what they had foretold, as the world was then beginning to talk about the “Iranian problem.”

Recent developments led me to look up the maamar Chazal. Rav Yitzchak says (Pesichtah Rabbasi 36) that there will be a tremendous global conflict right before Moshiach comes. “V’chozer melech Paras u’machriv es kol haolam kulo — The king of Persia (Iran) will return and lay waste to the entire world, and all of the nations will be thrown into a fearful panic, and they will fall on their faces.”

With the increasing probability that Iran will become a nuclear power, it seems likely that the fulfillment of this midrash is imminent.

Israeli leaders from the left are planning to visit the U.S. with the intention of personally lobbying Democratic senators to buck the president and vote down this deal. Major Jewish organizations are planning massive efforts to defeat it at that crucial vote. For many months these people were insisting, along with their allies in Congress, that there was nothing to fear about the impending deal. And now they want to stop it — and are stunned to learn that the president plans to work around Congress by passing a binding resolution in the U.N. that would leave Congress’s hands tied.

All this work, and all for naught.

It is human nature to throw up our hands. In fact, a popular reaction now, as it was after 9/11, is to quote the famous Gemara (Sotah 49b) about Ikvesa d’Meshicha. “….V’al ma yesh lanu l’hishaen? Al Avinu ShebaShamayim. — What do we have to rely upon? Our Father in Heaven.” Rav Chaim Epstein, zt”l, pointed out then, as it is important to remember now, that these words are not, as many people take it, meant to be something to make us feel better. They are  mechayev — demanding that we change our approach to strengthen our bond with Hakadosh Baruch Hu.

The Chofetz Chaim, in a letter he wrote before he tried to move to Eretz Yisrael, gave advice to people who wanted to know what to do to save themselves from middas hadin. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 98b) says that Rav Eliezer Hagadol’s talmidim asked him: “Mah yaaseh adam v’yinatzel me’chevlei Moshiach — What should a person do to be saved from the birth pains of Moshiach?” He answered them, “Ya’asok baTorah ub’gemilus chassadim — Toil in Torah and chessed.” “Rav Eliezer Hagadol could not give any other ways,” said the Chofetz Chaim. “If he can’t, could I?”

These words are especially important in these days. The main avodah in a particular galus is to fix the causes of that galus. The first Beis Hamikdash’s destruction (which the sefarim teach us [cited by Rav Dovid Cohen in Why We Weep, p. 67] is a primary cause of our galus today, even after the second Bayis) was due to a weakness in the esteem in which Torah study was held. The Bayis Sheini, we all know, was destroyed because of sinas chinam.

Mah yaaseh adam v’yinatzel me’chevlei Moshiach? Yaasok baTorah ub’gemilus chassadim.” Chashivus for Torah, and chessed. The yeshuah isn’t coming from the politicians, and not from the activists. It’s coming from us, through our Torah and our chessed.