Lessons in Truth Day 90 A Nation of Merit

 

Lessons in Truth – SEFER SHEM OLAM – 3rd Elul, 5769

Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation

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Lessons in Truth

1 Elul, 5769 / August 21, 2009

Day 90 – A Nation of Merit

SEFER SHEM OLAM — Chapter Thirteen: The Birthpangs of Mashiach — II (cont.)

One may be thinking: Perhaps our nation lacks merit and we will have no choice but to wait until the Redemption of “in its time,” the final, hidden date by which Mashiach must arrive regardless of our collective merit?

This should not be cause for concern. Firstly, it is possible that the date of “in its time,” will be reached in our day. As already mentioned, the travails of our day point towards this. “If you see a generation upon which numerous troubles come like a river, expect him [the Mashiach], as it is written, ‘For distress shall come like a river…’ (Yeshayahu 59:19) and next to that verse it is written, ‘A redeemer shall come to Zion.’ (Sanhedrin 98a)”.

Furthermore, to suggest that the Jewish nation is completely without merit is wrong and incomprehensible. Our people lived by the Torah in all situations under the most adverse conditions. Today, thank G-d, we live under the rule of a gracious government, but there were times, such as that of the Cossak uprisings of 1648-1649, when hundreds of thousands of our people died for the sanctification of His Name. We have suffered scorn and degradation, deprivation and hunger for remaining steadfast in our beliefs. Anyone with some knowledge of history knows that the death, persecution and suffering which our people has endured for clinging to its faith is indescribable. How can anyone dare suggest that the Jewish nation is without merit and that we will therefore have no choice but to wait until the final date of “ in its time,” for this exile to end? Surely we have reason to hope each day for our imminent salvation. As our Sages teach, when a person departs this world and stands before the Heavenly Court in judgment, one of the first questions he is asked is, “Did you await the salvation [through the coming of Mashiach]?” (Shabbos 31a).

We know from history that even when Hashem establishes a specific length for an exile, He employs various means to hasten its end. Hashem informed Avraham, “…for your offspring shall be strangers in a land that is not their own… for four hundred years…” (Bereishis 15:13), yet He calculated this period as beginning with the birth of Yitzchak [who himself was born into a land not his own]. Others are of the opinion that Hashem calculated the 210 years of the Jews’ sojourn in Egypt as being equivalent to 400 years because their suffering was so intense. We, too, should hope that Hashem will find a way to hasten the date of “in its time,” due to the intensity of suffering which our people have endured or because of some other factor. Perhaps this is alluded to in the words “I, Hashem, in its time I will hasten it” (Yeshayahu 60:22), which can be interpreted: Hashem, in His mercy, will hasten the final date of “in its time.”

A daily lesson from “Chofetz Chaim: Lessons in Truth,” a project of Mesorah Publications and the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation.

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Since 1989, the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation has successfully launched innovative methods of promoting the Torah’s wisdom on human relations and personal development. The foundation utilizes a vast array of effective communication tools including books, tapes, video seminars, telephone classes and a newsletter, designed to heighten one’s awareness of such essential values as judging others favorably, speaking with restraint and integrity, and acting with sensitivity and respect. The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation’s programs reassert the Torah’s timeless recipe for building a world of compassion and harmony. The following opportunities for learning and personal growth are available through their offices.

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Lessons in Truth Day 89 Don’t Despair

 

Lessons in Truth – SEFER SHEM OLAM – 1st Elul, 5769

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Lessons in Truth

30 Av, 5769 / August 20, 2009

Day 89 – Don’t Despair

SEFER SHEM OLAM — Chapter Thirteen: The Birthpangs of Mashiach — II (cont.)

“Because of our sins we were exiled from our Land.” These words, from the Mussaf Shemoneh Esrei of yom tov, indicate that the purpose of exile is to atone for our sins so that we may merit redemption. In advance of each exile in Jewish history, Hashem calculated exactly how long it needed to last before the people could be cleansed of their sins sufficiently. Hashem informed our forefather Avraham that the Egyptian exile would have to last four hundred years [beginning with the birth of Yitzchak]. The Babylonian exile was destined to last exactly seventy years: “Seventy years have been decreed upon your people and your holy city…” (Daniel 9:24). The current exile, too, has a fixed time by which it must end. Though this date has not been revealed, the prophet did say that it would be long in coming:

For many days the Children of Israel shall sit, with no king or officer and no sacrifice or pillar and no ephod and teraphim. Afterward the Children of Israel shall return and they shall seek Hashem their G-d and David their king, and they shall tremble for Hashem and for His goodness in the end of days (Hoshea 3:4-5).

Though earlier generations were superior to our own, they would have required an enormous degree of merit to have brought the Redemption in the way of “I will hasten,” that is, before the final, hidden date by which Mashiach must appear regardless of our collective merit. As with our analogy of the Jewish slave who sold himself to the gentile, the earlier the generation, the more merit they would have required. Thus, though we are not on the spiritual level of earlier generations, it is easier for us to merit Mashiach’s arrival before the final date. The sufferings of our people in recent times may have left us with comparatively little work to do to be deserving of that glorious moment for which we all yearn.

The Torah mentions a case where a Jew actually sells himself into slavery to chop wood or draw water for a house of idolatry (Vayikra 25:47). Though the Jew was wrong for doing so (as it could well lead to his assimilation), Hashem took pity on him and decreed that if his relatives do not redeem him, then he must go free in any case when Yovel (the fiftieth year of the agricultural cycle) arrives. Surely, then, Hashem takes pity upon His beloved people, who sacrificed themselves for His sake during this exile, and He will ultimately redeem them.

A daily lesson from “Chofetz Chaim: Lessons in Truth,” a project of Mesorah Publications and the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation.

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Since 1989, the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation has successfully launched innovative methods of promoting the Torah’s wisdom on human relations and personal development. The foundation utilizes a vast array of effective communication tools including books, tapes, video seminars, telephone classes and a newsletter, designed to heighten one’s awareness of such essential values as judging others favorably, speaking with restraint and integrity, and acting with sensitivity and respect. The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation’s programs reassert the Torah’s timeless recipe for building a world of compassion and harmony. The following opportunities for learning and personal growth are available through their offices.

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Lessons in Truth Day 88 Two Forms of Redemption

 

Lessons in Truth – SEFER SHEM OLAM – 30th Av, 5769

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Lessons in Truth

29 Av, 5769 / August 29, 2009

Day 88 – Two Forms of Redemption

SEFER SHEM OLAM — Chapter Thirteen: The Birthpangs of Mashiach — II

The Prophet states: “I, Hashem, in its time I will hasten it” (Yeshayahu 60:22), to which the Talmud comments:

R’ Yehoshua ben Levi noted a contradiction: On the one hand it is written “in its time”, which implies that the Redemption will occur at its preordained time. But on the other hand it is written “I will hasten it” which implies that Hashem will bring the Redemption before its preordained time.

The answer to this is: If the Jews are deserving, Hashem will hasten it; if they are not deserving, the Redemption will come in its time (Sanhedrin 98a).

Thus, Mashiach can appear at any time, so we should never despair of his imminent arrival. Do not wonder: How is it possible that earlier generations which were far superior to us did not merit the Redemption, yet we in our lowly state will merit it? We can answer this by citing a law in the Torah.

In a passage dealing with Jewish slaves (Vayikra, Chapter 25), the Torah states that if an impoverished Jew sold himself to a non- Jewish resident of Eretz Yisrael, there is a responsibility upon his relatives to redeem him. In doing so, the relatives may not deprive the gentile owner of his legitimate property rights. They must calculate how much the gentile paid for the slave, how much of that money has already been earned by the slave through his labor, and they must pay the difference. Obviously, the longer the slave has been working for his master, the less the relatives will have to pay.

For example: If the Jew sold himself to the gentile for six years for a sum of six hundred silver pieces, he would earn one hundred pieces for each year of work. If his relatives wished to redeem him after a year, they would have to pay the gentile five hundred pieces; if they would do so after five years, however, the cost would be only one hundred pieces.

Our redemption from this bitter exile is dependent, of course, on “spiritual currency.” As Eliyahu the Prophet told R’ Yehoshua ben Levi (Sanhedrin 98a), the hastening of the Redemption is directly related to our level of repentance and mitzvah performance: “Today, [Mashiach can arrive] if you heed His [Hashem’s] voice!” (Tehillim 95:7). As each day, with its trials and tribulations, goes by, the merits of the Jewish people increase and we become ever more deserving of the dawn of redemption.

A daily lesson from “Chofetz Chaim: Lessons in Truth,” a project of Mesorah Publications and the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation.

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Lessons in Truth Day 87 The Time is Now

 

Lessons in Truth – SEFER SHEM OLAM – 29th Av, 5769

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Lessons in Truth

28 Av, 5769 / August 18, 2009

Day 87 – The Time is Now

SEFER SHEM OLAM — Chapter Twelve: The Birthpangs of Mashiach (cont.)

To the verse (Koheles 12:1), “So remember your Creator in the days of your youth before… those years arrive of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them,’ “our Sages comment: “These are the days of Mashiach when there will be no opportunity to acquire merit or liability” (Shabbos 151b). Therefore, it is crucial that we strengthen ourselves now in fulfillment of Torah and mitzvos, before Mashiach arrives. For at that time, when the people of Hashem will be an object of glory before the world and all the nations will call out in Hashem’s Name — what sort of test will it be to serve Hashem? Each person’s spiritual level and reward hinges primarily on his accomplishments prior to Mashiach’s arrival.

Tana D’Vei Eliyahu states: “In the future, the Holy One, Blessed is He, will sit in His great study hall in Jerusalem, and all the tzaddikim of the world will sit before Him, and to each He will grant a radiant countenance in proportion to the Torah which he has attained.”

        The Chofetz Chaim once explained the proliferation of immorality and corruption before Mashiach’s arrival as consistent with a natural phenomenon: When a force is on the threshold of destruction, it gathers strength for several moments before it dies out forever. For example, before a candle burns out, its flame shoots up one final time… And so it is regarding the world situation at the End of Days. Zechariah prophesied that when Mashiach arrives, “…[G-d] will remove the spirit of impurity from the land” (Zechariah 13:2). Therefore, the forces of impurity attack with renewed strength prior to Mashiach’s arrival.

        Rabbi Avraham Pam z”l noted: the unprecedented power these forces have shown in recent years infinitely more so than in the time of the Chofetz Chaim — indicates that they are mustering their final strength before their obliteration. This further explains why now is the time to strengthen oneself in Torah and mitzvos. The arrival of Mashiach will signal the destruction of the Evil Inclination and as explained above (Day 85), man’s purpose in this world is to persevere in his struggle to overcome this inclination.

        The twelfth of the Thirteen Principles of Faith as formulated by Rambam is:

I believe with perfect faith in the coming of Mashiach, and even though he may delay, nevertheless I anticipate every day that he will come.

        In other words, anticipating Mashiach’s arrival is a basic obligation incumbent upon every Jew. In his code, Rambam states unequivocally: “Whoever does not believe in Mashiach or does not await his arrival, not only negates the validity of the prophets, but also denies the authenticity of the Torah and Moshe Rabbeinu.”

        Internalizing this truth should inspire us to strengthen our service of Hashem so that we will be spiritually prepared to greet Mashiach, possibly tomorrow and hopefully in the very near future.

A daily lesson from “Chofetz Chaim: Lessons in Truth,” a project of Mesorah Publications and the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation.

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Since 1989, the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation has successfully launched innovative methods of promoting the Torah’s wisdom on human relations and personal development. The foundation utilizes a vast array of effective communication tools including books, tapes, video seminars, telephone classes and a newsletter, designed to heighten one’s awareness of such essential values as judging others favorably, speaking with restraint and integrity, and acting with sensitivity and respect. The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation’s programs reassert the Torah’s timeless recipe for building a world of compassion and harmony. The following opportunities for learning and personal growth are available through their offices.

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Lessons in Truth Day 86 A Nation of Prophets

 

Lessons in Truth – SEFER SHEM OLAM – 28th Av, 5769

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Lessons in Truth

27 Av, 5769 / August 17, 2009

Day 86 – A Nation of Prophets

SEFER SHEM OLAM — Chapter Twelve: The Birthpangs of Mashiach (cont.)

Hashem has promised the Jewish people that after the coming of Mashiach, everyone will merit to learn Torah directly from Him, just as we merited to hear the first two of the Ten Commandments directly from Him at Sinai. At that glorious time, all Jews will ascend to the level of prophets, as it is written, “And it will be after this, I will pour out My spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy; your elders shall dream, your young men shall see visions” (Yoel 3:1).

This, however, presents a problem which we can explain by way of a parable. If a worker was expecting a ruble for a day’s work and instead was given two rubles by his employer, he would probably be quite pleased with himself. He would assume that the employer was very pleased with his work and decided to reward him by doubling his wages. However, such would not be the case if the employer were to give him a thousand rubles instead of one. In this case, the worker would view the money as a gift and would quite likely be uncomfortable accepting it. This is the bread of humiliation, of which we spoke above.

We can apply this to our own situation. We know that we are light years away from the spiritual greatness of Rishonim (Early Commentators) such as Rif, Rambam and others of that period. We are far, far more removed from the levels of the Tanaaim (Sages of the Mishnah) and even more so from that of the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah (Men of the Great Assembly) led by Ezra the Scribe. Were we to live a thousand years and never once veer from the path of Hashem and His Torah, we could not attain the level of prophecy through our own merit. How, then, will we be able to comfortably attain this level in the End of Days without feeling that it is bread of humiliation?

This is the secret of this long exile, in which Hashem has concealed His Presence from us. Our enemies rise up against us and from all sides we are surrounded by suffering and pain. Despite all this, we cling faithfully to the mitzvos and our love of Torah does not wane. Many of our brethren have endured enormous hardship for the sake of Shabbos observance, happily forgoing financial opportunities for the sake of this cornerstone of Jewish belief. Others have been denied monetary improvement because of their refusal to socialize with gentile counterparts and join them at parties or the like. Throughout the exile, we have borne shame, scorn and insults because of our beliefs.

Therefore, when the pride of our nation will be uplifted through the coming of Mashiach, we will attain prophecy and other priceless spiritual rewards without humiliation — for we will have earned it. Then, we will merit the fulfillment of, “…Yaakov will not be ashamed now, and his face will not pale now, when he sees his children, My handiwork, in their midst, who will sanctify My Name, they will sanctify the G-d of Yaakov and revere the G-d of Israel” (Yeshayahu 29:22-23).

Therefore, one who feels overwhelmed by the tribulations of the time should not lose hope, for all of this is a preparation for the glorious days of the future.

A daily lesson from “Chofetz Chaim: Lessons in Truth,” a project of Mesorah Publications and the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation.

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Since 1989, the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation has successfully launched innovative methods of promoting the Torah’s wisdom on human relations and personal development. The foundation utilizes a vast array of effective communication tools including books, tapes, video seminars, telephone classes and a newsletter, designed to heighten one’s awareness of such essential values as judging others favorably, speaking with restraint and integrity, and acting with sensitivity and respect. The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation’s programs reassert the Torah’s timeless recipe for building a world of compassion and harmony. The following opportunities for learning and personal growth are available through their offices.

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Lessons in Truth Day 83 Hastening the Redemption

 

Lessons in Truth – SEFER SHEM OLAM – 27th Av, 5769

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Lessons in Truth

24 Av, 5769 / August 14, 2009

Day 83 – Hastening the Redemption

SEFER SHEM OLAM — Chapter Twelve: Birthpangs of Mashiach (cont.)

We cannot know exactly when the Final Redemption will occur. The duration of the exile following the destruction of the First Beis HaMikdash was explicitly stated by the prophet, “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I shall remember you” (Yirmiyahu 29:10). Nevertheless, as recorded in the Talmud, many calculated the seventy years and erred. Even the righteous Daniel erred as to when the seventy years began. Certainly no one can know the end of the current exile, for its conclusion has been concealed from us. However, the sufferings of our time indicate that it is drawing to a close.

This is how it was in Egypt; the depth of suffering hastened the redemption. Our forefather Avraham had been told that his descendants would be strangers in a land not their own for four hundred years (Bereishis 15:13), but Hashem calculated the exile as beginning with the birth of Yitzchak. The depths of the Jews’ suffering awakened Divine mercy so that the redemption was hastened and their stay in Egypt (from the time Yaakov descended there with his family) lasted two hundred ten years. Included in those years was the period of Yosef’s rule over Egypt when the Jews enjoyed a peaceful existence.

Over the past eight hundred years, the Jewish people have suffered greatly. Surely this is cause for hope that the exile will not last much longer. It is quite possible that we have already entered the period of “the birth pangs of Mashiach.” In Egypt, even after the Jews were informed that the time of redemption had arrived, the situation got worse before it improved. This can explain the situation in which we find ourselves today.

      The Chofetz Chaim possessed not only perfect emunah (faith), but also a degree of Ruach HaKodesh (Divine Inspiration), as can be seen from the following episode, related by Rabbi Shimon Schwab z”l, who spent a memorable Shabbos in Radin in the company of the Chofetz Chaim in 1930:

An incident took place that Shabbos which gave me a glimpse into the measure of the man. Had I not witnessed it myself, I would not have believed it…

The Chofetz Chaim had eaten a frugal Shalosh Seudos… He said, “It’s time to bentch (recite Bircas HaMazon),” and he started to bentch, like a simple Jew, saying one word at a time… I did not see anything special in his manner. Suddenly, when he reached the phrase Have mercy… something seemed to happen to him. He cried out:for Your people Israel, oy, oy!, for Zion, resting place of Your Glory, oy, oy!” He continued in this manner until he reached the end of the fourth and final blessing and stopped (before the “Harachamons”). At this point he said, “I see what will be ten years from now. You don’t see, but I do. A great conflagration will burn!” In the middle of Bircas HaMazon, he suddenly had a vision of future events. “Twelve million is child’s play!”

I turned to the person next to me and asked him what the Chofetz Chaim meant with these comments. He replied, “He always talks about it. Twelve million is the sum total of those killed in the [First] World War.”

I never forgot this scene and for ten years I repeated it, and waited watchfully, fearfully, for its realization — until ten years later, in 1940, when it started to come true.

This was the Chofetz Chaim.

      On whom can we rely? [Only] on our Father in Heaven. This means that before Mashiach’s arrival, the Jewish people will find themselves in a position so precarious that everyone will come to the realization that only Hashem can rescue us from our plight (heard from Rabbi Moshe Wolfson).

      As the Jews headed toward the Sea of Reeds at the time of the Exodus, they found themselves trapped on all sides (see Shemos Ch. 14) and they cried out in prayer to Hashem. Rashi (citing Mechilta and Tanchuma) writes: “They adopted the craft of their forefathers,” meaning that they prayed the way Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov would pray — with a feeling and awareness that without Hashem’s intervention they were totally lost. This is what Hashem had been waiting for and He immediately commanded Moshe: “Speak to the Children of Israel and let them journey!” (ibid. v.15). It is this sort of recognition which the Jewish people will need to demonstrate as a prelude to the Final Redemption (based on the thoughts of Rabbi Yeruchom Levovitz).

A daily lesson from “Chofetz Chaim: Lessons in Truth,” a project of Mesorah Publications and the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation.

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Since 1989, the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation has successfully launched innovative methods of promoting the Torah’s wisdom on human relations and personal development. The foundation utilizes a vast array of effective communication tools including books, tapes, video seminars, telephone classes and a newsletter, designed to heighten one’s awareness of such essential values as judging others favorably, speaking with restraint and integrity, and acting with sensitivity and respect. The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation’s programs reassert the Torah’s timeless recipe for building a world of compassion and harmony. The following opportunities for learning and personal growth are available through their offices.

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Lessons in Truth Day 82 – The Footsteps of Mashiach

 

Lessons in Truth – SEFER SHEM OLAM – 26th Av, 5769

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Lessons in Truth

23 Av, 5769 / August 13, 2009

Day 82 – The Footsteps of Mashiach

SEFER SHEM OLAM — Chapter Twelve: The Birth pangs of Mashiach (cont.)

That which the Talmud predicts (Sanhedrin Ch. 11) will take place prior to Mashiach’s arrival has, in fact, occurred in our times. The same is true of the predictions in the final mishnah of Masechta Sotah.

      The eleventh chapter of Masechta Sanhedrin is replete with statements concerning the period preceding Mashiach’s arrival. One passage there (Sanhedrin 97a) is similar to the concluding Mishnah of Masechta Sotah to which the Chofetz Chaim referred:

With the footsteps of Mashiach insolence will increase, and inflation will soar, the vine will give its fruit but wine will be dear, and the government will turn to heresy, and there will be no rebuke, the places of meeting will be used for immorality, and the Galilee will be destroyed and the Gavlan desolated, and the border dwellers will wander about from city to city, but will not be pitied, the knowledge of scholars will be lost, those who fear sin will be despised, and the truth will be hidden; youths will shame old men and old men will stand up for youngsters; [it will be a time when] “a son shames his father, a daughter rebels against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, [and] a man’s enemies are the members of his household” (Michah 7:6); the face of the generation will be like the face of the dog [i.e. without shame — Rashi]; [and] the son is not ashamed before his father. On whom can we rely? [Only] on our Father in Heaven (Mishnah Sotah 9:15).

      On whom can we rely? [Only] on our Father in Heaven. This means that before Mashiach’s arrival, the Jewish people will find themselves in a position so precarious that everyone will come to the realization that only Hashem can rescue us from our plight (heard from Rabbi Moshe Wolfson).

      As the Jews headed toward the Sea of Reeds at the time of the Exodus, they found themselves trapped on all sides (see Shemos Ch. 14) and they cried out in prayer to Hashem. Rashi (citing Mechilta and Tanchuma) writes: “They adopted the craft of their forefathers,” meaning that they prayed the way Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov would pray — with a feeling and awareness that without Hashem’s intervention they were totally lost. This is what Hashem had been waiting for and He immediately commanded Moshe: “Speak to the Children of Israel and let them journey!” (ibid. v.15). It is this sort of recognition which the Jewish people will need to demonstrate as a prelude to the Final Redemption (based on the thoughts of Rabbi Yeruchom Levovitz).

A daily lesson from “Chofetz Chaim: Lessons in Truth,” a project of Mesorah Publications and the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation.

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