Friday, September 25, 2015


Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – ASHAR
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor


          A troubled man once approached the great tzaddik Rabbi Mordechai of Nashchiz. “Rebbe, please help me! I have a fatal disease and the doctors say they can do nothing for me. You are my last ray of hope! There must be something I can do to save my life.” The Rebbe thought for a moment, “Have you been to the Professor of Annipoli?” The man replied that he never heard of the Professor of Annipoli. “In that case”, replied the Rebbe, “you must travel to Annipoli and find the Professor immediately.” The man left the Rebbe’s home revitalized. He was sure that the great Professor would be able to help him. He rented a horse and wagon and undertook the difficult journey to Annipoli.
When he finally reached the city he excitedly asked the first passerby where the great Professor lived. The man shrugged and said he had never heard of him. The troubled man figured that the man was new in town and that’s why he was unfamiliar with the famous Professor. But when the next five people he stopped were no better, he began to feel very dejected. He reasoned that perhaps they use a different title for the great Professor. He approached a distinguished looking man and asked him where he could find the great expert in medicine in Annipoli. The man laughed, “A specialist? My friend, we don’t even have a doctor in our little hamlet.” The troubled man couldn’t believe his ears, “If you have no doctors in this city, what do you do when someone becomes ill?” The man replied, “We pray to Hashem in Heaven and beg Him to heal us.”
The troubled man realized that it was the truth. With a heavy heart, he headed back to Nashchiz. He returned to the Rebbe and related what had occurred. With tears in his eyes he told the Rebbe that his last vestige of hope had been destroyed. The Rebbe listened quietly and then asked, “So when they take ill in Annipoli they pray” The man nodded. “Don’t you see?” continued the Rebbe, “I was not mistaken to direct you to the professor of Annipoli. In Annipoli they place their trust in G-d alone; they seek no mediums. G-d Himself is the professor and healer of Annipoli! Your situation is indeed serious. Your only hope is to place your trust in the professor of Annipoli and to pray to Him with your heart and soul!”
As his final speech to his beloved Klal Yisroel, Moshe related, “Shiras Ha’azinu- the song of Ha’azinu”. In it, he summons the heavens and earth, to bear witness to the veracity of his words. The song interweaves an accounting of the past with a foreshadowing of the future. Although it bears a trace of melancholy, relating the tragedies and struggles the nation would endure, at the same time it expresses the sanguinity, immortality, and eternity of the Jewish Nation.
“When Hashem will have judged His People, He shall relent regarding His servants, when He sees that enemy power progresses, and none is saved or assisted.”[1]
Rashi explains that the pasuk is stating that when the power of Israel’s enemies grows unceasingly and exponentially, G-d will see that the Jews have no avenue of salvation through any government or other means of assistance, and He will save them. The Gemara[2] deduces from this pasuk that the final redemption will not occur, “עד שנתייאשו מן הגאולה -  until they give up on the redemption.”
Prima facie, the Gemara’s statement seems completely outlandish. In fact, it seems to counter one of the thirteen principle beliefs of a Jew. “I believe with complete faith in the coming of Moshiach; and even though he may delay, still-in-all, I wait for him every day that he will arrive.” Rambam writes that one who does not firmly believe in any of the thirteen principles is deemed an “apikores[3]. How can the Gemarah write that Moshiach will not come until everyone becomes despondent? It is illogical that the final redemption will only occur when everyone becomes heretics and non-believers?
Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky zt’l explains that the Gemarah surely does not mean that we must lose hope in the advent of Moshiach. Rather, we must be so discouraged by the severity of our situation and all of our challenges that we realize our ultimate salvation can absolutely not occur in a natural manner. As long as we place our confidence in the nations of the world and believe that they will sympathize with our cause, or that somehow we can overcome our adversaries through natural means, the redemption will not occur.
This is what the Gemara is saying. The final redemption will not occur until they give up on the redemption, i.e. until they give up on the redemption occurring naturally, through warfare, military prowess, world-conferences, or peace plans. Our firm belief in G-d alone, as the only means for salvation, is the prerequisite for the final redemption.
Rabbi Kamenetsky continues that it was for this reason that Hashem sent Moshe to appear before Pharaoh and request that he free the Jews from the Egyptian oppression and servitude. The Torah relates that, not only did Moshe’s plea not improve the situation, but Pharaoh was so enraged with Moshe that he increased their already unbearable workload. In fact, it was so severe that when Moshe approached the Jews to convey G-d’s message that the exodus was imminent, the pasuk[4] says that they did not listen to Moshe, “because of shortness of breath and hard work.”
The exile worsened at that point so the Jews would realize that there was no hope for diplomacy or a peaceful settlement. Their situation had deteriorated so severely that their only hope was to turn to G-d and pray for a supernatural redemption. Only when Klal Yisroel realized that, “אין לנו על מי לסמוך אלא על אבינו שבשמים - We have no one to rely on except for our Father in Heaven,” did G-d bring about the exodus with Divine revelation and miracles. But as long as they believed their were alternate avenues for salavation the redemption could not begin.
Despite the pain we suffer at the behest of the wicked Arabs, in our hearts we still feel secure behind the might of the Israeli Army and its superior intelligence systems. We feel protected by the American government and we feel confident of our security because we live in a progressive society which demands democracy and freedom for all[5]. But until we realize that only in G-d will we find true security and salvation, Moshiach cannot come.
On Shabbos morning, when the Torah is removed from the Aron (Ark) we state, “Our Merciful Father, do goodly - in Your Will - to Zion; build the walls of Yerushalayim, for in You alone we trust.” What does our trust in G-d have to do with rebuilding the destroyed walls of Yerushalayim? It would seem more appropriate that we beg G-d to rebuild the walls because we have suffered in exile for almost two millennia!?
According to Rabbi Kamenetsky’s idea we can explain that we are beseeching G-d to rebuild Yerushalayim because we understand that He is our only hope! Our mere cognizance of the fact that the final redemption can only occur when it is orchestrated by G-d is the forerunner for the redemption itself. Now that, “We believe in You alone,” we beg, “Build the walls of Yerushalayim!”

The great “Days of Awe”, beginning with Rosh Hashanah and concluding with Yom Kippur, are a time of reflection, introspection, and ultimately, repentance. In the Selichos prayers recited during this time-period we state, “Not with kindness or with deeds do we appear before You; (rather) like impoverished and poor people do we knock at Your door. At your doors we knock, O Merciful and Gracious One, please do not send us away empty-handed…for You are the One who hearkens to prayer.” In the first section of Sha’arei Teshuvah, Rabbeinu Yonah records the “roots” of repentance. “The seventh root is wholehearted submission and lowliness, for one who recognizes his Creator, knows how one who transgresses His Word is meek and lowly and detracts from his internal value…and with submission one finds favor in the eyes of G-d.” Rabbeinu Yonah continues by discussing the evils of arrogance and explains that it is the root for many of our sins, for our ego blocks us from recognizing how much we need G-d in every facet of our lives.
Repentance is inextricably bound with trust in G-d. The whole concept of repentance and the ability to “return to G-d” despite one’s sins, is a complete gift. The more one realizes that fact and the more one submits himself to G-d’s Will, the greater his repentance will be. This is part of the reason why repentance is bound to redemption. When we are able to submit ourselves to G-d and recognize that our entire lives are completely in His Hands, then we will realize that redemption and salvation only come from Him as well.
After immersing ourselves in that faith through the Ten Days of Repentance and on Yom Kippur, we then celebrate that faith during the joyous holiday of Succos, a holiday which reminds us that our only true security is when we feel secure in the Hands of Hashem.
“Like impoverished and poor people do we knock at Your door”
“Build the walls of Yerushalayim, for in You alone we trust”

[1] Devorim 32:36-37
[2] Sanhedrin 97a
[3] a derogatory title reserved for those who disrespect the Torah or Torah Scholars- see Mishnah Torah l’Rambam, Sanhedrin 10:1
[4] Shemos 6:9
[5] Although undoubtedly the current administration has helped heal us of this ‘faith’ somewhat


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