Beit Midrash

  • Family and Society
  • Coping with Difficulties
To dedicate this lesson

The Footsteps of Mashiah


Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed

Tishrei 26 5873
Translated by Hillel Fendel

The Sukkot holiday is replete with commandments. Prominent among them is that of taking the Four Species. Our Sages teach that these four species are likened to weapons: The lulav is like a sword, perhaps a rifle, while the etrog can be a grenade. In any case, the intent of this teaching is that there are spiritual wars and there are physical wars; our world is fraught with various types of dangers and we must fight them off.

Ours is a very special generation – that of the Footsteps of the Mashiah – and Rav Kook said that it is one in which light and darkness serve together in confusion. There is much light and much progress, and also a lot of darkness. There are ups and downs, with deterioration and progress; there are many issues having to do with over-permissiveness and freedom, and with throwing off the yoke of responsibility and even of mitzvot – something that was not the case in previous generations.

On the other hand, this is also a generation of return to the Land of Israel, a generation of struggling with the hardships this engenders – and overcoming them. No generation before us has had to face such challenges: they had no internet or television, or mass communication; there was no literature and no media, things that entice the youth, and adults as well, and force them to stand up to these very difficult challenges. And when we see that, despite all these difficulties, our generation does not despair, but rather develops strengths and fights and emerges victorious – this is clearly a very special generation and population, the likes of which was not found in previous times, which did not face such temptations and obstacles.

As such, from a certain standpoint, the light that emerges from these struggles reveals a strong public with unique abilities, more than previous generations. The spiritual war requires that we repel the negative forces, while at the same time we are to build positive strengths of love of Torah, love of Israel, love of the Land of Israel, and great faith. With G-d's help, we are meeting this challenge successfully!

It's the Quality that Matters!

The night of Hoshana Rabba, the last night of the Sukkot holiday, is the time when, according to the Kabbalists, the truly final decree of Yom Kippur is handed down. One of the texts customarily recited on this night is the entire Book of Deuteronomy, which recounts the final preparations for Israel's entry into the Land of Israel. Its background is the strength and daring that Israel adopted in order to enter a Land in which resided strong inhabitants, who would certainly not give up without a difficult war. Moshe tells the People: "Do not fear! Not because we are so strong, but because G-d, the Holy One, is with us!"

This means that though of course the local kings are strong and the battles will be very hard and dangerous, but "you, Israel, have seen what G-d did for us when we left Egypt, and how He helped us defeat other great kings such as Sichon and Og. We therefore need not fear the entry into the Promised Land."

The story is the same today. We find ourselves once again in a struggle against nations that don't want us to rule over our entire Land of Israel. At the same time, other nations that don't actively war against us stand by and seek ways to restrain our progress – for the advancement of the State of Israel contradicts the faiths of both the Muslims and Christians.

But just as in the times of Moshe and Yehoshua, we are not fighting for the Land in our names, but in the name of G-d. It is He Who commanded us to live in this Land, to conquer it, and not to leave it in the hands of foreigners – and when we do a mitzvah, G-d helps us. And when G-d helps us, no force in the world can stop Him; we must fill ourselves with confidence and trust in Him, and proudly proclaim our goals and direction.

Sadly, we often hear our political leaders attempt to mollify our neighbors and the international community by saying that we have no intention of remaining in the entire Land, and that we are always ready to seek compromise. This is of course contradicted by our behavior on the Sukkot holiday, when we ascend to Jerusalem and basically announce to the world that the Temple Mount and all of Jerusalem is ours and that we aspire to nothing less than the Beit HaMikdash, the Holy Temple. This is the true desire of the Nation of Israel. And when we gird ourselves with might and act towards this goal, the entire nation will have firm trust in the Master of the World and be confident in our path.

This, then, is the mission of our sector: to build this confidence within the Nation of Israel. True, even within the religious camp, not everyone recognizes the unfolding of this Divine process and its centrality in our generation; they don't realize the tremendous import of our national return to the Land of Israel. They are blinded by the fact that the State of Israel was established largely by secular Jews, who still head it to this day, and by the lack of a Torah government; this prevents this from seeing the State and its path as something spiritual and Divine.

But we, the loyal students of the Beit Medrash of the saintly Rav Kook, know that this is a period of Redemption. We see, amid the difficulties, the great progress that has been and is being made. Our sector is growing and expanding, and it is the one that should be the heart that leads the way – among the religious at first, and then in Israel as a whole - towards our proud national mission, towards bravery that comes from greatness of faith, towards the knowledge that G-d is He Who leads us on this path of redemption.

Although quantitatively we are still fewer than others, it is the quality that makes the difference. When we display depth, faith, thought, careful observance of the Torah and all its mitzvot, and when this leads to love of the Land and love of the People, as well as the desire for redemption – then of course this path will expand and develop and lead the way for the entire Nation of Israel.

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