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

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Ridicule: The Ultimate Test

Ridicule: The Ultimate Test

Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver

Earlier, we explained that the Jewish people refine the sparks of holiness in their host countries through their tenacity in observing Torah and Mitzvos despite the physical suffering that they endure there. In most times and places of our exile, this was our main test—the test of physical suffering. 

However, there is another test of exile through which we refine the sparks of holiness, one that relates more to the divine service of recent generations, and especially for Jews living in the western world, which comprise the majority of the Jewish people. This is the test of the age known as ikvesa diMeshicha, the generations directly preceding the arrival of Moshiach.

During this period, belief in Hashem and adherence to the strict standards of Torah are widely regarded with disdain and dismissed with ridicule. In fact, our sages predicted this state of the world:[1]
The government will turn to heresy. ... The wisdom of scribes [Torah scholars] will decay, and those who dread sin will be despised.
Indeed, modern secular thought is permeated with an attitude of cynicism and apathy toward belief in Hashem and careful religious adherence, and one encounters this especially when one goes out into the workplace and comes into direct contact with the secular world. Unless one is careful, it is human nature for this ridicule, whether overt or hidden, to wear a person down and weaken his observance, until over time, he could come to abandon observance of Torah and Mitzvos altogether, G–d forbid.

The only way to overcome this pressure is by standing upright and proud and maintaining one’s observance of Torah and Mitzvos without compromise. This is the test of “Do not be embarrassed before the scoffers.”[2] 

If anything, the opposition should make one stronger, along the lines of the verse concerning the suffering of the Jewish people in Egypt: “And as they afflicted them, so did they increase, and so did they grow strong.”[3]

This fearlessness in the face of ridicule of one’s Torah observance is in fact required by Jewish law,[4] and considered so important that it is placed at the very beginning of the entire Code of Jewish Law—in the first volume (Orach Chaim), in the first section (siman), and in the very first subsection (se’if). Why is it is placed at the very beginning? For without this precondition, the Jew cannot consistently abide by Hashem’s law. For as soon as anyone says a derogatory word, e.g., by branding him as an “extremist” or a “fanatic,” he will become intimidated, and his observance will decline.

Although this character trait was always necessary (which is why it is included in Shulchan Aruch), in our times it is so crucial that it is the main test of our generation. Now that we face it, we should know that comparatively speaking, if anything this test is the most difficult of all, requiring mesiras nefesh, self-sacrifice, in a sense more than that required of those who suffered physical afflictions for the sake of their Torah observance.[5]

The intense difficulty of this challenge is evident from the Alter Rebbe’s interpretation of the verse (and I have translated it literally, to show how he interprets it): “The man Moshe was exceedingly humble from every man on the face of the earth.”[6] Moshe Rabeinu was shown a prophetic vision[7] of “every man on the face of the earth”—the generation of Ikvesa DiMeshicha. He foresaw how the Jewish people would be tested in general, and with ridicule of their observance in particular, and yet would cling to observance of Torah and Mitzvos regardless. When he saw this, he became “exceedingly humble” from them, i.e., from his high esteem for their fortitude. Despite Moshe Rabeinu’s awesome greatness, he felt genuinely humble and what’s more, exceedingly humble, when he witnessed the trials that we face in our generation.

Based on Sefer HaMa’amarim Melukat, Vol. 2, p. 187.

[1] Sotah 49b.
[2] Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim, 1:1, Tur, Ramo. Shulchan Aruch Admur HaZakein, mahadura basra, 1:3.
[3] Shemos 1:12.
[4] One of the many “duties of the heart” that Torah requires.
[5] Or, as the Previous Rebbe puts it, self sacrifice is the primary area in which our generation excels (Sefer HaMa’amarim 5709, p. 104).
[6] Bamidbar 12:3.
[7] Cf. Devarim 34:2, where Rashi states that Moshe Rabeinu was shown a vision of all the events that would occur to the Jewish people until the Resurrection of the Dead.

This post was dedicated by Avi Turner and family as a merit for Nechama Bas Luba to have a complete recovery.

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  1. This is a gr8 article! I don't know how i subscribed to the emails but HP I really needed to read it-it helped me allot!! very uplifting!! Hatzlocho!


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