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Weekly Chizuk

Parshas Mishpatim

Emuna in Our Generation

Excerpt from my sefer Chizuk!

The gemara in Makos (24a) relates that there are 613 mitzvos. Dovid Hamelech came and reduced the mitzvos to eleven. Then the prophet Yeshaya came and lowered the number of mitzvos to six. Micah lowered it to three. Finally Chavakkuk came and condensed the mitzvos to just one: "A tzaddik lives by his faith" (Chavakkuk 2:4). Now Chavakkuk doesn't mean that you forget about all the other mitzvos and you just believe in the Ribono Shel Olam. Of course we have to heed all of the mitzvos. He means that you have to concentrate on one mitzvah. The previous generations - the time of the Beis HaMikdash, the era of the Tannaim, and even the time of the Rishonim - possessed very great and dynamic neshamos who were able to put all their being into each and every mitzvah. They were able to do justice to every mitzvah with all their kavanah, all their concentration.

The Midrash says: "'Where were you when I founded the world?' What is the meaning of 'Where were you?' R. Shimon ben Lakish said, 'HaKadosh Baruch Hu said to Iyov, "Tell me your 'where.' From which place were you suspended (on Adam, the first man)? From his head, or his forehead, or another limb? If you know which place was your 'where' then you can argue with Me" ' " (Shemos Rabba 40:3).

Adam, being the first man, incorporated within himself all the neshamos that would ever emerge from the source of kedushah. So the Midrash is telling us that all the neshamos were attached to Adam. Some were attached to his head, some to his arms, his trunk, his legs, etc. Everyone functions according to the place where he was connected to the neshama of Adam. This is true about every generation: some individuals come from Adam's head, some from Adam's arms, his trunk, or his legs.

Moreover, all the generations are built according to the structure of Adam. This is called the Shiur Koma (Measure of Height) of the world. This means that the very first generation was his head. Afterwards came the heart. Then came the hands, etc.

Those who went out of Mitzrayim were the very first generation; they have a connection to the head of Adam. What is the function of a head? Intellect. They were the masters of Torah. The generation of the Midbar didn't work the fields. They weren't involved in industry. They just learned Torah day and night. They were the head, and the head thinks. Moshe Rabbeinu, in describing the generation of the Midbar states: "And he was king in Yeshurun, when the heads of the people and the tribes of Israel were gathered together" (Devorim 33:5). It was a gathering of the heads of the people. And Moshe Rabbeinu was the head of all the heads, because he was the king.

Every person functions according to where he belongs in Adam. Suppose someone is in the head of Adam, so he will function primarily with his intellect. He can be a talmid chachom, because he belongs to the head of Adam. But he has free will. If he wants, he can become a scientist or a mathematician. Whatever he does, he is a head, because he is associated with the neshamos that belong to the head.

Going a little lower, we come to the chest that contains the heart. That was the generation of the Beis HaMikdash - the center of avodah. The mitzvah of tefilla stems from the possuk, "And you shall serve Him with all your heart." The gemara explains, "What is service from the heart? Tefilla," davening to the Ribono Shel Olam. Tefilla means davening from the heart, davening with devotion. Tefilla is avodah from the heart, from the emotions. There are neshamos that belong to Adam's heart. They work with emotions and feelings. We are used to thinking of the heart as an organ that pumps blood. However, we find over and over again in the Tanach references to the heart as the organ of feeling. "And he said in his heart." The heart is in the center of the emotions of a person.

Those who come from the heart of Adam are the feeling people. They are emotional people. If he is a tzaddik he has the free will to pour out his heart in tefilla. "Pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord" (Eicha 2:19). These are the tzaddikim who specialize in davening. But he also has the free will to steer his emotions toward other areas. He can be a poet. He can be a composer or a musician. He is connected to the heart.

The head of the Generation of the Wilderness was Moshe Rabbeinu. He was the head of heads, the king in the congregation of the "heads" of the people. We have a tradition that in every generation anyone who is a head, who is a leader of Klal Yisroel, is a gilgul of one of the neshamos of the generation of the Wilderness. He belongs to the "Heads of the nation."

The "Head" of the "people of the heart" is Dovid Hamelech. He is referred to as "the sweet singer of Israel" (Shmuel II 23:1). He gave us a sefer Tehillim. Our very first introduction to Dovid Hamelech was when he played the harp for Shaul Hamelech. He was the "head" of all the ba'alei tefilla. Dovid Hamelech is also the neshama of Moshiach.

Then there are neshamos who are the hands of Adam HaRishon. People do things with their hands. They can be the ba'alei tzedakah, like it says, (Devorim 15:8) "Open up your hand."

Every organ of a person's body has a connection to one of the organs of Adam HaRishon.

The Sole Generation

Now we come to ourselves. Who are we? We are the bottom of Adam HaRishon's feet. There is no question about it. Nobody knows when Moshiach will come. There are many predictions in the holy seforim about certain years. But that only indicates a year that is auspicious for the Moshiach to come. It is a time when in Shomayim they make a decision whether or not to send out the Moshiach. But it can be spoiled, as has happened many times before. The Chasam Sofer is quoted in his writings as saying that the generation before him was a generation of knowledge. It had many tzaddikim and gedolim: Rav Yonason Eybeshitz, Rav Yaakov Emden, the Pnei Yehoshua, the Noda Beyehudah, etc. There were so many great Torah personalities in that generation and it was all set for the Moshiach to come. Then the machlokes between Rav Yaakov Emden and Rav Yonason Eybeschitz broke out. Their machlokes was l'shem shomayim. But the talmidim jumped on the bandwagon of machlokes. It sunk to loshon hora and the dishonoring of talmidei chachomim. Each side disgraced the gedolim of the other side. And that, the Chasam Sofer wrote, pushed away Moshiach. (Hashem should help that we do not go through such a matter. Unfortunately, we do have machlokes and it is very likely to spoil our chances of having the Moshiach come.)

We are experiencing the "Ikvese d'Mashicha" עקביתא דמשיחא. The Moshiach will come very soon. Many tzaddikim have already said this. The Chofetz Chaim said that we are so close that we can already see the light at the end of the tunnel. His talmid Rav Elchonon Wasserman wrote a little pamphlet called "Ikvese d'Mashicha." We are in the period called the "footsteps" of the Moshiach.

But the word ikvese has a different meaning also. The word eikev means the bottom of the foot. We can interpret the term "Ikvese d'Mashicha" as meaning that we are the bottom of the soles of Moshiach's feet. This is because in the anatomy of Adam HaRishon there were the feet; and also the soles of the feet - that is the eikev. We are neshamos who are from the sole of the feet of Adam HaRishon, and these are very low neshamos. We cannot compare to the big tzaddikim, to the dynamic and spirited personalities that we had in the previous generation.

Like the sole of the foot, we lack sensitivity; we do not feel anything. Take a needle and stick parts of your body. You will feel different levels of the sensation of pain. In the gum, it will hurt very much. So too, on many parts of the head. On the body, the trunk, it won't hurt so much, because the nerves aren't so tightly meshed together in those parts of the body. In the bottom of the sole, there is almost no feeling of pain. It is tough skin and if you stick it with a needle you will feel almost no pain. There is almost no sensitivity there. If a person has a certain ailment such as diabetes, the first organs to suffer are the extremities, and especially the bottom of the feet. This is because there is not enough blood circulation there.

In addition, the bottom of the foot is always in the dark. A person could be standing in the noonday sun in July and the sun is shining on his entire body. There is going to be one place on his body where it is going to be dark - the bottom of his sole that is down on the ground.

There is no sensation, no sensitivity; this is our generation. Therefore, there is so much blindness and ignorance prevalent today. So many Yidden, nebech, are falling astray. We do not have any light; we are so far away from Matan Torah. We are the bottom, we are the sole of the generations. Therefore, when the gemara speaks about the generation before the coming of the Moshiach, which is most probably our generation, the gemara calls that period "Ikvese d'Mashicha." There is a certain hint that this term connotes the generation that is the sole of Adam HaRishon's foot: "They have insulted the footsteps of Your anointed (moshiach)" (Tehillim 89:52). During the generation of Moshiach, religious Jews are subject to shame and insult.

It was for our generation - the bottom of the generations - that Chavakkuk reduced the mitzvos down to one mitzvah - emuna. "A tzaddik lives by his emuna." Concentrate on this mitzvah. Of course, you have to do all the other mitzvos. But live with this mitzvah. Concentrate on it. Learn about emuna. Study emuna. Think emuna. Talk about emuna. Keep on nourishing your emuna, because this is what is going to save our generation.

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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