Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

15 Adar 5762 - February 27, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
The World Will Realize

by Rav Yerachmiel Kramm

This past Elul, the entire world quaked and trembled, not only the fish in the sea. Every thinking human being was terror-stricken at the sight of the carnage and the mass destruction that was wrought in the space of a few minutes, at the instigation of a single man.

We in the Holy Land have been living now for some time in constant fear and anxiety, weighing the necessity of every outdoor trip against the knowledge that such excursions can, and have, cost lives R'l, and agonizing over the welfare of family members and friends who have chosen to dwell in dangerous areas and navigate dangerous routes. This past Elul, we were joined by the rest of a shocked and terrorized world.

Granted, had we been worthy, we would have quaked and trembled at the approaching Yom Hadin without any of the recent horrifying events, that have caused the deaths of so many human beings, and so many of our brethren among them. Had we been worthy, we would not have needed the sight of the billowing flames and the dense clouds of smoke to smite us with fear and dread. Yet, since what has happened has happened, we must fulfill the Torah's injunction to, "Comprehend each generation's time span" (Devorim 32:7), to reflect upon events and try, as far as we can, to understand why Hashem has wrought such events and what He wants from us in consequence.

Rashi defines chavlei Moshiach -- the "birth pangs" that herald the arrival of moshiach -- as, "the fright and the tribulations, that will exist in his time, from the armies of the gentile nations." In other words, there will be fear and pain together, as in childbirth.

These pangs were expected to be so fearsome that some of our chachomim z'l, prayed, "Let him come but let me not see him." They expressed this wish even though they both knew and followed the recommendation for being spared from these troubles -- to occupy oneself with Torah and gemilus chassodim. They still feared chavlei Moshiach, lest their merits be reduced by sin and their sharing the terrible suffering as a result.

"If suffering comes upon a person, he should examine his deeds," Chazal tell us. The story is told of one of the gedolei Yisroel who visited the doctor and complained of the yissurim, the suffering, that he was experiencing in his foot. The doctor asked why he didn't simply refer to the pain in his foot, to which the godol responded that while it was indeed possible to use either word, using the word yissurim, which literally means reproofs or admonitions, served as a reminder of the One who was visiting the suffering on him.

"For Hashem rebukes those whom He loves," leading a person to examine his deeds, take spiritual stock and return to Hashem in repentance. It has very fittingly been pointed out that the letters of the word machaloh, meaning sickness, are the same letters that spell, chemloh, meaning pity, because in His mercy, Hashem visits illness on a person to make him stop and think about why He has brought this upon him. If a driver ignores the red warning light reminding him that there is no oil left in his engine and shrugs it off as an electrical fault, he will lose the engine and possibly the entire car.

Those events are characterized by the extent to which the identity of the One causing the suffering is apparent. There are simply too many questions about how such a thing could happen and how it was not prevented, for it to be dismissed as a chance or random occurrence.

One very prominent feature of recent events has been their global impact, which brings to mind the words of the oleinu prayer: "All the world's inhabitants will recognize and will know . . . "

A message about Hashem's rule and control was broadcast to the entire world. Everyone senses that the warning light is flashing, though unfortunately not everyone knows why it is doing so.

These misfortunes do not follow the natural pattern of things at all. This is no ordinary war, like others that can be seen around the world. The tactics of these terrorists, the suicide bombers, are unnatural. They pursue us "like the bees do" (Devorim 1:44), which Rashi explains as meaning, "just as a bee dies immediately after stinging a person, they also died as soon as they touched them [bnei Yisroel]." What we are witnessing does not follow the usual pattern of concealment through which Hashem directs the world, and which allows people, if they wish, to attribute untoward events to "chance." Here was an utterly unnatural event, one which shook the world into acknowledging Hashem's providence.

HaRav Eliyohu Lopian zt'l, writes in Lev Eliyohu that occurrences such as these ought to fill our hearts with joy. The situation can be compared to that of a child who finds himself being beaten and who turns around and sees that it is his father who is beating him. His father looks him in the eye and with every blow, tells him, "This is because you did such and such; this is for doing that . . . " The father's actions show his great love for his son; he guides and trains him and ensures that he will not stumble and be punished again.

We find that Dovid Hamelech sang to Hashem over such afflictions. When he was informed that the prophecy, "Behold I will set up evil against you from your household" (Shmuel II 12:11), would be fulfilled through his son Avsholom and not through one of his servants, he rejoiced and said, "Mizmor LeDovid, when he fled from Avsholom his son . . . " (Tehillim perek 3).

When he saw that it was his own son who was seeking to take his life -- a son rising up against his father and rebelling against him being as unnatural a thing as could be -- he realized that he had not been banished from his position of closeness to Hashem and had not been subjected to concealment. This was cause for rejoicing and it was over this that he sang to Hashem.

A similar event took place at the time of the destruction of the Second Beis Hamikdosh (Gittin), when Rabbon Yochonon ben Zakkai encountered the daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Yerushalayim, Nakdimon ben Gurion, whose kesuvoh -- that had been written for a fantastically large sum of money -- he had signed as a witness. He saw her reduced to terrible poverty, picking barley grains from the dung of the Arabs' animals. Although Rabbon Yochonon shed bitter tears over this sight, he also declared, "Happy are you Yisroel . . . " because even amid such distress, it was clear that HaKodosh Boruch Hu leads Klal Yisroel on a supernatural plane. The very severity of the suffering shows that we have not been banished from His proximity and placed in concealment.

"Your staff and your support; they will comfort me" (Tehillim 23:4). The knowledge that the same staff that beats also lends support, that both of them are wielded by HaKodosh Boruch Hu, is itself comfort.

One of the gedolei Yisroel once asked why it is that if someone has to undergo even the smallest operation R'l, he makes extensive inquiries as to which surgeon to take, finding no peace of mind until he is quite sure that he has engaged the most competent expert. On the other hand, when booking a transatlantic flight, nobody is interested in finding out who the pilot will be, who will be bearing responsibility for the safety of hundreds of lives as they are suspended between heaven and earth.

The godol answered that in the first case, the patient undergoing the surgery is in danger while the surgeon doing the operation is not. In the second case however, the pilot himself is in exactly the same amount of danger as all of the passengers.

The comfort conveyed by this idea is expressed beautifully by Chazal in the reading of the posuk (Yeshayoh 63:9), where the lo in the words bechol tzorosom lo tzor is written with an alef, meaning "In their every misfortune, there is no [actual] misfortune," but is understood by Chazal as being lo with a vov, meaning, "In their every misfortune, He is [also] in a strait," meaning that even when HaKodosh Boruch Hu visits judgment upon us and punishes us He, as it were, suffers too. This reading explains the meaning of the posuk as it is written, for if Hashem Himself is sharing our misfortune, it greatly minimizes our own suffering.

We have been promised, "Hashem will not desert His people and will not forsake His inheritance" (Tehillim 94:14). We know that HaKodosh Boruch Hu is with us in every situation: "I am with them in distress" (Tehillim 91:15), and " Hashem's eyes are directed towards those who fear Him . . . to save their souls from death" (Tehillim 33:18- 19).

We must cleave to HaKodosh Boruch Hu, and firmly believe that everything that happens comes from Him, yisborach. While the whole world watches as idols crumble and sees that power and might do not guarantee victory, we must realize and heighten our awareness that "Rule is Hashem's." We must make Him our King and do all we can to ensure that we remain close to Him.

At a time when Hashem's control is revealed in the world, when fear and dread grip everyone, when "the fright and the tribulations . . . from the armies of the gentile nations" overcome us, we must fill our hearts with hope and with joy at our nation's privileged status, while at the same time making every effort to cleave to HaKodosh Boruch Hu, occupying ourselves with Torah and with good deeds, and increasing our prayers and saying of Tehillim.

We must also realize that the time is approaching when we ought to ensure that we will not be ashamed or disgraced when "the Redeemer arrives in Tzion." We ought to think about how we will appear at the time of the redemption, when, as the last posuk in Koheles tells us, "In the end, everything will be heard," which the Targum explains to mean, "everything that was done in private will ultimately become public and will be known to everyone in the world."

How will we look at that time, when the masks are removed and everything is revealed? "Therefore," concludes the posuk, "Fear Hashem and keep His mitzvos," for this future revelation alone is enough reason for us to make the change and repent, returning to Hashem and serving Him wholeheartedly.

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