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11 Tishrei 5766 - October 15, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly
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Opinion & Comment
An Interpretation of the Last 250 Years, According to the Vilna Gaon

by HaRav Moshe Samsonowitz

Introduction

The words of the Ramban (end of Parshas Bo, Shemos 13:16) about Divine Providence are a critical component of our understanding of emunoh. The Ramban writes: "A person has no part in the Torah of Moshe Rabbenu unless he believes that everything that transpires in the world is a miracle, and that there is no random universal order determining what occurs in the world at large or to the individual."

The Ramban also spells out here how we are to view everything that occurs in our lives: "From the great and conspicuous miracles [of nature], a person can recognize the hidden miracles [in his life]. This concept is a foundation of the Torah."

This world view affects every area of Jewish life. Not only is an individual expected to understand that everything that happens to him was intended by Divine Providence, but all events that occur to the Jewish people are also under G-d's special supervision.

We will offer a general outline of the past 250 years, as was originally propounded by the Vilna Gaon, and as his ideas are brought several places in the works of HaRav Eliyohu Weintraub. We will cite the sources. Our goal will be to reassess the historical events which occurred during this period to Jewry, and to attempt to see the wondrous hand of G- d's Providence dispensing both benevolence and punishment.

Six Days Correspond to Six Millennia

The world was created in Six Days, with each day possessing its own unique characteristics. The world's history will encompass six millennia, parallel to these Six Days. (Ramban on the verse "that Elokim created to do" (Bereishis 2:3), cited in Besod Yeshorim of Rav E. Weintraub, 5749, p. 96). Each day therefore parallels and represents a thousand years.

The last seven-and-a-half centuries thus correspond to the Sixth Day of creation. We will begin with the beginning of the Sixth Millennium, and then proceed to our period. Going 759 years backward to the beginning of the Sixth Millennium brings us to the year 1240 CE.

Each of the Six Days of Creation was divided into evening and morning (night and day). The night precedes the morning, as it says (Bereishis 1:31), "And it was evening and it was morning, the Sixth Day." Therefore, the year 1740 (500 years into the Sixth Millennium) represents the break of dawn on the Sixth Day.

An exact description of everything that happened on the sixth day of creation is mentioned in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 38b): Rabbi Yochonon bar Chanina said, "The day lasted twelve hours. In the first hour, his (Odom Horishon's) dust was collected. In the second, he became a shapeless form. In the third his limbs were shaped. In the fourth he received a soul. In the fifth he stood on his legs. In the sixth he gave names to the animals. In the seventh he mated with Chava. In the eighth, two went up and four came down. In the ninth, he was commanded not to eat from the tree. In the tenth, he sinned. In the eleventh, he was judged. And in the twelfth, he was punished and driven out."

Just as Hashem created man, who was the purpose of creation, on the sixth day, likewise at the beginning of the second half of the sixth millennium, Israel's redemption process will begin. The gemora says that Israel is considered the "Odom" of creation (Yevomos 61a) "You are called `Odom.' "

Attempting to follow the parallels between the hours of the Sixth Day of Creation and the latter half of the Sixth Millennium as precisely as possible, let us take the 500 years that began in 1740 and divide them into 12 sections. Each creation day hour corresponds to 41 years and 8 months. Here are the years as they correspond to each day hour of the Sixth Day:

First hour: 1740 (5500)

Second hour: 1781 (5541 + 8 months)

Third hour: 1823 (5583 + 4 months)

Fourth hour: 1864 (5625)

Fifth hour: 1906 (5666 + 8 months)

Sixth hour: 1948 (5708 + 4 months)

Seventh hour: 1989 (5750)

Eighth hour: 2031 (5791 + 8 months)

The Creation of "Odom" is Connected to Eretz Yisroel

The place where the new "Odom" (the Jewish people) will be recreated is pivotal. This second creation of "Odom" has to take place in Eretz Yisroel, just as Odom's original creation during the Six Days of Creation took place there.

The Fifth Hour

The beginning of the fifth hour, according to the calculation we brought above, is 1907 (5667). This period contained a glimmer of what the verse writes about Creation in general: "And Elokim saw everything He had made and it was very good" (Bereishis 1:31). As explained above, Odom possessed a soul in the fifth hour, so this hour was propitious for redemption.

The fifth hour continued until four months into 5708, about the beginning of 1948. During this fifth hour, a number of momentous events occurred, as we will soon explain.

The Balfour Declaration took place in 1917. After the British took control of the Land of Israel at the end of World War I in 1917, Balfour, Britain's foreign minister, proclaimed that the Jewish people had a right to return to their land. This was a public proclamation that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jews. Although today this seems like a trivial event, HaRav Meir Simcha Cohen of Dvinsk (author of the Or Somayach) saw it as an earthshaking historical milestone.

This declaration was implemented from 1920 until 1925. The Chofetz Chaim defined these years, particularly 1922, as a "heavenly remembering." The fourth animal in Daniel's prophecy, which was called "chazir," initiated the return of the crown to its owners, i.e. the Land of Israel to the Jews (Besod Yeshorim, p. 97).

In 1942, the German armies attempted to conquer the Land and destroy the entire Jewish population, based on a plan they had mapped out together with the Arab Mufti. By that time, the Germans had conquered almost all of Europe and had advanced deep into Russia. In Africa they had already reached El Alamein bordering Egypt, and from the north they were advancing towards Syria. Recognizing the terrible danger they were in, the Jews in Israel pleaded to the Creator of the world to save their lives. Prayers were recited around the clock over three days, on the 15th, 16th and 17th of Tammuz. The Jews' passionate and heartbroken entreaties were so well known that word of them even reached the Germans, who boasted openly that their goal was to silence the prayers of the Jews in Jerusalem.

The Germans lost the battle in El Alamein in a miraculous way. Even the English, who defeated the Germans in this battle, called it "the El Alamein miracle." Hakodosh Boruch Hu didn't permit the adversary to enter the Land of Israel, the place about which the Chofetz Chaim had declared, "And Mount Zion shall be a refuge."

The fifth hour ended in 5708, which is when the State of Israel was founded. Even though the founding of the State caused much sorrow and anguish, we must differentiate between the fact that it was a time of favor bestowed on us by G-d, and the fact that this time of favor was misused. It is cited in the Olom Hayedidos (Bein Sheshes Le'Osor, p. 145) in the name of the Brisker Rov (and the author also mentions he had heard it from Rav Elya Lopian), that at this time the Jews received a "smile from the Shechinah," a temporary he'oras ponim. According to our calculation, this year corresponded to the end of the fifth hour when Odom "stood on his feet." This year could have been a spectacular time in which the Jewish people truly stood on its feet and praised the Creator of the world for all the miracles that had happened to it, including how the gates of Eretz Yisroel had opened to take in the tens of thousands of Holocaust refugees and bring them to safety. However, the anti- religious Zionists who controlled the land, insolently denied Hashem's Providence in the entire historical process.

"G-d Created Corresponding-Opposing Forces"

Now we must complete the picture. Just as Odom was being reconstructed starting with the beginning of the Sixth Millennium in parallel to his original creation, in the same way opposing forces rose to resist this creation. These opposing forces were both external and internal. Our two enemies are called "Amolek" and "Erev Rav."

What was the power of Amolek? The Jewish people, as the perfect Odom, is represented by Yaakov Ovinu, the choicest of the Patriarchs. Yaakov was the exact balance between Avrohom and Yitzchok, and he constituted the center pillar of holiness. The powers that oppose the formation of Odom are Yishmoel (pere odom) and Eisov (ho'orel be'etzem), and the force that balances between them is the central pillar of impurity: Amolek (Besod Yeshorim, p. 95, in the name of the Zohar Hakodosh, end of parshas Vayishlach). This pillar of Amolek embraces both Eisov and Yishmoel's evil sources, and is the main force which attempts to interfere with the recreation of the Jewish people from the outside.

Who are the Erev Rav? Rav Weintraub explains (in sefer Nefesh Eliahu, p. 30) that the Jewish people first began to suffer from an admixture of good and evil when they accepted the Erev Rav in their midst at the Exodus from Egypt. This Erev Rav possesses its own form of Odom a hint of which can be seen from the fact that Erev Rav in gematria equals da'as (the Vilna Gaon). "Israel dwelled securely, when the fountain of Yaakov is alone" (Devorim 33:28). The Jews will only attain security when this admixture is removed.

In the fifth hour, two world wars took place, both of them spearheaded by the Germans, who are the antithesis of Odom. We have a tradition from the Vilna Gaon that the German nation is the continuation of Amolek. (The Hagahos of Rav Yaakov Emden on Megilla 6a explains that "Germamia" mentioned there is "Germany.") Also, as explained above, a group of Erev Rav took power in 1922 in Russia and did terrible evil to Israel. This was the internal and external opposition to the restoration of the Jewish people to its former glory. All of this was a manifestation of opposition to "Odom standing on its feet" as described in Sanhedrin (op. cit).

The Difference Between the Erev Rav and Amolek

Despite both Amolek and the Erev Rav opposing Odom, and both of them attempting to perpetrate the same evil goal, there is nevertheless a large difference between them.

Amolek fought against Jews in the fifth hour, which was the hour that Odom received his soul and the time when the Jewish people tried to return to Eretz Yisroel. Amolek achieved partial success. He defeated the Jewish people in the Diaspora, but not the Jews living in the Land of Israel. Amolek cannot set foot in the Holy Land, and he fell in battle in El Alamein, as mentioned above.

However, the Erev Rav, which is also called "the peel of the fruit," succeeded in stealing into the Land of Israel, as our Sages explain (Zohar I, p. 25) "The heads of the people are from them." This means that the people who will have significant sway over the Jewish public in the country (the leaders, the thinkers, the media personalities, and the like) are the Erev Rav, as explained in the Kovetz Maamorim by HaRav Elchonon Wasserman, Hy"d.

We see that despite the Jews in the Land of Israel being rescued from the Germans, the seed of Amolek, they still suffer immeasurably from the Erev Rav. These sufferings will be even worse than the sufferings from Amolek, as our Sages explain on the verse (Shir Hashirim 2:11), "For behold, the autumn has passed and rain is over and gone." The "autumn" refers to the enslavement to the nations of the world which is bothersome but bearable. This is not the case with the rain and bitter cold of the winter, which people finds distressing. Our Sages say (Tikkunei Zohar, 406, beginning from "Some of the Acharonim say") that "autumn" refers to the exile under the nations of the world, while the "rain" refers to the exile under the rule of the Erev Rav. They will both exist as long as Moshiach is not governing the world.

We see from here that one can be saved from Amolek by living in Eretz Yisroel, in accordance with the Torah principle "and the remaining camp will escape" (Bereishis 32:9). However, the Jewish people can still suffer in the Land of Israel from the Erev Rav, and even worse, the Erev Rav will be the leaders of the people and they will draw most of the people after them. (Besod Yeshorim, p. 98).

Yishmoel will also oppose the Jewish people in the Land of Israel, because he is circumcised, as explained by our Sages (Zohar, Parshas Lech Lecha). Yishmoel's opposition will be throughout the hours of the Sixth Day, but will particularly intensify during the fifth hour (1922), and especially in Chevron in 1929. Yishmoel tried to prevent the Jews from returning to their land, and even launched bloodthirsty wars during the sixth hour.

Sixth Hour

We cited the words in Sanhedrin that in the sixth hour, Odom gave names to the animals. The purpose of giving them names was to clarify their substance and function.

Parallel to that, the recreation of Odom in the Sixth Millennium is a period of clarification. It is particularly in this period that the Erev Rav will rule over the Jewish people. This is the transition from the period of "autumn" to the period of "rain."

This period will be remembered as a period of sifting and clarification. Every person will have to take a stand in his life, and evaluate and decide to which camp he belongs. In the Diaspora, the boundaries are still blurred and many try to keep one foot in each camp. For instance, you'll find people who eat glatt kosher and have a television in their home, without even feeling the glaring contradiction between the two.

However, here in Israel, the social situation forces one to arrive at a clear categorical position.

This clarification continued until the beginning of the seventh hour, which occurred in 5750 (1990), the date of the Gulf War. All the myths about "Israel's rock" being the army, exploded when 39 missiles fell over Israel without the army lifting a finger to protect its citizens. It clearly showed that they weren't able to "take their fate in their hands", as people with a "kochi ve'otzem yodi" outlook expressed it.

Not only was the army helpless, but miracles happened before the eyes of all. Hundreds of homes were destroyed; yet their residents were saved. This proved more than ever that Hashem was leading His people and His world towards its rectification, and it is not humans who will determine the process.

The Seventh Hour

Now it is 1999, and we are in the midst of the seventh hour. According to our Sages (Sanhedrin ibid.), this is the hour when Odom mated with Chava — when man's formation reached its perfection. As explained above, Odom's recreation had to be completed in Eretz Yisroel, just as was the first man's creation.

We mention our existence in the Land of Israel in the second blessing in Bircas Hamozone. One who doesn't mention bris and Torah in this paragraph of Bircas Hamozone, has not fulfilled his obligation. The completion of the Land of Israel, and parallel to it the completion of Odom being recreated in Eretz Yisroel, can only be done through the joining of bris and Torah.

The Central Axis Around Which the Erev Rav is Based

If we look at the battles in Eretz Yisroel between the Erev Rav and the Torah world, we will see that there is a central axis, a common factor, in all the battles.

For the past 50 years, there have been battles over various religious concerns, such as autopsies, grave desecration, abortions, religious burial, euthanasia, education for values, phony conversions, civil marriage, indecent advertising, etc.

My teacher, HaRav Shlomo Wolbe [zt"l], explains that the common factor in all these issues is the question of what is a man. The Erev Rav represents the "anti-mentsch" — they seek to eradicate what the Torah demands that a person be, with all its ramifications. The wicked man says (Koheles 3:19), "A human is not superior to an animal, for all is futility." The Erev Rav want the public to act without restraint in every area and do whatever their hedonistic nature wants. To them, man is neither unique nor eternal and they deny the revival of the dead. A life of hedonism — "Eat and drink for tomorrow we die" (Yeshayohu 23:13) — is the motto of the Erev Rav. It is a world where man has lost his human nobility, where Odom does not exist. Therefore, during the seventh hour, hedonism and anarchy will spread among the youth.

Army Draft of Yeshiva Students

Odom is being formed in Eretz Yisroel in the zchus of bris milah and Torah (i.e. the two brisim which Hashem made with us — in the words of our Sages, the bris of the tongue and the bris of the skin). This is why the Erev Rav particularly opposes and attempts to harm Torah study ("the bris of the tongue"). This is how to understand the meaning of the battle waged against the yeshiva students by threatening to draft them into the army.

What are we to do when such a decree falls upon us? The Ramchal (Likutim, Yalkut Yedios Ho'emmes, 5725, p. 324, cited in the Ramchal's Takanos Hayeshiva, p. 9), writes concerning the decree in Italy to burn holy books, that the decree was hinted to in the Targum on the verse, "This is the law of the Torah" (Bamidbar 19:2): "Doh gezeiras Oraysoh." The Ramchal explains:

"The Shechina chose the fearful judgment of burning Torah scrolls for the sake of saving Israel. This caused the purification of the impure, who would otherwise have no recourse for purification . . . the Torah itself, because of our many sins, is given over to be devoured for the sake of Israel. This also rectifies the Torah's exile . . . and the protection for this is that Israel should `kill themselves' over Torah study. This is why it says (Bamidbar 19:14), `This is the Torah: a man who dies in a tent.' (Shabbos 83b: Resh Lokish says, One will not maintain his Torah study unless he kills himself over it, as it says, `This is the Torah: a man who dies in a tent.')"

The Ramchal also gives advice for such a difficult hour. He continues:

" . . . and the truth is that in these places (i.e. Italy), the Torah had grievous accusations against the Jews for they no longer killed themselves over it, and instead pursued the pleasures of the world, for such is occurring throughout Italy . . . And this is the advice that should be given to all holy congregations . . . this is the order that we arranged in our study hall, for we already knew what Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai had written (Zohar, Parshas VaYeitze, 151a): "If the voice does not stop [in Torah study] . . . then nothing can overcome the Torah," and just above that it says, "As long as the wise men rejoice in Torah study, evil forces cannot overcome it. Therefore, we undertook to establish Torah study around the clock, and this is what we planned . . . "

In our period too, the Erev Rav declared a war against Hashem and against His Torah. We have to awaken ourselves and strengthen ourselves in this area of "a man who dies in a tent", i.e. to be willing to push ourselves to the utmost in Torah study, and not lessen our resolve the slightest.

Summary

We have thus far described and explained the general outlook on our period. We spoke about the necessity to recreate Odom that is occurring particularly in the Land of Israel. We mentioned that, together with all the wondrous revelations, some of which we have seen with our own eyes, there is great hester ponim. The darkness right before dawn causes assimilation and tremendous deterioration on one hand, but on the other, it is bringing closer the elevation of the Jewish people. It is an astonishing epoch.

When a person takes a look at the entire period, he can better free himself of mankind's myopic and limited perception and see matters straight "as Elokim made him" (the Rambam's words at the end of Hilchos Shmittah VeYovel). He will realize the truth of Odom's complete recreation, and understand that humanity is inexorably advancing towards the finish line with the help of Hashem.

HaRav Moshe Samsonowitz is the Mashgiach Ruchani of Kolel Beth Sholom in the Beth Abba Institutions, Kiryat Sefer. What appears here is an edited and shortened translation that is based on a shmuess that was originally delivered 6 Tammuz 5759 in Kiryat Sefer.


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