Shaarei Shamayim

A Place of Comfort, Companionship and Healing

TZAV 5776 - Brussels and the Snake

TZAV 5776

Brussels and the Snake

Purim Wednesday night was wonderful in Shaarei Shamayim. The attendance was good despite the fact that several of our members were away or under the weather. There was a great spirit in the shul as we read the Megillah and booed Haman. We sang Purim songs and ate Hamantashen. It was meaningful and fun and everyone had a good time.

But across the Atlantic Ocean in Brussels it was a different Purim this year entirely. In fact for the 1st time ever, Purim was cancelled!!! Yes, you heard right, Purim was cancelled! The Belgian police requested the Jewish community cancel their Purim celebrations following the attacks at the airport and subway station in Brussels Tuesday morning because the police said they were unable to protect them from additional terrorist attacks—and synagogues were likely targets.

Over a thousand members of the Jewish community were scheduled to attend the Megillah reading at the Great Synagogue of Europe followed by a performance by the Gat Brothers who were flown in from Israel for the occasion. Chief Rabbi of Belgium Avraham Gigi said: “We are in a state of fear because we don’t know what will happen…The entire Belgian Jewish community sends our condolences to the families of the victims, and wish the injured a speedy recovery.”

The President of the Conference of European Rabbis, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, said: This terror attack is a declaration of war by these Islamo-fascist terrorists against the capital of the EU, and against the freedoms and values of Europe…In synagogues around the world the story of Esther is read this week—a story of the fight between the forces of light and darkness, which will end only by recognizing and knowing without a doubt who the enemy is, and by destroying that enemy. We pray that the EU will know how to join forces in order to fight against the forces of evil, of darkness, and of terror in Belgium, on the internet, in the mosques, and on the streets.

It was eerily frightening to witness all this during Purim week. The story of Purim is the story of Haman who sought to annihilate all the Jews. The story of Islamic-extremists like ISIS—who claimed responsibility for the attacks—is not yet complete, but we know that on top of their agenda is also the annihilation of all the Jews.

Who will be our King Achashveros to help save us? It certainly looks like it won’t be President Barak Obama. He won’t even recognize Islamic terrorism for what it is. Devoting only one minute of his 40-minute speech in Cuba this week to the attacks he said: The thoughts and prayers of the American people are with the people of Belgium, and we stand in solidarity with them in condemning these outrageous attacks against innocent people…We can and we will defeat those who threaten the safety and security of people all round the world.

What’s missing from these remarks? There was no mention of who these attackers were—even though they were avowed Islamists with ties to ISIS. How can you defeat those who threaten you if you won’t identify them?

In a more unbelievable statement, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday: “The Islamic State is desperately lashing out in Europe because its base in the Middle East is rapidly eroding.” It seems to me that he and Obama are living in Lala Land. ISIS may have experienced a setback or 2 in Iraq or Syria, but it continues to expand in Libya, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Algeria and now with the immigration crisis in Europe, it’s infiltrating there as well as we’ve seen this week. 

In today’s Haftorah, Jeremiah rails against the perversion of pagan rites that sacrifice children on the altar of Tofet in Gey Hinom, (the valley of Hinom) in Jerusalem which later became synonymous with Gehenom, or “Hell,” because of the atrocities committed there. The altar was called Tofet (from the Hebrew tof, “drum”) because of the loud drums beaten there to drown out the screams of the children being sacrificed. We can still hear the screams of the 31 dead and over 300 injured in Brussels this week all the way across the ocean. I did some research and found that more than 60,000 people died from Islamic terrorism in the past 2 years—more than ever before! 60,000—with countless injured! They scream out to us: How many more sacrifices are needed till the world takes the threat of Islamic terrorism seriously enough to really fight it?

Also in the news this week was the revelation that the Obama Administration has instructed those in charge of immigration security when they find an illegal immigrant to check to see if they can find out if they are dangerous criminals, and if not, to let them go! In other words, anyone can come into America, lie about their ID, and if immigration can’t find a record of their being a bad criminal…there in—no questions asked! Don’t get me wrong. I’m in favor of immigration. My father emigrated from the Ukraine. But in this world of so many dangerous people who want to kill Americans and Jews, how can we let everyone in without proper screening?

I’m not a big fan of Donald Trump, but this week he read the lyrics to Al Wilson's 1968 R&B song, “The Snake” at a rally making this same point. Let me share it with you:

On her way to work one morning

Down the path alongside the lake

A tender hearted woman saw a poor half frozen snake

His pretty colored skin had been all frosted with the dew

“Oh well,” she cried, “I’ll take you in and I’ll take care of you”

“Take me in tender woman

Take me in, for heaven’s sake

Take me in, tender woman,” sighed the snake


Now she wrapped him all cozy in a coverture of silk

And then laid him by the fireside with some honey and some milk

Now she hurried home from work that night, as soon as she arrived

She found that pretty snake she’d taken to had been revived

“Take me in, oh tender woman

Take me in, for heaven’s sake

Take me in, tender woman,” sighed the snake


She clutched him to her bosom, “You’re so beautiful,” she cried

“But if I hadn’t brought you in, by now you might have died”

Now she stroked his pretty skin again and then kissed and held him tight

But instead of saying thanks, the snake gave her a vicious bite!

…”Now I saved you,” cried the woman

And you’ve bit me, even why?

And you know your bite is poisonous and now I’m going to die”

“Ah shut up, silly woman,” said that reptile with a grin

“Now you knew darn well I was a snake before you brought me in.”

My friends, we live a frightening world where terror can spring up without warning at any time. The terrorists in Brussels and Paris were Islamic extremists posing as immigrants as were those in San Bernardino, California. We must identify the terrorist for who they are—Islamic extremists—and we must be careful that our kindness and generosity not bite us in the neck and create a world where our children will live in fear. Amen!

                                      Rabbi Mark Hillel Kunis


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