The Holocaust and Beyond
Chazal reveal that the maximum amount of time that the world will exist in its current state is 6,000 years. When will Moshiach actually come? Is it possible that we will have to wait until the year 6000?
Rav Sternbuch relates that he once saw a manuscript, from the British Museum's collection, written by Rabbeinu Ephraim, one of the Baalei Tosafos. Rabbeinu Ephraim writes, "Moshiach must come by the year 5700. If he does not, there will be an outpouring of Divine wrath, and we will experience tribulations unlike any we have endured before."
History bas borne out Rabbeinu Ephraim's prophetic words. At the beginning of the year 5700, 1939 - 1940, Hashem's anger was enflamed as never before. World War 2 broke out, resulting in the Holocaust and the brutal murder of six million Jews. How can we ensure that a catastrophe of this magnitude will not happen again?
"Pakod pokadeti - I will surely redeem [the Jewish people]" (Shemos 3:16). Hashem told Moshe Rabbeinu to inform the leaders of the generation, "Pakod pokudeti," for this was the code-phrase that Yosef had taught them (Bereishis 50:25) would signify that the Geulah was approaching (Pesikta). This early warning allowed the Jewish people to prepare themselves for the redemption.
Throughout our history, before each Geulah, we were notified in advance, and this will happen for the final Geulah as well. We are all awaiting that sign signaling the redemption.
In addition, before the Geulah can take place, there must be a birur, a separation of all that is tamei in the world. Once the impurity has been separated from its source, the Jewish people can destroy it. This destruction of all tumah in the world is the final step before the Geulah can take place.
Stage 1 - Entering Crimea
What is the sign of the future Geulah and where will the final birur of tumah take place? Chazal state, "When you see the nations of the world provoking one another, you can look forward to the coming of Moshiach" Bereishis Rabbah 42:4). There have been countless battles and wars over the past 2,000 years. Which one will signal the approach of the Geulah?
The Vilna Gaon answers this question.
There is a clear mesorah from the Gaon that before the arrival of Moshiach, Russia will be a superpower. It will become so dominant that it will be feared by all the nations of the world.
Tumah is characterized by klipos, literally "husks of impurity," which try to cover up and destroy kedushah. The Vilna Gaon explains that the Russian nation stems from a klipah of tumah called "Dubiel," which descends from Paras (Persia) and Edom. When the klipah of Dubiel is at its peak, Russia can attack and defeat other nations.
The Vilna Gaon revealed that when the Russian nation enters Crimea (formerly part of Ukraine), this is a sign that Russia has reached a peak. The klipah of Dubiel has strengthened Russia to its maximum level, and the time has come to rid the world of this klipah of tumah. In the words of the Vilna Gaon, such an invasion serves as "the bells of Moshiach." for it is the harbinger of the Geulah, which is ripe to occur.
Stage 2 - Entering Istanbul
There is a second mesorah from the Vilna Gaon about a later stage of the Geulah. He said that when Russian forces enter the gates of Constantinople (i.e., Istanbul, Turkey), one should put on one's Shabbos clothing, for this is a sign that Moshiach's arrival is imminent, and everyone should strengthen himself to hasten his corning. Not long ago, Turkey shot down a Russian plane that was flying over its airspace. It is illogical to think that the Turks would dare to take on Russia, a country many times more powerful. Hashem is making this happen to show US how close the Geulah is.
There is another sign that now is a time that is ripe for Geulah: Chazal inform us, "During the year after Shemitah, Ben David will come" (Sanhedrin 97a). If we think about everything that has transpired, it is clear that everything is in place for the final redemption.
In Our Hands
Even with all of the clear indications that Moshiach is ready to come, we must be careful not to fall into the erroneous belief that this means that Moshiach will definitely come now. All of these events are merely "signs" that the time is ripe for the final redemption. Whether the Geulah will come or not is up to us.
Before the redemption from Mitzrayim could take place, the Jewish people needed to perform an act of mesirus nefesh, self-sacrifice. In Mitzrayim, this was the taking of a lamb, the god of the Egyptians, to offer as a Korban Pesach. Afterward, when we were confronted by the Egyptian army, Nachshon ben Aminadav showed the highest level of
emunah when he jumped fearlessly into the sea.
If we want to experience the Geulah, we need mesirus nefesh as well. Especially with the breakdown of morality in today's society, we need to be extra vigilant. We must literally be moser nefesb to shelter ourselves and our families from the rampant immorality that surrounds us.
Each person must analyze his own life and uncover the areas that he needs to work on. The fact that this is difficult is not an excuse. In fact, the more difficult it is, the more one is connecting oneself to the mesirus nefesh necessary to bring the Geulah.
Invest in Your Business
The Gemara writes that whoever wants to be spared from chevlei Moshiach should involve himself - "yaasok" - in Torah and gemillus chassadim (Sanhedrin 98a). The word yaasok is related to the word eisek. which means a business. What is Chazal’s deeper message here?
Creating a successful business requires a significant outlay of money, time and effort. The more a person invests in it, the better the chance that his operation will grow. However, if he does not invest, it is unlikely that his business will flourish.
In Birkas HaTorah, we say "la'asok bedivrei Sarah." The Chofetz Chaim explains that in order for a person to succeed in Torah, he has to treat it as he would his business. A person who puts the same amount of time, money and effort into Torah as businessmen put into their companies is on the correct path toward becoming a true talmid chochom.
Chazal instructed us that in order to be saved from chevlei Moshiach, we need to involve ourselves deeply in Torah and gemillus chassadim. The mesirus nefesh we need in order to be spared from the great tribulations that accompany the Geulah is to make a paradigm shift in our approach to these mitzvos. We should start today to diversify our assets and to invest more time, money and effort into our Torah and chessed.
"Kol dodi dofek." Hashem is knocking on the door and asking us to let Him in. "He leaps over the mountains and jumps over the hills" (Shir Hashirim 2:8). Leaping over mountains and hills implies skipping the normal progression of redemption, the full force of chevlei Moshiach.
What will happen if, chas veshalom, we do not heed these signs and arouse ourselves to do Teshuvah? Then we will have lost the opportunity, and we may have to suffer even more of the intense tribulations that Chazal describe as chevlei Moshiach.
We are now at a crossroads. At this time, if we return to Hashem in sincere Teshuvah, we can be spared more chevlei Moshiach. The Zohar states that before the final redemption, we will suffer under the hand of Yishmoel, and that is exactly what we are seeing today. If we learn from what is happening, we will be able to avoid other tzaros, but if we remain in a state of slumber and forfeit this opportunity, we will be giving Hashem no choice but to bring the final redemption by force. We could see attacks from Yishmoel on the scale of the Holocaust and, chas veshalom, even greater. Rather than experiencing this catastrophe, let us purify ourselves and our homes to greet Moshiach Tzidkeinu speedily in our days.