B’haaloscha – A Different World

Most commentaries agree that the beginning of this week’s haftorah for B’haaloscha, at the end of Zechariah perek 2, deals with the days of Moshiach and the rebuilding of the Third Beis HaMikdash: “Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for, behold! I will come and dwell in your midst, says the Lord. And many nations shall join the Lord on that day, and they shall be My people; and I will dwell in your midst and you shall know that the Lord of Hosts sent me to you. And the Lord shall inherit Yehuda as His share on the Holy Land, and He shall again choose Yerushalayim. Silence all flesh from before the Lord, for He is aroused out of His holy habitation” (Zechariah 2:14-17).
The Yalkut Shimone on Zechariah quotes the first Medrish Rabba in the beginning of Vayishlach, which sends a comforting message about today’s day and age, culminating in Hashem redeeming us from our current exile: “’Silence all flesh from before the Lord, for He is aroused out of His holy habitation.’ Rebbe Pinchas in the name of Rebbe Reuvain says that there are five times in the first book of Tehillim where Dovid beseeches Hashem to ‘rise up’. (1) ‘Rise up Hashem, save me my G-D’ (3:8). (2) ‘Rise up Hashem in Your anger’ (7:7). (3) ‘Arise, O Hashem, O G-D raise Your hand’ (10:12). (4) ‘Arise, Hashem, let not frail man feel invincible’ (9:20). (5) ‘Rise up Hashem, confront him’ (17:13). Hashem said to Dovid, ‘My son even if you beseech to arise me 1000 times I will not get up. When will I get up? When I see poor people being plundered and the needy crying as it says in Tehillim, ‘Because of the plundering of the poor, because of the cry of the needy – Now I will arise’ (12:6)!  Rebbe Shimon the son of Rebbe Yonah said, ‘Now I will arise’?! Up until now he is inverted in the dirt as if it were possible, but when that day will come as it says ‘arise and sit, O Yerushalayim’ (Yeshaya 52:2), at that time ‘Silence all flesh from before the Lord, for He is aroused out of His holy habitation’ just like a chicken shakes off dirt from its body.” (click here for Hebrew text.)

The RaDa”L on this medrish points out a powerful message: not only are the Jewish people ‘covered in dirt’ in this exile but, as if it were possible, Hashem is also covered in dirt in this exile. This means when ‘He is aroused out of His holy habitation,’ as it says in the haftorah, Hashem will then shake off all the ‘dirt from His body like a chicken, as if it is possible.’ Not only His dirt, but the dirt from His chicks as well.

The Yidei Moshe on the medrish adds that the reason why the medrish says that only now will Hashem rise up, is due to the fact that it is referring to the idea that until the last redemption the Jews had to get their own selves up from exile (through some show of deserving redemption). However, in this redemption, Hashem himself will get them up.

Why is this exile any different from any other exile, and why should we be receiving redemption if we don’t deserve it?

There is a concept in Chazal called yeridas or hiskatnus hadoros. The further away from creation and the receiving of the Torah at Har Sinai, the weaker the generations are. Spiritually, intellectually, psychologically, and even physically. This is the total opposite of evolution; people of yesteryear were able to reach great heights spiritually, becoming prophets until the end of the exile from Babylonia, with the ability to resurrect the dead, which lasted until the times of the gemara. They even possessed the ability to control nature, for example by making the sun and moon stand still. Even the non-Jews, like the Egyptians, had great spiritual powers, albeit spiritually unclean, using real black magic. Intellectually, there was a time when the Oral Law was not written down at all, which means everyone had to learn it and retain it by heart. In the times of King Chizkiyahu, even the children were experts in the laws of spiritual purity. There were 24,000 students of Rebbe Akiva at some point; that  was only his yeshiva; the biggest yeshiva today is not even close! One of the first sources of this concept in Gemara Shabbos 112b, which says in the name of Rebbe Zeira, quoting Rava bar Zimona, that if the first generations were [like] children of “angels,” we are children of men. And if you want to say the first generation were children of man, then we are like donkeys. And not like the donkey of Rebbe Chanina ben Dosa or Rebbe Pinchas ben Yair (who were attuned to mitzvos, for example they refused to eat untithed produce or even to work for a non-Jew on Shabbos); rather like simple donkeys. All this was from the times of the gemara! All the more so now! My Rosh Yeshiva zt”l use to say that psychologically the minds of those in the mid-1900s were as weak as cobwebs, but today we are like tissue paper. Even physically it is unfathomable how the Great Pyramids or even the Beis HaMikdah were built. The abilities of Industry and technology today are great and impressive, but they are only given to us by Hashem as a crutch to supplement our weak physical, intellectual, psychological, and even spiritual prowess.

To this degree Hashem will have mercy on us at the End of Days when He will bring down the Third Beis HaMikdash and bring all the Jews back to Israel from exile, whether it is deserved or not, for he understands the state we are in. He created mankind and history to pan out in this fashion with a plan. It is now understandable that in previous exiles the Jewish People had to show that they were deserving of being redeemed, but in this exile we will be redeemed, speedily in our days, whether we are deserving or not.

That does not mean we can do whatever we want and not bother with doing Hashem’s will; for it is like a POW captured behind enemy lines. If he can keep his posture and dignity until he is saved he will look and feel distinguished when his saviors redeem him. But if he gives up and lets the enemy do whatever they want to him, and he goes with it, when he is saved he will feel and look like an embarrassment and a disgrace.

To sum up, the last Mishna in Sotah says: “Rebbe Pinchas ben Yair says, From the time the [Second] Temple was destroyed, Torah scholars and people of known lineage have been shamed, [social hierarchy has collapsed,] and their heads have been covered, [meaning they hide their faces in embarrassment,] and men of merit have been impoverished, [meaning they have been inconsequential, whereas evildoers dominate.] But strong armed men and slanderers have triumphed and there is none who seeks [to benefit Israel], and none who searches [for Hashem’s mercy upon them] and none who inquires. [There is no person who can offer, or perhaps no one who sufficiently desires a remedy.] Upon whom, then can we rely on? Upon our Father in Heaven!” (I encourage you to see the rest of the Mishna in detail with Artscroll commentary.)