In the introduction to his Hebrew translation, Rabbi Moshe Sheinfeld wrote (in part): "To those of our readers who will find in the words of the Gaon a blatant tendency towards extreme zealousness (kano'us), it should be said: Before we examine gedolei Yisroel against the charge that they may have been gripped by kano'us, it were better that we examine ourselves, lest we have been gripped by a tendency to be lukewarm and to compromise the Holy of Holies and the highest of the values of Yisroel."
The Deeds of the Fathers
What is the meaning of the word "Torah"? "Torah" is related to "teaching." Every word of the Torah must contain a lesson, otherwise its place in the Torah is not justified. The question arises: What is the lesson which lies hidden in all the stories of the past in all their details? Let us take this for a general rule: "The deeds of the fathers are a guide for the children." (Ramban on Bereishis 12:6) In the Torah-narratives are concentrated the future history of the Hebrew people from beginning to end.
The portion of Vayishlach which describes the meeting of Eisov and Jacob foreshadows the life of Israel among the nations. The first section is that of Exile (Nachmanides)— the vision of the Jewish exile among the children of Eisov. The second section tells of the return of Jacob, our forefather, to Eretz Israel from Padan-Aram, the land of his exile. The Gaon of Vilna (Even Shleima 11:6:5) asserts that this is the portion of the Epoch of the Messiah.
In this portion it is written: "And he put the handmaids and their children first." From here we have proof, states the Gaon of Vilna, that in the Epoch of the Messiah the descendants of the "mixed multitude" will stand at the heads of the people. Rambam (Igeres Teiman, 2) records: There is a promise, "And also in Thee will they believe forever" (Shemos 19:9) that is, that the Jews will cleave forever to their faith in the Torah; and if you see atheists in Israel, it is certain "that their fathers did not stand at Mount Sinai," or that their origin is not from the children of Israel, but from the "mixed multitude" (erev rav).
When we see nowadays that unbelievers lead the people, we know how right the Gaon was: these are the children of the mixed multitude. "And Leah and her children after" (Bereishis 33:2) this represents the masses of the house of Israel who will be subjugated to the mixed multitude, (Even Shleima) as in Soviet Russia and another country. "And Rachel and Joseph hindmost" (Bereishis 33:2)—these are the Torah-students, the lowest of all. To this vision, also, we are eyewitnesses; there is no land in which the escaped remnant of Torah- students is not derided and shamed.
It is furthermore said there: "And a man wrestled with him." (Ibid. 32:24) Jacob is the pillar of Torah. "A man" refers to Soton. This indicates that in the Epoch of the Messiah, immorality will struggle with the study of the Torah. "And the thigh of Jacob shrank" (Ibid. 32:25), this refers to the Torah school children who formed the backbone of the people for thousands of years. Even this foundation will weaken in the Epoch of the Messiah, through the attacks of internal and external foes. This, too, has come true in our days wherever Israel has been scattered. Most of the Jewish children of the world are educated like absolute gentiles.
There is another interpretation for "the thigh of Jacob," that is, those who support the Torah (Zohar Vayishlach 171:1), who support Torah-students to make it possible for them to study in liberal and peaceful conditions. Since Israel became a nation, much importance has been attached to this precept (Yissochor and Zevulun). In the Epoch of the Messiah, this precept is annulled everywhere. Even in those countries where it is still temporarily possible to help financially, people give to all causes; but for the Torah prutos are left. Even the better classes are, at the most, only indifferent towards the Torah.
It is no wonder; for the younger generation, ignorant of Torah cannot appreciate the value of its study. We see that the two things are interdependent: the cessation of children's Torah-education, and Torah-support.
What is G-d's reply? "For the sin of suppression of Torah, the sword and plunder come" (Shabbos 33a) as it is written "And I shall bring upon you the sword avenging the covenant" (Vayikra 26:25) — `The covenant' means the Torah, of which it is written, `If not my covenant by day and night, then have I not set up the statutes of Heaven and earth'. (Yirmiyahu 33:25) In Vienna alone, Jewish possessions valued at forty million dollars were plundered. "Woe to mankind for the insults to the Torah." (Avos 5:12)
"Let Us Be Like the Peoples"
In Yechezkel (20) it is clearly stated that in the time before the Messiah a new creed will develop among the Jews: "Let us be like the Nations." The realization of this prophecy began during the "Berlin Enlightenment" nearly 150 years ago. It was summed up in the slogan: "Be a Jew in your tent and a man in the street."
The fruits of this ideal quickly ripened. The sons of its adherents became apostates. The idea was an undermining of the fundamentals of the Torah. The Torah warned that the Jews must be separated from the Nations in their whole way of life. "And I have separated you from the Nations to be Mine." (Kedoshim - Vayikra 20:26, Ramban Avoda Zara 11:1).
The Maskilim came and said the exact opposite: be like the Nations. G-d said about this: "As to your saying `Let us be like the Nations,' this shall surely not be. If not through a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, then with outpoured wrath will I reign over you." (Yechezkel 20:32-33)
It will start with a "mighty hand." If this is not effective then the "outstretched arm" will come. If this does not help, there must be "outpoured wrath." Under which of these three processes we are at present living we cannot know. This will show itself in the very near future. At any rate it is clear that the prophecy of "It shall surely not be" is being realized. The nations drive us murderously from themselves. It is said that it is hard to be a Jew. Now a miracle has happened in recent times—it is harder still for a Jew to be a non-Jew.
It is said in the name of the Gaon Beis Halevi: It is written: "who makes a division between light and darkness, between Israel and the Nations." (Pesochim 103) Between light and darkness there is a definite period of separation (twilight). No one can alter it to make it less or more. In the same way between Israel and the Peoples there exists a predetermined border line as to how near one may approach to the other. If the Jews drift too near, then the Nations thrust back. From this we can understand that the more Jews have drifted over to the Nations the greater has been the recoil.
This is well apparent in those lands where the Jews had completely assimilated. How terrible this repulse really is! So it was in Egypt; when the bondage increased, Jews began to mix with the Egyptians thinking that thereby things would become easier. What did G-d do? "He turned their heart to hate his people." (Tehillim 105). The more they sought intimacy with the Egyptians, the greater became the hatred towards them until the time came that the Jews recognized their mistake; then came the Redemption. The same will be with us. "If you are separated from the Peoples, then you are mine; if not, you belong to Nebuchadnezzar and his colleagues." (Toras Kohanim 4:89:12).
End of Part II
To Read Part I