Saturday, August 10, 2019

Fox News

"Foxes at Temple Mount: Prophetic Proof Jerusalem Returning to Glory"
"Dozens Of Foxes Seen Early Morning Near Kosel – Prophecy of Zechariah Alive and Well!"
"Sighting of Foxes on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount Triggers Prophecy Theories about Third Jewish Temple"
"Foxes Seen Walking near the Western Wall, Fulfilling Biblical Promise"
A video emerged this week of several foxes cavorting around the Old City of Jerusalem, and caused sensational headlines in the world press. Is the presence of foxes on the Temple Mount really a prophecy about the coming of the Messiah? Is that really the message? And if not, what does the fox say?

First of all, a technical correction. There were not "dozens of foxes." The video shows four, and they must have been cubs of a single family. The reason why I know that there could not have been dozens, and that the four foxes were a family, is that foxes are solitary creatures. In fact this is one of the ways in which we know that the Biblical term shu'al does not necessarily refer to a fox, but rather often refers to a jackal; for more details, see my Torah Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom. Still, for now, let us assume that the shu'al is a fox.

Now, let us look carefully at the famous story regarding Rabbi Akiva and the fox on the Temple Mount:
Once, Rabban Gamliel, R. Elazar b. Azaryha, R. Yehoshua and R. Akiva were ascending to Jerusalem. When they arrived at Mount Scopus, they rent their garments. When they arrived at the Temple Mount, they saw a fox that emerged from the site of the Holy of Holies. They began weeping, and Rabbi Akiva was laughing. They said to him: Why are you laughing? Rabbi Akiva said to them: Why are you weeping? They said to him: This is the place concerning which it is written: “And the non-priest who approaches shall die” (Numbers 1:51), and now "foxes walk in it" (Eicha 5:18) - shall we not weep?
Rabbi Akiva said to them: That is why I am laughing, as it is written: “And I will take to Me faithful witnesses to attest: Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah” (Isaiah 8:2). Now what is the connection between Uriah and Zechariah? Uriah prophesied during the First Temple period, and Zechariah prophesied during the Second Temple period! Rather, the verse established that fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah is dependent on fulfillment of the prophecy of Uriah. In the prophecy of Uriah it is written: “Therefore, because of you, Zion shall be plowed as a field...” (Micah 3:12). (There is a rabbinic tradition that this was also prophesied by Uriah.) In the prophecy of Zechariah it is written: “There shall yet be elderly men and elderly women sitting in the streets of Jerusalem” (Zechariah 8:4). Until the prophecy of Uriah (with regard to the destruction) was fulfilled I was afraid that the prophecy of Zechariah would not be fulfilled. Now that the prophecy of Uriah was fulfilled, it is evident that the prophecy of Zechariah will be fulfilled.
The Sages said to him, employing this formulation: Akiva, you have comforted us; Akiva, you have comforted us.
Note that foxes are not part of either Zechariah's or Uriah's prophecy. Rather, there is a reference in Eicha to the desolation of Jerusalem, which mentions foxes walking through it. The Sages cite this when they too see a fox walking through the ruins of Jerusalem, since it is an example, an illustration, of the destruction. R Akiva says just as the destruction was prophesied by Uriah and came to be, so too Zechariah's prophecy, of the redemption, will come to be.

Seeing foxes today in Jerusalem is therefore just a case of observing the destruction, just as Rabbi Akiva did. The only prophecy that it demonstrates is that of the destruction, with which we do not have any doubts, because it already happened.

But here we get to the crucial point. Let's go back in time and think about how Rabbi Akiva's confident rejoicing would have appeared over most of history. What naive foolishness! The Jewish People have been decimated and spread over the four corners of the earth. They are an utterly downtrodden people. Jerusalem is desolate.

And yet look at the situation now! There is Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel! Millions of Jews have returned to the Land, from all over the world. Jerusalem is a city of beauty, and the country is thriving and prosperous. We take all this for granted, but for the last two thousand years, this was a virtually unimaginable fantasy.

Earlier this year I found myself sitting on a plane next to a British messianic Christian. Unlike American Christians, who are extremely friendly and positive to Jews, this person was as unpleasant as the youths who used to harass me on the streets of Manchester. He said to me, "How can you possibly not accept Jesus? How can you see the Jews as being loved by God? You've got no Temple, there's hardly any of you left - you've got nothing!" It was ironic that he was telling me this while sitting on an El-Al Dreamliner heading for the State of Israel. 

To be sure, things are far from perfect. There are great dangers from the neighboring countries. There is great hostility from the world. And the spiritual state of the country is sadly lacking. But what we do have is so incredibly, marvelously better than what was!
The truth is that foxes are not actually necessarily a sign of desolation (which is another reason why I'm inclined to think that the shu'alim of Eicha are jackals). London, one of the biggest and busiest cities in the world, is full of foxes. I regularly see foxes in my densely-populated suburb of Ramat Beit Shemesh.

When we see foxes running around the Temple Mount, this deservedly does bring to mind the famous story with Rabbi Akiva. But instead of responding with theologically groundless proclamations of imminent miracles, the sentiment that we should feel is wondrous gratitude at how different things are now from Rabbi Akiva's time. Yes, we hope and pray that they will improve even more. But, like Rabbi Akiva, let us focus on the good!


  1. The Land of Israel and the State of Israel are fundamentally distinct. The former is geographic, the latter is political.

    It is incredible how millions of Jews have returned to our beloved homeland so quickly. Jerusalem defines beauty. The spirit feels magical!

    But today, the Jewish sovereignty is actually sorrowful. We ought to cry about it on Tisha B'Av. Way back, our nation was loyal to the leadership of the outstanding Torah-Sages. Today, millions follow leadership that despises Torah.

    The idea that we are better off in all respects compared to the times of R. Akiva is a willful distortion.

    Indeed, they suffered under the cruel Roman boot. But they were guided by Tannaic genius that interceded for them at Rome and provided Torah leadership of the highest caliber that transformed the people.

    1. Right, that's why I numbers declined from 7 million at the time of Hillel, to less than a million by the time Rashi died.

    2. The Pharisees were just one group among many vying for supremacy. There were Sadduccees, Essenes, zealots....none of whom were impressed in the least by our Tannaitic geniuses. Indeed, the zealots flagrantly fought the rabbis, ignoring them, burning food storehouses, endangering Jewish lives, etc. You're in a pure fantasy world if you think it was one united people led by rabbis. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was pure chaos. Makes today look downright prim and proper. The rabbis survived and wrote the narrative. But even they admit they had opponents. Will you?

    3. Yes, to go back to the times when our Torah giants were wrapped in Torah scrolls and burnt alive or had their flesh raked off their bodies and sold in the market. When Sadducees made a joke of the Kehuna and Romans taxed us all the while "leadership at the highest caliber" resulted in a people who disregarded birkat hatorah and gave way to a sinat chinam which ultimately brought our temple down. Alas.

    4. "Right, that's why I numbers declined from 7 million at the time of Hillel, to less than a million by the time Rashi died."

      I find it hard to believe that world Jewry was only 1 million in the year 1100, taking the Babylonian and North African communities into account as well. Is that counting only the European communities?

    5. "Way back, our nation was loyal to the leadership of the outstanding Torah-Sages." Really? Which time period exactly? You mean the time that Torah sages sat at a banquet doing nothing to prevent the humiliation of a fellow Jew?

    6. Also don't straw man the situation: it is not that the modern situation is "better off in all respects" than R' Akiva's time, it's that it is better in some - perhaps many - respects. Obviously there are still problems, too numerous to list now. But to say that everything is worse is a denial of Hashem's goodness.

    7. Indeed we ought to focus on the good. There are millions of Jews in Israel that study Torah and keep the Mitzvos.

      But according to this blog we are entirely better off now than in the times of R. Akiva. That is a willful falsehood.

      We suffered then. In that respect we are certainly better off now.

      But spiritually, the State of Israel has caused much harm. And, while the security and prosperity of Israel is very important, the spiritual component is even more important.

      Granted that in the times of the Tannaim there were the Sadducees and other groups similar in many respects to the Haskalah and the Hellenizers that forsook the Torah. But as vocal and harmful they were, they were a minority.

      The Pharisees were the Torah-sages, of which R. Akiva belonged. And here is what Josephus writes about them:

      ...on account of which doctrines they are able greatly to
      persuade the body of the people; and whatsoever they do about Divine worship, prayers, and sacrifices, they perform them according to their direction; insomuch that the cities give great attestations to them on account of their entire virtuous conduct, both in the actions of their lives and their discourses also.

    8. But according to this blog we are entirely better off now than in the times of R. Akiva.

      Unfortunately(?) for you, the blog post is available to read. Thus, anyone can see that the assertion you made is a falsehood. It may not be willful, as you may simply be illiterate. I'm not sure which trait would be considered giving the benefit of the doubt, so I'll just leave it there for people to see.

    9. "The State of Israel has caused much harm." How so? Don't pretend that the people who aren't religious today would have been religious if not for the state. There were always Jews who weren't religious, or had a spiritual connection but didn't practice. The overall level of Jewish practice was far lower at any point in history, regardless of how many people in Israel (and elsewhere in the world) aren't religious today. So you're going to say that the draft caused people to become irreligious. Maybe, but those people would have become so anyway. You just wouldn't have noticed, because a lot of irreligious people act like they're still religious just to fit in. And no, causing people to not be able to learn full-time is not "spiritual harm."

      I don't understand your point about the haskalah being a minority. Most Jews didn't have strong opinions in that case, similar to ancient times when most people didn't know how to read and had to be told how to practice Judaism, and similar to today when many people blindly follow rabbis. Is your argument that minority movements cause spiritual harm? That's a given, but it doesn't really have anything to do with the rest of what you said.

  2. “There shall yet be elderly men and elderly women sitting in the streets of Jerusalem”

    This prophecy has (amazingly) actually been fulfilled.

  3. "the country is thriving and prosperous'

    the country has 4.5 million shabbos violators. You call that thriving? Jews don't measure their lives by listings on the NASDAQ.

    1. I assume that, due to the difficulty of the fast, you are doing your best to ignore the glass half full.

    2. No country in the history of the world has measured its success by how few of its citizens were Shabbos violators.

    3. It's thriving, it's thriving. Just walk along the streets. Children everywhere. High tech. See the fruits in the shuk. A shul on every block. Eight million Jews. In Israel. Speaking Hebrew. In charge. And it'll only get better.

    4. Israel's economic prosperity is miraculous and less spiritually threatening than colossal pomegranates.
      We still await the fulfilment of other prophecies. Mourning over ירושלים is incomplete if it's not accompanied by הכרת הטוב. Read the קינות: We cry over lack of both spiritual and physical sustenance. If you don't celebrate properity than you haven't appreciated those קינות depicting desperate measures of starving people.

    5. Or 2 million shomrei shabbat who can do so without nary a threat to their physical being. More people Shomer Shabbat then the time of Dovid, Shlomo, Chizkiyahu, Yoshiyahu and Ezra combined. Why don't you go ask the gedolei of Europe who are all davening on our behalf in shamayim if they could revert us back to Germany 1941, or Poland 1648 or Spain in 1492 or Jerusalem 1096 or Jerusalem 70. You have no sense of hakaras hatov for one iota of what you have -- the ability to be a Jew anyway you want without any threat for your life or compromise in your ability to say hodu la'hashem ki tov in earnest.

  4. Boy am I glad I have a sane voice to read in this blog. Chassidic haredi here.

    Btw, a good question is: why did R' Akiva need to actually see the fox, didn't they all know about the actual destruction (especially since we're saying that about seeing it today...)

    Also thanks for the Jackel piece, (watched national geographic - fascinating stuff) didn't know that.

    1. I think the p'shat of the fox is that in the middle of all that pain and suffering, how does one know whether there is more to come or if this is it. The fox says this is the bottom; we can only go up from here. It's hard to begin your journey forward without knowing whether the steps you tread are in vain. "We can begin" suggests Rabbi Akiva, "for the fox has come.."

    2. The Maharal discusses what seeing the fox did.

  5. No answer for why he actually needed to see it, but there are numerous instances where chazal look for physical proof of prophecies. This isn't so unusual.

  6. "How can you see the Jews as being loved by God? You've got no Temple, there's hardly any of you left - you've got nothing!"

    דברים פרק ז
    לֹ֣א מֵֽרֻבְּכֶ֞ם מִכָּל־הָֽעַמִּ֗ים חָשַׁ֧ק ה' בָּכֶ֖ם וַיִּבְחַ֣ר בָּכֶ֑ם כִּֽי־אַתֶּ֥ם הַמְעַ֖ט מִכָּל־הָעַמִּֽים:

    1. Rav Soloveitchik heard this from clergy during the holocaust-he felt the state was HKB"H's answer to the massive chillul hashem of the holocaust.

      kol dodi dofeik - some will never hear the knocks


  7. Rabbi Akiva wasn't focussing on the good, he was basically saying the frum version of the 'the only way is up'. Anyway, this whole story illustrates the collective imbecility of mainstream orthodox Judaism as well as its total disregard for accuracy and precision. If you want to understand why more than 50 years after being given the temple mount we still have no temple, look no further.

    More interesting: David Gelernter has decided that Neo-Darwinism as an explanation of the origin of the species is mathematically impossible. Thoughts?


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