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Weekly Chizuk

Parshas Matos - Masei

The Three Weeks
Birth Pangs of Moshiach

Adapted from Michtav Me'Eliyahu, by Rav Eliyahu Dessler, pp. 203-205.

As Hashem your God once rejoiced over you to do good to you... so will He now rejoice over your enemies... to destroy you. (Devorim 28:63)

The word "rejoicing" in this possuk has a special connotation: "beyond all limits." Normally, rejoicing usually implies good, implying loving-kindness without bounds. However, here it denotes destruction, portending that Hashem will give our enemies unlimited assistance and miracles leading to our detriment, God forbid.

We live today in hester panim, Hashem's hand is concealed. That is, in general. Sometimes, however, hashgacha pratis is so obvious that any sensible person should realize that what is happening could not possibly be mere chance. This may pertain to good events. But it may equally concern occurrences which are the source of suffering. Hashem may choose to demonstrate His providence by providing miracles for our enemies.

This was extraordinarily clear in the events preceding World War II. Normally only particularly talented people rise to the top of the political ladder. It is unheard of that a group of unknown and incompetent hoodlums (Hitler and the Nazi party), who met by chance in some obscure beer cellar, should suddenly and without exception rapidly become so expert of governing a nation of vast populations. We have been the unfortunate witnesses to such a bizarre occurrence. For decades the Haman of our time and his gang were nobodies, engaged in petty and questionable activities. Overnight they became outstandingly capable rulers with uncanny efficiency for evil. Here were miracles indeed, which should open our eyes to the workings of Divine providence.

Birth Pangs

This is what we may expect in the era of "the birth pangs of Moshiach." It is incumbent upon us to take special note and recognize the hashgacha pratis in the events around us.

Some people, however, refuse to acknowledge the hand of Providence no matter what. Misfortune merely pushes them to question Hashem's presence in the world. They fall prey to doubts, attribute everything to chance, and deny the existence of Divine justice. Even great men, normally firm in their faith, may fall into skepticism when faced with unprecedented suffering. More than one of the Sages of the Talmud expressed a wish that Moshiach should come but he should not see him (Sanhedrin 98b). The Maharal explains that they were afraid that because of the terrible events going on during the birth pangs of the Moshiach they might fall into uncertainty about hashgacha pratis.

The Lesson - Radical Change of Thought

The lesson to be learnt from the cataclysmic events of our era is that we must abandon our habitual ways of thought, our plans, and our ideas about life in this world. We must devote ourselves wholeheartedly to the service of our Creator. In this way we will help to hasten the final redemption. This is the message of the birth-pangs of the Moshiach.

Some people talk much about miracles and hashgacha pratis; but it is nothing but lip service. "With their mouth and lips they honor Me but their heart is far from Me" (Yeshaya 29:13).

If a person truly and sincerely recognizes Hashem's providence, his way of life must change radically. People tend to think that they have done their duty by verbal acknowledgment of the Divine hand behind the events they are observing. Their unchanged life-styles indicate how distant they really are from the truth.

Terrified - But Stubborn

Rachav the harlot and Yehoshua's spies stood on the roof of her house in Yericho, before B'nei Yisroel's invasion of Eretz Kena'an. Rachav informed them: "I know that God has given you the land... We have heard how God dried up the Red Sea for you... and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites... our courage is gone; no man has any spirit left in him" (Yehoshua 2:9-11).

The Canaanites were terrified of the Jews. They were swept away with the reports of the ten plagues, the splitting of the sea, and the fresh victories over Israel's enemies. They lost their courage and were walking around in a state of perpetual fear. But even more extraordinary, however, was that all this did not prevent their superhuman efforts to resist the Israelite invasion. Rachav was the only one who drew practical conclusions from what everyone recognized. The entire population was intensely aware of the miracles and were terrified of the power and majesty of God. But all this did not affect their way of life in the slightest. If they had learned the practical lesson, as Rachav had done, they would either have made peace with Israel or fled from the land, like the Girgashites (who, according to tradition, left en masse to Africa [Yerushalmi Shvi'is 6:1]). How could they choose to battle that God Whose miraculous power had so terrified them? This demonstrates the superficiality of their awareness; it had not penetrated deeply enough to change their habitual reactions. Only Rachav had truly learned, and she alone acted on her knowledge (Rav Simcha Zissel Ziv).

Change Your Heart - Change Your Mazal

Another very important principle can be learned from all this. A person has come to acknowledge in his heart and in his mind that Hashem is behind all phenomena, including the tragedies and disasters of this world. He recognizes the miracles by which Hashem causes us suffering. If he then makes a radical change in his actions, he will discover that the direction of the miracles will immediately change. From being miracles for bad, they will suddenly turn into miracles for good. Chazal have informed us that if the birth pangs of Moshiach lead us to sincere teshuva, Moshiach will immediately be revealed. One who does teshuva upon recognizing Hashem's providence in the midst of his suffering can rise to unprecedented heights. Remember: Rachav the harlot married no less a personality than Yehoshua himself and became the ancestress of eight prophets of Israel (Megilla 14b).

Conclusion

If we want to know how deeply we have taken to heart the providential nature of the suffering of our time, all we have to do is to see how much we have changed our behavior through living in the era of the birth pangs of Moshiach. The more we become aware of the hashgacha pratis constantly accompanying us, the more will Hashem shine His Providence upon us.

Gut Shabbos!

________________________________________
Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
4 Panim Meirot, Jerusalem 94423 Israel
Tel: 732-858-1257
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop Lakewood).
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