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."
Yechezkel (Chap. 34:14) paints a faithful picture of the generation before the times of the Messiah and the leaders of that generation. He divides the people of that generation into five separate classes, namely:
(1) Weak (nechalim)
(2) Sick (cholim)
(3) Broken (nishborim)
(4) Estranged (nidchim)
(5) Lost (ovdim)
The three latter classes symbolize the three kinds of mumarim. The class of "broken" symbolizes those who are separated from the congregation of Israel through their having cast off from themselves the yoke of one or two precepts. About such as these the Gaon of Vilna said (Biyur on Mishlei 13:13) that an apostate of one precept has lost one limb of his soul.
The "estranged" and the "lost" are the apostates who are lost from the whole Torah, but while the estranged are deniers—that is apostates who are yet bound to the people of Israel—the class of the lost symbolizes the apostates who have assimilated until their Jewish origin has been forgotten.
The leaders, or shepherds, whose livelihood is their sheep— "You eat the fat and you wear the wool" (Yechezkel 34:3)—and whose obligation it is to care for their sheep— they default in this duty. They feed not the sheep but themselves. The sheep wander on every mountain and hill, prey for the teeth of the beasts of the field, "And none did search or seek." (Ibid. 16) Therefore, says G-d (Ibid. 16): I will cause the shepherds to cease and I myself will feed my sheep.
What will I do to the sheep of my pasture?
(1) The lost will I seek out;
(2) The estranged will I bring back;
(3) The broken will I bind up.
It is as worthwhile to look into the order in this progression. First, "The lost will I seek"; that is, those whose grandfathers and grandmothers betrayed their faith 120-130 years ago. Their "letters of descent" will be examined, and their `non-Aryan' origin established. They will be smitten upon their heads and it will be clearly brought home to them: Know that you are Jews and that you are obliged to remain Jews. In a land where there is only one Jew to a thousand Gentiles, there also will the Jew be sought out— sought out and found.
We have arrived at this stage today. This step has not yet been completed; but it rapidly spreads from one country to another. When the first step is finished and all the lost are found, then will start the second step, "And the estranged I will bring back"— estranged only— because the lost are included in the first step. Finally, "And I will bandage the broken" will be fulfilled.
In the abovementioned prophecy, one should notice the words "My sheep err." (6) From here we see that the mass of the people, apart from its leaders, is reckoned before G-d as "erring." (Bamidbar 16:26) Were it not for the leaders who set up an iron barrier between Israel and their Father in Heaven it would be possible to bring the masses back to the Torah. The teachers, the guides, the writers, the party leaders—they prevent the radiance of the Torah from penetrating the darkness of men's hearts. They have their own "Torah," their own "Torah-Sages," their own "Gedolim". Through their medium of a new Torah and new precepts they cause darkness to rule in the mind and in the heart.
It is also noteworthy that when a real opportunity is given the masses to hear the words of the true Torah they drink its words in eagerly. But the leaders bring the people stones instead of pearls. In place of Torah ideals they give their readers and hearers ideas of atheism. Levity, scorn, and a more than liberal portion of obscenity form the material of their chief writings and speeches. These are the leaders whom the Prophet foresaw for our generation.
The prophecy also describes several types among the flocks of sheep. "The fat and the goodly" (16)—these are many of our modern rich, who give of their wealth to every undeserving cause and withhold their hand from Torah-oriented charity. Surrounding the rich are guards who close the way before the needy. The Prophet says: "The residue of your pasture do you tread down with your feet; you drink from the springs of water and the residue do you make filthy (Ibid. 18); my sheep do you tread down with your feet— they drink from the dust of your feet." (19)
All who consider the attitude of the rich towards the Torah-students who are now the poorest of the poor, will understand the meaning of this prophecy. What will become of the rich? Theirs also will be the lot of the shepherds. The prophecy, "I will leave in your midst a poor and hapless people" (Zefania 3:12) will be realized.
In latter times we have witnessed a strange spectacle; in every Jewish community we meet people who have come from many places. Years ago every place had its own, local Jews. No town had a large concentration of Jews from distant places. What has happened?
A prophecy especially written for our times has come true: "And I will shake Israel up among the nations as in a sieve." (Amos 9:9) It was a frequent saying of the Chofetz Chaim (Cf. Chofetz Chaim On Parshas Kedoshim) that the grains fall within the sieve one near, one far, but not one is left in its original place. This will be the lot of the Jews in the times of the Messiah. He added in the name of the Raavad (Eduyos 8:7): Before the coming of the Redeemer, Jewish families will be scattered in every direction, the parents to one land, and every child to a separate country until the Redeemer comes, "and he will bring back the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers." (Malachi 3:24)
Another peculiar appearance. The whole of mankind is seized with tension. It would seem that we are living in a thick jungle among enraged beasts of prey. One country against another, within the country one people against another, and finally in the people itself one faction against another. All are ready to tear each other to pieces. This appearance, too, was foreseen from the very beginning for the days of the Epoch of the Messiah: "I will set each man against his fellow" (Zecharya 8:10).
End of Part III
To Read Part I
To Read Part II