Guest post by Rav Mechael Siegelbaum at Mystical Paths
Rav Elchanan Bunim Wasserman, murdered by the Nazis on the 13 Tammuz 5701.
Eighty years ago, Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman, student of the Chafetz Chaim, saw the Holocaust happening before his eyes. In “Ikvasa d’Meshicha” (The Period Just Preceding the Moshiach) he writes:
Israel in exile (from Hashem) is likened to a lamb surrounded by seventy wolves. In this situation, all she can do is to try and make the wolves forget about her. There can be no good for the Jewish people except when the world nations are busy with other things and not concentrating on them. When the goyim start to talk about us and cannot stop talking about us, this is the greatest danger. This is what the angels ask in Shir haShirim (8:8), “What can we do for our sister- the children of Israel- on the day when they talk about her?” (p38)
One of the great challenges facing the generation of the Holocaust was whether or not to heed the call of the Maskilim- the enlightened secularists- who were promoting aliyah to Israel and the building of a Jewish homeland. 'How can this be the beginning of the redemption for which we have longed,' decried Rabbi Wasserman. 'Better to remain in exile with the Torah than to live in the land of Israel without Torah,' he exhorted.
Why does the Torah detail for us events in the lives of our forefathers? “The experiences of our forefathers are a sign to the children.” Parshat Vayishlich, which describes the meeting of Yaakov and Esav upon Yaakov’s return to Israel from Padan Aram, prophesizes, according to the Vilna Gaon, the “Ikvasa d’Meshicha.” The Torah states,”and he placed first the maidservants and their children.” From here the Vilna Gaon (in the book Even Shleima) deduces that in the days just before Moshiach at the head of the Jewish people will stand the “Erev Rav” (the mixed multidude). The Rambam writes in his “Letters to Yemen” that there exists a promise, “And also in you shall they forever believe” (Shmot 19:5, where Hashem promises Moshe that the Jewish people shall forever believe in him.) This means that the Jews will be forever bound to their belief in Torah. If you nevertheless see Jews who deny the Torah, you can be sure that “the feet of their fathers did not stand on Mount Sinai.” They do not descend from the children of Israel but rather from the Erev Rav. If today we see non-believers are the people’s leaders, it bears out the words of the Vilna Gaon that these are the descendents of the Erev Rav.
“After them Leah and her children.” This foretells that the great majority of kosher Jews will then be subjugated to the Erev Rav. For example, the leaders of Russia and another country (meaning Israel).
“And Rachel and her children after them.” These are the Torah scholars who are the lowest of all. Even this phenomenon have our eyes witnessed. Any place where there remains a refuge for Torah scholars, they are mocked and scorned. (pp21-22)
BS"D - בסיעתא דשמיא