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1 Adar 5762 - February 13, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
The Path To Chizuk

by HaRav Aharon Leib Steinman

An address to the participants in the Second Yerushalayim Yarchei Kallah of Agudas Yisroel of America, last month

I have heard that everybody here has experienced a great elevation. Everyone has risen higher! I do not know how much people have managed to rise, for one cannot become a gaon in the space of a few days, but the very fact that people feel elevated is itself enough. If people feel that they have risen higher, this in itself is a great thing.

At the top of the list of things which need to be strengthened (Brochos 32), Chazal place Torah. Although we learn constantly, we nevertheless need to strengthen ourselves constantly and this is especially true in our times. If Chazal said it in their times, then nowadays we are certainly in need of constant reinforcement. If one doesn't try to encourage oneself, he weakens, so one needs to strengthen oneself constantly.

We also find that Chazal refer to a time known as chevlei Moshiach, the birthpangs of Moshiach. We cannot know with certainty when the beginning of this time is. It might be near to its end, or it might just be beginning. Who can know? Nowadays we don't have prophets, although it's probable that the birthpangs of Moshiach have certainly already begun.

Chazal say, "What can a person do so that he is saved from chevlei Moshiach? He should busy himself with Torah and with doing chesed." Certainly, the more a person busies himself with Torah and doing kindness, the greater his chances of being saved from chevlei Moshiach.

Lately we see how dreadful things are, how almost every day R'l there are terrible tragedies, whether in the form of attacks by our enemies, or road accidents, or other kinds of misfortunes. Terrible things are happening, day in and day out. As far as we know, there has not been a situation like this. There have been tragedies but not like today, when they take place on a daily basis, R'l. One can certainly believe that it is all happening because the time of Moshiach is getting closer and closer.

It is not so simple to be saved from chevlei Moshiach. Torah and chesed are absolute necessities. "A little" Torah isn't enough. A lot of Torah is needed and a lot of chesed. Boruch Hashem, the participants here have come to strengthen themselves in Torah. For your part, it is very good that you have understood this and have made efforts to follow this path, to strengthen yourselves and increase Torah study. We find different ways that a person is supposed to conduct himself.

The prophet Michah (6:8) tells us, "What is Hashem asking of you, but the doing of justice, the love of kindness and going in concealment with your G- d?" This means that the correct path for a person is, "to proceed in concealment," to hide himself! One should be seen as little as possible and behave with modesty . . . this is on the one hand.

On the other hand, we find that when one wants to succeed in launching a venture, it is hard to do so with concealment. One has to make a "big deal" out of it and publicize it. It isn't possible to get something moving modestly, in a straightforward way.

Throughout history, we find these two extremes working together. On the one hand modesty, while on the other hand, in order to provide encouragement, there have to be gatherings in a manner that is somewhat removed from concealment.

This is how things have to be. In order to strengthen people many people have to gather together in public, but at the same time, a person must be aware that he should conduct himself modestly, "and proceed in concealment with your G- d."

There is no greater proof of this than Har Sinai, where there were sounds and lightning. What a tremendous occasion it was! Chazal tell us that the Torah was given "in fear and dread, in trembling and sweating," and in such seriousness. It had to be done this way, so that Klal Yisroel would attain the right level of solemnity, but the fact remains that the Torah was given amid sounds and lightning, not with concealment.

The Torah goes on to tell us that the first set of Luchos, that was given amid such publicity, was smashed, whereas the second set, which was given in a more modest manner, endured.

When a person does something, he might be unsure of whether what he is doing is good or not. Later, he might see from the results of what he did that it was not good. This cannot be the case with HaKodosh Boruch Hu, however. He knows to begin with what the results will be -- the smashing of the Luchos.

Did HaKodosh Boruch Hu think to begin with that this was a good way to arrange the giving of the Luchos and then see that it was not? Chas vesholom!.

HaKodosh Boruch Hu cannot and does not make a mistake. He knew that if the Luchos were given publicly, they would have to be smashed. Why then did he do it that way the first time?

It seems therefore, that this is the order that things must follow. First, the Torah had to be given publicly and the Luchos in fact had to be smashed and then it had to be done again privately.

This is the path, which leads between these two opposites. Things cannot only be done in concealment. There has to be publicity, to the point of "sounds and lightning." In the desert, Klal Yisroel numbered about five million people (so it is said in the Chofetz Chaim's name). The six hundred thousand mentioned by the Torah were only the men between twenty and sixty years old. Add the women and children, and the eirev rav and the number approximates five million.

What publicity! And the Torah was given amid such numbers, with kolos uvrokim. This is how it had to be.

Even though HaKodosh Boruch Hu knew that because of this publicity, the Luchos would be broken publicly, that too was correct and had to be. First things had to be done publicly, and only then privately, after which they were to continue privately.

In order to give encouragement then, a large gathering has to be held. It can't be done while everyone sits at home. But afterwards, when the meeting is over, everyone must stay in his own domain, privately, "and proceed in concealment with your G-d."

We also find this in the medrash (Yalkut Shimoni Shmuel I, 1). Elkonoh, the father of Shmuel Hanovi, was himself a prophet. When he made a pilgrimage to the Mishkon, his wives, children, siblings and all his relatives went up with him. They would go to the Mishkon in Shiloh, for the Beis Hamikdosh had not yet been built, and the mitzvoh of aliyoh leregel, then applied to the Mishkon.

Elkonoh would travel there with his entire family. They would sleep out in the open, and the arrival of an entire family, which probably numbered at least a hundred souls, would raise quite a commotion. People would ask them, "Where are you going?" and they would say, "To the House of Hashem in Shiloh, from where Torah and mitzvos issue forth. Why don't you come with us and we'll travel together?" Tears would immediately flow from the people's eyes. They would say, "We'll go with you," and they said, "Yes."

The following year there were five families and the year after, there were ten, until everyone used to ascend. Elkonoh would not follow the same route when he went up year after year [so that he met different people each year] until everyone went up.

HaKodosh Boruch Hu said to him, "Elkonoh, you have tipped Klal Yisroel's scales to the side of merit and have trained them in doing mitzvos (i.e. in fulfilling the mitzvoh of going up for the Regolim) and many have attained merits because of you. I will bring forth a son from you who will tip Klal Yisroel's scale to the side of merit and who will train them in doing mitzvos."

From this we learn that Shmuel's birth was a reward for [the deeds of] Elkonoh. (The commentary Zayis Raanon on the medrash, by the author of Mogen Avrohom, explains that we should not think that Shmuel's birth was only a reward for Channoh's prayers. In fact, Elkonoh's was the main merit.)

We see here too, that they fulfilled the mitzvoh amid great publicity. An entire family ascended to Shiloh, sleeping on their way in the middle of the street. The purpose of all this was in order to strengthen the mitzvoh! Apparently, people were somewhat slack in their observance of this mitzvoh and it needed to be bolstered, so Elkonoh had to make a public event out of it!

In the end, he was successful and all of Klal Yisroel started to go up for the Regolim. As a reward, he merited a son like Shmuel Hanovi.

In order to provide encouragement, it is important to bring a large group together from time to time, publicly and with fanfare. Afterwards however, one should see to it that he continues with modesty and the concept of "going in concealment with your G-d."

I hope that all the Yidden who were here for these few days, whom I have heard all experienced a spiritual elevation, will be returning home with many gains that will enable them to continue with their Torah and their chesed and with seeing to all of Klal Yisroel's needs.

May HaKodosh Boruch Hu assist every one of you in continuing along this path and also all of your families. And may you witness the arrival of Moshiach tzidkeinu, swiftly, in our times.

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