Relying only on Hashem
G-d Does Not Accept Bribes
Sleeping in Exile
The Order of Shmoneh Esrei
“If you say in your heart: these nations are more numerous than me; how will I be able to displace them? You shall not fear them; you must surely remember what Hashem your G-d did to Pharaoh and to all of Egypt.” (Devarim 7:17)
The Targum and Rashi (Rosh Hashanah 3a) translate the word ki (“if”) in the sense of “perhaps”: Perhaps you will wonder how you can defeat these nations; the answer is that you must remember how Hashem did wonders for you in Egypt. According to this, the second verse is true regardless of whether a person has this question.
But Rabbi Ephraim Shlomo Zalman of Lipna, in his work Orah Letzion, explains that the word ki (“if”) is used here in its simple meaning. Only if and when we realize that naturally there is no way we can be victorious, then the Torah promises that we will not have to fear them, for Hashem will fight for us. But if we think that we can conquer them naturally, then we must really fear them, for then the Hashem will cease to help us, leaving us to the laws of nature.
We find the same concept in a verse of Tehillim (56:4), “On the day that I fear, I trust in You.” When my heart is convinced that there is absolutely no way I can be saved naturally, then my trust in you becomes true trust. On the other hand, if I trust in natural means as well, being uncertain that Hashem will help me, then Hashem may remove his Providence from me. This is what the Torah warns: “If you walk with me with chance, then I will walk with you with anger of chance…” (Vayikra 26:27-28)
This is why Moshe Rabbeinu said to the Jews as they were standing at the shores of the Yam Suf, “Hashem will fight for you and you will be silent.” When you are silent and seek no natural solution to your problem, then Hashem will fight for you. But if, Heaven forbid, you take the initiative and do things that seem to save you from Pharaoh, then Hashem will not fight for you.
In Tehillim 12:2-3 we read: “Until when, Hashem, will You forget me forever? Until when will You hide Your face from me? Until when will I take counsel in my soul? Sorrow is in my heart by day. How long will my enemy rule over me?” In accordance with the above theme, we can explain as follows: The Jewish people asks Hashem: Until when will You forget me and hide Your face from me? Hashem inspires them to reply to themselves: As long as I take counsel in my soul, as long as I keep searching for solutions on my own to save myself through natural means, there will be sorrow in my heart, and my enemy will rule over me.
According to the above you will understand what is wrong with the Zionist idea that the redemption will come naturally. Through this they will, Heaven forbid, only increase Hashem’s anger such that He will remove His providence from the Jewish people, leaving them to be downtrodden and plundered.
The Gemara in Gittin 58a tells the story of how Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya heard that there was a Jewish child in a Roman jail, and he went and stood at the door of the jailhouse and called out the posuk (Yishaya 42:44), “Who made Yaakov downtrodden and left Israel to the plunderers?” The child answered him with the end of the posuk, “Is it not Hashem, against whom we have sinned; they refused to walk in His ways and did not listen to His Torah.” This means that they refused to be guided by Hashem’s providence, but instead sought their own methods of protection. This in turn was the result of not listening to the Torah, which teaches that Hashem takes care of the Jewish people in a miraculous way. After such a wise answer, Rabbi Yehoshua exclaimed, “I am certain that this child will one day be a teacher of Jewish law! I swear that I will not leave until I free him, no matter what the price.” And indeed he redeemed him for a high price and he became the great Rabbi Yishmael ben Elisha.
The Gemara in Berachos 12b quotes the posuk (Yirmiyah 23:7-8), “Behold, days are coming, said Hashem, when it will no longer be said, “By the life of Hashem, who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,” but rather “By the life of Hashem who lifted and brought the seed of the house of Israel from the north land and all the lands.” The Gemara explains that they will not forget the Exodus from Egypt entirely, but rather that the redemption from the last exile will be the main thing. We see here that the miracles of the future redemption will be greater than those of Yetzias Mitzrayim.
Furthermore, Hashem promised us (Yishayah 51:16), “To set up the heavens and to found the earth and to say to Zion, you are My people.” This is a promise that the future redemption, when Hashem proclaims openly that we are His people, will be so miraculous that it will compare with the creation of heaven and earth. Before it happens, the redemption will look impossible, as if it would require a new heaven and earth; yet Hashem promises us that it will happen.
Whoever learns the Torah and internalizes all these promises will not fall into the Zionist trap of thinking that we must make our own efforts to bring about the redemption naturally. (Orah Letzion, p. 28)
And you shall eat and be satisfied, and bless Hashem your G-d for the good land He gave you. (8:10)
The Gemora says (Berachos 48b) that the first three blessings of Birkas Hamazon are alluded to in this verse: “bless” refers to the first blessing, “land” to the second, and “good” to the third, which discusses the Beis Hamikdash. The fourth blessing, “Who is good and does good,” was added by the Sages after those killed in the war of Beitar were allowed to be buried.
In Perek Shirah we learn: “The animals of the field say, ‘Blessed is He Who is good and does good.’ The deer says, ‘And I will sing of Your strength, and praise in the morning Your kindness.’”
Rabbi Yaakov Emden in his siddur explains that the “animals of the field” is a hidden reference to the Jews killed in Beitar. By revolting against the Romans, they transgressed the oath against forcing the end of exile, and thereby incurred the punishment: “I will permit your flesh like the deer and hinds of the field.” (Kesubos 111a) This is why they are called “animals of the field.” They are now living (=chayos) in Gan Eden, and every day they say, “Blessed is He Who is good and does good,” the blessing composed by the Sages after their death. (These words were meant to imply that only Hashem will do good for us in the future; we will not fight for ourselves. See the Hirsch Siddur, p. 703, quoted in Emor, p. ??.)
The song of the deer, “I will praise in the morning Your kindness,” is mentioned immediately afterwards because after the war of Beitar the Jewish people learned not to force the end, only to wait and hope for the “morning,” the end of exile known only to Hashem. (Siddur Yaavetz)
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Rabbi Meir Arik, in a speech at a gathering of rabbonim in Pressburg in 1921, said: “When one Jew wants to do a mitzvah for the sake of Heaven, the Satan tries to prevent it. When a large number want to do a mitzvah, the Satan uses all his methods to stand in their way and ruin their plans. This is because the more Jews involved in a mitzvah, the greater the sanctification of Hashem’s name. When ten Jews recite Birkas Hamazon together, they say, ‘Let us bless our G-d.’ When there are a hundred (according to one opinion in the Mishnah) they say, ‘Let us bless Hashem our G-d.’ When there are a thousand, they say, ‘Let us bless Hashem our G-d, the G-d of Israel.’ And when there are ten thousand, they say, ‘Let us bless Hashem our G-d, the G-d of Israel, G-d Tzeva-os, Who sits on the cherubim.’ (Berachos 49b)
This is true of all mitzvos, and certainly of the mitzvah of settling in Eretz Yisroel, a mitzvah which Chazal say is equal to all other mitzvos (Sifri Re’eh, 12:29). Certainly the Satan uses all his methods to prevent Jews from doing this mitzvah. Therefore it is no wonder that when great tzaddikim like the Baal Shem Tov and the Vilna Gaon tried to come to Eretz Yisroel, they turned back in the middle of their trips. We do not know their reasons, but one thing is clear: that the Satan was afraid that these holy men would come there and fulfill the mitzvos of the land. And even simple, G-d-fearing Jews who want to come to the land and fulfill its special mitzvos run into difficulties and obstacles, and endure much suffering.
And now we see great enthusiasm for the mitzvah of settling in Eretz Yisroel among Jews who are very far from Torah and mitzvos, and a large percentage of them are even known to be open enemies of the Torah. They go up to the land by the tens of thousands, and the Satan does not stand in their way at all. On the contrary, he helps them, and fills them with enthusiasm and strong will. The Satan, through his emissaries, gives this mitzvah very great publicity, for he knows how much he will gain from it. (Recorded by Rabbi Yaakov Teitelbaum in his book Kol Yaakov, pp. 15-16)
For Hashem your G-d is the G-d of powers and the Master of masters, the great, mighty and awesome G-d, Who shows no favoritism and takes no bribe. (10:17)
A religious politician once came to the Brisker Rav to request his approval to take a certain action, promising that this action would bring much benefit to the yeshivos in Eretz Yisroel. The Brisker Rav said, “It is written (Devarim 10:17) that G-d does not take bribes. What does this mean? How could anyone give a bribe to G-d, Who owns the entire world? The answer is that when one strengthens Torah study by giving in on other areas, when one tries to cover up a sin with a mitzvah, that is a bribe to G-d. And G-d does not accept bribes.” (See Rabbeinu Bechaye and Sforno.)
During the fight over the drafting of girls, one rosh yeshiva suggested to the Brisker Rav that the Zionists might be so angry at the charedim’s refusal that they would begin drafting yeshiva boys. It might be wise to be more lenient on the issue of national service for girls, in order to keep the yeshivos strong. The Brisker Rav said, “Heaven forbid to permit the forbidden in order to strengthen Torah study. We find that when the Beis Hamikdash was burning, the kohanim went up on the roof and threw the keys up to the sky, saying, ‘Since we did not merit to be trusted caretakers, we are giving the keys back to You.’ A hand came out of the sky and took the keys (Taanis 29a). So too, if we cannot continue the study of the Torah except by permitting serious sins, then we are not responsible to continue it. We leave Hashem responsible to fulfill His own promise that the Torah will never be forgotten.” (Mishkenos Haro’im, p. 842)
So that your days and the days of your children may be many, on the land which Hashem promised to your ancestors to give them, like the days of the heavens above the earth. (11:21)
A man once asked Reb Moshe Leib Sassover if he should move to Eretz Yisroel. Reb Moshe Leib replied, “The Gemora in Berachos (8a) says that Rabbi Yochanan could not understand how there could be old people in Babylonia, since the Torah says, ‘that your days be many, on the land which Hashem promised’ – and not in other lands. But when he found out that these old people spent many hours in the shuls, he realized that this was the secret of their longevity. The Maharsha explains that a shul anywhere in the world has the same level of holiness as Eretz Yisroel, and thus the time spent in shul is considered like time spent in Eretz Yisroel. So,” concluded Reb Moshe Leib, “if you know that you and your family can live all the time on the same level of holiness as if you were in a shul, then go to Eretz Yisroel; but if you can’t live in a shul, you shouldn’t live in Eretz Yisroel either.” (Chakal Yitzchok, Parshas Shelach, p. 474)
And you shall teach them to your sons, to speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the way, when you go to bed and when you get up. (11:19)
The Gemara (Kiddushin 29b) derives from the word “sons” that only men must study Torah, not women. However, women are rewarded if they make sacrifices for the sake of their husbands’ Torah study, as the Gemara says in Kesubos 62a, quoting the verse (Tehillim 127:2), “Vain it is for you who get up early and settle down late, eating the bread of suffering – so He will give for His beloved sleep.” The Gemara understands this to mean: It is vain for you to toil to earn a living, because G-d gives livelihood to those who deprive themselves of sleep in order to study Torah. The words “deprive themselves of sleep” refer not only to the Torah scholars themselves but also to their wives, who wait up late at night for their husbands to return from the House of Study.
Another interpretation of this verse was given by the Rabbi Moshe of Ujhel, the Yismach Moshe, in his commentary Tefilah Lemoshe on Tehillim. He says that the word “kum” – get up – is used in another place (Amos 5:2) to refer to the Jewish people’s arising from exile. Thus “mashkimei kum” means those who make early the arising from exile, i.e. those who force the end of exile, attempting to end it before the coming of the moshiach. By so doing they are actually prolonging the exile.
Some people claim that even a false messianic movement is a good thing because it wakes Jews up from the slumber of exile, to remember that they are waiting for moshiach. But the truth, says the Yismach Moshe, is that when Jews forget to wait for moshiach, they are actually bringing moshiach nearer, as the Gemara says (Sanhedrin 97a): “Moshiach comes due to a diversion of our attention from him.”
Thus we read the verse as follows: Vain it is for you who attempt to arise from exile early! You are actually “m’acharei sheves” – causing the redemption to come later. And as to your argument that you are waking Jews up – G-d will give the redemption “liyedido” – to His beloved Jewish people – “sheinah” – sleep, that is, when the Jews are sleeping in exile and diverting their attention from redemption.”
And it shall come to pass, if you listen well to My commandments, which I command you today, to love Hashem your G-d and to serve Him with all your heart and soul.” (11:13)
Regarding this verse, the Gemara (Taanis 2a) says, “What kind of service is in the heart? The answer is prayer.” The Rambam (Tefillah 1:1) counts this as one of the 613 Commandments, and adds, “The Torah does not prescribe a number of prayers, a text or a specific time for prayer… Ezra and his court composed the Eighteen Blessings.”
In Megillah 17b, the Gemara goes through all of the blessings.of Shmoneh Esrei and explains the reasons for their order. The advocates of the modern return to Eretz Yisroel point to several of these explanations as proof to their version of the proper order of the redemption, but upon closer examination we can see the fallacies in their reasoning.
Firstly, the Gemara says that the blessing “who gathers in the exiles of Israel” was placed after the blessing over the fruits of the earth because Eretz Yisroel will produce fruit before the ingathering of the exiles. Actually, this is a proof against Zionism. It says that the land will give forth its fruit before the ingathering of the exiles, not that the exiles will come back to the land and cultivate it, causing it to give forth its fruit. This bearing of fruit is clearly not going to be something precipitated by Jewish efforts.
Secondly, they point to the fact that the blessing on the ingathering of the exiles comes so early in the Shmoneh Esrei, long before the building of Jerusalem and the kingship of moshiach. The Satmar Rav has already dealt with this argument in Vayoel Moshe 1:22, and we quoted his words in the Parsha Pearls for Ki Sisa 5766. The Raavad writes (on Eduyos 2:9) that in every exile, there are two times of redemption: a number of years, and a number of generations. When the number of years ends, Hashem takes the Jewish people out from their captivity and subservience to the nations, but for the fulfillment of Hashem’s promises to them they must wait until the right generation has arrived. This is why even after the time came and they left Egypt, they had to wander in the desert for 40 years until the generation destined to enter the Land had arisen. Similarly in the Babylonian exile, they were released from exile after 70 years, but the building of Jerusalem was not completed until 30 years later, in the time of Nechemiah. In the future as well, we will be gathered from all the lands of our exile to an intermediate place called “the wilderness of the nations,” and when the right generation arrives we will go from there to Eretz Yisroel. This intermediate place is described by Yechezkel: “And I will take you out from the nations, and I will gather you from the lands where you were dispersed, with a strong hand and an outstreched arm and poured out wrath. And I will bring you to the wilderness of the nations, and I will contend with you there face to face. As I contended with your ancestors in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will contend with you, said Hashem G-d. And I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into My covenant. And I will filter out from you the rebellious and the sinners against Me; from the land of their sojourn I will remove them, but to the Land of Israel they will not come, and you shall know that I am Hashem.” (Yechezkel 20:34-38)
The blessing in Shmoneh Esrei about the ingathering of the exiles refers to this first stage, when the Jews will be gathered into the wilderness of the nations. This stage comes before the building of Jerusalem. Therefore, the blessing reads simply, “Who gathers in the dispersed of His people Israel,” without saying to where. Some versions of the Nusach Ari have the word “l’artzeinu” – to our land – in the middle of the blessing. The Arizal himself said that this blessing has 20 words, so those versions would seem to be incorrect. And even if they are correct, certainly our prayer is eventually to return to Eretz Yisroel, but the order of the blessings laid out in the Gemora in Megillah 17b relates to their main subjects, expressed in the endings of the blessings, which are the most important part. Here the main subject of the blessing is not the return to Eretz Yisroel.
Thirdly, the Gemara says that the blessing “who builds Jerusalem” comes before the blessing “the sprout of David your servant” because “once Jerusalem is built, David will come, as it says (Hoshea 3:5), ‘Afterwards the children of Israel will repent and seek Hashem their G-d and David their king.’” It seems that Jerusalem will be built before moshiach comes.
The Satmar Rav explains in Vayoel Moshe 1:57 that moshiach’s coming will be in stages. There will be a long period in which he is bringing all of the Jewish people to repent (as per Rambam Hilchos Melachim 11:4), and until he completes that task we will not accept him definitively as moshiach; he will not attain kingship. The building of Jerusalem will take place during that interim period, after moshiach has come but before he attains kingship. The blessing “the sprout of David your servant” refers to the last stage, the kingship of moshiach.
The Rebbe adds that not only will moshiach be here before the building of Jerusalem; many other tzaddikim of the past will be here as well. According to the Gemara, the blessing “restore our judges as of old” (three blessings prior to the building of Jerusalem) is based on the verse in Yishaya 1:26, “And I will restore your judges as of old, and your advisors as in the beginning.” The Yalkut Shimoni on that verse says that “judges” refers to Moshe and Aharon, and “advisors” refers to David and Shlomo. Thus we see that together with the first stage of moshiach’s arrival, there will be a limited resurrection of the dead for very great tzaddikim, to enable them to see and participate in the redemption.
We can add that the blessing “who builds Jerusalem” itself states clearly that the throne of David will be established, and this is an integral part of the blessing. When Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi prepared his famous version of the prayerbook, he brought it to the sons of Rabbi Pinchas Koritzer, who owned the printing business in Slovita. But they refused to print it, because he had made a change in the blessing about Jerusalem. Normally, the blessing goes, “And build it soon in our days an eternal building, and speedily establish the throne of your servant David in its midst; blessed are You, Hashem, Who builds Jerusalem.” Rabbi Schneur Zalman, however, switched the order and wrote: “And speedily establish the throne of your servant David in its midst, and build it soon in our days an eternal building; blessed are You, Hashem…” “Why did you make this change?” they asked him. “Because the rule is that the just before the end of a blessing, before the word ‘blessed,’ we must say the same idea expressed at the very end of the blessing, after the word ‘blessed.’” “There is no need to make any change,” they said, “for our father said, ‘Without the Davidic dynasty there is no building of Jerusalem.’” (See also the Bach on Orach Chaim 118, who asks Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s question.)
The fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Sholom Ber Scheersohn, discusses the order of the blessings in Igros Kodesh 1:130, and reaches a similar conclusion as the Satmar Rav. “Certainly,” he writes, “the coming of moshiach will precede the building of Jerusalem and the Temple, and the building will be done by moshiach. The exiles will be gathered by him, and then his kingship will come; that is the kingship of David. That is why the Gemara is careful with its words and states, ‘Once Jerusalem is built, David will come.’ It does not say ‘the son of David,’ the term usually used for moshiach upon his arrival. This is because ‘David’ is a term for the full-fledged kingship of moshiach, as we see in Yechezkel 37:24, ‘And My servant David will be king over them.’”