By Avi Lazerson
We have become accustomed to reading our daily newspaper to know and understand what is going around in the world today. Not only do we read the "news" but also invested in the newspaper, either in the article itself, or in the editorial page, is the "understanding" of the event with all of its national and global implications.
Yet we Jews know that deep down inside, the truth is really revealed to us in the Torah. All the events that are taking place are really following a master plan. Our problem is to find where is this enumerated and explained in our Torah. Yet, it does exist. G-d's plan for mankind is following a pattern which has been related for us in the books of the prophets.
One of the books of the prophets, Daniel, is the story of a young Jewish man who was taken exile by Nebuchadnezer, the King of Babylonia, who had destroyed Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezer basically ruled the known world at that time.
Nebuchadnezer had a dream; a dream so real and frightening and strange that he was shocked and shaken up by the vision that he beheld. Yet, upon arising he could not remember the dream. It sounds strange to us perhaps, to see a dream so vivid and moving and then to forget it, but truth is stranger than fiction.
(The relevance to us of Nebuchadnezer's dream, which will be understood shortly, is startling and frightening. This is more so as the explanation that will be presented here of Nebuchadnezer's dream as revealed to him by Daniel was written some 200 years ago by the great and famous Rabbi Meir Liebish, known as the Malbim. The Malbim based his works on the great Rabbis who preceded him, notably, Rashi, Ibn Ezra and Saadia Gaon. These rabbis lived some 900 to 1400 years ago. The implications of the Malbim's writing will be shown shortly. They are relevant to us now in our understanding current news events.)
Continuing with the dream: In the morning, Nebuchadnezer called for all of his wisest men, his advisers, his astrologists, his soothsayers, etc and told them that he expects them to tell him his dream! They basically panicked and told him that it was impossible to tell him the dream. They reasoned that if the dream were a revelation of divine origin, the message in the dream they could divine, but the mode through which the message was revealed could not be fathomed. There are many vehicles and devices that a dream may use to convey a message and they could not tell him exactly what he saw.
Nebuchadnezer was not content with their answer. Just the opposite, he felt that they understood that something of supreme importance was in this dream and they were holding him back from the proper understanding of the dream. With this reasoning, he ordered that all the wise men in his kingdom were to be put to death.
Daniel alone understood that something very deep was revealed to Nebuchadnezer. He called upon his three friends, Chanania, Mishal, and Ezaria, who were known by their Babylonian names, Shadrack, Meshach, and Eved Nego, to pray to G-d that the dream and its revelation be told to them. And so it was.
Daniel then approached the minister of the king and offered to explain dream to the king. The minister told Nebuchadnezer and Daniel was brought before the king. He related exactly what the dream was, a thing that no mortal was capable of doing. Then he told him the meaning. In this dream we shall see shortly the relevance for you and me.
First he told Nebuchadnezer that the dream was a vision from G-d. Being that it was from G-d it was of no surprise that none of his wisest men were able to know it, since the wisdom of G-d is infinite. Daniel then praised G-d for revealing the dream to him and told Nebuchadnezer that since he was the head of the world, the future was revealed to him.
In the dream Daniel related, the king saw a great image that was mighty and radiating light. The head was made of fine gold, its breast and arms were of silver, its belly and thighs of copper, its legs of iron, and its feet were constructed partly of iron and partly of clay. Then a stone, which was not formed or thrown by man's hands, smashed into the feet and broke it into tiny pieces. Then the entire structure crumbled into dust that the wind carried away. Then the stone became a mountain that filled the entire world. This was the dream.
Then Daniel explained the dream to Nebuchadnezer. The image that he saw was divided into various zones. The head, he explained, was gold. That represented Nebuchadnezer and his kingdom since G-d has given him the rule of the world. However after Nebuchadnezer, there would rise another kingdom, not of the quality of Nebuchadnezer, represented by gold, but lower in relationship, as silver is to gold.
After this will rise a third kingdom, who's properties will be closer to that of brass, and after that a fourth kingdom represented by the upper and lower feet made of iron and clay will be a divided kingdom. They will mingle with one another but will not be able to cling to one another. Part will be powerful and part will be weak. In the end, a stone, not made by man, but by G-d will crumble the awesome image.
When the king heard Daniel's recitation of him dream and the subsequent explanation, he fell on his face in front of Daniel. The king was so overwhelmed by this man who possessed the spirit of G-d that he wanted to make Daniel into a deity. Daniel of course refused, and instead was promoted to being a high minister as were his three friends, Chanania, Mishal, and Ezaria.
Now for us, the most important part of this dream is the explanation that was given by Rabbi Meir Leibish, the Malbim, who lived about 200 years ago. If Daniel illuminated for Nebuchadnezer his dream, the Malbim has given us the meaning for our generation - the truth is now being openly revealed in front of our eyes each day, as we will explain now.
First the dream tells us what to expect at the end of days. The first stage, the head made of gold represented Nebuchadnezer, as stated above.
The second kingdom, represented by the upper torso and arms made of silver. This was the kingdom of Maadi and Paras (ancient Iraq and Iran). These took over the leadership of the world after the demise of Nebuchadnezer and were really two, symbolized by the two arms.
The third stage was the belly and thighs which were made of brass. This was the kingdom of Greece who ruled the world during the time of our Chanukah miracle.
The fourth stage was the iron legs, indicating fierce power, which was the Roman rule, which continues today as the western world. The iron legs descend into the feet and toes which are composed of two materials, iron and clay. The Malbim explains to us that this represents the nations of Edom (Rome) and Ishmael (Islam), which like two separate feet and ten separate toes, will never come together and will contest against each other.
He explains further that these two will contest with each other. In the end, the famous war of Gog and Magog will be fought between them. This is the war in which the two contestants will destroy each other as is described in the other prophets as being the final battle of the nations.
What will be the end? This is the stone ball that is thrown without human hands at the feet of the image. This means that G-d destroying the rule of the nations. The stone that grows to become a mountain represents the new reign of the righteous messiah, to whom we have been waiting for.
Now as we look at the newspapers and hear the media reports, does it not seem very clear that the two separate "isms", the Islam world and the western world are increasingly coming to a serious confrontation. It appears very likely that the prophetic words of the Malbim, which were set in print some two hundred years ago, are appearing on our newspapers only today.
Maybe we should spend more time reading the prophets instead of the newspapers and we will understand current events in a far different and deeper prospective.
from the July 2004 Edition of the Jewish Magazine