"Moshiach is ready to come now-our part is to increase in acts of goodness and kindness" -The Rebbe

Monday, May 31, 2010

Covering ground in learning Torah

Different people learn differently.

My personal inclination while learning is to learn slowly and carefully, reviewing once or twice at the end of each paragraph, or every ten lines or so when learning unbroken text, and then reviewing again at the end of several paragraphs or ten lines, and then several times again upon completion, and then sometimes yet again several months later, and so on. I think often of the (decidedly chilling) statements of
Chazal (Sanhedrin 99a) that one who fails to review his studies is akin to “one who sows but does not reap” and to “one who bears a child and then buries it” (G–d forbid), and this spurs me to review often.

The advantage of this approach is that what I learn, I generally remember well, and the Chassidus that I learn is accessible to me for use as material for hisbonenus.

The problem with this approach, however, is that I don’t cover much ground.

Others have the opposite inclination. I remember how several of my chavrusos (learning partners) were simply incapable, or at least unwilling, to delve into one topic, and any request that we pause to analyze the matter or study commentaries would be met with resistance. They were running, running, to the next topic and the one after that, and they wouldn’t slow down. (Unsurprisingly, those chavrusos did not last for long ... )

Of course, in Yeshivah I couldn’t get away with going to either extreme, because Tomchei Temimim (the Chabad Yeshivah) is set up (as are most Yeshivos, to my knowledge) to combine both styles of learning. In Yeshivah circles, these different approaches are known as “iyun”—in-depth study and “girsa”—learning in order to cover ground (as I understand, the non-Chabad world refers to this as “beki’us”). In seder Nigleh, the portion of the day devoted to studying Gemara, the morning and early afternoon (typically 10:45 am-2:00 pm, depending on the Yeshivah) is typically devoted to iyun, while the late afternoon (from approximately 3:30 pm-7:00 pm) is devoted to reviewing the morning study, and to girsa.

It seems that
Chassidus was traditionally studied in a way of iyun, until the Rebbe changed this and introduced girsa to the study of Chassidus, as the following letters from the early years of the Rebbes leadership testify:
As for your question concerning the study of Chassidus: ... in all Lubavitcher Yeshivos there should be ... broader knowledge of the teachings of Chassidus. To my sorrow, a tremendous deficiency can be sensed in this area. Even students who have been learning Chassidus for several years, and know several topics in depth, only know very, very few concepts. If only I could accomplish it, I would introduce in every place the study of Chassidus not only in a manner of iyun, but a special session of study also in a manner of girsa. Although in general Chabad demands pnimiyus[“internalization,” nevertheless, this study is necessary in order to] become familiar with [many] concepts.

Igros Kodesh, Vol. 4, p. 95.

For the same reason that you write that it is beneficial to study a tractate of Gemara in a way of girsa—for one gains knowledge of an entire tractate, albeit superficial—for this very reason, if I had my way, I would introduce the study of Chassidus in a manner of girsa, despite the fact that Chassidus in particular requires that one study with pnimiyus. An example [of subject matter that it is recommended be studied in this way] would be the “Chassidishe sedra” [the section of Torah Ohr or Likkutei Torah corresponding to the weekly Torah portion].

ibid., p. 158.

I have already stated that one should strive for both—not only to study several concepts in depth, but also to gain, to a significant extent, superficial knowledge of many concepts. This can come through studying Shaar HaYichud Veha’Emunah and Igeres HaTeshuvah in Tanya, several [discourses explaining the] Mitzvos in the Tzemach Tzedek’s Derech Mitzvosecha, and some of the manuscripts [the Rebbe is referring to discourses that have since been published]. However, which particular manuscripts should be studied will depend upon the type of student and the way that he learns, and this the mashpia on hand must decide.

ibid., Vol. 5, pp. 312-313.
As the Rebbe makes clear, there was always an extra emphasis on pnimiyus and iyun when studying Chassidus. Thus, advocating a girsa mode of studying Chassidus (in addition to the iyun mode) means changing the way that Chassidus Chabad was traditionally studied.

To illustrate this, there were some great chassidim for whom iyun was everything, in a way that we would perhaps consider extreme.

Reb Zalman Moishe HaYitzchaki was a great chossid of the Rebbe Rashab, of the Previous Rebbe, and towards the end of his life, of the Rebbe (I wrote an article about him several years ago that can be viewed here). His approach to Torah study was extraordinary:
For many years he [Reb Zalman Moishe] maintained a fixed schedule to study Chassidus: Every day he would wake up very early in the morning and learn for six consecutive hours. Upon finishing, he would mark the place that he had reached in his studies with his pencil. It turned out that during these numerous hours he would learn only three lines! The bulk of the time went to internalizing the concept—making it enter him and affect him.

Anoshim Chassidim Hoyu p. 32.
For Reb Zalman Moishe there was only iyun. However, he learnt so much that despite his slow pace in terms of quantity, he probably amassed vast amounts of girsa knowledge as well.

In any case, regardless what was done in previous generations, or by great chassidim of former times, the Rebbe has made clear to us what is appropriate for our time: a combination and balance of iyun and girsa. This means that although the statement of Chazal that “One should always study in the place that ones heart desires (Avodah Zara 19a) may imply that those those inclined to iyun may focus primarily on iyun, and those inclined to girsa may focus primarily on girsa, at the same time, one must maintain a balance: The former should set aside time for girsa as well, and the latter should set aside time for iyun as well.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Solution to the Problems of the Generation

The Solution to the Problems of the Generation

Rabbi Y. Oliver

Recent news posts (see here and here) report that Rabbi Manis Friedman initiated an evening of discussion with bochurim with the goal of investigating the reason for the decline in communal standards in certain areas in today’s younger generation of Lubavitcher chassidim. He says:
We all know that Chassidus is the truth and has the answers to all questions and yet, some are not inspired. ... The bochurim. It’s like a bank account that you cannot make a withdrawal from. How can someone learn Chassidus and not be inspired? Where is the missing link? When you teach Chassidus to people who never learned it - they come alive, they ‘get it.’ In Crown Heights, bochurim don’t seem to respond. ... It’s not that the Yeshivos are failing. It’s that they are not enough. I don’t know if Yeshivos were ever enough. ... There is a lot of confusion and questions are not being answered. There is a gap between what we learn and practice in Yeshivos and what we are faced with on Shlichus. We know so much but don’t always know how to put it to practical use.
To sum up, Rabbi Friedman observes that among the younger generation there is a not universal, but significantly widespread lack of connection with the teachings of Chassidus, a lack of implementation of these teachings, and low religious standards in general. Unfortunately I firmly agree with this assessment, and would even consider it (perhaps appropriately, or perhaps inappropriately) understated.

I would also assert that this phenomenon is not limited to the younger generation, but is also prevalent in the older generation, sometimes in a 
similar manifestation, and sometimes in a different manifestation. (If anything, it is even more prevalent in the older generation. However, Rabbi Friedman appears to be focusing on the youth because the chances of success are far higher with them than when dealing with the older generation, people who are set in their ways.)

I was not privileged to attend the session, so I do not know exactly what was said. However, I applaud the effort. As for the issue itself, it appears to me that the answer to this question lies in the following statement from the Previous Rebbe:
The essential light of the philosophy of Chassidus has the power to heal all spiritual plagues and sicknesses. However, in order for it to be effective, it is crucial that one imbibe the medicine according to the rules outlined in the works of the philosophy of Chassidus, which is to be found in the words of the Rebbeim [of Chabad].

Igros Kodesh Admur HaRayatz, Vol. 4, p. 30.
In order for a medicine to be effective, one must take all the medicine prescribed, and in the precise dosages and at the appropriate times.

So it’s not enough to learn Chassidus (a pursuit that, by the way, also falls far short of what it ought to be, but that is beyond the scope of this post). Chassidus can only have its true impact on us if we treat it as a “package deal” and strive to fulfill all its directives faithfully. Or, as discussed here, being a chossid involves both the study of Chassidus and the “ways of Chassidus.”

There is much that could be said concerning improving communal adherence to various teachings and directives of the Rebbeim of Chabad, of which there are so many that span all aspects of life. However, here I wish to identify one such directive that to my mind is glaringly and painfully missing, and that in my humble opinion is the root cause of all the other areas of neglect in the various strata of the community.

What I refer to is nothing short of the underpinning of the entire
derech of Chassidus Chabad. It has been so woefully neglected for so long that many chassidim no longer realize that anything is amiss in this area, thinking that surely “times have changed,” and such conduct must no longer be expected or even attainable. And then they are left scratching their heads in perplexity when the results of their Yeshivah education, or the education of their offspring, are not as they would have expected.

I am referring to Avodas HaTefillah, the uniquely Chabad discipline of prayer, which in a nutshell consists of the Chabad discipline of hisbonenus—lengthy, detailed, concentrated contemplation of profound concepts in Chassidus—followed by a passionate outpouring of the heart to Hashem in reciting the words of Tefillah.

As much as Chassidus Chabad demands in-depth study of Chassidus, it demands Avodas HaTefillah even more. In fact, the Rebbe Rashab writes unequivocally in Kuntres HaTefillah (p. 12) that the entire reason that all the teachings of Chassidus were revealed is that they be used as material for hisbonenus and lead one to become inspired to love and fear of Hashem in Tefillah:
All of these concepts [of Chassidus Chabad] have been laid out and arranged before you in many printed discourses and in manuscripts, all comprehensively explained. After all this, it now depends upon you to learn these concepts, understand them thoroughly, and reflect upon them in Tefillah, which is the main purpose [of all these teachings]. For all the study and knowledge is merely a preparation for the main thing, which is that one reflect upon [these teachings] in Tefillah, making a point to reflect upon them in detail.
The Rebbe Rashab considered Avodas HaTefillah so crucial for chassidim that he instructed (Kuntres Etz Chayim p. 60) that students in Tomchei Temimim (the Yeshiva in which one trains to be a Chabad chossid) review Kuntres HaTefillah once every two or three months in a consistent fashion.

According to the teachings of Chabad Chassidus, it is only through Avodas HaTefillah that the intellect can penetrate the emotions, implanting in one’s heart true love and fear of Hashem, true love of Torah, and love of one’s fellow Jew, to the point that these feelings permeate every aspect of one’s life. However, if Avodas HaTefillah is lacking, then it is comes as no surprise that many are falling short in feeling the holy feelings that a Jew, and all the more so a chossid, ought to feel. And when one lacks inspiration, one’s actions will surely also fall short, and one is at a high risk of falling even further. Perhaps such a fall is even a fait accompli.

In the words of the Previous Rebbe (
Hayom Yom, 24 Iyar):

The beginning of the descent is the lack of toil in Tefillah. Everything becomes dry and cold. It even becomes difficult to perform Mitzvos mechanically. One hurries. One loses enjoyment in Torah. The atmosphere becomes coarse. And obviously, it is completely not possible to influence others.
In conclusion, I submit that the solution to all the problems (may Hashem spare us) that plague the Chabad community is that we return to the Chabad tradition of toiling at self-refinement through Avodas HaTefillah.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Going to the Rebbe: Embarrassment and preparation

Going to the Rebbe: 
Embarrassment and Preparation

Rabbi Y. Oliver

Reb Chanoch Hendel Kugel was one of the great chassidim of the Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek, the Rebbe Maharash, and the Rebbe Rashab. He was one of the first mashpi’im in the Yeshivah of Tomchei Temimim. The Previous Rebbe relates:
Reb Chanoch Hendel once said during one of his farbrengens: “One who suffers from tzora’as (spiritual leprosy) may not enter the Beis HaMikdash until he is healed. Likewise, until a young man is healed of his repulsive character traits, he may not go to Lubavitch. It is forbidden to defile the chamber of Hashem found in the Rebbe’s surroundings.
“For ten years I studied Rabenu Yonah’s Shaarei Teshuvah, Sefer Charedim, Reishis Chochmah, and Pokeach Ivrim. I also studied [the Alter Rebbe’s] Iggeres HaTeshuvah tens of times and certain chapters of [the Mitteler Rebbe’s] Derech Chaim. [My goal was] to scrape away the evil character traits and rid myself of the body’s habits. Only then [once I had accomplished this goal], and with the consent of elderly chassidim, did I travel for the first time to the Rebbe [the Tzemach Tzedek] in Lubavitch.”
Listen, young men, to what an old chossid told concerning how he became a chossid.
This young man toiled for ten years [to refine] his character traits, and during these ten years he did not travel to Lubavitch to my great-grandfather, for he was ashamed to appear before the Rebbe while on his spiritual level.
This is a good preparation for becoming a chossid.
Sefer HaSichos 5697, p. 184.
In this sicha the Previous Rebbe encourages “young men” to listen to the story of a chossid who prepared for ten years before travelling to his Rebbe, and the Previous Rebbe impressed upon them that “This is a good preparation for becoming a chossid.”

Without this preparation, the chossid deserves to feel embarrassed to appear in the Rebbe’s presence. The chossid knows with certainty that his spiritual level is immediately felt by the Rebbe, and if foul character traits remain and sincere Teshuvah is lacking, entering the Rebbe’s holy presence is a kind of desecration, akin to “defiling the chamber of Hashem” (in the words of Reb Chanoch Hendel).

On a similar note, at a farbrengen the Previous Rebbe once turned to the famous chossid, Reb Zalman Moishe HaYitzchaki, and said something to him. Afterwards, the other chassidim asked him what the Rebbe had said. “I didn't hear one word,” he responded. “Only one thought bothered me at that moment: When will the Rebbe already remove his holy eyes from my piggy face?” (Anoshim Chassidim Hoyu, Yosef Yitzchak Kaminetzki, Israel, 2003, p. 24)

My understanding of this story is that Reb Zalman Moishe knew that when the Previous Rebbe looked at him physically, he also looked right through him, into the depths of his soul. Reb Zalman Moishe was a chossid who strove with tremendous effort at avodah, the chassidic discipline of self-refinement, and so he was acutely aware of his spiritual shortcomings. He felt that compared to the Previous Rebbe’s eyes, his own face was “piggy.” So when the Previous Rebbe looked at him, his deep embarrassment so discombobulated him that he couldn’t focus on what the Previous Rebbe had said to him.

Over time, and especially with the relocation of the Chabad movement from Europe to America, this sensitivity has been largely lost, or at least greatly diminished. I once heard it said that the famous mashpia Reb Nissan Neminov once complained: “In our times, when the Rebbe [i.e., the Rebbe Rashab or the Previous Rebbe] would come, we would run away, not wanting to be seen. Nowadays, when the Rebbe comes, everyone runs to be seen!”

This phenomenon also reveals a significant lack in the traditional Chabad emphasis on pnimiyus—the feeling that personal change ought to come through one’s own effort and not through “makifim”—unearned divine revelation from above that pulls one out of one’s problems. The idea that one will go to one’s Rebbe and be lifted out of one’s internal mud with minimal effort was always shunned by Chabad and embraced by other Chassidic approaches.

In light of the above, it would seem that a desire to be seen by the Rebbe without any accompanying sense of embarrassment and reluctance out of an awareness of one’s unworthiness, or any desire for some form of preparation in order to become at least somewhat more worthy of standing in the Rebbe’s presence (even if not fully worthy) indicates that this person is probably suffering from some or all of the following basic problems. First, he lacks firm emunas Tzaddikim—belief that the Rebbe sees unerringly into his heart (see here). Second, he lacks a strong awareness of his character flaws, and the need for avodah in order to rectify them. Finally, he lacks a recognition of the importance of pnimiyus.

It is easy to go the Rebbe and say “hineni”—“here I am!” But without some substantial preparation, it is unlikely that such a visit will make a lasting impact on one’s life. And one will certainly not accomplish an inner change remotely close to that which one can accomplish through preparation.

The sensitivity (albeit not to the extreme described in the Previous Rebbe's talk) should energize one to prepare before going to the Ohel, and in general, to intensify one's preparation for the long-awaited day when we will see the Rebbe again, with the coming of Moshiach.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Difficult Transition

A Difficult Transition

Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver

“Jump in the pool, the water’s fine!”

The warm, clean, sparkling water beckons invitingly below, and yet we often hesitate.

Invariably, once we take the plunge, we enjoy ourselves, and regret not having done so earlier.

Nevertheless, the next time we hesitate again. Yet once we jump in, we regret again having delayed such a pleasant experience. The question begs itself: Why don’t we learn from our experience?

The same question can be asked about serving Hashem. On the one hand, the Torah instructs us to immerse ourselves in Torah study. Commenting on Hashem’s command to Noach, “Enter the ark,[1] the Baal Shem Tov points out that the Hebrew word for ark, teiva, can also mean “word.” Hashem is thus exhorting us to “enter” and immerse ourselves in the “word”—the words of Torah and Tefillah.

Once we start indeed immersing ourselves and “getting into” a sugya in Gemoro, a Ma’amar Chassidus, and so on, we don’t want to stop, and we even wonder why we delayed. How could we have been so foolish and coarse to deprive ourselves of such a sublime pleasure? And yet the next time the opportunity to do so arises, experience shows that we face the same inner struggle. Again, why don’t we learn from our experience?

The answer is that the very transition from mundane affairs to Torah and Tefillah is extremely difficult. We have to tear ourselves away intellectually and emotionally from one mode of operating and engage ourselves in another, very different and even opposite mode.

Just as the body naturally resists the change of body temperature caused by diving into a pool, so is there an inner resistance, particularly from the Animal Soul, to making the transition from the material to the spiritual.

However, knowledge is power. Realizing that this inner resistance is one of the core tactics that the evil inclination uses in order to obstruct our service of Hashem arms us with the strength need to overcome it. For just as with practice, a swimmer can learn to make the jump into the pool without foot dragging, so can one who makes a conscious, consistent effort to force himself to make the transition from the mundane to the holy ultimately develop the ability to do so with minimal effort.

[1] Bereshis 7:1.

Based on Sefer HaMa’amarim Admur HaRayatz 5785, Choviv odom, p. 7; Sefer HaMa’amarim Admur HaRashab 5678, p. 131.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Love of Torah

The Previous Rebbe writes:
There were many good qualities and upright character traits in the love of Torah, in the dearness for holiness, in the fear of Heaven and enthusiasm for observance of Mitzvos that the Yeshivah students of the two past generations brought into the homes of our Jewish brothers.
Di teg [Yiddish for “the days”]—the meals in which the Yeshivah students would eat in the homes of the wealthy, the middle-class, and even the poor, which the Yeshivah students would call di teg, were the bridge that bound and connected Jewish homes with the house of Torah study.

The days known as di teg acted as beacons of the light of Torah and Mitzvos, shining a clear, luminous light of aspiration for wisdom and knowledge, inspiring the hearts of the young to bring the spiritual to dominate over the physical, and to exile themselves to a place of Torah. ...

I still remember the way the Yeshivah students inspired me to devote myself to my studies, to pray slowly, to recite the grace after meals and the other blessings carefully, to be particular to recite the morning blessings and the bedtime recital of the Shema.

The students’ visits in Jewish homes left impressions of a pleasant light, of fiery, inextinguishable flames of the love for Torah and the dearness of the holy, to be attained through caution to perform the Mitzvos. They sowed in the hearts of the boys and girls seeds of yearning to toil in the Torah and to build Jewish homes on the foundations of Torah.

In this good quality the country of Lithuania excelled. Thank G–d, one can still recognize the good impressions that were engraved in the hearts of our brothers in Lithuania in terms of the love of Torah and the important position that Torah scholars hold, thank G–d.

When I visited one of the villages in Lithuania last year, in a place where people gathered from the outlying areas, how great was my pleasure to see the yearning for Torah scholars and to build Jewish homes of Torah scholars.

Of the hundreds of people who visited me and of the hundreds of letters from parents, most of them asked for advice in how to set up their lifestyle and how to arrange, with G-d's help, appropriate matches for their offspring. There was thank G–d a large percentage—may they increase further—who desired and blessed themselves that their children should be Yeshivah students and that their daughters should may Torah scholars. However, what astounded me, and brought me a spiritual pleasure and ecstasy of heart, were the letters of the youth related to arranging matches, for they recognized the greatness of Yeshivah students.

Kuntres Etz Chayim pp. 7-8.

Yeshivah bochrim” (unmarried students at a Rabbinical academy) are sometimes looked down upon by “baalei batim” (older, married people). “What do they have to teach me?” they ask. “What do they know already? A few comments of Tosfos? How much life experience have they had? And what have they accomplished? In contrast, I have a family, a house, an income. Instead of learning from them, since I’m older, I will teach them from my experience.”

However, the truth is the exact opposite.

The Hebrew word for world,
olam, is etymologically related to the word he’elem, concealment of G–dliness (Likkutei Torah, Shelach, 37d). The more a person is involved in the world, the more difficult it is for him to sense holiness, to relate to Hashem. Like it or not, he has unwittingly absorbed a certain amount of hanachos ha’olam, secular attitudes that are foreign to Torah. A Yeshivah bochur, however, who is totally focused on Torah study and prayer, is not tainted by the world and can thus be truly receptive to holiness.

Thus, instead of the community regarding the
Yeshivah bochur as second-class to them, they should regard themselves as second-class to him. Only then will they be fit vessels to learn from the shining example that the Yeshivah bochur sets, and instead of dismissing him as simple and naïve, revering him as pure and sincere.

When the parents show the greatest honor and adoration for
Yeshivah bochrim (and by the same token, for members of Kollel and Rabbonim) the sons and daughters in the home will become sensitive to holiness, and thus come to hold Torah scholars in the highest regard, sensing the pricelessness of Torah. The yearning for Torah will be the deepest yearning of their hearts, one that will determine whom they choose to marry and how they choose to live their lives and invest their money and efforts. The boys will aspire to devote themselves to be talmidei chachomim, Torah scholars, or at least to learn regularly and support full-time talmidei chachomim, and the girls will aspire to the privilege of marrying a Torah scholar and building homes permeated with the love of Torah, in which those who devote their lives to Torah study with fear of G–d are accorded the greatest honor. Their children will then pass on this pure and holy passion for Torah faithfully to their own children, creating a very happy cycle that will act as a beacon of inspiration for the entire community.

However, if the community looks down on the Torah scholars and treats them as second-class, G–d forbid, not only will they not learn from the Torah scholars, but they will exert a bad influence on them. The Torah scholars will be less supported by the members of the community, making it more difficult for them to study Torah, thus creating a very vicious cycle that will degrade the community.

Let us promote the former attitude, and we will be blessed.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Newspapers: A ploy of the evil inclination

It was pointed out to me that the Chofetz Chaim, obm, in his seferZachor LeMiriam,” expresses similar sentiments concerning newspapers to those quoted from the Rebbe in an earlier post. Below is a translation.
... It would have been fitting for us to intensify our Torah study in order to be saved from the “birth-pangs of Moshiach.” Yet due to our numerous sins, the opposite is the case, and the evil inclination has overcome us greatly. It seeks devices and schemes to trap us in the sin of neglecting Torah study. The schemes that it used against us throughout our exile in the past are not adequate for it, and it brings new ones that did not occur to us until recent times.

For example, reading the newspapers, which has become widely prevalent nowadays. How can the reader not spend at least an hour reading them? Sometimes, since he is known to all as a reader who knows the current events, several people will ask him what he has heard, and he will relate everything to them in great detail, and in the meantime he idles away even more time on this. There are many other people who do not suffice with reading one newspaper; instead, they read three or four newspapers of every kind, and spend several hours each day on this. In the course of a full year, all these hours accumulate into many hundreds of hours that passed in vain, bringing no benefit to the body, never mind to the Neshamah.

This is all insofar as the neglect of Torah study that results from reading the newspapers is concerned. However, they often contain words of mockery, gossip, talebearing, and strife [that are forbidden to read]. Were there no people who would read it, then it wouldn’t be printed. No one notices this, and yet they will all share the blame for it when they are summoned to give a reckoning before the Throne of Glory.

Zachor LeMiriam p. 50.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

FAQs about Zionism II

(Continued from here.)

Question: Aren’t the wars to defend the Land of Israel that we have won so miraculously proof that the messianic redemption has begun?

Answer: It is true that over recent decades the Jews living in Eretz Yisroel have, with the help of Hashem, won many wars against tremendous odds, but that does not constitute a sign of redemption. Consider the case of Purim, when the Jewish people took arms against our goyisheh enemies and won, but remained in exile afterward nonetheless, as the Talmud states, “We are still [even after the miracle of Purim] slaves of Achashverosh” (Megillah 14a).

Thus, refusing to associate these miracles with the messianic redemption does not mean “turning one’s back” on them. Indeed, we should give great thanks to Hashem for the miracles by which so many Jews were saved and so much of our sacred Land was protected, and vast segments of it liberated.

However, there is no inherent connection between these salvations and the future redemption other than the fact that all salvations are spiritually interrelated. Note also that in the
Amidah prayer, we praise Hashem Who “redeems [the people of] Israel,” and the commentaries state that this is not a prayer for the future redemption, but for salvation “from the troubles that befall us” in exile. The Jewish people have experienced divine salvation despite fighting against great odds many times during their protracted exile, and this was yet another such occasion. Thus, the indisputable miraculousness of these events does not detract from the fact that we are still in exile.

Question: Shouldn’t we take action in order to hasten the redemption?

Answer: It is not our role to try to hasten the redemption through force. Hashem has promised us that when the time comes, Moshiach will usher in the age of redemption. For the true cause of the exile was not the Babylonians, the Romans, or any other empire, but our sins, and thus the only way to hasten and ultimately bring the redemption is by increasing in our own Torah observance and encouraging our fellow Jews to do likewise. This rectifies our sin, the cause of the exile, and therefore removes its outcome, the exile, automatically.

Question: Won’t leaving the exile and moving to Eretz Yisroel ...

Answer: Whoa, hold it right there. Until Moshiach comes, the Land of Israel is a part of exile and the Jews in it are in a state of exile just as are those living in the Diaspora. The confusion of the two meanings of the word golus—diaspora and exile—is unfortunate and highly misleading, although I imagine it is unintentional. This identification implies that living in the Land means living in a world of redemption, or at least partial redemption, while living in the diaspora means choosing to remain in exile.

With all due respect, this is incorrect. Even a Jew who lives in
Eretz Yisroel declares during his prayers: “On account of our sins, we were exiled from our Land.” And he does so even when praying in the holiest city, Yerushalayim, and at the Kosel, the holiest place in the world that we can go. So even a Jew living in the Holy Land, in the holiest city, and standing at the Kosel, is in exile just the same. For exile is not about being banished from the Land, but about being in a state of exile in which we cannot serve Hashem properly, which is only possible when we have the Beis HaMikdash, a Jewish king (in the case of the upcoming redemption, the king Moshiach), and so on. There were Jews living in the Land throughout our long exile, albeit in smaller numbers, and yet no one ever saw anything redemptive in that.

Question: How do you respond when you see Jews displaying the Israeli flag?

Answer: I am unhappy. However, I find it doubly sad when I witness someone who identifies with the cause of strengthening the Jews of Yehuda and Shomron displaying the Israeli flag so proudly. It was only yesterday, in the suicidal idiocy and treason so euphemistically but callously termed “disengagement,” that we all saw the true colours of the Israeli government and its flag.

We saw how the government sent young men and women (who should have been elsewhere defending us from our true enemies) to systematically and efficiently expel our brethren from their homes and villages in the Gaza strip and Northern Shomron—all with that very flag emblazoned on their blackshirted vests. To add insult to injury, when their dirty deed was done, they raised that flag over the Jew-free territory to declare “victory” (may
Hashem have mercy) in their mission. And then we saw how the same government that had promised so publicly, using costly advertising campaigns, that there would be a “solution for every settler” did nothing of the sort, instead leaving these expellees in the lurch. The “dawn of the redemption,” indeed.