G-d told Moses, “Take revenge on behalf of Israel against the Midianites, after which you will be gathered to your people.” (Bamidbar 31:1-2)
Ah, the good old days, when G-d personally sent us on our missions. How nice it was to be assured by the Creator of the world Himself that the war we were about to fight would end in our favor. The self-confidence in our ability, with the help of G-d, to be successful must have been exhilarating.
Without a doubt one of the most disastrous events in Jewish history over the last 500 years was the Shabbtai Tzvi debacle in 1648. A self- proclaimed messiah who later converted to Islam at the threat of death by the Sultan, he dashed the hopes of millions of Jews who really thought the end of Jewish suffering and oppression had come. So depressed did Eastern European Jewry become that the door on messianic optimism was shut tight until this very day . . .
“You remember the last time people thought Moshiach was coming . . . what happened in the end?”
Therefore, there are many Jews today who are unwilling to read anything messianic into the different events. In spite of the fact that we are supposed to anticipate Moshiach’s arrival everyday, anticipate the Final Redemption at all times, and have total trust in G-d regarding the outcome of seemingly negative events, Jews would still like to be super-cautious and not anticipate much more than what actually seems to be happening in the present.
And when well-known rabbis speak out and put themselves out on a religious limb by doing such reading, others see it as irresponsible. There is always the “What if?” syndrome. What if events do not pan out as they say? What if disengagement actually does go through, G-d forbid? What if the upcoming events do not trigger the end of history? What if, in spite of all the amazing signs that we are about to cross the threshold into another more favorable period of history, albeit after a brief rough one, we don’t?
What if terrible only gets worse?
Think of the dashed hopes, once again. Think of the depression that will set in for those who dared to believe and were let down, again. It’ll be Shabbtai Tzvi all over again, G-d forbid. So, isn’t it better for us to just sit back and let events go the way Heaven has in mind? Won’t it then be easier to live with the disappointment if the favorable ending many of us dream of does not materialize?
First of all, let’s get one thing straight. The most important detail to go wrong in the Shabbtai Tzvi debacle was that he claimed to be the Moshiach. And, not only did he claim to be Moshiach, but he began acting in ways that misled others into believing that Yemos HaMoshiach was well underway, as if the Final Redemption had become a de facto reality. He even began to permit that which previously had been forbidden. The threshold he stepped over was not his to cross.
There are other major differences as well. For example, Shabbtai Tzvi came at a time that the Jews were living in Europe, and the idea of returning to Eretz Yisroel could only be a pipe dream at best. It was still the seventeenth century; we hadn’t even come close to the “Tenth Hour” of history (which began in 1990), and the Jewish people had yet to reach the four corners of the earth, as they have since World War II.
Moshe told the people, “Don’t be afraid! Stand still and see the deliverance of G-d, which He will show you today. The Egyptians that you see today, you will never see again, forever! G-d will fight for you, and you will say nothing.” (Shemos 14:13-14)
Herein rests the real impact of exile: the suppression of Jewish willingness to believe that redemption can be just around the corner. It is the abandonment of the belief that G-d is willing to bring the Final Redemption at any time, not just as some distant time in the future, in “someone else’s” generation. Exile has instilled a fear within the Jewish heart to think positively about these situations to spare us from some future disappointment, and it has trained us to believe more in the corruption of men than in the goodness of G-d.
But let’s say the rabbi is wrong. Let’s say the results turn out not as he predicted, and bad goes to worse. Then he would have been wrong all along. Shouldn’t he have been more cautious and less optimistic in his analysis of the events at hand? To have so many people believe in his opinion, and follow him, only to have their hopes dashed and to become depressed when his vision of the future becomes a nightmare of the present.
No, quite the contrary. Judaism has never been about results, but about an attitude towards Hashgochah Pratis (Avodah Zarah 3a). Cosmic events are exactly that – cosmic. They take into account a lot more history than the slice of life we are presently experiencing, and the results can be very different than what we think they ought to be from our limited perspective. This is clear from the story of Iyov.
However, if you could hear them talking in Heaven about positive thinkers, you’d probably hear: “Look how badly they want redemption! Look how willing they are to believe it is coming! Look how much My children trust I will save the day! Look how much faith they have in My Providence in spite of how the situation looks to them! I am so very proud of My children,” G-d says.
“I will greatly reward them,” G-d says.
First and foremost, when we get to the World-to-Come, on the Day of Judgment, one of the six questions we will be asked is, did we anticipate the redemption? (Shabbos 31a).
Perhaps during a person’s lifetime, just maybe he’ll have success beyond what could have naturally been expected.
So many times this was the test, disastrous situations and positive results, as it was in Egypt, or by the Red Sea, or as in the time of Purim, or in the time of Chanukah. A can do, must do, do-or-die attitude, and the willingness to trust in G-d, in spite of the great odds to the contrary, everything can and will turn out right. And, they did in the end.
But what if they don’t?
G-d forbid. But even if they don’t, I will still admire those who were willing to put their credibility on the line and dared to believe in G-d until the end; he who dared to read into the events of today their messianic potential, and tried desperately to harvest it. I will, of course, like everyone else, have to pick myself up once again and say, “Again, another opportunity for Moshiach to come, and yet, (to my knowledge,) he did not materialize. Oh well, back the grind. Onward and upward with the hope that the next opportunity will in fact produce the desired result. But at least, for the time being, I merited to feel that potential, thanks to those who got me focused on it. Happy are they! Great is their portion!”
Moshe answered the descendants of Gad and Reuven, “Should your brothers go to war while you live in peace here? Why would you discourage the Israelite nation from crossing into the land which G-d has given to them? That’s exactly what your ancestors did when I sent them from Kadesh-Barnea to scout the land . . .” (Bamidbar 32:6-8)
It was 39 years since the spies first went out and came back 40 days later with their evil report on the land. However, this time it was not a story of spies or loshon hara about Eretz Yisroel. It was about wanting to stay in Chutz L’Aretz for material reasons after G-d had given Eretz Yisroel to the Jewish people, and yet a connection to the spies was made.
Last week plane loads of Jews came on aliyah from the United States of America and Canada. My wife and daughter were part of the very large greeting party, and they reported how incredibly moving and uplifting the entire ceremony was. It was hard for them to accept Prime Minister Sharon as one of the politicians there to welcome the new olim, especially since he had ordered the closure of Gush Katif that very day. The irony seemed to be too much.
On the other hand, maybe the irony was perfect as well as the timing. For, each oleh that arrived that day, previous to that day and those who are slated to come in the future, G-d willing, is another nail in the Sitra Achra’s coffin. Nothing pushes the S”A to his end faster than Kibbutz Golios (the Ingathering of the Exiles), and with each additional segment of Kibbutz Golios the Sitra Achra shoots back. That day it was the closure of all roads leading to Gush Katif.
One of the most uplifting aspects of aliyah these days is that it is, for the most part, ideological. It is not that these olim have fallen on hard times and are looking for more opportunity in Eretz Yisroel. Rather, as many have told me personally, it is that they feel the end of history is at hand, and that they want to be in Eretz Yisroel when it happens. They are willing, in the words of the Melitzer Rebbe, to descend ten levels of gashmius (materialism) to ascend 100 levels of ruchnios (spirituality).
How that affects the hearts of those already living here is immeasurable. We are quite happy here and do not require any type of justification or emotional support to ratify our decisions to remain in Eretz Yisroel. Nevertheless, seeing the willingness of our Jewish brothers and sisters to forsake some materialism for life in the Holy Land at this late stage of history, at a time when making aliyah seems a little crazy given the politics and security situation here certainly reveals the hand of G-d.
After thousands of years of exile Kibbutz Golios is truly and finally taking place right before our very eyes, though with less fanfare than many might have expected. Perhaps this is to keep the Sitra Achra somewhat at bay, and perhaps it is to maintain the free-will of those who still remain in Chutz L’Aretz. (Just imagine the race for plane tickets once it is confirmed that Kibbutz Golios is really in full swing!)
Whatever the reason, the first and most important phase of Kibbutz Golios may be coming to a close. Why do I say that? Because it is becoming increasingly more difficult to make aliyah each passing week. Rapidly rising oil prices will definitely seriously curtail the freedom of transportation. I was recently told that in North America there is now a nine month backlog of orders for appliances that work in Israel, which may have an impact on some people’s decision to make aliyah at this time.
Additionally, no one knows yet how disengagement will affect the entire direction of this country, and therefore that will also have some influence on the desire of foreigners to even bother with the idea of aliyah.
However, to the extent that our brothers in Chutz L’Aretz remain comfortably at home in the Diaspora and show little if any desire to cross their own personal Jordan river into the land promised to their ancestors, it has an impact on the resolve of those of us living here, perpetuating the mistake of the tribes of Reuven, Gad, and Menashe. To the extent that they exhibit a desire to live in Eretz Yisroel, is the extent that they share a role in the tikun of what went wrong in this week’s parshah to push off the Final Redemption for thousands of years.
Then the redeemed of G-d will return and come to Tzion with glad song . . . (Yeshayahu 35:10)
“I asked Rabbeinu what to do if it would be physically possible to bring all the Jews to Eretz Yisroel at one time. So many questions and difficulties would arise regarding the arrangement of the settlement. After much thought, Rabbeinu answered, ‘If it becomes possible to bring 600,000 to Eretz Yisroel at one time, it should be done immediately because there is a great and total power in the number 600,000, and that could defeat Samae”l in the gates of Jerusalem. Then the complete redemption would come miraculously, aided by clouds of Heaven, as it says, “Then the redeemed of G-d will return and come to Tzion with glad song . . .” (Yeshayahu 35:10).’ According to Chazal, as well as Rabbeinu, this verse refers to the period of Moshiach Ben Yosef (Shabbos 88a); the posuk includes the letters of the number 600,000.” (Kol HaTor, Ch. 1:15)
It has been pointed out by many commentaries that the number of Jews between the ages of 20 and 60 throughout the 40 years in the desert, in spite of the terrible calamities, always hovered around the 600,000 mark. As to why that was the case is explained by the Zohar, and is the basis for the above statement.
It is the six sefiros of Chesed, Gevurah, Tifferes, Netzach, Hod, and Yesod, that were the cosmic DNA for the Six Days of Creation, dictating the potential for each day. In turn, these six days became the root for the six millennia that have followed, as the Vilna Gaon explains:
Each day of Creation alludes to a thousand years of our existence, and every little detail that occurred on these days will have its corresponding event happen at the proportionate time during its millennium. (Safra D’Tzniusa, Ch. 5)
Thus, multiples of six: 6, 6000, 600,000, 6,000,000 – historically, are very holy and always represent some tikun for what is wrong in Creation in order to further the goals of Ma’aseh Bereishis. It is a powerful number that neutralizes the Sitra Achra, specifically 600,000 and which paves the way for geulah.
Thus, it is no coincidence that it was only after the unimaginable loss of 6,000,000 European Jews that the Jewish people were given back Eretz Yisroel, at least a portion of it. Or, that after the Six-Day War we recaptured Jerusalem. And, just look at what the tribes who chose to live in Jordan denied the Jewish people and history by making the number of olim in Moshe Rabbeinu’s time less than the requisite 600,000 to bring redemption!
Coincidentally, it was just reported:
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel will by next year become home to the largest Jewish community in the world for the first time, surpassing the Jewish population in the United States, a think tank said on Tuesday. Not for nearly 2,000 years has the Holy Land been home to the globe’s biggest Jewish community. The report from the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute said the Jewish population of Israel was about 5.24 million and of the United States some 5.28 million, but the balance was shifting quickly.
Significant, is it not, that the transfer of rule is based upon a number that hovers around the 6,000,000 mark?
Something to think about as the clock ticks down on Year 5766, the last two numbers of which the Zohar chooses to see as 60 and 6.
Have a great Shabbos,
Copyright © by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Project Genesis, Inc.
Rabbi Winston has authored many books on Jewish philosophy (Hashkofa). If you enjoy Rabbi Winston’s Perceptions on the Parsha, you may enjoy his books. Visit Rabbi Winston’s online book store for more details! www.thirtysix.org