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8 Av 5762 - July 17, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
Signs from Heaven

by HaRav Avrohom Yitzchok Bloch, zt'l, Hy'd

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 these things:

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 scenario?

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 harmless.

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 world events.

"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" (Malachi 3:7)?

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 rehabilitation.

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 world patriotism.

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 world events:

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 depraved humanity.

Today it is boldly written before the eyes of all nations, in the sentence of punishment, in a script of fire: "Measure for Measure."


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 repent.

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 baHashem).

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!

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