Life, in all its beautiful complexity, often has an uncanny way of reminding us that some things never change. This thought becomes particularly poignant when we consider the universal themes and perennial conflicts embodied in ancient texts such as the Psalms. Psalm 83, composed by King David, presents a striking illustration of this principle. It portrays a scenario of strife and opposition, but it also provides us with timeless lessons about faith, resilience, and the human struggle against forces that aim to erase the divine.
In Psalm 83, David prays fervently to God about his numerous enemies. He enumerates a total of eleven adversary nations: Edom, the Ishmaelites, Moab, the Hagrites, Gebal, Ammon, Amalek, Philistia, and the inhabitants of Tyre, all united against him. Even Assyria, a previously neutral entity, has aligned itself with David’s enemies. To compound the situation further, they enlisted mercenaries from all significant nations in the vicinity, hoping to completely overwhelm Israel with their vast legions.
This Psalm also brings up Oreb and Zeeb, the two princes of Midian defeated by Gideon (Judges 7:25), and the kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, slain during the same war (Judges 8:10-12). The references to these historical figures underscore the depth and extent of the hostilities faced by the Jewish people.
While conflicts between nations are as old as the concept of nationhood itself, the onslaughts faced by Israel are not typical. They are not just about the conquest of territories or power dynamics; the intent is far more sinister. The coalitions of enemies aim not merely to decimate Israel, but to entirely obliterate the name of God from the face of the earth.
Yet, in this turbulent context, David voices a resolute plea:
“Cover their faces with shame so that they seek Your name, Hashem. May they be frustrated and terrified, disgraced and doomed forever. May they know that Your name, Yours alone, is Hashem, supreme over all the earth” (Psalm 83:17-19).
This statement encapsulates the core of David’s message. Winning the battle is not the ultimate goal. The real victory would be for these nations to recognize that Hashem is not only the God of Israel but the God of the entire world.
This understanding brings a profound shift in perspective. It demonstrates that Israel’s survival isn’t anchored merely in military might. Rather, it is contingent on the commitment to uphold the commandments and adhere to the covenant. If this obligation is fulfilled, then God will side with them, ensuring their victory, as stated in Exodus 15:3. The Psalm teaches us that survival is not merely a question of strength, but a matter of steadfast faith and spiritual integrity.
The struggles portrayed in Psalm 83 are far from obsolete. Today, we continue to witness the resurgence of antisemitism globally, a stark reminder of the enduring forces that wish not only to undermine the Jewish people but also to efface the universal values and teachings they embody, and to obliterate the memory of God whom they represent. Whether it’s in the form of hate speech, violent acts, or systemic discrimination, this bigotry eerily mirrors the aggressive coalitions faced by our ancestors.
However, just as Psalm 83 imparts, the aim isn’t simply to survive these onslaughts, but to rise above them with dignity, integrity, and unwavering commitment to our values. This is more than a tale of survival against the odds; it’s about illuminating the world with the light of righteousness, justice, and divinity. In the face of escalating antisemitism, the message of Psalm 83 remains as relevant and inspiring as ever. May we continue to draw strength from these timeless lessons, standing firm in our faith, and striving for a world where all recognize the supreme name of Hashem, understanding that He is not just the God of Israel, but the God of all.