There is an expression which is frequently used after the murder of innocent Jewish civilians: “Hamakom Yikom Damo,” or HYD for short. The rough translation is “May God Avenge His Blood.” People who skew to the right politically use the expression to express the desire for justice and revenge against the murderer. Those who tend towards the left may use the expression to convey the notion that justice is a matter for God to mete out, not for man.
The expression deserves further analysis, particularly as it relates to Ari Fuld, who was murdered by an Arab terrorist on September 16, 2018.
Bible Source for God’s Vengeance
The source for the HYD expression can be found in the Torah reading which was read last Saturday in synagogues around the world in Parashat Haazinu:
(הַרְנִ֤ינוּ גוֹיִם֙ עַמּ֔וֹ כִּ֥י דַם־עֲבָדָ֖יו יִקּ֑וֹם וְנָקָם֙ יָשִׁ֣יב לְצָרָ֔יו וְכִפֶּ֥ר אַדְמָת֖וֹ עַמּֽוֹ׃ (פ
“O nations, acclaim His people! For He’ll avenge the blood of His servants, Wreak vengeance on His foes, And cleanse the land of His people.” (Deuteronomy 32:43)
This line comes towards the end of one of only two poems that occur in the Bible. The sentence conveys that God will take vengeance on the enemies of the Jewish people. As translated here, this quote could be used to support the intentions of both liberals and conservatives.
However, the line must be read in the context of the entire poem, which gives important nuance to this expression of revenge.
The poem in chapter 32 begins with a description of God’s generosity towards the Children of Israel in giving them the holy land. However, it warns that the Jews will forget and forsake Him when they “grow fat” in the land. God will then punish the Jews for their sin, but He will ultimately relent – not because of the righteousness of the Jews – but because He doesn’t want the enemies of Israel to believe that they had vanquished God. He will bring His vengeance upon Israel’s enemies, because those foes had also rejected God and hurt His people.
Atonement for the Land-People
By the end of the poem when God’s vengeance is mentioned, the Jewish people will already have been pummeled. “God’s servants” will have already been devastated for rejecting His words, sacrificing to Him with “alien things” and worshiping strange Gods (32:16-18). The remaining sliver of His people will be saved and will serve as a testament to His word and promise.
With such backdrop, it is worth reviewing the final words of 32:43 which are translated above as “And cleanse the land of His people.” The Hebrew is more complicated and nuanced, and a more literal translation is “and His land His People will be atoned.”
“His land-people” is a very strange grammatical concoction, as there is no “and” connecting His land “and” His people. It can be best understood by looking at language used earlier in the poem (32:8-9):
בְּהַנְחֵ֤ל עֶלְיוֹן֙ גּוֹיִ֔ם בְּהַפְרִיד֖וֹ בְּנֵ֣י אָדָ֑ם יַצֵּב֙ גְּבֻלֹ֣ת עַמִּ֔ים לְמִסְפַּ֖ר בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃
“When the Most High gave nations their homes And set the divisions of man, He fixed the boundaries of peoples In relation to Israel’s numbers.”
כִּ֛י חֵ֥לֶק יְהֹוָ֖ה עַמּ֑וֹ יַעֲקֹ֖ב חֶ֥בֶל נַחֲלָתֽוֹ׃
“For the LORD’s portion is His people, Jacob His own allotment.”
The text of 32:8-9 ties the notion of His nation (ammo in Hebrew) with the land of Israel itself. His nation, His people and His land are a single integrated entity. The “admato ammo” – “his land, his people” of 32:43 is that amalgam of the Jews living in their land of inheritance.
The verb preceding “admato ammo” is “v’kiper” which is similar to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The complete clause means that God’s vengeance upon the enemies of the Jews will atone for past actions and cleanse the slate to rightly set His people in His land once more.
Neither the right- or left-leaning orientation of the expression “May God Avenge His Blood” captures the full essence of the quote which is meant to establish the enduring peace of Jews in Israel.
The Jewish people are now a fraction of their proper number, having been decimated in the Inquisition, pogroms, a Holocaust, wars and terrorism over the past thousand years. Their paltry headcount was scattered among dozens of countries around the world, only recently being gathered again into His land, the land of Israel. It was a mere ten years ago, in 2008, when the number of Jews in Israel surpassed all other countries for the first time in 1900 years. The “admato ammo,” God’s land-people are finally established again.
One of the Jews to return to the Jewish homeland was Ari Fuld, moving to Israel from the United States several decades ago. He not only fought in the Israel Defense Forces, he loudly and proudly defended and supported the IDF at every opportunity. He taught classes on Judaism in school and was a fierce religious Zionist. Ari was the essence of “admato ammo” – part-and-parcel of God’s land-people.
The expression “Hamakom Yikom Damo” for Ari Fuld is not a simple prayer for God to bring justice to Ari’s murderer, but a request that God fulfill Ari’s dream of an enduring peace for admato ammo, His land-people. The Children and Land of Israel.
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