Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

6 Nisan 5759 - March 24, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Opinion & Comment
A Promise To Israel
by Rabbi Yisroel Spiegel

Throughout the generations Jews have sat like kings at the head of the Seder table, surrounded by their family. After the children ask the Four Questions and the father answers "We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt," the father heartily expresses his happiness by proclaiming, "Blessed is He who abides by His promise to Yisroel" -- HaKodosh Boruch Hu fulfilled what He had promised to Avrohom Ovinu. Immediately afterwards he raises his wine cup and sings out: ". . . for not one [tyrant] only has risen up against us to destroy us, but in every generation [tyrants] seek to destroy us, and HaKodosh Boruch Hu delivers us from their power."

The satisfaction of knowing that Hashem ultimately saves us from tyrants is quite understandable. But why are we happy that in every generation enemies rise up to destroy us?

Also, what is the connection between the three parts of the prayer: "for not one tyrant only," "but in every generation," and "HaKodosh Boruch Hu delivers us from their hands"? Why are they all sung together, and with the same degree of happiness? Only through the pure Jewish outlook, so different from the usual way a person thinks, can we find the correct explanation.

There is nothing like a tree in wintertime to dampen a person's feelings. All of its once-green leaves that delighted us have fallen and withered. The tree stands entirely naked, dried up and lifeless. Any feeling of despondency, however, is to be found either in someone who has never seen the summer following the winter, or someone who for whatever reason does not believe that the trees and flowers will blossom again. A person who is aware that after the winter naturally comes summer knows that the tree will soon burst into glorious colors.

Yeshaya the novi said: "As the days of the tree shall be the days of My people" (Yeshaya 65:22). R' Yisroel, the Tchortkover Rebbe zy'a, explained: "Trees wither during winter. They dry up and shed their leaves, and only their bare trunk remains. Nevertheless, during the cold season the trees are storing the sustenance they will later need. When spring arrives they will once again blossom, sprout new branches, and flourish. Just so the Jewish People need to strengthen themselves in their faith. Although we have been sitting in dark exile for almost two thousand years, our hope that Hashem will remove us from our exile and redeem us soon should not, chas vesholom, weaken. Furthermore, although we are suffering greatly, being in an exile within an exile, we must strengthen our faith and wholeheartedly believe our redemption is near. `For as the days of the tree shall be the days of My people' -- just as with a tree it is precisely in the icy time, when its sap has sunk down out of sight and it is dried up, that it is preparing what it needs for its future new life, so also in the darkness of exile, when our bones are dried up, we must muster hidden energy and prepare ourselves to attain new vigor. In this way we will be able to arise from the exile's dung heap and be a strong nation" (Ginzei Yisroel 3:143).

This is the special Jewish outlook that stems from am Yisroel's unique essence: not only in times of redemption and satisfaction are we joyful, but in every event that happens to us -- according to the manner and time that the Creator determined -- we find its eternal aspects. A Jew says on the Seder night, "but in every generation tyrants have sought to destroy us." The fact that there are those who still seek to destroy us shows that we have not lost our uniqueness because of the golus, and most assuredly HaKodosh Boruch Hu will "deliver us from their hands."

"It is a time of distress for Yaakov, and from it he shall be saved" (Yirmiyohu 30:7). The distress itself indicates that we will later be saved -- "and from it he shall be saved." This promise of future salvation imparts joy to a Jew, as shown when he sings "this [promise] has been our fathers' support and ours." We emphasize "and ours" -- a promise for all generations until the last redemption, may it come speedily, in our days.

Faith and Trust in The Da'as Torah Of Gedolei Yisroel

There is an ironclad rule concerning the eternity of Jewry, a rule actually inherent in the world's creation. During the dreadful Holocaust of European Jewry no trace of light could be detected by any standard tool. Everything seemed, chas vesholom, destined to final annihilation -- "They have said: `Come and let us cut them off from being a nation'" (Yeshaya 83:5). At that tragic time (5704) the Ponevezher Rav, HaRav Yosef Sholom Kahaneman zt'l, delivered his historic speech at the Conference of Agudas Yisroel of Eretz Yisroel, in Petach Tikvah.

Europe was going up in flames. The blood of millions of Jews flowed like water and reddened the earth. There were no days more bitter than those. Who was able in those days to find a source of comfort, when everything looked as if it were crumbling and as if, chas vesholom, Hashem's promise to us would never materialize? At that time the Ponevezher Rav, the Torah giant who helped reestablish Torah in Eretz Yisroel, cried out "Alas! for that day is great so that none is like it; it is a time of distress for Yaakov, and from it he shall be saved." (Yirmiyohu 30:7).

Asked HaRav Kahaneman, "Why is that day so great, and if it is great, why does the novi cry out `Alas'?"

The Rav, who had just lost his family, his renowned yeshiva, and his beloved community, explained that "precisely because `it is a time of distress of Yaakov' -- just as today is a tremendous time of distress for am Yisroel -- and `none is like it' -- as it truly is today, because of this I am consoled. We have now reached the moment when the entire world has despaired of the Jewish Nation's survival, when our enemies are, chas vesholom, about to destroy the whole nation. This day is a `great day,' the greatest day in Creation, because on this day the eternity of Klal Yisroel will be revealed as Yirmiyohu promises: `But I will not entirely annihilate you' (v. 11).

"Where is the spark that will light the hope of salvation and console us with our redemption? . . . At that moment the power of Klal Yisroel's eternity and the reality of the unfolding prophecy is revealed.

"Some argue that we have lost our sensitivity, since in Eretz Yisroel we continue living unperturbed, and it does not at all appear that we sense the hardship suffered by the rest of Jewry . . . What does it mean that we do not feel their hardship? Are we not Jews too? This is surely our hardship too!

"Nevertheless we continue our lives as before: we eat, smile, seek glory . . .. How can this be explained?

"It shows our inner trust in Hashem, that nothing will happen to am Yisroel. We do not make any reckoning. We are at peace with ourselves, and when we ask ourselves why, it seems we have no answer. The truth is that this itself is the answer! It is not an artificial, made-up answer, but the true, natural answer. . . . With this same way of thinking we have been living untroubled since the day after the Destruction of the Beis Mikdash."

This is also the reason why a Jew sits on the Seder night with such great trust for the future redemption, and why he must be prepared for it at any moment. The Ponovezher Rav describes this in his speech: "How much trust and tranquility was there three or four hundred years ago, when Jews were being exiled from every place in the world, and Klal Yisroel was only about a million and a half Jews, and a Jew would open the door on the Seder night and call out: `Pour out Your wrath upon the nations that do not know You . . . ' When he closed the door he gave the eternal, precise answer: `Next year in Yerushalayim!' This is the decisive answer to all our questions: whence do we draw such a miraculous trust in Hashem?

"Both tranquility and trust in Hashem are connected, they have a common cause. In both is revealed the essence of a Jew: the neshomoh, the Jewish instinct -- the eternity of Yisroel, and the eternity of Eretz Yisroel for Yisroel. How is this possible? It is the creation's nature. . . When the creation of the heaven and earth took place, when the laws of nature were created, Yaakov and Yisroel were created among the other creations. Together with the land, the world, also Eretz Yisroel was created. It was also a creation, a creation at the beginning of the world. Just as a person at night does not fear that perhaps the sun will not shine tomorrow, . . . so one does not have to fear about the existence of Yisroel and Eretz Yisroel."

This quality of the creation is a Divine statute, a chok, as the Tchortkover Rebbe explains: "This too is implied in the Torah. Bnei Yisroel were parched in the arid desert, `and he cried out to Hashem and Hashem showed him a tree" (Shemos 15:25). On the contrary, they must continue, since their nature is like a tree. At the winter's end a tree changes over to new life; just so bnei Yisroel will be comforted from their suffering, and from their darkness they will emerge to brilliance. This is what is meant at the end of the posuk: "He made for them there a statute (chok) and an ordinance." Hashem implanted in their nature, to be a chok, that the Jewish Nation is different from all the rest. Other nations, if they have begun to fall, will eventually be wiped out, but for us, am Yisroel, on the contrary! We draw power and new life from the suffering itself, to again become a strong and courageous nation."

The Root Of Our Fear Of Losing Eretz Yisroel

This is the genuine, Torah-oriented outlook about the history of Klal Yisroel. It is important to emphasize this outlook today, since a cloud of despondency again hovers over us. We should think neither as "rightists" or "leftists." This is so even if we again saw our nation's enemies deciding to annihilate us, and if the State of Israel were fighting a taxing war that the Arabs had proclaimed against us.

Many presume that lack of peace for those who live in Eretz Yisroel forecasts danger, chas vesholom, for the existence of the entire Jewish Nation.

This painful speculation about our nation's future continually reappears. Not only leftists -- whose dismissal of their feelings of Jewishness has caused them to love Yishmoel and hate their own people -- question our future, but among entirely sensible people, too, the present period's instability has eaten away their remnant of trust in the Jewish People's eternity. A devoted Zionist, a veteran journalist who happens to have some link with religion, wrote: "This country is backtracking from independence to golus." He reached this fatalistic conclusion due to the collapse of the Oslo Accords and the bloody terrorist attacks at the time. In the wake of this he wrote, "The fortitude of soul that stood by you [the Jewish nation] for the two thousand years of your golus does not exist any longer. Neither the trust, nor the faith, nor the hope for redemption that eventually comes although it tarries, exists today."

What this "devout" Zionist wrote is shocking, though this is actually a natural conclusion for someone who exchanged his faith in Heavenly redemption for faith in flesh and blood. He inevitably realizes that man, who is powerless, can be a great disappointment. Above all, this man's message is unmistakable: though the Zionist founders were almost completely certain in their conviction that they would adapt a type of existence for us like that of other nations, and through it remedy our historical fate of golus until the Creator has pity on us, this certainty has now been smashed. Those who believed and trusted in Zionism are now depressed. Now that the gamble they made by establishing the State seems to have been lost, they sink into depression. How magnificent is what the Ponevezher Rav said in the historic speech in which he even diagnosed our present condition of despair. How clear his message was:

"Lack of peace in Eretz Yisroel has only arisen in the last fifty years. Until then they were at peace here! The Chovevei Tzion Movement effected a pachad Tzion (fear in Zion). We also see this wonderful thing reflected in halocho. The Rambam rules that if a Cohen knew nowadays to which watch [in the Beis Hamikdash] he belonged, he would be forbidden to drink wine, since perhaps, `Suddenly the Beis Hamikdash might be built, and maybe it would be his watch just then, and he would be intoxicated, and an intoxicated person is not allowed to do the avoda. We must therefore always be ready for the moment that the Beis Hamikdash will be built . . ..' The Rambam writes about Eretz Yisroel with such concrete faith! Eretz Yisroel is ours to such a degree that it is only a question of moments . . .."

As The Days Of Heaven Above The Earth

How much clarity do we gain from what the Ponevezher Rav taught us! His teachings are all imprinted with the perspective that the Torah wants us to know and follow. What he said also reveals to us the reason for our current instability: the pachad Tzion is a result of the Chovevei Tzion movement. It was they who arose and waved the flag of Zionism who sowed the fear that, chas vesholom, the Creator's promise of "To your children I will give this land" (Bereishis 12:7) would not be fulfilled. To prevent our losing Eretz Yisroel they decided to "redeem" their hapless nation. The fateful mistake of this movement was their evaluating the bond of the Jewish People to Eretz Yisroel according to the relationship of other nations with their lands.

In fact, HaKodosh Boruch Hu has eternally implanted a unique order in the Creation. "That your days. . . may be many upon the land which Hashem swore to your fathers to give you, as the days of heaven above the earth" (Devorim 11:21). The Ponevezher Rav explained that "the land" is always called our land, just like "the days of heaven above the earth" -- ever since the beginning of the creation it has been called our land. Even if the entire world refuses to give us Eretz Yisroel, no one can deny it to us.

How did the Chovevei Tzion sow pachad Tzion? By claiming that our connection with Eretz Yisroel is merely a natural one -- just like the connection every nation has to its land. They therefore reached the unavoidable conclusion that "we must decide our own fate." They wanted to act like all the nations that fight with swords and spears. They proudly sang, "with blood and fire Judah will be established."

If the return to Eretz Yisroel is to be a natural one, certainly the opposite event can, chas vesholom, happen in a natural way, too. So when an enemy arises and threatens them, despair envelops them -- pachad Tzion.

The Torah's eternal viewpoint is based upon other foundations altogether. A Jew who opens his Chumash to its first parsha, or any Jewish child who starts studying about the world's creation, sees what Rashi teaches us. On the first posuk Rashi writes that "... The entire world belongs to HaKodosh Boruch Hu. He created it and gave it to whomever He deemed fitting."

The Husiatiner Rebbe, in his Oholei Yaakov, points out that even if the nations were to hear what Rashi wrote about Hashem's taking Eretz Yisroel from them and giving it to the Jews they would still not be convinced, nor would they stop complaining that the Jews had taken away their land. It is obvious that Rashi's explanation of the posuk is intended as a lesson only for us, am Yisroel.

This lesson is also aimed at those who warn against conceding territories for the sake of peace. They argue that by doing so we have lost the eternal right to our land, and even those who make a "religious" version of "We will decide our own fate" by adding a Be'ezras Hashem before it.

There is almost no need to show the difference between the living words of the Ponevezher Rav (who was an "anti Zionist") about Eretz Yisroel, built upon the principle of "I will wait for [the Moshiach] every day to come," and the alternative of "We will decide our own fate." Instead of learning that "HaKodosh Boruch Hu took it from them and gave it to us" some "learn" that the powerful USA gives and takes. We forget and are made to forget the real conditions under which Eretz Yisroel is ours: if we protect its kedusha and observe the Torah and mitzvos, it is impossible to take it from us.

At this point the Ponovezher Rav reached the summit of his prophecy at the Agudas Yisroel Conference. He proclaimed to all assembled that one day a yeshiva would be established in Ein Charod (a leftist kibbutz).

"A chareidi Jew in Eretz Yisroel must concentrate on his spiritual efforts to attain trust in Hashem. This is a natural attribute of Klal Yisroel; it is the way of Yiddishkeit. Assimilation raised a generation interested in building new worlds. This was, however, contrary to nature and the Creation of heaven and earth. It cannot continue to exist. May Hashem give us the privilege to prepare roshei yeshivos for Ein Charod! May we be able to prepare mezuzas and tefillin for Klal Yisroel and soon see Jews all over the world putting on tefillin! Someone who does not believe that this will happen is as if he has committed suicide in front of Hitler. Such a person does not really believe in the nature of the Jewish Nation."

We Do Not Live By The Sword

The historical lessons of recent years join with all that has occurred to us in Eretz Yisroel ever since the confrontation with the Arabs began, some hundred years ago. The sum total teaches us a decisive moral: it is impossible for Klal Yisroel to live by the sword. It almost seems that Heaven prevents us from doing this. Hashem does not allow any distorting of the uniqueness of Yaakov. Living by the sword is the inheritance of Esav. Yaakov's nation sits in tents of Torah that give him life and sustenance.

Although we apparently have all the material prerequisites to live by the sword, we are unsuccessful. The sword does not allow us to do what it allows the whole world to do: depend upon force and guarantee our existence by its means. Everyone can accomplish that, but not us! What Yechezkel writes, "Beis Yisroel will not be like all the nations," is not a warning; it simply spells out reality.

It is especially essential to emphasize this point today. First of all we need to strengthen ourselves. Furthermore, we are obligated to proclaim loudly to our nation, as it sinks low in despair, that "the Eternal One of Yisroel does not lie nor renege" (I Shmuel 15:29). This nation arose and was born in a different way altogether from any other people. It does not live off of its sword. Only through the power of its torch of faith, through the power of the proclamation of Avrohom Ovinu that "there is a Master of the world," does it exist. Not only is this nation's revival based on this foundation, but its entire existence and continuance is, too.

For this point history is also the eternal proof. The Jewish Nation has survived throughout most of its history without a homeland, without living on the yearned-for land Divinely promised to us. In the last fifty years, despite our being in Eretz Yisroel, despite being a sovereign nation, despite having an armed military force and all the rest, our existence is not only in terrible danger, but many have begun to doubt if this dream has at all justified itself. This ideological bankruptcy includes all types of Zionists.

Our stand, based upon the da'as Torah of the gedolei Yisroel throughout the generations, draws its nourishment from responsibility to Klal Yisroel and true ahavas Yisroel. It is not pachad Tzion that guides us, but rather our solid faith in Jewish existence, based upon our Torah and mitzvos -- the faith that we can right now make, "Today, if you would hearken to His voice" (Tehillim 95:7) come true. Because of this stand we advise our brethren not to despair. The realization of our fate and responsibility strengthens our hope in the complete Redemption: "As in the days of your coming forth from the land of Egypt will I show you marvelous things" (Michah 7:15).

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