Destruction before Redemption
As heard from Rav Tzvi Kushelvesky, Rosh Yeshivas Heichal HaTorah
Transcribed by Rabbi Daniel Yaakov Travis
After Motzei Shemita
Chazal teach us that moshiach will come during shemita. Yet in another place we are told that shemita will be a time of wars. The Gemara rectifies these statements that shemita will be wars and that motzei shemita moshiach will come (Megila 17b).
Motzei shemita has come and it has gone. Seemingly we have lost another chance. We must wait another 7 years for the window of opportunity to open again.
Some explain that when moshiach comes the shemita cycle will start again. Therefore whenever moshiach comes it will be motzei shemita. I do not believe that this is what Chazal meant, for then the sign of motzei shemita is worthless.
In my opinion, we can explain motzei shemita differently. Motzei shemita means that the avoda we did motzei shemita will be impetus for the geula. The emunah and bitachon that we showed during shemita, was put into practice motzei shemita, and that avoda serves as the seeds of redemption.
Degeneration and Rebirth
The Mishnah at the end of Sotah (49b) describes what life will be like before moshiach comes. Chutzpah, audacity, will be rampant, Torah learning will be considered putrid, and there will be many signs of complete world breakdown. Why do we have to fall so low for moshiach to come?
The Maharal writes that redemption is like a plant. The seed needs to be destroyed before the plant grows. So too all of the values of the world have to be destroyed and reach the lowest state of degradation before moshiach comes.
We are experiencing the breakdown of the seed in front of our very eyes. Behavior that was considered illegal and that people were put in jail for has now become legal. Not only has this degradation become permitted, but if a person does not sanction this he could be put in jail for discrimination.
For the Sake of Baalei Teshuva
We have clarified that the world must take a complete plunge and face near ethical destruction before moshiach comes. Yet after internalizing that information we should be left with the following question: Why do we need to fall so low before moshiach comes?
One reason for this phenomenon is so that baalei teshuva can return. People have Jewish neshomos burning inside them yet they are living in a society surrounded by degradation. They cannot possibly be satisfied with such emptiness.
When they see the lowly state of the world they realize that there must be more to life than what they are seeing. They begin to search and look for meaning in their life. If they are real truth seekers then they will eventually make their way to the truth of the Torah.
Take the case of Uri Zohar. He was a movie star and involved with a world of entertainment which is antithetical to the Torah. He recognized how far he was away from the truth, and today he is a true ben Torah.
Don’t Be Sucked In
Fifteen years ago I gave a hesped. During that time I spoke on a very high level, and did my best to inspire the audience to strive for great accomplishments in Torah and yiras shamayim. It was clear that I had lofty expectations of the listeners.
After I finished speaking a rosh yeshiva came up to me and criticized me harshly. “I am happy if people don’t throw rocks at me!” He told me to come down from the clouds and start addressing the generation as it is.
In my opinion this rosh yeshiva was making a grave error. The moment we lower our expectations to the level of the generation we are finished. Our talmidim will have nothing to work towards, and then we will really see a fulfillment of the Maharal’s words – there will be complete denigration.
Whoever studies the words of Chazal in depth sees that they are as relevant today as they were when they were written. True, we may have fallen greatly since then, but their holy words can pull us up, and especially in a world which is experiencing destruction, we need to internalize their words more than ever.
We have touched on the topic of trying to clarify the issue of why the world must fall apart before moshiach comes. In truth the Rambam writes that we will not understand all the Medrashim until moshiach comes. May this take place speedily, and during the interim may we all have the strength to “hold on” until that day arrives, amen.