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29 Adar 5762 - March 13, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
Sparing Ourselves from Chavlei Moshiach

by Rav Moshe Man, Rosh Yeshivas Be'er Yitzchok

During these difficult times, when Jewish blood is being spilled almost every day and frightful tragedies, road accidents and terrible diseases afflict us constantly, every day holds a greater curse than the previous one.

The Chofetz Chaim wrote, "We can see that all of the signs mentioned by Chazal which prelude the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu have come to fruition, nearly in their entirety, and not a single day passes without bringing a greater curse than the previous one. And Klal Yisroel has had to bear many calamities and afflictions. Without a doubt these days are the Ikveso Demeshicho. These calamities and afflictions are mentioned in Chazal as chavlei Moshiach, and they resemble a woman's labor pains, for before birth she undergoes great pain and suffering. A similar set of phenomena takes place before the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, which include calamities and afflictions known as chavlei Moshiach" (Igros Vemaamorim 13).

These words became even more relevant after six million Jews were annihilated in the Holocaust; the Cedars of Lebanon, including gedolei Torah, were killed and slaughtered, and thousands of towns inhabited by our brethren were decimated. Millions of Jews had the merit of moving to Eretz Yisroel, but now ha'am hayosheiv beTzion is in great danger and in a virtual state of war. Jewish blood is spilled almost every day. Certainly the horrible calamities we are facing are part of chavlei Moshiach.

In Or Yechezkel in the chapter on faith in the Redemption, Rav Yechezkel Levenstein writes, "We must recognize that we are now in acharis hayomim, and we face many trials . . . One who observes carefully can plainly see that these are days of Ikveso Demeshicho during which the entire world is in a state of great danger. The superpowers are provoking one another and each of them has the power to destroy the entire world . . . Now we must await Melech HaMoshiach, for all of the signs Chazal enumerated regarding Ikveso Demeshicho have already appeared . . . Our Torah study is unworthy, as it says, "Talmidei chachomim will be few in the generation in which Ben Dovid arrives," and this is the state we are in now, for our talmidei chachomim are not genuine; anyone who has learned a few masechtos inadequately, already considers himself a talmid chochom and starts studying Yoreh De'ah to obtain semichoh, and then demands the title HaRav HaGaon or more . . . "

The whole world is in constant fear of what the future will bring. Those with ties to ranking officials attest that Israel has not been in such a state of peril for a long time. Yet among bnei yeshiva there is no trace of the chizuk in Torah and yiras Shomayim that we would expect to see during such times. It is indeed remarkable how we do not stand in fear of judgment, particularly at a time when HaKodosh Boruch Hu has sent the Mal'och HaMashchis, and it is apparent that there is no way of curing the disease and that the source and causes remain unknown to us.

Therefore we are greatly in need of chizuk in Torah and tefillah. If the Chofetz Chaim were here with us today he would tell us what must be done, but we have no one to turn to. Chazal said that in the days of Moshiach there will be many machlokos in the world and the ministers will be afraid, all of which has occurred in our times, for these are the days of Moshiach, demanding chizuk in all of our actions.

In his letter of consolation over the petiroh of the Tchebiner Rov, HaRav Yaakov Kanievsky z'l writes, "Clearly today is Ikveso Demeshicho and techias hameisim will be soon. May it be His will that it will take place speedily in our days" (Karaina DeIgarto Part II, 39).

HaRav Shach zt'l also made similar remarks such as, "We are now living in a period of Ikveso Demeshicho" (Michtovim Umaamorim 4:9).


Such extreme forms of evil on the part of the goyim are reason for the Redemption in and of themselves. "When we see that the evil perpetrated by the goyim becomes great," writes the Mashgiach, "we must grow stronger in our faith in the future Redemption."

In his droshos the Beis HaLevi wrote that the Redemption can come either of two ways: through "tzidkas Am Yisroel" or through "rishas hagoyim."

In Uvdos LeBrisk (Part I, Shaar 27) Rav M. D. Soloveitchik notes the lyrics of one of the Shabbos Night zemiros: "Meshoch chasdecho leyod'echo keil kano venokeim." When we ask for chesed from HaKodosh Boruch Hu, he wonders, why should we allude to His vengeance?

But according to the Beis HaLevi, Klal Yisroel's salvation will itself sprout from Hashem's wrath towards the goyim.


During these difficult times we must buttress our emunah, because salvation is on the way. In the article "Tzipias Hayeshu'o" the Chofetz Chaim explains that our emunah has grown weak. "We have seen several places where religious observance has grown very weak and children are cutting themselves free of Torah at a young age, which was not the case just a few years ago . . . The primary reason for this is weakened emunah, for belief in the Eternal World, in reward and punishment, in the coming of Moshiach and in the other prophecies recorded in the Torah has given Am Yisroel the strength in each and every generation to bear all of the afflictions and hardship, and to uphold their religion with mesirus nefesh, both them and their children . . . And when we see the extent of the affliction and hardship we must face every day . . . people lose hope in the Geula even as it draws near."

In Or Yechezkel Rav Levenstein writes, "The reasons for the lack of faith in the Geula are first of all, because we have been given signs of the arrival of Moshiach on many occasions in the past, and he has not yet come, and because we do not believe the time is right for Melech Hamoshiach to arrive. The Chofetz Chaim used to say that there is almost no one left for the Moshiach to come to. The generations are in a state of constant decline and the coming generations will be in an even worse spiritual state, and therefore he must arrive soon."

Now, fifty years later, this applies much more so. Then there were still many great tzadikim, whereas today, when there is almost no one to turn to for answers, ours is an orphaned generation beyond measure.

"I remember that the Chofetz Chaim zt'l would liken waiting for Melech Hamoshiach to a terminally ill patient who knows that a great doctor is coming to visit and will find a cure for his disease. As he waits for the doctor's arrival, every knock on the door jolts him into a state of eager anticipation, and every hour that passes does not diminish his anticipation, but instead makes him more eager. We must show the same kind of anticipation for bi'as go'el."

In Meoros Hagedolim Rav A. Zaitchik quotes HaRav Yosef Yozel, the Alter of Novardok, who says, "If I lived on the last day of the sixth millennium and Moshiach had not yet come I would not fall or even budge in my faith that he is certain to arrive."

When a sefer Torah was brought into the hall of the Ponevezh Yeshiva in 5752 I heard HaRav Shach zt'l quote the Rambam at the end of Hilchos Melochim: "And regarding all such matters, no one knows what will be until the time comes, and these matters are unclear to the prophets as well. Neither did the Chachomim have a kabboloh for these matters." Then he added, "We learn from the Rambam that until the Moshiach arrives, nobody can know what will take place. All we can do is to carry out everything written in the Torah and believe that the Moshiach will come whenever Hashem wills it . . . "


Speaking to female teachers and educators HaRav Shach wrote, "The precept of `ani maamin bevi'as hamoshiach . . . bechol yom sheyovo' is what maintained us from the day we became a nation until now. During the worst of times, the most difficult times--and we have had no lack of difficult times--what would have given us the strength to sail across a sea of calamities, the sea of golus, if not for this `ani maamin,' the strong faith in days to come, in the arrival of Moshiach?" (Michtavim, Part III, 142)


Without strong faith it would be impossible to survive the period we are facing. The Rosh Yeshiva said, "We live in a tiny country with millions of Arabs encamped all around us. In Europe the partisans would flee and hide in the forests, but here there are no forests, we have nowhere to run except into the sea. I am not saying that this is what will happen, choliloh, but one should know this is not a particularly safe place. Merchants avoid investing here . . . We are not in golus within one country, but in golus in the midst of a hundred million Arabs, and hundreds of millions of goyim. Where can we place our trust? Who are our friends and allies? Who will help us and who has the power to help us? . . . If we increase the size of the army, build another factory, will the other side just rest? Do we know what the enemy is planning for us? Everyone hates us, who will help us-- America? They are friendly with the Arabs, and we don't know how they feel in their hearts, but the halocho is Eisov sonei leYaakov. I am not a prophet or the son of a prophet, but I know full well just as you do, that this very knowledge development (technology) that our generation follows so keenly could rain terrible destruction on the nations of the world. All of us are aware that chas vesholom wars could break out any time, in both the near and distant future. Wars that could conceivably claim many victims and transform many countries into piles of ruins. It is not beyond the realm of thinking that the increased knowledge would be that which brings evil of previously unknown dimensions, completely crushing many peoples, for one single missile fired from space could transform all of New York or Moscow into a mound of ruins. Thus any reasonable person understands that there is no real significance or meaning to the State we dwell in, because we are exposed to the same danger, chas vesholom anyway, if not for the power of Torah that maintains our existence. In such times we must remember to carry out the words of the Tana, ein lonu al mi lehisho'ein elo al ovinu shebashomayim with entreaties for great rachamim from Hashem."

But a person should not fear at all. In Orchos Yosher (23) HaRav Chaim Kanievsky writes, "Some people are always afraid, and they worry about all kinds of tragedies, such as sickness and wars and bad people and more. All their days are spent in fear and trembling and worries about all kinds of things. And this is a very bad way to conduct oneself. It comes from a lack of emunoh, since if one were to believe fully that everything comes from HaKodosh Boruch Hu and one does not even bang his finger down here unless it is decreed Above, so therefore why should he fear? If chas vesholom it is decreed upon him, then there is nothing he can do to avoid it. And if it is not decreed, then he has nothing to worry about. And we are always, every minute, in the Hand of Hashem, whether in time of peace or time of war. And Hashem has many ways."


According to the Vilna Gaon, by saying "Omen, yehei shemei rabbo mevorach le'olam ule'olmei olmayo " one can be spared chavlei Moshiach (Tikunei Hazohar p. 5b).

Perhaps the reason can be found in Shabbos 119b: "Says Rav Yehuda Ben Levi, `Anyone who says, Omen yehei shemei rabbo mevorach le'olam ule'olmei olmayo with all his might has his decree torn up, as is written, Bifro'a pera'os beYisroel, behisnadev om, borechu Hashem.'" According to the posuk, calamities are averted (see Rashi) because Hashem is blessed by people. Rashi notes that "all his might" means with full concentration and Tosafos quotes Rav Yishmoel Ben Elisha who says when Yisroel enters botei knesses and says, "Yehei shemei rabbo mevorach" aloud, difficult decrees are cancelled.

One of the letters in Karaina DeIgarto (Part II, p. 240) says, " . . . the danger is not so great that people should leave their homes, particularly since this would affect the chinuch of sons and daughters, may they live long and well. It seems likely that [the military] would use atomic weapons and whatever one side fires the other side will certainly retaliate, and everyone fears for their lives. The most important thing is to keep in mind what Chazal say in Sanhedrin 98b, `What should one do to be saved from chavlei Moshiach? Engage in Torah and gemilus chassodim.' And one should honor the Shabbos to the best of his ability and keep three seudas on Shabbos, as Chazal say, `Anyone who keeps three seudas on Shabbos is spared chavlei Moshiach'" (Shabbos 118a).

In Pirkei Ovos it says, "Ho lomadeto anyone who attributes a dvar Torah to he who said it brings redemption to the world, as it says, `Vatomer Esther lamelech besheim Mordechai . . . '" (Chapter 6 Mishnah 6). Quoting Rav Avrohom Zalmans Hy'd, who served as Rosh Yeshivas Beis Yosef in Warsaw together with my grandfather, Rav Hillel Vitkind, the sefer Gevilei Eish says the Mishna introduces this teaching with the words "Ho lomadeto" to demonstrate that although one might assume the Geula will come as the result of great deeds, Chazal point out that even mentioning the name of the speaker is enough to bring the Geula because it counters the natural tendency to attribute what we say to ourselves. Perhaps actions contrary to human nature have a positive effect because, "Kol hama'avir al midosov ma'avirin lo al kol pesho'ov" (Rosh Hashonoh 17a).


One must not despair of seeing the Geula saying, "If we are like donkeys compared to previous generations and if such great tzadikim did not merit the Redemption, how can we?" The Chofetz Chaim explains that this need not be cause for concern because in the verse, "Vechishav im koneihu mishenas himochero lo ad shenas hayovel" we see that the redemption money for a slave diminishes as his remaining years of servitude become fewer.

The same principle applies regarding the future Geula: HaKodosh Boruch Hu will put an end to the darkness and designate a day for Redemption, and atoning for the time remaining until the designated day and hastening the Geula by thousands of years can only be accomplished through great merit and unprecedented shleimus. If HaKodosh Boruch Hu wanted to halve the time remaining, we would have to rise to the occasion to be worthy of Redemption, but unfortunately we do not have such merit.

But over the last few generations, as Hashem's salvation draws ever nearer, and Moshiach Tzidkeinu "omed achar kosleinu," little is expected of us to hasten the Redemption, for most of the "sentence" has already been served during many long years of hardship in every corner of the globe where the Jews have been scattered; our suffering is taken into account and may be enough to redeem us soon.

In Chapter 25 of Machaneh Yisroel the Chofetz Chaim writes, "And people should not be surprised and wonder how we can expect to merit what previous generations did not merit. This is not a kushia for the truth is that we are of much lesser stature than our forefathers, but it is well known that HaKodosh Boruch Hu combines every individual's merit with that of his forefathers, thus we are like a dwarf riding on a giant. So we can see even farther."


"Do not ask how the Jewish people, held in contempt by all other nations, can suddenly rise up from such a lowly state. The Chofetz Chaim asks this question in Tzipia Leyeshuo. `Hayipolei meiHashem dovor?' " he writes, adding, "HaKodosh Boruch Hu has always related to us this way. When was Yitzchok born? When Avrohom was 100 years old, an age when generally all hope of giving birth to a son has been lost.

"Consider the state Yosef was in when he ascended to royalty: held in a dungeon for twelve years in a state of disgrace. And when Moshe was lying in the basket crying, who would have thought he would eventually become the savior of the Jewish people and the receiver of the Torah? While the Jewish people were in such a wretched state in Egypt, who could have imagined that one day Pharaoh would rise up and cry out, `Get up and leave my people.' In our day as well HaKodosh Boruch Hu will extricate us from the difficult state we are in and redeem us."

According to Uvdos LeBrisk (Part I, p. 338) they bring in the name of the Griz that people once asked Rav Chaim of Volozhin how such a small nation as Klal Yisroel could rule over so many other nations and how can they fight so many nations. Rav Chaim replied, "This can be likened to roosters in a chicken coop that have not been fed for a long time. When the feed is brought in they fight over it, trampling and killing one another, until eventually just one rooster is left alive and he takes all of the food. The same will take place in the future: The goyim will fight and kill one another, and in the end Klal Yisroel will rule over the entire world."


According to all of the above, although we are at the threshold of the Redemption, each of us must awaken before he merits the siyata deShmaya that will usher in the Geula. In Shemos it says, "Lech ve'osafto es ziknei Yisroel ve'omarto aleihem Hashem Elokei avoseichem nir'o eilai . . . leimor pokod pokadeti eschem . . . vo'omar a'aleh eschem mei'oni Mitzrayim . . . " (3:16) and then later it says, "Vayaamein ho'om vayishme'u ki pokad Hashem es Bnei Yisroel vechi ro'o es onyom" (4:31) and in fact Moshe and Aharon later go to Pharaoh and tell him, "Ko amar Hashem Elokei Yisroel shelach es ami veya'avduni."

Says the Alter of Kelm, "The very act of entering Pharaoh's palace was a great miracle. Lions surrounded the palace and entering without permission constituted an act of revolt against the king, which carried the death sentence. Therefore Moshe and Aharon should have come to Pharaoh first, thereby demonstrating the first budding of the Geula, and only then should Moshe and Aharon have come to the people to deliver Hashem's message to them."

According to Rav Levenstein, "Here we see an important principle: as long as they did not come to Am Yisroel and Am Yisroel did not believe in the salvation, there was no need to go to Pharaoh. For the initial avodoh is self-his'orerus and only then can one merit siyata deShmaya, and only at that point they could go unto Pharaoh" (Or Yechezkel p. 214).

Thus "Vayaamein ho'om," the internal belief, is an essential condition before the Redemption can take place.

Likewise his'orerus is incumbent upon us, to believe and strengthen and engage in Torah and gemilus chassodim, and then HaKodosh Boruch Hu will bring the Geula.

The Chofetz Chaim compares this to a sick person who is told to take a certain medication. If he is not careful to adhere to the schedule and the prescribed dosage, he will not have long to live. But if he is careful to take the medication properly, he will soon recover. It could be said that according to the severity of the illness, large quantities of medication must be taken according to the prescribed schedule.

In our day and age, during this period of great suffering, we must do real teshuva and maintain high "doses" of Torah and gemilus chassodim, according to a fixed schedule and without skipping any of the doses, and then we will be spared from chavlei Moshiach and will soon merit the Geula.

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