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22 Tammuz, 5779 - July 25, 2019 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Yesodos Ne'emanim
Yesodos Ne'emanim

The Epoch of the Messiah — Ikvesa DeMeshicha

By HaRav Elchonon Wassermann, zt'l

The essay was originally published by R' Elchonon to give perspective on the events of his time, and how they were seen and foreseen by chazal. Although it first appeared in Yiddish in 5699-1939, eighty years ago, its message is still fresh and vital.

R' Elchonon's son, HaRav Simcha Wassermann, tried very hard to give this essay as wide a circulation as possible. We originally published it in 5753-1993, within the year of mourning for HaRav Simchah, le'iluy nishmosoh. Now, after the 80th anniversary of its original publication, we are republishing it here, online.

We are adding the references to the pesukim and maamarim mentioned, as per his request.

HaRav Elchonon Wassermann, zt'l

To Read Part I

To Read Part II

To Read Part III

In the introduction to his Hebrew translation, Rabbi Moshe Sheinfeld wrote (in part): "To those of our readers who will find in the words of the Gaon a blatant tendency towards extreme zealousness (kano'us), it should be said: Before we examine gedolei Yisroel against the charge that they may have been gripped by kano'us, it were better that we examine ourselves, lest we have been gripped by a tendency to be lukewarm and to compromise the Holy of Holies and the highest of the values of Yisroel."

Part IV

"In the generation in which the son of David comes, the face of the people will be as that of a dog" (Sotah 49b, Cheilek 97a). It is characteristic of the dog to run before its master, and it might seem that it goes according to its own free will, and its master follows the path set by the dog. In reality we know that the opposite is true; the owner goes where he likes, and the dog, while preceding him, obeys his whim. Should the master choose another direction straight away the dog turns also—and again proceeds to run ahead.

In normal years, when the people listened to the ruling of the Torah, the Gedolim led the way, they decided the direction to be taken and the people walked in their footsteps. In the years approaching the coming of the Messiah, the sovereignty of the Torah will be usurped, the masses will choose their own way as well as they can and their "leaders" run ahead of them like the dog before its master. (R' Israel Salanter zt"l)

There are rabbis in our generation who are drawn after the will of the congregation, striving to show how sociable they are, and descending from the peak to the depths.

The Chofetz Chaim (cf. On The Torah p. 209) explained the abovementioned passage in another way. If stones are thrown at a dog, it will immediately attack the stone and bite it.

When a Haman sets himself up against Israel, we must know that this Haman is nothing other than a Heaven-sent rod to smite us with. "Oh, Assyria, rod of my wrath!" <(I>Yeshayohu 10:5)

No good can come from combating the rod; does G-d lack any rods? "G-d has many messengers." (Rashi on Shemos 16:32) We must find methods of preventing the people being used as "rods" against us. In the days before Messiah, sense will be lacking and like the mad dog they will bite the stick.

Our new leaders have declared war against powerful nations. What is our power and strength? Newspaper articles are the cannonballs which we aim at the enemy. What can be the outcome? They serve only to kindle the wrath of the serpents against us. The leaders see only the rod, and refuse to recognize the Smiter. "The people return not to Him that smites them" (Yeshayohu 9:12).


"In the Epoch of the Messiah insolence will increase." (Sotah 49b)

One interpretation of this saying is that by shamelessness will bring fame in those days. In bygone times it was required of the leaders that they be endowed with Torah, that they be G-d-fearing and wise. In the Messianic era anyone who possesses an adequate amount of shamelessness can be crowned with the title "Godol." The greater his chutzpah the more reliable he will be considered. It is quite evident that the main prerequisite for party leadership nowadays is impudence.

"And no rebuke." (Ibid.)

From the earliest times there were "Rebukers" in Israel who wandered from place to place and rebuked the people. Also, the communal Rabbi would speak words of rebuke from time to time... 200 years ago there was the illustrious Maggid of Dubno, whom the Gaon of Vilna himself asked for mussar. Not long ago lived the Maggid of Kelm who brought many to repentance with his fiery sermons. From the Responsa of the Rishonim (Rashba 4:311, Rivash 265) it is evident that in their days there existed in every city "Exposers of sin" whose office it was to seek out the sinful.

Nowadays the Rebukers have ceased; of speakers we have more than enough; but these are not Rebukers, it is not their custom to bring the words of Torah to their lips.

Who are the speakers?

Paid party officials who lull the masses with sweet dreams either of the redemption of Israel bound up with the nationalist idea or of world redemption under the wing of internationalism. All these dreams are vain. All these forms of "Idol worship" disappointed those who believed in them, all have been uprooted and destroyed, but their false prophets have not been stilled. The spies in the days of Moses mingled with their falsehood a measure of truth "for complete falsehood cannot stand" (Rashi Bamidbar 13:27); the modern false prophets do not worry at all about the establishment of their lie, for as soon as it breaks down they have others and the masses, ignorant of Torah knowledge, are not capable of distinguishing between the true and the false.

"Falsehood has no basis." (Osiyos d'Rebi Akiva) It requires support. What is it that supports the false prophets of our day? Ignorance and forgetfulness of the Torah. A favorite saying of the Chofetz Chaim was, "The Torah enlightens the eyes; without it we see and know not what we see. In darkness beasts of prey come out of their lairs. (Tehillim 104:20) `Without classification how can knowledge be found'." (Yerushalmi Brochos 5:2)

It is written: "He has brought many to the dust, many has He killed." (Avoda Zara 19b) This, say the Rabbis, refers to the Torah-student who has not reached the capabilities of deciding law matters. That means matters of ritual. How much more is this applicable to questions affecting Klal Yisroel?

Who are they that decide our modern problems? Irresponsible and unknowing people, lacking the knowledge of the Torah, degenerates who are ready to forego their Judaism for "pottage of lentils." Such are the leaders of our generation. The prophecy "And babes shall rule them" (Yeshaya 3:4) has come true.

"Accusation comes among the Torah-scholars." (Kesuvos 112b)

The nonbelievers in days of old used to maintain, "What benefit do the Rabbis afford us? They have learned the Scriptures and studied the Talmud to their own advantage" (Sanhedrin Cheilek 99b). They admitted that benefit and the spiritual well-being are bound up with knowledge of the Torah. In contrast, the contention of contemporary nonbelievers is that the Torah-scholars bring misfortune upon themselves and upon the whole people.

The abovementioned saying may be understood in another sense, namely, that the spirit of fault-finding penetrates the scholars themselves and they accuse one another.

"All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword." (Amos 9:10) The Chofetz Chaim commented on this verse in the name of the Zohar that the decree of death by the sword gave place to one of poverty, i.e. before the Redemption poverty will be rife in Israel. "A poor and hapless people will I save." (Zefania 3:12, Tehillim 18:28)

Furthermore, said the Chofetz Chaim (On the Torah p. 177): Those whose riches are still in their possession, let them not take comfort in vain fancies that their wealth will endure with them indefinitely; for the Jewish people will be left like an empty vessel. Had they but sense in their heads, surely they would know now how to make use of this money while there is yet time.

Twenty years have passed since the Chofetz Chaim uttered these words, and now they have come true in their entirety for a majority of the Hebrew people. The gemora prophesied such a state: "The Son of David shall not come until the prutoh ceases from the purse" (Sanhedrin 97a). The Chofetz Chaim continued (On the Torah 67-68, 26): "In our day in a short period innovations are made which in the past would have required centuries. We see that the wheel of time revolves now with lightning speed. "What has G-d done to us?" (Bereishis 42:28) Why have conditions changed so?

To these questions the Chofetz Chaim answered: Heaven set up, from the beginning until now, innumerable accounts. Before the Messiah can come, all these accounts must be paid, because the Redemption will annul the evil inclination and, consequently, all the affairs of this world which are subordinate to the spiritual strife within man, will cease. Therefore it is incumbent upon every person to pay what he has remained due to G-d.

From the time that the Chofetz Chaim zt"l said this, the speed with which events develop has increased still further. Things happen literally overnight, when years ago they would have needed generations. It seems that the time-cycle hastens forward, spurred on by the command: "Quicker, Quicker!" Every thinking person will understand that we are living in a unique period, which is destined finally to change the whole world order; from day to day the process gathers speed.

"And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children." (Devorim 6:7) Instructing the children in Torah, formed the foundation upon which Judaism was supported for thousands of years. The life ambition of parents was to rear children who would be outstanding in Torah and fear of heaven. What about a livelihood? They knew that, "He who gives life gives food." (<>Taanis 8b)

In recent times, coupled with loss of faith, trust in G-d has also been greatly lessened. Parents concern themselves with materialistic ambitions for their children. If only they complete their courses of regular study, then they are secured for the rest of their lives. Also, the deliverance of Israel (in their eyes) depends on it; with the increase in our intellectuals so will our prestige rise in the eyes of the nations. How right this principle is, our days have shown.

All this is in the materialistic sense; as far as spiritual values are concerned the children are brought up completely as Gentiles, nationalist or internationalist.

What is the reaction of Heaven to this spiritual affliction? "Thy sin shall punish thee." (Yirmiyahu 2:19) The scholars, the intelligentsia are our main assailants in most countries. Jewish scholars are smitten with iron rods by their fellow students. Jewish youth in times gone by devoted their lives to the study of the Torah. Today they sacrifice themselves for the great "honor" of sitting at one bench with wild beasts.

End of Part 4

To Read Part I

To Read Part II

To Read Part III


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