Avraham Avinu says about the Philistines, “There is no fear of G-d in this place; they will kill me because of my wife.” (Beraishis 20:11)
In 1936, Rabbi Elchonen Wasserman zt”l spoke in Berlin. He noted that the Philistines had an “advanced culture, technology art and high standard of living. Only one characteristic was lacking: fear of G-d.”
That is why Avraham Avinu did not trust them.
Listeners were offended. One rabbi later wrote that he had been “deeply hurt … [when the rabbi] from Eastern Europe [implied that] in [this] land of cultural enlightenment (modern Germany) people will kill indiscriminately…. But [the writer later admitted], the eye of the aged gaon and tzaddik saw further into the future than [our eyes.]
“What he said came true!” (Biography of “Reb Elchonen,” Mesorah Publications)
We can see where the world is going only through the lens of Torah.
Now that we are approaching Shabbos Nachamu, I believe it is time to speak in realistic terms about the possibility of Moshiach ben Dovid making his appearance soon. If we examine events at the end of Golus Mitzraim, we see that Moshe Rabbeinu appeared before the Geula in order to lead Am Yisroel out of the collapsing Egyptian culture and into the world of Torah. I would think that the same sequence would occur now. As the surrounding culture collapses and we approach the Geula, we need a trustworthy guide into the next phase of history, and Hashem has promised that He will not forsake “those who fear [Him] and give thought to His Name.” (Malachi 3:16)
We desire to believe that everything is normal. Certainly, there are problems – Corona has not gone away, war continues in Ukraine, inflation, crime, climate change, wildfires -- but we will somehow find a way to resolve everything, just as we always have. Life will go on.
I’m not so sure.
Recently, the heads of Russia, Iran and Turkey convened a summit. Can you imagine what they discussed? With terrible weapons in the hands of people who do not fear G-d -- not to mention China and North Korea -- how could anyone be safe in the world?
And, this week, rockets flew from Gaza once again.
But it’s not just war. When society has eroded to the point that immorality becomes legally embedded in the culture, then the entire structure begins to shake and tremble. What happens when the law itself becomes lawless? “G-d stands in the Divine Assembly; in the midst of judges He shall judge. For how long will you judge lawlessly and favor the presence of the wicked? …. They do not know nor do they understand; they walk in darkness; all foundations of the earth collapse….” (Tehillim 82)
“All foundations of the earth collapse.” Those are heavy words.
In the sixth year there will be “sounds,” and, in the seventh year “wars…. [and then] in the aftermath of the seventh [year] the son of David will come.” (Sanhedrin 97a) The Gemora seems to equate the seven years before Moshiach with the Shmittah cycle.
We are now in the Seventh Year.
What does it mean, in the sixth year there will be “sounds?”
“Like rivers they raised … their voices; like rivers they shall raise their destructiveness….” (Tehillim 93) Who is “they” who raise their voices?
“They” refers to “powerful nations that swell with pride and work destruction…. Throughout history we have instances of powers bent upon world conquest, depriving … other peoples of their independence…. And the final phase of history … will end with the rise of one … world-conquering power which will swallow up all the other nations … But there is still One Who will be mightier than even this conqueror nation: Hashem Who alone is ‘mighty on high.’” (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch)
The voices of destructiveness are becoming louder each day, but their end is predicted: “when the wicked bloom like grass and all the doers of iniquity blossom, it is to destroy them until eternity….” (Tehillim 92)
When evil becomes prevalent, it is a sign of Redemption.
“The son of Dovid will not come until the entire kingdom converts to heresy. Rava said (referring to tzara’as), “What is the verse? ‘All of it has turned white; it is pure.’” (Sanhedrin 97a) The Torah mandates that, when the entire body is infected with tzara’as, the Kohain declares him pure!
“Nachamu, nachamu … comfort, comfort My people, says your G-d. Speak to the heart of Yerushalayim and proclaim to her that her time [of exile] has been fulfilled … A voice calls in the wilderness, ‘Clear the way of Hashem; make a straight road in the plain, a highway for our G-d … the glory of Hashem shall be revealed and all flesh … shall see that the mouth of Hashem has spoken.’” (Haftaras Va’eschanan)
Why is “nachamu” repeated? It is possible to say that we have seen “nechama” before. We saw it, but our hopes were dashed. This time, Hashem will comfort us unto eternity with the coming of Moshiach ben Dovid and the rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdosh.
May we see it soon in our days.
Golus Mitzraim: Exile in Egypt
Tzara’as: A sickness mentioned in the Bible, manifested by skin eruptions