19 August 2013

The Day of Hashem - Who Will Survive?

14 Elul 5773

(Originally written 3 Kislev 5765, but it works in Elul, too.)

Turn to Me and be saved, all ends of the earth, for I am G-d and there is no other." (Yeshaya 45:22)

We have a tradition that many prophecies given to Israel were not included in our canon of scripture because they were intended only for the people of their time and were not relevant for future generations. Consequently, it is understood that the record of prophecy which is contained in our Tanakh, even if it describes events long past, has relevance for the future. The language of Tanakh refers to calamitous days of judgement as "The Day of Hashem."

Wail, for the day of Hashem is near; it will come like a sudden attack from the Almighty... Behold, the day of Hashem is coming; [a day] of cruelty, rage and burning anger, to make the land desolate; and He will annihilate sinners from it. (Yeshaya 13:6, 9)

...Hashem, Master of Legions, has a day against every proud and arrogant person and against every exalted person -- and he will be brought low, ... Humankind's haughtiness will be humbled and men's arrogance will be brought down; and Hashem alone will be exalted on that day.(Yeshaya 2:12, 17)

For the day of Hashem upon all the nations is close; as you have done [so] shall be done to you; your requital shall return upon your head. (Ovadya 1:15)

I will set wonders in the heavens and on earth; blood and fire and pillars of smoke; the sun will turn to darkness and the moon to blood [red] before the coming of the great and awesome Day of Hashem. (Yoel 3:3-5)

The Day of Hashem is a transitional period which bridges the gap between the world in its current state of outright rebellion to the messianic era in which the entire world will be at peace, a reality that cannot materialize until all rebels against G-d's Law (sinners) have been eliminated. The way this comes about is completely at the discretion of the Creator. He has not asked for our input, so we do not have a vote in the proceedings. Neither will He be held accountable to human standards of morality and justice for His ways are completely moral and His methods are absolutely just.

This time period will be such a calamity that it is difficult to imagine anyone surviving it, and much less so when we factor in the low spiritual state of our generation. However we are assured over and over that a remnant will survive, but only a remnant:

It will be on that day that the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the House of Jacob will no longer rely on its attacker, but will rely on Hashem, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. The remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the Mighty G-d. For even if your people Israel will be like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of it will return; [for] an intense destruction will surge forth, with justification. For an intense devastation does the Lord Hashem/Elokim, Master of Legions carry out in the midst of the Land. (Yeshaya 10:20-23)

Since we are the generation facing the most critical stage in world history, it's time Jews began to ask the question that the Chr*stians have been pressing on us for two thousand years: "What must I do to be saved?" The answer might surprise you:

And it will be that anyone who calls on the Name of Hashem will escape. (Yoel 3:5)

There will be in all the land --- the word of Hashem --- two portions [of the population] will be cut off and perish, and the third will be left in it. I will bring that third into fire and purify it, as one purifies silver and as one refines gold; it will call out in My Name and I will answer it. I have said, 'it will be My people' and it will say,'Hashem is my G-d.' (Zekharya 13:8-9)

And it will be that anyone who calls on the Name of Hashem will escape for on the mountains of Zion and in Jerusalem there will be refuge as Hashem said, and among the survivors whom Hashem summons. (Yoel 3:5)

Some with chariots, and some with horses; but we, in the Name of Hashem, our G-d, call out. They slumped and fell, but we arose and were invigorated. Hashem save! May the King answer us on the day we call. (Tehillim 20:8-10)

Hashem is close to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him sincerely. The will of those who fear Him He will do; and their cry He will hear and He will save them. (Tehillim 145:18-19)

But there is a caveat to this. "Seek Hashem when He can be found; call upon Him when He is near." (Yeshaya 55:6) No doubt, by the time it becomes obvious what is happening, it will already be too late to change one's fate.

In an indisputable reference to messianic times, the prophet Yeshaya says:

...the fruit of the land will be for pride and glory for the survivors of Israel. Of every remnant that will be in Zion and every remaining one in Jerusalem, 'Holy' will be said of him. Everyone who is inscribed for life in Jerusalem. When my Lord will have washed the filth of the daughters of Zion and rinsed the blood of Jerusalem from her midst, with a spirit of judgement and a spirit of purging.
(Yeshaya 4:2-4)

Note the phrase---"Everyone who is inscribed for life...." This brings to mind an event recorded in chapter nine of Yechezkel's prophecy. It describes the prophet's view of the spiritual reality co-existing with the physical reality at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem and the First Temple:

He [Hashem] called to the man clothed in linen [the angel Gavriel according to commentary], ...And Hashem said to him, "Pass through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and mark a sign on the foreheads of the men who sigh and moan for all the abominations that are done within it."

Then He said to those within my earshot, "Pass through the city behind him and smite; let your eye not spare and do not have compassion. Old man, young man and maiden, children and women, shall you slay to utter destruction; but do not approach any man upon whom is the sign. Begin from My Sanctuary! So they began with the elders who were before the Temple. (Yechezkel 9:3-6)

According to the commentary, this sign on the forehead of the righteous was to protect them from the fate of the sinners. Note how the"righteous" are defined---"[those] who sigh and moan for all the abominations that are done within [the city]." The purge started with the "elders" because they were the ones who had the power to correct the situation before it got out of hand.

...while they were smiting, I remained and I fell upon my face and I cried out and said, "Alas, Lord Hashem/Elokim! Are you destroying the entire remnant of Israel as You pour out your wrath on Jerusalem?" Then He said to me, "The iniquity of the House of Israel and Judah is very, very great --- the land has been filled with bloodshed and the city has been filled with injustice, for they have said, 'Hashem has forsaken the land' and 'Hashem does not see.' So, I too, My eye will not spare nor will I have compassion; I have placed their way upon their head. " (Yechezkel 9:8-10)

In our day, "bloodshed" has its equivalence in terrorism and "injustice" is enshrined in our Supreme Court. The phrase "they have said" can apply to words or deeds which speak as loudly as any words. Besides the fact that we can draw parallels between the matzav then and the matzav today, how do we know this passage has relevance for our time? Chapter 11 makes the connection:

I will assemble you from the nations and gather you in from the lands where you have been scattered, and give you the Land of Israel. They will come there and remove all its detestations and all its abomination from it. I will give them an undivided heart and I will place a new spirit in them; I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh so that they may walk in My decrees and observe My laws and fulfill them. Then they will be a people unto Me, and I will be a G-d for them. But those whose heart follows the heart of their detestations and abomination. I will place their way upon their head --- the word of the Lord Hashem/Elokim. (Yechezkel 11:12-21)

The last pasuk is a qualifier which lets us know that not everyone will receive this new spirit. At the end of days, there will still be those who choose to go their own rebellious way and their end will be like that of the sinners of Yechezkel's own time---"I will place their way upon their head." Why then should we not imagine that the protection of the righteous will also follow the same pattern? Perhaps the following describes the defining event which separates between the righteous and the sinner:

Behold, I send you Elijah the Prophet before the coming of the great and awesome day of Hashem. And he will turn back [to G-d] the hearts of the fathers with [their] sons and the hearts of sons with their fathers [for fear that] I come and strike the land with utter destruction. (Malachi 3:23-24)

This change of heart will 'mark' the righteous---the non-rebel---for survival. It is well-known that both Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach and also the Lubavitcher Rebbe were instrumental to the teshuva movement which has brought untold numbers of Jews back to the path of observance. And further to that are the Discovery programs of Aish HaTorah and the personal endeavors of many unnamed rabbis all of whom together have functioned in the spirit of Eliyahu HaNavi. If so, then how short the time must be.

We do not look forward to the destruction that we know is hurtling toward us like a runaway freight train, any more than a woman looks forward to many hours of grueling labor in the effort to birth her child. But we anticipate the bliss on the other side of that event and hope to survive to see it just as the mother looks past the pain to the moment that she will embrace her child.

The sober reality that confronts us should put us in awe anew of the Holy One, Blessed is He, and of His majesty and power. It should inspire us to redouble our efforts to be counted worthy to survive and to try to inspire those within our realm of influence as well.

May Hashem have mercy on us on the day we call out to Him. Amen!

And at no time is He more approachable than in Elul when "The King is in the field."