14 March 2010

"Thoughts for the Month of Nissan"


Roy S. Neuberger

Dear Friends:

I had the honor to visit Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman Shlita"h in Bnai Brak several days ago. The discussion touched on the name of my late mother's family, "Salant." The Great Rabbi took a sefer and read us a passage concerning the Gadol Reb Zundel Salant ZT"L, the father-in-law of the legendary Reb Shmuel Salant ZT"L. While Reb Zundel was still in Lithuania the infamous Cantonist decrees were in force, resulting in the kidnapping of Jewish children as conscripts into the Russian army. The story concerns a Jewish man who aided the Russian military authorities. Reb Zundel warned this man, "You will go straight to Gehenom unless you stop." But the man continued his nefarious activities.

Years later, after Reb Zundel had emigrated to the Holy Land, he was learning one day. Suddenly, he stopped and yelled, "Get out of here! I warned you! Now it is too late!"

His colleagues, amazed, asked him what had prompted this outburst.

Apparently, at that moment, this Jewish kidnapper had died in Europe. His neshoma, immediately suffering in the furnace of Gehenom, came to Reb Zundel in the Holy Land screaming and begging to the tzaddik for a tikkun to save him from eternal torture! But it was too late. He had chosen his own fate. These words I heard from Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman.

It seems that the fires of Gehenom are real!

We enter the month of Nisan. Pesach is a mere two weeks away.

My friends, we must try to understand that all these events are REAL! Gehenom is real! Gan Eden is real! We are being held accountable for EVERYTHING we do! Our redemption is assured; G-d will certainly save us, as He has promised, but the question is whether we will be among those He saves! As the season of our Redemption approaches, we must be extremely sensitive to the realities of the world in which we live.

As I write, sitting in Yerushalayim Ir ha Kodesh, it is Shushan Purim and the world seems on fire. Chile has experienced one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded; countries around the Pacific Rim are being warned of a tsunami. The weather in Israel is wild! Buckets of rain pour out of the sky amidst lightning and thunder, and then, literally the next minute, with clouds flying overhead at forty miles per hour, the sky opens up in the most brilliant sunshine I have ever seen in Israel. The heavens seem washed clean by the rain and there is not a dust speck in the air! Our driver, Yosef the Tsadddik, says that all the "katrigim," spiritual impediments, have been washed away. From the road near Beit El we saw clearly yesterday the mountains of Jordan, as if we could touch them. I had not ever before realized they were even visible from that spot, although I have driven there countless times! Rivers tumbled down previously-dry stream beds; waterfalls streamed over once-parched cliffs, all under brilliant sunlight. And then, only minutes later, the sky is black again and buckets of water once again pour from the sky amidst thunder and lightning. Back and forth, back and forth, goes the darkness and light, as if these were the days when the forces of good and evil are gearing up for their final confrontation.

And so it may be!

Our cousins, the children of Ishmael, are rioting in the Old City. The nations of the world are trying to draw the net closer and closer around us. Do they care that Israel set up the most effective field hospital in Haiti a few months ago? Do they care that we are Goy Kadosh and Mamleches Kohanim, the Holy Nation? They desire only to complete their age-long efforts to eliminate kedusha from the world.

And we? Do we understand the danger we face?

My beloved friend, Dr. Mori Bank, a man on fire with love of Torah, pointed out an unbelievable passage in Yoel ha Novi. We say in the Haggadah, "dam v'aish v'simros ashan" ... blood and fire and pillars of smoke (3:3). Were "pillars of smoke" found in the days of the Exodus? What is this passage doing in the Haggadah? Rather, according to Rabbi Yisroel Meir Lau, this passage refers to the future redemption, and is specifically a reference to the destruction of the Twin Towers.

My friends, do we understand what times we are living in? Please listen further to the words of Yoel ha Novi: "For behold, in those days and at that time, when I will bring back the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all of the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Yehoshafat," (Yoel 4:1-2) which Rashi explains means "the Valley of G-d's judgment."

The nations of the world are being drawn toward the Land of Israel like moths to a light. They think they are coming - G-d forbid! - for the final destruction of their enemies, but in fact they are being drawn here by G-d for their OWN final judgment, just as Haman came to Queen Esther's feast thinking it was for his glory, but in fact it was a trap for his ultimate downfall! "Rabos machashavos... Many designs are in a man's heart, but only the counsel of G-d will prevail." (Proverbs 19:21) For in the "Valley of Judgment... I will contend with them there concerning My People and My possession, Israel, that they dispersed among the nations, and they divided up My land, and they cast lots [which perhaps hints at Purim!] upon My People!" (Yoel 4:2-3)

My friends, we are apparently in the final countdown. We cannot afford to play games while G-d is rushing toward the "final judgment" of all the world's nations. There is no time for "politics" or sinas chinom. It is a time for teshuva and Torah, for yiras Shomayim and the knowledge that, in the words of Rabbi Moshe Shternbuch Shlita"h (which I heard with my own ears) "only our closeness to the Ribono shel Olam will save us!"

According to Sefer ha Todaah (Book of Our Heritage), "Our sages say, the first of Nisan was crowned with ten crowns: it was the first day of Creation ... the day when the first of the princes of the tribes, Nachshon ben Aminadav, offered his sacrifice (in the Mishkan) ... the day when Aharon began his duties as a Kohen ... the first day of communal divine service ... the first day the Divine Fire descended from Heaven .. the first day the sanctified portions of the sacrifices were eaten only within sanctified limits ... the first day on which G-d's Presence dwelt among the people ... the first day the Kohanim blessed the people with 'Birkas ha Kohanim' ... the first day on which the use of private alters became prohibited ... and the first day of the beginning of the months." (Pages 480-1)

The Mishkan was given to us for redemption after our sins. Pesach was given to us for redemption after we had sunk to the forty ninth level of degradation. No matter how low we may have fallen personally or nationally - G-d forbid! - G-d has promised that He will come to rescue "My People and My possession, Israel." The nations of the world sink in the mud of cynicism and hopelessness, bowing down to idols of wood and stone, material cravings which lead only to the grave. They want us to fall into their fallacies and degradation. But "they slumped and fell and we arose and were invigorated!" (Psalm 20)

It is Rosh Chodesh Nisan, time for the Children of Israel to prepare for the Geulah Shelemah, the imminent coming of Moshiach ben Dovid and the Bais Hamikdosh, which will stand forever in splendor on the Holy Mountain, may we see it soon in our days!

Roy S. Neuberger