Overt antisemitism is on the increase throughout the
world. National hatred is turning into religious zeal and
even the Arab internecine struggle is now being rerouted to
hatred of Jews.
How must a Jew relate to these events?
This essay by Hakodosh HaRav Avrohom Yitzchok Bloch
zt'l Hy'd, av beis din, rosh mesivta of Telz, was
reprinted in the new work, Shiurei Daas. The words
that were said in 5699 (1939), at the outbreak of World War
II, and which appeared in the Warsaw's Der Yiddishe
Tagblatt, are still as relevant as ever.
Many are the signs being sent to us as road signals to
indicate the correct way to the wayward. Some are revealed or
obvious to us through general rules, while others are
disclosed to us specially, through private channels. Let us
inspect some of these and attempt, at least in some measure,
to illuminate and explain their significance for us.
Before our eyes we can see: 1) a chain of events that appear
to be extraordinary, 2) a manifestation of Divine Providence
through "measure for measure," and 3) a seeming obscuring of
Divine vigilance over us, which is manifested as merciful
Providence through harsh decrees. Let us now clarify
1) Supernatural Events
For us Jews, it is no news that the nations despise us.
Hatred against the Jewish nation had its inception at the
very dawn of our nationhood. But with this great hatred, and
with all the oppression and strife which has been our lot
throughout the generations, it is rare for the animosity to
erupt in such a volatile and absolute manner of all-out-war
against Judaism. Never was the situation as it is today, that
hatred and war against Jews should be a basic stand, a
central fulcrum that guides the internal political workings
of the major world powers.
The German nation, from which the entire world still trembles
due to its military might and imperialistic designs, is
seemingly afraid of a confrontation with the Jewish people
and establishes it as one of its enemies, even though we have
no military might and are, actually, weak by physical nature.
Is this situation not strange and extraordinary? Can such a
situation be viewed with normal human logic?
And this evolves in such an unexpected manner, for we are not
talking about people from some remote place or an
insignificant nation, but a major world power of size and
might. Furthermore, we are talking about a country where Jews
constitute a small minority and even this is fast dwindling.
And precisely from such a nation is proclaimed a declaration
of dreadful war, by all the nations of the world against the
weak, helpless sheep.
Is this not altogether an unforeseen state of affairs? What
logical process of thought could have devised such a strange
2) A Policy of Measure for Measure
Is it not puzzling that those selfsame countries in which
Jews have built a successful future for themselves and their
children on the very basis of denying their Jewish roots and
through treacherous assimilation, the countries where
traditional Judaism was sacrificed for the sake of national
assimilation -- precisely in those lands where Jews divested
themselves of their Jewish image by integrating physically,
outwardly, and later also rejecting their Jewish inner
identity so as to incorporate themselves totally amidst the
gentile population and no longer be recognized as Jews --
from here was initially revealed the Divine measure for
measure: an abnormal outburst of volatile chauvinism which
regarded every person of non-Aryan origin as undesirable in
their land? They considered every Jew an actual enemy who had
to be completely liquidated in order to render him
One who studies these matters from a distance will clearly
see that this war against the Jews did not begin recently.
Rather, this declaration of war was first made with the onset
of Jewish assimilation and self denial.
But Hashem's policy is to leave a large margin of leeway in
time. From the inception of the sin to the actual punishment
there is an evolving process, and it is this interim that
allows for error, for mistaken blindness in refusing to
acknowledge the Divine policy of measure for measure and to
decide that all events are mere circumstance, a freak of
"Because the decree punishing the evil deed is not swift in
its delivery, therefore man presumes to persist in evil"
(Koheles 8:11). In actuality, the sin and its
punishment are a single decree, one language. The punishment
is a direct consequence of the sin, though the interval of
time and the fact that the retribution is not swift allows
for error and confusion. There comes a time, however, when
everyone is witness to the correlation between the sin and
its consequence and if even then they do not learn the ways
of Hashem, it is cruelty towards their own souls.
3) Merciful Providence Through Suffering
At such a time, shall we not yet see the powerful design of
Providence so that those who are distanced be not altogether
lost? Indeed, we see its precise workings in the very flood
of our tribulations. Were their nationalistic theories more
benign and comfortable to live with, if the spiritual
defectors were singled out by the countries and protected,
what massive waves of shmad would have flooded
Germany, Austria, Italy and the other countries!
"If not with a mighty hand and with outpoured wrath shall I
rule over you" (Yechezkel 20:33-34). Precisely through
the Providence of this mighty hand, precisely through the
policy of outpoured wrath when Jews attempt futilely to
escape the battlefield of the Jews -- there is the kindness
manifested through the provisions Hashem makes for the future
of Jewry and with the design to restore their Judaism to the
wayward and the lost ones.
Are we not able to see deeply latent within this outpoured
wrath a great kindness that illuminates and beams forth from
all of these events, coming concurrently with a cry and plea
from Hashem, "Return to Me and I will return unto you"
Is not the Nazi-Neitzsche philosophy an explicit reply to the
attempt to sever the bond with the Jewish religion and to
relate to all of Judaism as a mere race and origin? This with
the thought that with the tumbling down of the barriers of
religion, the Jewish nation would efface all of the
differences between them and the other citizens of the land?
The Nazi philosophy with all of its inherent savagery and
inhumanity teaches us in most explicit fashion the governing
rule of measure for measure.
In order to teach the ways of Providence with the Jewish
people in exile, let us scrutinize the events and omens that
are taking place now in Eretz Yisroel.
According to all logical developments, the Jewish settlement
in the Land should have been welcomed by the Arab inhabitants
as a positive phenomenon with commensurate blessing. Did it
not, even in its puny dimensions to begin with, bring succor
to millennia of desolation? It was a virtual marvelous
renaissance of creativity and reconstruction, reclamation and
Swamps breeding diseases were converted to productive
farmland. Many Arab fellahs who did not own land and had
nothing to lose, certainly gained from productive employment,
which immeasurably raised them from a substandard living.
But unpredictably, along came the hatred and the destruction.
Seemingly purposeless, for the frenzy of destructiveness that
gripped the Arabs was not only detrimental to the Jewish
settlement but to themselves as well. Nevertheless, the
battle continued to be waged and raged without logical
reckoning, with the support of so-called enlightened nations
and with the tacit acquiescence of the British who wielded
the mandate over the Land.
If all this was a mere coincidence, there would yet be many
factors that could have swung the opinions of the Arabs and
of their powerful supporters to favor the Jewish settlement.
How would all the Arab countries have looked had it not been
for the Jews who lived in them? Where is the justice in the
Arab arguments, when all of their own countries are so
sparsely settled? All of these events could not have been
predicted according to normal developments and they clearly
indicate an overt Providence!
How obvious and clear is the Divine policy of measure for
measure in Eretz Yisroel! The settlers did not come in the
Name of Hashem, only in the name of nationalism. They did not
come with the Torah in hand, only with a cheap imitation of
Along came the Divine Providence and showed us how the
backward populace could rear itself up, even if their
resurgence was fomented and incited artificially and,
suddenly be filled with fierce chauvinism, a virulent
patriotism that brooked no other life or existence within
their borders -- to say nothing of that entity being the
Jews, whom they despised violently to begin with.
And from this selfsame "outpoured wrath" we can also see the
illuminating lovingkindness of Hashem.
The clear indication of "If Hashem shall not build a house,
in vain do its builders toil over it; if Hashem does not
guard a city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil"
(Tehillim 127:1), is a virtual clarion call to us to
turn our heart and eyes towards Hashem when we set about
building a house for ourselves. This is also a directive that
we remember the Guardian of Israel when we strive to guard
and to build our private lives -- that this house of ours be
one of Torah, for only thus can our lives have substance and
endurance -- when Torah is its ruling force.
Jews with a Jewish outlook on things are obligated to view
the harsh current events involving Jewish settlement in Eretz
Yisroel as a kindness from Hashem. From the "mighty Hand" and
"outpoured wrath" beams forth the will of Hashem that "I
will rule over you!"
And in the same vein are we being addressed and warned by
There is terrible destruction looming over us, threatening
from every corner the future of entire nations in general and
the existence of individuals in particular. From a
superficial glance, it is not normal or natural for humanity
to seek to embroil the entire world in war. It seems that
there is no one who is not convinced that such a war will
render global destruction. Yet, even so, the preparations for
this wholesale danse macabre continue with a headlong
velocity which knows no bounds. And yet, men are so blind,
which leads us only to conclude that it is no happenstance
but a Divine strategy from above, directly from Hashem!
Even in this, the Divine course of measure for measure is
evident: already at the end of the First World War it was
believed that ethics, anchored in religion, was now dead and
gone, that the world no longer needed it to resolve national
disputes. When people were duped into thinking that the
League of Nations, based on universal fraternity, would bring
eternal peace, there immediately clanged in the hearts of the
more serious people a Divine warning not to be swept up with
this mighty deception clothing itself in a false ethics of a
Today it is boldly written before the eyes of all nations, in
the sentence of punishment, in a script of fire: "Measure for
Despite all this, the kindness of Hashem is still not amiss.
Even in the terrible, awesome global holocaust, there is a
voice from the outside proclaiming the lovingkindness of the
A-mighty, for in the midst of the ruinous struggle amongst
the nations themselves, pitted one against the other, they
collectively do not forget for an instant the "helpless
sheep." Even if our troubles are not negligible, we are still
being given a breather from Heaven to take stock and
We know, anyway, what Chazal taught: "If you see the nations
wrestling one against the other, expect the imminent
footfalls of Moshiach" (Bereishis Rabba 42:8). When
all the nations are engaged in an all-out battle amongst
themselves, know that this is a harbinger of the coming of
the ultimate Redemption.
Not despair, nor losing our wits, is the Divine design of the
dreadful events of our times. We must bear in mind that
precisely "from this very trouble shall He devise the
redemption and succor" (Selichos -- Yisroel Nosha
Let us then identify the signs of Providence which rouse us
and beckon to us -- to finally uproot from our hearts that
deadly germ of abandoning Hashem, labeled "happenstance /
circumstance." Our attitude towards these events in such a
misguided manner is the greatest cruelty that can be
perpetrated against the individual, and the greatest hazard
to the existence and deliverance of the nation. We must also
bear in mind that precisely at this hour, when it seems that
all is forever lost -- that is the time when Hashem's
salvation shall be evident, swift as an eyeblink!