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28 Av, 5779 - August 29, 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

To Read Part IV

To Read Part V

To Read Part VI

To Read Part VII

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 VIII - Final Part

Eretz Israel

Eretz Israel is given much prominence in the Torah. There are three orders of the Mishna which deal with Eretz Israel, namely, Zeraim (laws dealing with agriculture), Kodshim (sacrifices), and Taharos (laws of ritual purity). A large portion of the three remaining orders is also bound up with Eretz Israel. In the order Mo'ed (appointed seasons) there are the following tractates, Yoma (Day of Atonement), Shekalim (the shekel collection), Pesochim (the Passover), the latter chapters of Sukkah (Tabernacles), Taanis (Fasts). In the order Noshim (Women, marriage laws, etc.), in the tractates Nozir (the Nazirite), and Sotah (the unfaithful wife). In the order Nezikim (Civil law): SanhedrinMakkos (punishment by stripes), Horayos (incorrect decisions of Beis Din). This total shows that nearly two-thirds of the Talmud deal with Eretz Israel, which has an equally important place in the Pentateuch itself.

It can thus be understood that Eretz Israel is a living necessity for Israel. Besides this, it is a separate precept to dwell in Eretz Israel.

In actual fact, however, it is nearly two thousand years that we live outside Eretz Israel. True, it has often been under harsh and bitter conditions, but, in spite of this, we have not perished even without Eretz Israel.

The question arises: if we imagine that the Jews had been left without Torah, would they have then survived for two thousand years, or not? It is quite clear that Israel cannot survive even a century without its Torah.

We are eyewitnesses to a terrible happening in the Red land. It is twenty years since the Yevsekes, the "troublers of Israel," began their work of destroying all remembrances of the Torah there by prohibiting the study of the Torah, and the observances of its precepts; the remembrances of the Jews have been blotted out from that land. Only those of the old generation still come under the category of Jews. The younger generation has not the slightest conception of what a Jew is.

It has been brought home to us that without the Torah we cannot exist as Jews even decades, yet, we have existed without Eretz Israel for two thousand years.

We can best understand this point by an example. For man to exist, he requires air to breathe, and bread to eat. What must we do if he lacks both, and what must be supplied to him first, air or bread? It is clear that without air there will soon be nobody to provide with bread.

Eretz Israel is a necessity for the people of Israel; but Torah is a prior necessity. We are witnesses to the spectacle of the gradual extinction of Torah due to the fact that the majority of the younger generation are cut off from it.

The same question can now be asked again. What must be our primary concern: for Torah, or for Eretz Israel? Eretz Israel is important to us; but without Torah, we cannot exist as Jews at all. Our first concern, therefore, must be for the Jewish people, and, secondly, for Eretz Israel for them.

What do we do in reality? We reverse the order. We do not cease to cry, Zion, Zion! when we should cry: Torah, what will become of the Torah? Without Torah we lack help and salvation; with Torah we are the strongest in the world. This is not a mere phrase; it is true, for world affairs have borne it out.

The acquisition of Eretz Israel does not depend on our will; "except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it." (Tehillim 127:1) But to spread the Torah among the masses is in our hands; it depends on us; "He who strives towards spiritual perfection obtains divine help." (Shabbos 104a)

Residence in Eretz Israel is a precept; but the establishment of groups of rabid apostates is a great transgression and not a precept, this is not the up building, but the ruin of the land. "They do not guard the city, but destroy it." (Introduction to Eichah Rabba (2)) This ruin is worse and more dangerous than any disaster the nations have brought on Eretz Israel. The previous catastrophes at least atoned for Israel (Yerushalmi Chagigah 1:7, also Eichah Rabba 4:14); but this ruin which comes at the hand of Jewish apostates is a great accusation of the whole people of Israel, which gives them millions while at the same time the Torah gets only prutos.

To establish firmly Torah-schools is an admirable deed. "Torah-schools" are set up, but with a slight difference; that, instead of teaching the Torah, they teach denial of the Torah. The teachers take care, indeed, that this, too, shall be in the purity of the Hebrew tongue. So has the Torah-school been changed into a Mission-hall.

It is the duty of the congregation to take a Rabbi who will be a true guide; yet they choose Rabbis who, while ignorant of the Shulchan Oruch, are yet more than sufficiently conversant with modern National literature. This is the outcome of fulfilling "precepts" without Torah. These precepts are kept with enthusiasm and remarkable devotion.

"Surely, they have risen early, they have corrupted," (Zefania 3:7) says the Prophet. Comments R. Hiya b. Abba "All their corruption was done quickly, with alertness." (Yerushalmi Shekalim 1:1) What has resulted from these new precepts and new laws? We have forsaken the Law of our old Rabbis, those lofty Saints, and G-d has given us other "Rabbis" and teachers—Hitler and his confederates who teach us by the most modern of modern methods. They will continue to teach us until we throw off the false "culture" and "enlightenment" together. Then will peace come to Israel.

Let us recount here a saying in the name of the holy Chofetz Chaim. "The evildoer has many pains, but he who trusts in G-d, mercy shall encompass him." (Tehillim 32:10) To one who suffers an internal ailment, medicine is given, which is often bitter in taste, but effects a cure. They hit upon the idea of putting the medicine into a capsule which can be swallowed without any sensation of bitterness. The suffering of the evildoer is a cure for his sins; indeed the medicine is bitter as wormwood. But for him who trusts in G-d, the medicine is enclosed in a capsule of mercy, and so he swallows it. Trust in G-d helps him not to feel the bitterness of his pains.

On the verse "Ye are set up this day" (Devorim 29:9) Rashi explains (on 29:12): "it is just the sufferings which give you permanence and stability before Him." This explanation is in accordance with the verse, "He hath beheld no iniquity in Jacob," (Bamidbar 23:21) that is, G-d pays no regard to the iniquities of Israel (cf. Rashi).

How can we understand the meaning of these words? The Sages say: "A man should not say that G-d is liberal with sinners." (Bereishis Rabba 7:4, Bava Kama 50a) At first sight, the quotations are contradictory. Yet, actually, both are words of truth. G-d does not seek to find the iniquities of Israel, but there is a definite Divine rule that "whoever does one sin makes for himself one accuser." (Avos 4:13) The accuser is not silent, he tells and proves facts. To compromise the accuser is impossible "for the King hath set up the world with judgment." (Mishlei 29:4) And just as in earthly constitutions, the judge cannot free the accused even if he be his best friend, so long as the prosecutor brings clear proof of guilt, so is the way of the heavenly court (Brochos 58a). When the accusation triumphs against Israel (far be it) and demands total annihilation (far be it) and it becomes evident that this is justified according to the laws of Heaven; when no refutation of these arguments is to be found; what can G-d do? On the one hand He must give due consideration to the demands of the accusers; on the other hand, there is the promise, "I, the Lord, cannot change; and you, the children of Jacob, can I not destroy." (Malachi 3:6)

Therefore, G-d sets up a Haman against Israel who persecutes them, with wrath and burning anger; and as soon as Israel comes into the category of "persecuted" so comes their deliverance. One of G-d's attributes is "G-d seeketh the persecuted" (Koheles 3:15)—even when the righteous man pursues the sinner (Vayikra Rabba 27:5). Thus, G-d has an answer to the charges of the accusers: Israel is persecuted; they must be helped. As much as the persecution worsens, by so much grow also the hopes for our deliverance. If our sufferings have perforce reached such fearsome proportions, it is certain that G-d seeks for the persecuted such as we are today.

It is said, "Shall I bring the crisis and not cause to bear? saith the Lord" (Yeshaya 66:9); that is, in the worst period of the Golus, will come also the time of rebirth. It is clear that at this moment we are passing through the crisis; it is certain that the rebirth, too, is very near. Amen and Amen.

To those that persecute us we would say:

"Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy;

Though I am fallen, I shall arise;

Though I sit in darkness, the Lord is a light unto me,

I will bear the indignation of the Lord,

Because I have sinned against Him;

Until He plead my cause, and execute judgment for me;

He will bring me forth to the light,

And I shall behold His righteousness.

Then mine enemy shall see it, and shame shall cover her;

Who said unto me: Where is the Lord thy G-d?

Mine eyes shall gaze upon her;

Now shall she be trodden down as the mire of the street.

The nations shall see and be put to shame for all their might;

They shall lay their hand upon their mouth,

Their ears shall be deaf.

They shall lick the dust like a serpent;

Like crawling things of the earth they shall come trembling out of their close places;

They shall come with fear unto the Lord our G-d,

And shall be afraid because of Thee.

(Michah 7:8-10, 16, 17).


To Read Part I

To Read Part II

To Read Part III

To Read Part IV

To Read Part V

To Read Part VI

To Read Part VII


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