Even Impactful Inspiration is Fleeting
The story of Yoshiyahu, one of the kings of Yehuda right before the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash, of him finding a Torah scroll in the Beis Hamikdash, is told over on the second day of yom tov in exile, during Pesach. At that time there were idols erected in the Holy Temple and much corruption, but when Chilkiah the kohen found the scroll and opened it up, reading it to the king, and it was on the portion of the rebuke and blessings in the Torah portion of Ki Savo, King Yoshiyahu had an immense spurt of inspiration and he removed and destroyed all the idols in the Beis Hamikdash. With all his enthusiasm and passion, he inspired all the Jews to repent and remove any vestige of idolatry from amongst them. It was a revolution for the sake of Hashem, led by no other than the king himself!
When Pesach came around that year, the haftorah concludes, “And the king commanded all the people, saying, ‘Perform a Passover sacrifice to Hashem your God, as it is written in this scroll of the covenant.’ For such a Passover sacrifice had not been performed since the time of the judges who judged Israel, and all the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah. Except in the eighteenth year of King Yoshiyahu, this Passover sacrifice was performed to Hashem, in Jerusalem. And also the necromancers and those who divine by the yid’onim bone and the teraphim and the idols and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, Yoshiyahu abolished, in order to fulfill the words of the Torah which were written in the scroll that Hilkiah the priest had found in the house of Hashem. Now, before him there was no king like him, who returned to Hashem with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his possessions, according to the entire Torah of Moshe, and after him no one arose” (Melachim Beis 23:21-25).
The Navi is sticking his neck out and testifying that there was no other Pesach like that year amongst the entire Jewish people since from the times of the Judges, and also testifies that there was no other king and there will be no other king like Yoshiyahu who repented the way he did. What do these pesukim mean, and how could it be for hundreds of years that there was no Pesach like that one on the 18th year of Yoshiyahu’s reign?
The Ralbag answers that this is referring to the end of the Judges, specifically referring to Shmuel. For in his lifetime all the Jews also fully repented and returned to Hashem. And in the days of King Shaul and King David the Jews had private alters, which was the opposite of the Torah’s intent, though they were indeed permitted at the time, and during the days of King Shlomo there were still some private alters and they also made private alters for idolatry. In the days of King Chizkiyahu not all the Jews repented to Hashem, rather some of them were making fun of the words of King Chizkiyahu. However, in the days of King Yoshiyahu, on that year, every single Jew returned to Hashem, and behold it mentions the Pesach done that year because one of the conditions of eating the Paschal Lamb is that a Jewish apostate and the like may not partake in eating it, and only in that year were the hearts of every single Jew with The Blessed Hashem. However, after that they sinned in secret in the days of King Yoshiyahu. For this reason, the pasuk specifies that on the 18th year of the king Yoshiyahu’s reign they celebrated that Pesach solely for Hashem. For this reason [the next pasuk says] “Nevertheless, Hashem’s did not turn back from His great wrath” (pasuk 26), because without a doubt if the Jews would have returned to Hashem with all their soul, then Hashem’s security would have clung to them, and Hashem would have retracted His wrath from amongst them. For this reason also, King Yoshiyahu died with the sin of the nation, for he thought that all the Jews were strictly observing the mitzvos of Hashem and they were deserving for this reason for all the blessings written in the Torah would cling to them, and one of the blessings was that the sword will not go through your land, even the sword of peace. But because of the sins of the nation, he died. (Click here for Hebrew text.)
Imagine King Yoshiyahu amassed a Baal Teshuva movement that inspired everyone to come unify as one to celebrate Pesach properly unlike anything in the past few hundred years. Even in the days of King Shlomo, when there was peace and harmony for the Jews and they had just built the Beis Hamikdash, still with all the wisdom and spiritual heights it was not like that year in the times of King Yoshiyahu. Even in King David and King Shaul’s time they weren’t unified as it was then, since some brought the Korban Pesach on private alters, though that was permissible at the time, but it was not the ideal. If Yoshiyahu caused such a euphoria which had such an impact as it did, then what happened? Why was Hashem’s wrath not calmed?
We therefore learn from this episode in Jewish history that inspiration is still only fleeting, even inspiration which can make such an impact as it did; it still will not last without taking proper steps to maintain it in the long run. Hashem foresaw that this one-time unification for His sake was just that, a one-time deal. And although they only sinned in private while King Yoshiyahu was still alive, they obviously did not take the proper precautions to maintain the great level they had reached, and for that reason they caused the death of King Yoshiyahu (he might have been held on some miniscule level accountable for not creating fences and security systems to ensure they don’t stumble again even though it seems he didn’t even realize that would happen but he should have realized). Indeed, this eventually led, fairly soon after, to the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash.
The Malbim has scary ramifications of what happened based on a gemara in perek Chelek of maseches Sanhedrin. Hashem wanted to make King Chizkiyahu moshiach and Sancheriv would have been Gog and Magog if not for a sin that occurred. Meaning, when the ten tribes were exiled by Sancheriv, if everyone would have fully repented then the Final Redemption would have taken place at that time. After that didn’t happen, there was another chance in the times of King Yoshiyahu, for him to become the moshiach, since everyone in fact did do complete repentance in his days and Yirmiyahu the prophet in fact did bring back all the ten tribes from exile, thinking King Yoshiyahu would be moshiach and everyone for the first time in centuries celebrated Pesach in unity all together. However, it would seem that because the inspiration was fleeting and they didn’t take the proper precautions to maintain the level they were on then, King Yoshiyahu did not become moshiach, the First Beis Hamikdash was eventually destroyed soon after, and the Final Redemption has not happened yet.
May we all merit “Divine” Inspiration and solidify our repentance to the point that we will heed the proper precautions to not go back to our old mistakes again, and then Moshiach will reveal himself, and the Final Redemption will finally come into fruition speedily in our days.
Chag Kasher Visameach,
Rabbi Dovid Shmuel Milder Click here for PDF easy print out.
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In the Times of Moshiach
We recite in Havdala on Motzei Shabbos a couple of pesukim from Yeshayahu perek 12:
|Here is the God of my salvation, I shall trust and not fear; for the strength and praise of the Eternal the Lord was my salvation.”||בהִנֵּ֨ה אֵ֧ל יְשֽׁוּעָתִ֛י אֶבְטַ֖ח וְלֹ֣א אֶפְחָ֑ד כִּ֣י עָזִּ֚י וְזִמְרָת֙ יָ֣הּ יְהֹוָ֔ה וַֽיְהִי־לִ֖י לִישׁוּעָֽה:|
|3And you shall draw water with joy from the fountains of the salvation.||גוּשְׁאַבְתֶּם־מַ֖יִם בְּשָׂשׂ֑וֹן מִמַּֽעַיְנֵ֖י הַיְשׁוּעָֽה:|
The Rem”a says the reason why these pesukim and the other pesukim are read is a siman tov, a good sign for the coming week (See Mishna Berura 296:1).
These pesukim are included in the haftorah for the 8th day of Pesach, which depicts the coming of Moshiach and includes the famous pasuk that describes how lambs and wolves will live peacefully amongst each other as it says towards the beginning of the haftorah , “And a wolf shall live with a lamb, and a leopard shall lie with a kid; and a calf and a lion cub and a fatling [shall lie] together, and a small child shall lead them” (Yeshayahu 11:6). As well as the ingathering of all the Jews from exile and the entire world acknowledging Hashem’s salvation through the kingdom of Moshiach which will bring peace and harmony throughout the world, as spelled out in perek 11. Then in perek 12 it describes the songs of thanksgiving and praise to Hashem, besides these two pesukim which are in Havdala it also says, “And you shall say on that day, I will thank You, O Lord, for You were wroth with me; may Your wrath turn away and may You comfort me” (pasuk 1). “And you shall say on that day, Thank the Lord, call in His Name, publicize His deeds among the peoples; keep it in remembrance, for His Name is exalted. Sing to the Lord for He has performed mighty deeds; this is known throughout the land. Shout and praise, O dwellers of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” (Pesukim 4-6).
The Radak in perek 12 explains that the Jews will thank Hashem because originally, He was furious at us and exiled us, but now (when Moshiach will come) He will calm down and comfort us. Therefore we have to acknowledge Him for removing His wrath and not leaving us in exile, which we really deserve for the sins we committed. The Radak also quotes the Targum Yonasan on pasuk 3 that drawing water with joy is a parable to learning Torah wisdom, since wisdom is compared to water. The teachers are the springs [of salvation] and those who draw the water are the students. They will be learning new teachings as it says, “And then they will learn the knowledge of Hashem, that which no man has learned until now, on that day, as it says ‘Like water of the sea that covers it.’” Then in the next pasuk the Radak relates that with alacrity they will thank Hashem and sing His praise, and call in His Name towards the nations, just as Avraham did. They will sing praises of the greatness of Hashem just as they did at the splitting of the sea for Hashem will be known throughout the land that He rescued a destitute nation from the many powerful nations. The wars of Gog and Magog will also be known throughout the world and for all these reasons it will be appropriate to sing songs of praise to Hashem. (click here for Hebrew text.)
It’s understandable why the Jewish people will raise up their voices in song and praise for the mighty G-d who is Holy and His Name is great amongst the Jews because of the wonders He performed during the wars of Gog and Magog as well as forgiving His children and bringing them back to their homeland from exile. But what connection is Torah learning to all of this? It seems out of place when we are discussing the wonders and miracles of Hashem’s deeds that will take place in the end of days.
However, we see from here that in fact Torah learning is our essence, and the opportunity to gain new clarity in the blueprints of creation and the handbook for mankind is on par with, and as great of a goal as, world peace, ultimate forgiveness from Hashem, the ingathering of the Jews from all the nations, and all the other wonders and miracles that will take place when Moshiach comes.
Pesach is a time of redemption, may it come speedily in our days. May we merit to appreciate the siman tov, good signs, that we have now and will be gaining in the future.
Rabbi Dovid Shmuel Milder
Click here for PDF easy print out.