There is an earth-shaking Rashi on Parshas Balak.
OK, I grant that every comment by Rashi is earth-shaking.
But this one shook the earth under me so that I felt it.
There is no understanding or wisdom in the world except the Torah. In Birkas Kohanim, we say, “Ya-air Hashem panaiv ailecha … May Hashem illuminate His countenance for you …” There is no illumination in this world except that which emanates from Hashem. If you want to understand what is happening, just look in the Torah.
The possuk says, “Hen am levadad yishkon … Behold! It is a nation that will dwell alone and not be reckoned among the nations.” (Bamidbar 23:9)
Israel is always isolated.
Israel is always singled out and mentioned in disproportion to its size.
Israel is always judged on a different standard from every other nation and country.
This reminds me of Mark Twain’s famous quote, “If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of stardust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly the Jew ought hardly to be heard of; but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people … All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?” (Harper’s Magazine 1897)
Rashi understands the words “they will not be reckoned among the nations” to mean, “They will not be annihilated with the other nations.” He refers to the Novi, who says, “I will bring annihilation upon all the other nations among whom I have dispersed you, but upon you I will not bring annihilation ….” (Yirmiah 30:11)
This passage in Yirmiah describes the birth pangs of Moshiach as worldwide suffering which has no precedent, “for that day will be momentous; there is nothing like it.”
My book, 2020 Vision, opens with a quote which describes Milchemes Gog Umagog: “In the End of Days … the children of Ishmael and the children of Esau will clash, and the two nations will collide and destroy each other.” (Malbim on Yechezkel 32:17) This refers to the climactic war of history as a battle between the Western Nations and the Moslem Nations in which the two cultures will destroy each other. Interestingly, I saw a passage in a secular book which quoted Pope John Paul as having said a similar thing: “the real coming conflict in the world [is] not going to be between … the United States and Russia but [rather] between Islamic fundamentalism and Christianity.” (The Secret History of the Mossad, p. 242)
If we look with open eyes, it is not difficult to see that world events are hurtling toward a climax. Our prophets, rabbis and commentators all describe the birth-pangs of Moshiach as a time of awesome events, resembling the downfall of Mitzraim, but on a worldwide scale. We will all need to be immersed in the protective cocoon of Torah in order to try to sustain ourselves emotionally and physically through these cataclysmic events.
But the words of Rashi give us tremendous hope. Rashi is telling us that it will be possible to survive the birth-pangs of Moshiach just as our ancestors survived the downfall of Ancient Egypt. “The Sages teach that the world will undergo horrific travails in the End of Days, when G-d transitions its inhabitants to the Messianic Era, which will be a new kind of existence. The dominance of the nations will end and the Jewish nation will reign supreme.” (Artscroll commentary on Yirmiah 30:5)
Can we imagine a world like this?
When Moshiach comes, the world will have turned “upside down,” or rather “right side up!”
One can imagine that this will necessitate cataclysmic change. But Rashi is telling us that we are not to be “counted with the rest of the nations.”
If we elevate ourselves and separate from the surrounding culture, we have every reason to hope that Hashem will allow us to “behold [His} return to Tzion in compassion” in the Days of Moshiach, may we see them soon!
Chiddush: Innovative idea
L’havdil: In contrast
Milchemes Gog Umagog: The War of Gog and Magog, the Final War in history
Mitzraim: Biblical Egypt
Possuk: Sentence in the Torah
Yechezkel ha Novi: Ezekiel the Prophet
Yirmiah ha Novi: Jeremiah the Prophet