Many of our errant brethren are in the grip of hopelessness
and depression these days. We seem to be caught in a blind
alley that offers no prospect whatsoever of escape. With each
passing day, it is becoming clearer and clearer that none of
the political or security measures that have been taken have
The truth is that the Jewish people has faced more difficult
and more hopeless situations in the past. However, the roots
of the present dejection lie deeper than ever before.
Many were convinced that the establishment of the State of
Israel would put an end to outbreaks of antisemitism and to
ongoing pogroms, like the ones we witnessed a few weeks ago,
with low murderers treating the Jews of Eretz Yisroel like
animals ready to lead to slaughter R'l.
It is the shattering of all hope that gives rise to this
bitter disillusionment. Our community views all the political
and security measures that were tried, over the last decade
and before, as necessary efforts towards preventing bloodshed
in the region, an objective of paramount importance to every
Jew who has his sights focused on the sanctity which the
Torah assigns to human life.
In contrast, our errant brethren saw these same measures as
steps toward achieving an overall solution to the suffering
and the troubles of the Jewish people. Recent events have
shown that harsh reality is otherwise.
Faithful Jewry proceeds along the Torah's path, which teaches
that there will be no remedy for our nation's physical and
political ills until the future redemption. The yoke of
gentile nations will not be removed until then and no action
or scheming on our part will change this state of affairs.
Our efforts can only be mediatory, and work on a temporary
and makeshift basis. We aren't looking for an overall
solution because there is no way in the world to achieve one.
We just try to put out fires as and when necessary.
A believing Jew does not place his trust in either brawn or
brain to help him in confronting our enemies. He knows that
Heaven has decreed that we live subject to the threats and
the animosity of the nations, like a sheep among seventy
Truly, we have no one to lean on save out Father in heaven.
We have no means of bettering our situation save by
strengthening our Torah study and our acts of kindness and by
yearning for Hashem's salvation and for the future
We are well-acquainted with the bitter exile that has been
decreed for us and we try to come to terms with it using the
same methods that Jews have been doing for many generations.
Until Moshiach arrives, there will be no permanent
solution to the problem of the gentile yoke. Until "Hashem's
great and fearsome day," we can only try to gain temporary
concessions that will keep us afloat. When waves of troubles
threaten us, we duck and try to weather them.
So it has been with wave after wave throughout our exile and
so it will continue until the final redemption brings us to
safe shores. We do not have the power to end the exile. We
are merely obliged to do whatever we can to save lives, while
we lift our eyes and pray for Heaven's mercy.
This is our approach to the enemies that rise against us and
seek our destruction. It is also our approach to the decrees
that are enacted against us from within, that threaten
In the past, we have quoted the thoughts of HaRav Shimon
Moshe Diskin zt'l, av beis din of Chaslavitz, who was
renowned as the foremost public speaker of his time. He
addressed this problem eighty years ago, in an article that
appears in his sefer, Medrash Shimoni.
He first quotes Chazal's comments about Eliyahu Hanovi and
his conversation with Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi about the
future redemption (Sanhedrin 98), in which the former
told the latter that Moshiach sits at the gates of
Rome among the poor and sick. They all open, clean and
rebandage all their wounds at once, whereas Moshiach
"opens one and then rebandages it," dealing with each one
separately [so that if he needs to come and redeem Klal
Yisroel, he should not have a moment's delay].
HaRav Diskin then begins his original explanation with the
following observation: "Our prophets have told us, every
Jew's blood is suffused with the knowledge, and it is
engraved upon our hearts and minds as a result of our
difficult and troubled path in life, that our exile is no
chance occurrence. It is unnecessary to speak about this at
length; it is one of the clearest and most obvious axioms of
our existence. Chance events do not go on and on. We were
exiled after receiving numerous warnings from the prophets.
This fact has been recognized and accepted by each and every
Jew throughout our exile. "Our forefathers' sins destroyed
[Hashem's] dwelling place and our [own] sins have lengthened
the time [until its restoration]" (piyutim of Yom
"This awareness leads to the logical conclusion that it is
absolutely impossible to negate the exile and to free the
Jewish nation from it in the same ways that other nations can
liberate themselves. The exile can be eased; it can be made
less bitter; some of its decrees can be rescinded and the
burden of its yoke can be lessened -- but we can never escape
from it and return our entire nation to renewed political
independence through natural means."
In the Wake of False Hopes
"All the various movements that sought to redeem our nation
were therefore liable to wreak two kinds of harm upon us.
First, they endanger tens of thousands of Yidden by
deluding them into believing that their redemption is at
hand. We have seen from the experiences with the false
Moshiach Aboulafiyeh and in the times of Shabsai Tzvi
shr'y, that many lost their footing in their
preparations for leaving for Eretz Yisroel. Tens of thousands
of Jewish homes were wrecked as a consequence.
"Second, they endanger our spiritual well-being. Upon the
failure of a messianic movement, which has absorbed the
energies of generations and fed upon the hopes and yearning
for which they literally gave their last drop of strength, it
is inevitable that a period of terrible hopelessness and
tremendous disillusionment sets in. This is why we saw
Shabsai Tzvi's movement lead to apostasy and [give rise] the
degenerate Frankist movement. Any mass movement that attracts
the multitudes and promises immediate success and then
collapses, leads to spiritual and moral devastation among
those who were drawn after it."
HaRav Diskin adds that this is why gedolei Yisroel in
all times fought selflessly against such movements, which
threatened Klal Yisroel with these dangers. The Torah
leaders of every generation devoted themselves to the welfare
of the community and did everything in their power to ease
the difficulty of our subjugation. They worked to arrange an
orderly pattern of national life and to establish Torah
centers wherever Jews were living, but they were always
careful to avoid encouraging the people to attempt to leave
the exile by force.
Balm for a Nation's Ills
"All the slogans about our nation being freed through its own
efforts; the dazzling attraction of emancipation and of
Israel's `autoemancipation,' were foreign imports. We did not
originate such ideas. We had intercessors who shepherded the
holy flock and labored to [try and] ease or cancel decrees
that affected individuals or communities. But we never had
any experts who were able to rid us of the exile entirely.
"Those who arose from among the people and who had dealings
with the ordinary man who lived, ached and suffered, if they
were imbued with a sense of communal responsibility then they
did not aim for the skies and seek giant-sized, broad
spectrum remedies for the whole situation. They simply tried
their best to ease the burden of the individual's suffering.
They shared his troubles in every way that they could. From
the days of Rabbi Yosselman of Rosheim and the other
intercessors [over the centuries] who concerned themselves
with the communal good, down to Reb Itzele of
Monstirshchineh, who saved the victims of the Velize and
Amtsislav [libels], [as well as] that gaon [of
Klal] Yisroel, HaRav Eliyahu Chaim Meisel zt'l
[of Lodz], and Baron Dovid Ginsburg, each of them following
his own approach and utilizing his own gifts -- none of them
proffered a way of healing all of our nation's ills. They
administered balm for each decree or other type of misfortune
"In those days, the concepts of [the early political
Zionists] `national genius,' `nationalistic ambitions' and
`national demands,' were as yet unheard of. We were familiar
with a stick that delivered a steady rain of decrees and
other afflictions and knew that those who wished to protect
themselves and others sought ways of dodging the blows. One
didn't enter into arguments with the stick, or present it
with a list of demands.
"Here though, a difference of opinion emerged between the
elders, who shared the pain of the ordinary people and looked
for solutions through the agency of intercessors, and those
who belonged to the `smart' generation that embraced slogans
like, `Beis Yisroel shall be like all the nations.'
They embarked on the tragic and ridiculous game of politics,
of Jewish ministers and Jewish parliamentarianism, trying to
normalize our nation's situation easily, with a generalized
solution that had been adopted from the experiences of other
downtrodden nations. [However,] they did not help us in the
Wave After Wave, Wound by Wound
HaRav Diskin quotes another well-known story told by Chazal:
We have learned in a beraissa: Rabbon Gamliel said, "I
was once travelling on a boat and I saw a boat that had
broken up and I was distressed over [the fate of] the
talmid chochom who had been on board, Rabbi Akiva.
When I reached dry land, he came and debated before me in
halochoh. I said to him, `My son, who pulled you up?'
He said, `I came across a board from a boat [and I grabbed
it] and I bowed my head towards every wave that went over me'
" (Yevomos 121).
HaRav Diskin describes at length how the boat of Klal Yisroel
was rocked by ferocious waves during the difficult times of
Rabbon Gamliel and Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Akiva's great yeshiva
of twenty-four thousand students was disbanded and the
Emperor Hadrian enacted unbearable decrees. Rabbon Gamliel
was greatly distressed over the bitter fate of the boat which
Rabbi Akiva was navigating through this sea of troubles.
"However," he continues, "Rabbi Akiva saved our boat with a
few boards. A single talmid, a single board, like
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai -- and the other talmidim were
the same -- saved entire generations from drowning in the
sea. When Rabbon Gamliel asked how he was saved, Rabbi Akiva
told him, `I didn't try to find an overall solution to the
stormy sea. All I did was to try to weather each wave safely.
I lowered my head until it had passed over me while holding
onto the board that remained mine. Hashem yisborach
brought me through the billowing waves to where I am now.'
"We do not have a general solution to our nation's ills and
the troubles of exile, as other peoples do. We seek balm for
each individual wound and decree. The overall solution is the
arrival of Moshiach tzidkeinu."
This is how HaRav Diskin explains the first gemora
which he quoted, about the signs of Moshiach's coming.
"All other nations have only one way of surviving. Either
they impose their rule over other peoples and maintain
themselves independently in their countries, or they
disappear, being submerged and losing their identity among
the conquered nations. All the other sick individuals amongst
whom Moshiach sits, open and rebandage all their
wounds together. One bandage heals all of their wounds. Our
nation, which persists until the end of days, opens and
reties one at a time, "in case Moshiach comes," the
day of Hashem's salvation and then every wound will be
"We protect our nation from extinction, so that they will be
prepared for redemption. We don't have one general remedy for
all our ills."
When Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi asked Moshiach "When will you
come?" the latter replied, "Today," meaning if you fathom the
reason for your exile, and "if you listen to His voice,"
meaning and if you return to Hashem wholeheartedly.
Golus from Within
This is the time-honored approach that has guided us through
all the years of our exile. This is the "golus policy"
that the great men of each generation have transmitted to
Until the time arrives for the true cure to all our troubles
with the future redemption, we try to extinguish the
conflagrations one by one and to avoid the attempts to
exterminate us. We have no illusions of being able to achieve
a "new world order" through force or by political means,
under which the nations would officially recognize Am
Yisroel's right to live in peace, free of any outside
"It is an halochoh that Eisov hates Yaakov" and there
is no way to alter this heavenly decree, save through
yearning for Hashem's rescue and strengthening ourselves in
Torah and in fear of Heaven. As far as national efforts go,
all we can do is bend our heads towards each wave and try to
mediate a solution to each crisis, without being deluded into
imagining that we can solve the situation once and for
This is also the approach which our leaders, zt'l and
ylct'a, have bade us adopt in dealing with other
features of the period immediately preceding Moshiach's
arrival, the time of ikvese demeshicha. Specifically,
we refer to the battle against our enemies from within, Jews
who seek to uproot Torah and to harm the foundations of
Torah's survival. In this respect, our approach is
drastically different from that of the National Religious
camp, which has granted legitimacy to the nationalist
movement and entered into a proper partnership with it.
We were taught to oppose Zionism and all its kindred secular
ideas with determination and to maintain complete isolation
from those who throw off the yoke of Torah's authority. We
hardly consider the State, with all its legislation, as being
the ideal situation for our nation. Neither do we have any
interest in artificially placing a kipah atop such a
state, which is and which would still remain essentially
All we want is to survive as a community of believers and
Torah observers, that keeps itself inside the botei
medrash and engages in the vocation of its ancestors,
without following new ideas.
Clearly then, when decrees against religion are in the
offing, our efforts are purely mediatory, attempting to avoid
the threatening edict. Here too, we are not deluded into
thinking that it is possible to achieve a consensus about the
right of religion to exist under the yoke of a secular state.
We know -- as our teachers have taught us and as we
[ourselves] have seen from the speeches and writings of
national figures -- that the ambition of Zionism is to uproot
religion. This was the sole purpose of the national ideal,
the institutionalization of the "National Home" and all the
rest. It is obvious that we cannot come to any agreement or
find any common purpose with them, unless we start agreeing
choliloh, to compromises, which amounts to striking at
the foundations of our faith and which courts the dangerous
notion that Torah lies within our jurisdiction, to tear parts
of it out and agree to its being observed in halves or in
This in fact is the path that the Mizrachi movement has
always followed. There was a concrete example of this idea a
few months ago, when a representative of the National
Religious Party proposed a new law about Shabbos. This
legislation was intended to provide "an overall solution" to
free us from the continual wrangling between the religious
and secular communities over such issues. The law's proponent
suggested arranging a "deal," according to which the
irreligious sector would agree to close factories and
businesses on Shabbos in "exchange" for the religious
community's "consent" to allow entertainment and recreation
involving chilul Shabbos to take place. This
"agreement" would put an end to the interminable struggles
around this issue, or so he claimed.
In the past, when such ideas were suggested, HaRav Moshe
Shmuel Shapira -- may Hashem heal him completely together
with all of Klal Yisroel's sick -- commented that such
ideas arise from the gaping chasm separating the G-d-fearing
community from the Mizrachi party. We don't seek general
solutions because we don't regard the situation that has been
forced upon us, in which our nation's path is charted by
heretics, as an ideal, or even as a starting point. All we
want is to buy time, to bow towards each wave and to survive
with our spirit intact and without surrendering even the
slightest nuance of our outlook.
By contrast, the Mizrachi party do not view themselves as
"servants" of the Giver of Torah but as His "partners." They
want to "assist" His management, whether through self
redemption born of nationalist ideals, or with innovative
programs and arrangements for coexistence with heretics and
uprooters of religion. They see the current situation as
being eminently acceptable and are therefore looking for ways
of institutionalizing it for the long term through solutions
that will supposedly be universally accepted. In the process,
they agree to all kinds of compromises, so long as a
consensus ultimately emerges, which they view as being the
ideal modus vivendi, worthy of being fixed and
propagated for good.
We on the other hand, know that the current situation is
temporary. This is not the way that Klal Yisroel is
supposed to be. Our duty therefore lies in trying to prevent
the enactment of further decrees against us, so that we
survive and can continue cleaving to Torah, with Heaven's
kindness, even under the rule of powers that view our
devotion to tradition with animosity. Our aim is not to
attain an ideal but to survive, weathering crises with
temporary measures, wave after wave, bandage by bandage,
until Hashem has mercy on us and the decree of exile is
We have no intention whatsoever of passing legislation such
as the aforementioned "Shabbos law" which, though it is a
well-meaning initiative to try and solve the problems of
state and religion, creates a dangerous precedent for the
utilization of strange and unusual compromises. We will not
assist any attempt to deliberately give way or to compromise
on issues that affect our most cherished ideals.
Those who seek compromises, see the ongoing tension over
issues of state and religion as a troublesome headache that
needs to be removed from the public agenda once and for all.
This, they claim, would allow the ideal situation to exist,
in which everyone shares a friction-free collective
existence, all living together in harmony and tranquility.
We know otherwise. The national ideal, whose purpose is to
uproot religion, will anyway not be satisfied by these -- or
any other -- compromises, which in fact will only serve to
fire its proponents' ambitions for abolishing Torah. We are
therefore satisfied if we can survive -- each time
temporarily -- as long as we do not have to compromise the
fundamentals of our beliefs or of our faith in the slightest