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7 Av, 5779 - August 8, 2019 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Yesodos Ne'emanim
Yesodos Ne'emanim

The Epoch of the Messiah — Ikvesa DeMeshicha

By HaRav Elchonon Wassermann, zt'l

The essay was originally published by R' Elchonon to give perspective on the events of his time, and how they were seen and foreseen by chazal. Although it first appeared in Yiddish in 5699-1939, eighty years ago, its message is still fresh and vital.

R' Elchonon's son, HaRav Simcha Wassermann, tried very hard to give this essay as wide a circulation as possible. We originally published it in 5753-1993, within the year of mourning for HaRav Simchah, le'iluy nishmosoh. Now, after the 80th anniversary of its original publication, we are republishing it here, online.

We are adding the references to the pesukim and maamarim mentioned, as per his request.

HaRav Elchonon Wassermann, zt'l

To Read Part I

To Read Part II

To Read Part III

To Read Part IV

To Read Part V

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."

Part VI

Golus-Policy of Our Fathers

The saintly Chofetz Chaim often used to declare (On The Torah 102): There are periods in a man's life when he is called upon to make a decision, and cannot come to any resolve. Often it is in a matter of supreme importance to him; and, through not knowing what to do, he finally comes to despair. Someone whispers in his ear: You can ask the advice of G-d in His glory in this matter.

"How this?" wonders the man.

In fact, said the Chofetz Chaim, this privilege is given to every man. We possess a Torah which comprises solutions to all problems. As the rabbis say, "There is nothing on earth which is not indicated in the Torah." (Tosafos Yeshonim on Yoma 38b) The solution which we find in the Torah is G-d's advice.

It is important to know that, apart from the precepts and prohibitions which are written in the Torah, wise counsels are recorded therein, counsels which have been well-tried; and just as the Torah is everlasting, so its counsels are everlasting. For instance: "A man should always divide his wealth into three parts, and invest one third in lands, a third in goods, and leave one third as ready money," (Bava Metzia 42a) for, if one of his enterprises fails, then the remainder will be saved. This is a well-tried piece of advice; whoever does not act according to this rule does not thereby disobey a command, he has merely declined good advice. The gemora also gives advice on marriage (Yevamos 63), suggesting how one may live happily.

The Chofetz Chaim also used to say: We need only sharp eyes to see what is written in the Torah, and where, for all is therein. If it counsels the individual, it is certain that for the whole Israelite people there are clear pointers innumerable relating to Israel's relationship with the nations in the Exile. If we do not follow the counsel of the Torah, we bring Israel into grievous danger. Until recent generations, the Jews pursued an Exile-policy in accordance with the Torah's counsel. The Tannaim (Bereishis Rabba 78:15), before their frequent journeys to Rome to bring about the annulment of harsh decrees, used to study the episode of Jacob's meeting with Esav, and there found the necessary indications for their work (Nachmanides, Vayishlach 33:15).

In our time, the Torah has been grossly dishonored; people come to the Torah only regarding questions like the saying of Kaddish. In political matters, that is, in matters affecting the whole people, they think such questions are unrelated to Torah. They are the province of professional politicians and men of letters—they have become the leaders. From which spring do they draw their political theories? From their own Torah: "Let us be like all the nations." They completely ignore G-d's Torah. Just as to their mind we must imitate the nations in their whole way of life, so we must mimic their political and party style.

They do not know, or better, they refuse to recognize, the truth, that had the Jews upheld always the system of "let us be like all the nations," then by now, just as nations greater and stronger than they have been blotted out, there would be no memory left of them either.

To the clear-thinking person, the history of the Jewish people runs in an individual and unique course, dissimilar to that of any other nation or race.

Those who apply common political conceptions to Jewish Golus-politics, measure by a false rule and weigh on a misleading balance. Merchandise is measured by the meter, milk by the liter or pint. One who tries to measure goods by the liter, or milk by the meter is mad. Such are our modern politicians. Their standards are unsuitable. Those methods, which are fitted to nations dwelling in their own lands, are inappropriate to the Jewish situation. An effective policy requires that all conditions be taken into account. Just as our situation is extraordinary, so must be our political principles. These principles are written down in the Torah, which foresaw everything—and foretold everything. Thousands of years have shown how right are the methods of the Torah.

What are the methods of the Torah? "G-d made Israel swear three oaths: Rebel not against the peoples..." (Kesuvos 111a). This, the first of the three oaths, means that the Jews may not be revolutionaries. "My son, fear thou the Lord and the king, and meddle not with them that are given to change" (Mishlei 24:21). The Rabbis warned us: If you keep the oaths, it is well; but if not, then your blood is as free as that of the deer and the antelope. (Kesuvos, ibid.) "I have made you swear by the deer and the antelope of the field." (Shir HaShirim 2:7) "If you see an evildoer upon whom fortune temporarily smiles do not provoke him." (Brochos 7b) "Go, my people, into seclusion." (Yeshaya 26:20) "Resist not in unfavorable times; make room for it, reflect up Me (G-d) for I have given evil times their place, as it is written 'He has turned back our days' "Midrash Yalkut Shimoni Shemos 168). Said Rabbi Hiya, "If you see Esav who seeks to provoke you, do not resist him, but hide from him, until his time passes." Said R. Yehuda, the son of R. Shalom, "Said Israel to G-d: Lord of the Universe, his (Esav's) father blesses him, and you concur with it, and say to us, `Hide yourselves!'" Whither shall we flee? G-d answered: If you see that he stirs up conflict, flee to the Torah, as it is said, Turn ye and go to the Tzaphon—and Tzaphon< is none other than Torah as it is said, "Through Tzaphon shall He give the upright salvation" (Midrash Devorim 1:19).

All the above questions point to one thing: that the Jews must not stand in combat against their adversaries. This rule concords with the situation of the Jews in the Golus. A wise man said: It is worth while to fight an enemy if I am stronger than he, and he more virtuous than I; but if he be stronger than I, and I more virtuous than he, it is better that I should not fight him. The various Hamans who rise up against us are superior in strength and inferior in virtue to us; therefore no good can come out of active opposition. Torah and prayers are our only weapons. "And we cried unto the Lord G-d of our fathers and He heard our cry" (Devorim 26:7); our power is only in the mouth. (Bamidbar Rabba 20:4) Appeals are efficacious when directed heavenward; let us not, however, direct our cry to the "civilized" world or to the League of Nations.

When we turn to the nations of the world, we must not demand - we must request. "A soft-spoken tongue will break a bone." (Mishlei 25:25) Are we not sons of one father and one mother? Why are we singled out from all other nations for hard treatment?


"Why do you show yourselves before your brothers, the sons of Esav and Ishmael?" (Taanis 10b) This is a clear admonition not to give the nations occasions to see us at all places, and to speak of us at all times. Accordingly as the nations think and speak less of us, by so much will our lot be better. Except when they make decrees against the precepts of the Torah; then we must be as hard as a rock; we must not yield even a hairsbreadth. When Nebuchadnezzar decreed that the Jews must bow down to his image, Chananya, Mishael, and Azarya refused to submit to this decree and said to him: "Thou art the king, and thou art Nebuchadnezzar" that is, if you decree taxes and tributes, for this you are king; but to tear us from the faith of our Torah, you are not the king, but merely Nebuchadnezzar - you and the dog are equal. (Rashi on Daniel 3:16, also Vayikra Rabba 2:14)

These are, briefly, the instructions of the Torah in regard to our attitude to the nations, and according to these did the Jews act in all times until the latter generations, until "leaders" arose who refused to recognize the Torah and its counsels, and they run Jewish politics in exactly the reverse way. Their gospel? The Jews must fight and make demands. Whom must we fight? The strongest powers in the world. We must boycott them, and assemble as congress to shoot at them with newspaper articles, and thereby bring fear and trembling into their hearts.

The Jewish newspapers prove by signs and wonders that the anti-Semites are uncultured, and undemocratic. They reprove the Cossack: For shame, Sir Cossack! The anti-Semites do not repent through this rebuke but, nevertheless, our newspapers do not interrupt their `priceless' work, which is, to speak to wood and stones.

Certainly, it is right to report and to comment; but it should be to ourselves. There is much to say and to comment; but it should be to ourselves. There is much to say about the various "isms" with which we are so abundantly blessed. Our writers, however, do not understand this. "The visions of thy prophets is false; and they have not revealed thy sin, to return thy captivity." (Eichah 2:14)

It is well known that at the time of the Prophets, there were also many false prophets. When the true Prophets cried out: "Let Jerusalem know of its abominations" (Yechezkel 16:2), the false prophets would call them troublers of Israel (Melachim I 18:17), who bring calumny upon the house of Israel. The Prophets of truth were not afraid of endangering their lives and fulfilled the verse: "My body have I given to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that tear open." (Yeshaya 50:6) The false prophets of that period ate at Jezebel's table. (Melachim I 18:19) The function of the true Prophets was to awaken Israel from its slumber. The false prophets fulfilled the reverse aim: to lull Israel with sweet dreams. All this is clear: It is easier to swim with the current than against it. Nowadays, we have no true Prophets; of false prophets we have more than enough, both nationalist and internationalist, "that eat at Jezebel's table" who are sustained by various funds. And just as Israel has paid the fearful price of listening to the false prophets in the past, so do we today pay this penalty.

In conclusion: so long as we are guided by misleaders who have brought us together merely to war with G-d, there can be no hope that our position will improve. On the contrary, it will worsen from day to day. There is only one way left for our deliverance—to make peace between ourselves and our Father in Heaven, the Guardian of Israel.

Only then can peace be upon Israel.

Our dispersion into various parties of atheists, from the Reformers to the quasi-Orthodox who wrap themselves in the mantle of Orthodoxy, is the greatest of the curses which have come down upon our heads. There is no unity, nay, there can be no unity in a host which lacks a supreme loyalty. There is no universally-accepted authority. In the days when the Torah ruled Israel, the people were loyal, all had confidence in the Torah. Nowadays, they have replaced their trust in the Torah by trust in the parties. Instead of listening to the Sages of old, they listen to their party leaders, i.e. instead of believing in the true Prophets, they believe the false prophets. Falsehood costs us dear; we pay for it a hundred times over.

End of Part VI

To Read Part I

To Read Part II

To Read Part III

To Read Part IV

To Read Part V


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