[Background: In the previous siman, the Rebbe quoted the Ramban, who says that all the punishments foretold by the Torah occur only in Eretz Yisroel, but once the Jewish people go into exile, their subservience to the nations is enough to substitute for all the punishments. In this siman, he brings a piece by the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh (Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar, 1696-1743) making a similar point.]
[Before beginning the quote from the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh, let us give an overview of his points:
The Torah says in Parshas Bechukosai (Vayikra 26:40-41) “And they will confess their sins and the sins of their fathers, regarding the trespass they committed against Me, and their acting as if everything happened by chance. I, too, will act as if everything were chance, and I will bring them into the land of their enemies, for then their hard heart will be humbled, and then they will atone for their sins.”
The Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh asks two questions here:
1) Why will they have to confess the sins of their fathers? Once a person repents on his own sins, he is not punished for his father’s sins, as the Targum says on Shemos 20:5.
2) After they have already repented, why will Hashem act as if everything is chance and bring them into the land of their enemies? Shouldn’t their punishment come to an end at that point?
He explains that G-d is merciful and often lets sins go unpunished for many generations, allowing the sinners numerous opportunities to repent. In the final years of the First Temple, the prophets rebuked the people, warning them of the exile and the other punishments detailed in the Torah. But the people did not listen, for they said, “Our fathers sinned and none of these punishments came upon them, so what we are doing cannot be so wrong.” Even as their situation became worse and worse, they refused to believe that their misfortunes were punishments, and instead attributed them to chance. Therefore, when they finally repented many years after the destruction, they were required to admit their mistake and say, “Yes, we were wrong to attribute all these things to chance. These were punishments for our sins and our fathers’ sins. We suffered this punishment because we continued in the ways of our fathers.”
The second verse, “I, too, will act as if everything were chance, and I will bring them into the land of their enemies” is actually part of their words of confession. At the time Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jews were sent into exile, they grumbled, “Why did G-d do this to us? If He had to punish us, why didn’t He punish us in our land?” And they added a pious complaint: “If the purpose of the punishment was so that we should repent, sending us out among the nations of the world is counter-productive. We will only get worse there by learning from the ways of the gentiles.” But it was wrong of them to doubt G-d’s wisdom and justice, and therefore when they repented they had to admit this mistake as well, saying, “Since we sinned by attributing our misfortunes to chance, G-d acted measure for measure and brought upon us more punishments that seemed purposeless, such as exile.”
Now for the actual quote from the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh:]
“And they will confess their sins…and I will bring them into the land of their enemies.” This is also part of what they will say when confessing their sins. And from the fact that Hashem requires them to confess this, you can learn that they were wrong for this. A person is wicked for asking, “Why did Hashem expel them from their land and exile them among the nations? If He wanted to punish them for their sins, He should have punished them in their land instead of exiling them among the nations, because that would lead to the opposite of the desired goal. If the goal was for them to improve themselves, when He scatters them among the nations they will become even worse, because they will mingle with the nations and learn from their ways.” This will strengthen their thoughts that everything came upon them by chance [because they don’t believe Hashem would have done such a thing]. Therefore, when Hashem predicted that they would confess their sins, He said that part of the confession would be that Hashem was right for bringing them into the land of their enemies.
He continues at length on this theme. Later on, the Torah says (verse 44): “And also this: when they were in their enemies’ lands, I did not reject them nor revile them to destroy them, to annul My covenant with them, for I am Hashem their G-d.” The Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh comments:
Hashem is giving an answer to the question that troubles everyone who has a wise heart: why should Israel go into exile from their land? Why couldn’t Hashem punish them there in their land? The answer is that because they were brought into the land of their enemies, I did not reject them to destroy them. This is similar to the idea expressed by the Sages in the Midrash on Eichah 4:11, that Hashem took out His anger on the wood and stones of the Temple and the Jewish people were thereby spared. Also, Hashem’s mercy is aroused and conquers the attribute of justice when He sees the great people, the children of kings, downtrodden under their enemies. This lowliness prevents them from being destroyed by the attribute of justice. Thus the Torah says “and also this” – this is another reason why they had to go into the lands of their enemies, because in the lands of their enemies “I did not reject them to destroy them.” That is why I chose this punishment of exile.
These are his holy words, and they are the same as the Ramban: when they are in the land of their enemies, the accusations against them in the heavenly court are reduced, and the attribute of justice does not destroy them. Hashem’s plans are deep.
However, these two pieces by the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh seem to be contradictory. In the first piece, he says that only the wicked question why they have to be in the land of their enemies, and they will have to confess this sin. In the second piece, he calls it a question that troubles everyone who has a wise heart. And besides, the first piece on its own doesn’t seem to make sense – why should a person be faulted for asking a good question that needs an answer?
The answer is that it makes a different how one asks. Certainly every wise-hearted person is upset that we need to go to exile in the lands of our e, nevertheless they believe in Hashem and His holy Torah, and since they see from the Scriptural verses and statements of our Sages (I will soon quote some of these proofs, which are as clear as the sun) that this is what Hashem wants, they do not question His justice. And certainly they don’t say anything contrary to Hashem’s will.
But the wicked are those who speak improperly and audaciously about Hashem and the exile [saying that we are in exile by chance, there is no reason for us to be living outside Eretz Yisroel, and we have to redeem ourselves]. Indeed, the Ohr Hachaim spoke with a prophetic spirit, for today the wicked Zionists are using these very arguments.