Since the establishment of the State of Israel, religious Zionists like yourself have been saying that this is the promised Redemption. Now, after two years of Intifada and hundreds of terrorist killings, Israel is once again facing the threat, G-d forbid, of Iraqi missiles armed with all kinds of warheads raining down on Tel Aviv. Not only that, but Israel’s economy is ailing, the country’s leaders haven’t any answers, and the rabbis are held in contempt. I ask you, where is the Redemption in this?
Your concern over the situation in Israel is understandable, but the fact that there are problems in Eretz Yisrael does not in any way negate the great Redemption which we are witnessing in our time. In fact, the opposite is true. The tribulations and wars which we are experiencing are signs that Mashiach is on the way. The Sages of the Talmud, in tractate Sanhedrin, describe the terrible suffering which will accompany the advent of Mashiach. The national anguish, economic chaos, and spiritual decline surrounding the messianic era lead the Sages to say that they would rather not be around when it comes. Foreseeing the economic hardships, Rabbi Chanina says: "The son of David (Mashiach) will not come until a sick person will ask for a fish to eat and there will be none to give him." Rabbi Simli says in the name of Rabbi Elazar, son of Rabbi Shimon, “The son of David will not come until judges and public officers are no more." "Rabbi Yochanan says: If you witness a generation where the influence of Torah lessens and lessens, expect the Mashiach to come." And he adds: "If you see a generation where great tribulations sweep over it like a river, expect the Mashiach to come." While no one likes war, military engagement is an integral part of the process of Israel’s salvation and triumph over its enemies. The Talmud states that, "War is also the beginning of Redemption. There, the Talmud explains that Mashiach comes after a period of struggle and war. The Midrash teaches that if you see the nations of the world waging war against each other, you can expect the "footsteps of Mashiach." In our daily prayers, G-d’s hand in the blueprint of Israel’s Redemption is clearly laid out as a gradually developing process: "The Master of Wars, the sower of righteousness, Who causes Salvation to sprout…." An interesting Midrash, fitting for our times, describes a future when all the world is at war: "Rabbi Yitzhak stated, the year in which the King Mashiach comes, all of the kingdoms of the world are at war with each other. The King of Persia attacks the King of Arabia…and all of the nations are confounded in fear…and Israel is in panic and trembling and says, 'Where shall we flee to and where shall we go?' And Hashem says to them, 'My children, fear not. All which I have done, I have done for your sake alone. Why are you frightened? Fear not. The time of Redemption has come.'" Rabbi Kook, in his classic work, "Orot,” writes that "When there is a great war in the world, the power of Mashiach awakens." In retrospect, we can see that World War One and World War Two were the instruments G-d employed to reestablish the Jewish People in Israel. In the aftermath of WWI, the Balfour Declaration recognized the right of the Jewish People to establish a homeland in Israel. The result of WW2 brought another step forward in the Redemption of Israel – the establishment of Jewish State. G-d directs the world in a natural, historical fashion, achieving His aims through the vehicle of nations and kings. "He dethrones kings and raises kings up." To return the scattered Jewish People to Israel, G-d had to rearrange the world map. Since nations are reluctant to surrender their territory, this can cause war. Rabbi Kook refers to the uprooting of tyrants as "the time of the songbird." In writing about this aspect of Israel’s Redemption, he uses an allegory from Shir HaShirim for springtime and rebirth which is indigenously connected to the songbird of Eretz Yisrael. "The time of the songbird has come, the weeding of tyrants. The evil ones are obliterated from the world, the world becomes perfected, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our Land." The uprooting of the world’s Saddam Husseins, Arafats, and Bin Ladens brings cleansing to the world. Little by little, like the shining of dawn, the light and righteousness of Israel shines forth from out of the darkness – precisely through the Hand of G-d wondrously working in these very wars. Therefore, don’t let current events overwhelm you. The Jewish People are still on course. G-d is directing the ship. If we do our share by fervently increasing our commitment to Torah, prayer, and the settlement of the Land, then G-d will do His part. "The Master of wars, the sower of righteousness, Who causes salvation to sprout, the creator of cures, awesome in praise, Master of Wonders…cause a new light on Zion to shine, and may we all speedily be privileged to enjoy its light." May the missiles of our enemies all backfire and explode on their heads. Amen. 1. Sanhedrin 97A-98B. 2. Ibid, 98A. 3. Ibid. 4. Megilla 17B. 5. Bereshit Rabbah, 42:4. 6. Morning blessing, “Yotzer Ohr” recited before the Shma. 7. Yalkut Shimoni, Isaiah, Remez, 499. 8. Orot, 2:1. 9. Daniel, 2:21. 10. Shir HaShirim, 2:11-12. 11. Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot