Rabbi Mendel Kessin begins part two of his lecture “The Coronavirus Pandemic as a Pivotal Part of the Messianic Process” (given April 22nd 2020) by summarizing part one, the pandemic’s three causes: prevalence of corruption and immorality, frequency and vehemence of loshon hara—denigrating speech which contributes to sinas chinam—baseless hatred, and the world’s obsessive preoccupation with material acquisition and pursuit of pleasure.
Then, he tells us to prepare for a much more profound understanding, one which goes beyond enumeration and consequences of sin. It veers toward understanding the mechanisms of the Divine Agenda itself and how sin affects it. We are also promised the “good news” in terms of how close we are to the Redemption.
He begins with a chazal—scholarly reference within the Meseches Sanhedrin. These revered sages responsible for writing the Talmud, possessed ruach ha’kodesh– prophetic discernment, particularly about the Divine Plan. One of them, Rabbi Yochanan, who wrote the Talmud Yerushalmi says that when the messiah comes, “Let him come, but I don’t want to see him.” That statement, and one not confined to R. Yochanan, refers to the chevlai ha’mashiach– Birthpangs of the Messiah, an era marked by travail and suffering. Most readers presume he refers to predominantly physical sufferings such as persecutions, political upheaval, bankruptcies, even plagues. But that is not what the sages feared.
Someone who aspires to very lofty spiritual fulfillment has a greater fear—that of being seriously deprived of spirituality. They feared me’at ohr—diminishment of spiritual light, justice, righteousness, holiness. Those sensitive to the tenor of the times, noting lacks in goodness, righteousness, and holiness are particularly pained. This warns us what happens at the end of time. It is a time of profound choshech – darkness, an environment they cannot tolerate.
What is it about the Divine Agenda that brings such an era about? The RaMCHaL,—Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto—in his essay on the Redemption, writes that there is such a thing as a shefa—Divine flow of holiness, a Divine energy. It is one of many non-material emanations from what are called the sephiros—the mechanism that dispenses Divine energy creating realities. If that energy were to cease, were blocked, the entire universe would cease to exist.
In the beginning and through early history, these flows were ample, even luxurious, so much so that the flow can be said to have come through a sha’ar—gate. This Gate was open for a long time, particularly during the time of Moses and the Temple eras. The rectification of Creation that is the mission of the Jew, was being achieved through their performance of G-d’s commandments. What can cause, and did cause, the flow to be diminished, to be blocked?
The first inhibitor is sin. As the sins of the Jewish nation accumulated, the Divine “light” dimmed and the Gate contracted. This has consequences for all of Creation, not just the Jews. Sin has three impacts that deprive the Creation of the sustaining Divine light.
The mechanisms for this inhibition is as follows: First, the angel, the Satan, is given access to Divine energy because his job is to “balance the books” between sin and the retribution that brings atonement. He regulates the extent to which justice prevails. As an operative overseeing Creation, the Satan is the prosecuting attorney responsible for bringing sin to the attention of the Heavenly Court, particularly when a person engages in defamatory speech. Until then, his misdeeds are unlikely to be examined. So, when Jews sin, the Divine energy which would have gone to the Jews goes, instead, to the Satan upon which he is yoneg—nourished and grows more powerful. If the Jews repent, they “take back” that Divine flow. Likewise, if they suffer. Both suffering and teshuva—repentance restore the holy energy to the Jews.
What are the consequences historically? The Jews speaking defamatory speech destroyed the achdus—unity of the nation, their access to the energy, and the Temples themselves. Lack of love of one Jew for another is the “killer.” If the Jews have this kind of power to block or diminish this Divine energy, then they have the power to literally destroy Creation. So, what does G-d do?
He opens up chalonos—windows! The Gate is closed but the Windows are open so the Creation can sustain itself because the Divine energy can get in. But once the energy is restricted, “the Jews begin to suffer terribly.” They go into exile, and their holiness, their mazal–fortune is diminished, and the Satan still has access to it. The Jews first went into exile in their own land under the domination of Rome but, later, were “evicted” geographically after the destruction of the second Temple. As the windows began to close due to their sins, not only were they in exile, but the parade of misery from pogroms, crusades, persecutions, inquisitions escalated and what little was coming through went to the Satan.
How far can the windows close? According to the RaMCHaL, the Window will close almost entirely, until the opening is a mere “nanometer” allowing a “slit” of light only. Then comes the time when the Window too will shut. But G-d will not allow total closure. So, at the moment that the Window shuts, the Gate re-opens and that is the beginning of the messianic era, a time referred to as “peckida.” The subsequent opening of the Gate allowing that luxurious flow to resume is referred to as the “zechira.” Both terms mean, literally, “remembrance.” This flow brings the Josephic messiah, the Mashiach ben Yosef, and the beginning of the rehabilitation of the Jews and the restoration of righteousness and holiness to the world.
What we see is the “scheme” about which R. Yochanan knew. The Jews can bring the Redemption–the restoration of the Divine Light–through teshuva, repentance. If not accomplished by repentance, then by suffering. Now we understand why these holy sages did not want to live at this time.
The rabbi briefly mentions, for those who are interested in a Kabbalistic understanding, that the sephira—Divine energy of Yesod—foundation merges with Malchut–kingship. That merger constitutes the pekida, the restoration of Divine flow and the revelation of Mashiach ben Yosef and the start of the rehabilitation of the Jews. “That’s the plan,” the rabbi says, and now we can understand the agony of those who knew it would be a time of spiritual darkness and didn’t want to experience it.
This situation is similar to the Flood. After ten generations, mankind sinned terribly and the Gate shut, and the Windows also were closing. But just at that ignominious threshold of utter annihilation, G-d said, “No” and rather brought the Flood that killed most of mankind but retained the Creation. The rabbi points out that mankind was destroyed not through the deluge but through the asphyxiation of drowning, not unlike the obvious feature of morbidity of Covid-19. Afterward, G-d “swore” that mankind would never again be given the opportunity to shut the Window through grievous sin without the Gate opening, despite having the free will to sin.
The Flood was the only time that man’s free will almost brought complete destruction to the entire Creation were it not for a few righteous people. The rainbow, that symbol associated with the aftermath of the Flood, represents that oath that G-d made to never again give mankind the ability to close both the Gate and the Window. Thus, there was made an alteration in the Divine Agenda.
“Where are we at today?” the rabbi asks. Mankind’s current status is corrupt, the corruption of his nature. “Everyone is into physicality, materialism. Who thinks about G-d, serving G-d, submitting to G-d’s commandments? How many people repent? The amount of loshon ha’ra—defamatory speech is stupendous!” So is the depravity and the corruption of man’s nature—the homosexuality (a topic which he returns to later in his talk)! And what of the devices that make this proliferation much easier? What about the internet and smartphones allowing easy access to the defamation, fake news, and pornography!
When did the severity of darkness really begin? It began with the Holocaust. We don’t know exactly why the Holocaust was the method, “but what I can tell you is what resulted” and that outcome has several notable features:
First, six million Jews died but the number in itself does not reveal the real tragedy. “Every Jewish soul is kodosh— holy. The Jew is a holy being. A Gentile is spiritual in that he has a soul but only a Jew’s soul can affect the spiritual worlds to effect the tikkun—rectification of Creation. As we see from the verse, G-d says ‘I will build them a Temple and I will dwell in their midst,’,” so from this we know that when a group of Jews get together, i.e. when Jewish men pray in a minyan—a quorum of ten participants, the shekhina–Divine Presence, is in their midst and so prayer is augmented, enhanced. When a congregation forms, the Divine Presence intensifies. So, when six million were killed, G-d eradicated the Divine Presence of six million Jews from the world. This he called “extinguishing the Divine Light itself.”
Second, the places that the nazis destroyed were centers of Torah scholarship. Strongholds and places of proliferation such as Poland, Germany, Ukraine, Russia, were wiped out. By doing away with the “cream of Torah,” G-d accelerated the process because “the Windows are closing.”
Why would G-d do this? G-d wants to bring the Redemption but there is a massive debt incurred by the sins of the Jews, a debt which must be paid according to the justice system G-d Himself established. The Holocaust satisfied a great deal of that debt. Whereas such payment would normally have taken five hundred years, it was accomplished in six, from 1939-1945.
Third, we recognize the gradual nature of the closing Window in the many epochs of Jewish life and scholarship and we note the tapering achievements: the era of the Tano’im, one of approximately 300-400 years, the era of the Amara’im 300-400 years, then the eras of the Gaon’im and Achron’im….through these successive levels we see the very gradual nature of waning scholarship.
A fourth and terrible diminution that the Holocaust perpetuated was that G-d Himself was degraded. It was naturally inferred from the deaths of so many Jews that G-d was helpless to protect and save His “princes and princesses” of the Torah, the Chosen People. He must be weak if He can’t save His people.
Fifth: Assimilation, whether by intermarriage, neglect, or lack of affiliation with any sect or stream of Judaism has caused Jews to “disappear.” The Eirev Rav, those leaders wittingly or not, reduce Judaism to a mere culture thereby does away with Judaism as a covenant between the Jew and G-d. Add to that the Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist movements in America and “the Darkness intensifies tremendously.”
Yet another result of the lack of Divine Light is today’s lack of Gedolim—Torah masters or Poskim—adjudicators of Jewish law. “Think about that,” the rabbi tells us. “There are thousands and thousands of students learning in yeshivas but how many are Gedolim? We don’t have any the way we saw even thirty years ago.” Jews no longer have multitudes who are masters of the Torah.
So, G-d wants to intensify the darkness and balance the books, bring the Window down, intensifying the darkness to unparalleled historic levels–and not just for the Jews but for all mankind. What is the device He uses to accomplish this? The Corona Virus.
This virus has many different features: It’s global. It has “invaded the entire planet.” Every synagogue, every yeshiva, every minyan is forbidden to function. A global shut-down of these activities is “bizarre.” G-d has stopped the intermingling of Jews with other Jews. He has shut down the source of kedusha—holiness. Was there ever a Passover when people were alone, or confined to commemorating the greatest event in Jewish history, the Exodus from Egypt, as just a couple or the immediate family present? No communal seders? No extended family get-togethers? In many cases, a person was totally alone.
Another feature is the unusual prevalence of death of many rabbis and Jewish leaders. Tragically, holiness is not only found in a place or even in learning and worship but also in Jewish leaders and teachers. Also, the virus tends to attack and kill the elderly. Elderly Jews are closer to the era of traditional Jewish practice and their loss contributes to the encroaching darkness as per the g’zera—Heavenly decree.
Despite the intensification, mercifully, this virus has spread to 194 countries in less than two months whereas the Spanish Flu, for example, lingered for a year. G-d seems to wish to accomplish His objectives quickly. Another expression of G-d’s benevolence is its relatively low morbidity, particularly compared to the Bubonic Plague or the Spanish Flu. Death doesn’t seem to be the primary objective. It is pachad maves–fear of death that satisfies the judgment because fear of death is a “death-sentence equivalency.”
We know that the last Redemption will be as the first. Let’s compare: The Window nearly closed when the Hebrew nation was redeemed by Moses. The Window was closing when their suffering intensified, when Pharoah decreed they must gather their own straw with which they worked; it would no longer be provided. This virus, for the Jews, is like Pharoah’s decree that Jews will no longer be provided straw. They must gather it all night long and, sleepless, toil. The Window is almost totally shut and G-d says, “Pokod pakaditi”—surely I have remembered you.
Similarly, they were quarantined in their homes when the plague of the death of the firstborn swept through Egypt. That is when the Gate opened and the exodus ensued. But evil resurged when Egypt’s army pursued them to the banks of the Reed Sea. There is always, despite the open Gate, an attempt by evil to resurge and recapture its dominance. But as the Divine Light flowed stronger, the devastation to Egypt’s forces was realized. That was the pekida. The zechira followed with the giving of the Torah at Sinai, that spectacular event stemming from the incremental increases in the Divine flow through an open Gate.
The last resurgence will be the war of Gog u’Magog, a messianic war against the Josephic messiah and a final resurgence of evil to destroy Jerusalem. And just like Egypt, evil will be utterly vanquished and Mashiach ben Yosef will be revealed and he has four “jobs”:
He will bring the Jews back from galus—exile. The rabbi asks how could G-d do that considering the extent to which many Jews are wedded to physicality in whatever countries they live in. “There is a fascinating Gemara,” the rabbi cites, “in which Rav Acha says that the Beit Ha’Mikdash ha’Shlishi—the Third Temple will be built by Mashiach ben Yosef. Imagine if you knew that the Temple just descended from Heaven ‘as a fire’ and the Divine Presence has been restored! Imagine knowing there is now access to an entirely different way of seeing reality!” That consciousness will be revealed as his fourth “job.” Last, Mashiach ben Yosef vanquishes the last remnants of evil within the Gentile world, ushering in the era of the Davidic messiah who reigns as G-d’s representative. it can finally be acknowledged that the Jews have long-suffered for the redemption of all mankind and are the supreme nation for having fulfilled that.
The bad news is that the Window is about to shut. The good news is that it cannot shut without the Gate opening.
“Pokod pokaditi,”–I have surely remembered my people says G-d to Moses in the Torah portion “Vayera” just before Moses demands Pharaoh release his Jewish slaves. The gematria–numerology of that phrase is 780 and we are in the year of the Hebrew calendar 5780. The word “pakod,” has a letter “vav” which is pronounced but not written. Its value is “6,” representing the 6th millennium. “Guess what? That is this year!” says the rabbi excitedly. But for that to happen, the virus has to disappear. And here the rabbi poses a fantastic, yet possible marvel:
“So wouldn’t it be incredible if, on seder night, the 15th day of Nisan, when everybody sat alone–in fact in Israel they said you cannot go out of the house!–Can you imagine? For the first time in history (since ancient Egypt) in Israel and around the world, it is just like what it says in the Torah!” There was a decree to stay indoors as if to avoid the plague of the makas bechoros—plague of death of the first-born. “It is an exact replication of Egypt. So wouldn’t it be amazing, if at chatzos– around midnight, that exact moment that every Jew was in his house–which is the greatest darkness that Jews have ever seen–the Gate opened? Yes! And a half hour later, the Window shut!” In fact, he added, “T’hiye shnas pedkida—it will be the year of pekida, and the Hebrew letters of ‘pekida’ are the numerical values: taf-shin-peh: תשפ (780).”
The rabbi cautions, “One other idea that I must mention and which some people will not like, but it is not I who say this; it is contained in “Medrash Rabah”: The decree to destroy the world was sealed (cannot be overturned) right before the Flood.” Why? A man could marry a man or an animal. True, homosexuality carries a death sentence, but why would it destroy the world? The sin as committed was not simply the abominable behavior (as the Torah describes it); it was its legalization and promotion. Homosexuality and other forbidden unions got a seal of approval through contractual validation. Homosexuality was legalized and made normative. G-d said, “That cannot be.”
What about now? Why is America suffering? Why is the world suffering? According to that medrash, the legitimization of same-sex marriages is being compounded and aggravated by that proud homosexual contender who ran for president until a few months ago. The rabbi is reluctant to utter his name though he was a serious contender. America casually accepted his candidacy and the prospect that, were he elected, he would attend state functions with his husband. What more statutory approval could a nation give to a behavior than to offer it up for election to public office of the most powerful nation on Earth! The pandemic speaks to this because, like the Flood, the virus kills by asphyxiation. The person is deprived of oxygen and “drowns.”
“It is amazing what is happening in Israel. I believe G-d wants to stop the Eirev Rav,” the rabbi continues, end the domination of those Jews bent on “destroying the primacy of Torah and replace it with secularism.” The rabbi exclaims how three elections have taken place and what has resulted is this current government!” The rabbi deems it absurd and explains: Gantz has only about 15 seats yet he has been given equal power to Netanyahu who has 58. Gantz has managed to secure for himself a “co-premiership” and Netanyahu “gave away half the store.” There is a chazal—statement by the sages which says that “two kings cannot make use of one crown.”
When G-d created the universe, the sun and moon were equal luminaries. The moon objected to such equality so the moon was relegated to inferior luminescence to preside over the night. “How can there be a government that has two prime ministers?” the rabbi asks. “And they want to create 36 ministries costing a billion shekel? How could Likud allow Netanyahu to be a candidate for prime minister despite being indicted for three crimes?” Incredulous, the rabbi points out that Likud should have expected Netanyahu’s indictment to make him vulnerable to “extortion, blackmail.” Gantz threatened to put term limits or prohibit an indicted prime minister from continuing his role unless, of course, his terms were met. “It’s a mockery. This is lunacy. That is how desperate the Eirev Rav are to rule.” He likened this government’s configuration to evil’s final attempt to resurrect itself, like the Egyptian army trying to retrieve its slaves.
“The darkness is continuing, the rabbi continues. “The Jews are being stripped of their kedusha and the world is being stripped or destroyed by the virus. The Windows are closing and G-d says, ‘I must end it all because the Gate must open’.”
“Yes, G-d will end it,” says the rabbi. When he opens the Gate, the world will begin to be filled with unbelievable tranquility, holiness, goodness, success, justice. It will be a world we cannot comprehend. This is “forthcoming,” for everyone, not just for the Jews. The Satan will be utterly extinguished. Jewish suffering will end. Mashiach will bring the Third Temple, gather the exiles, and show the world who the Jews really are. He will bring down the shekhina—the Divine Presence. That is what is meant by “The Earth will be filled with the knowledge of G-d (the shekhina) as the waters cover the seabed.”
“You cannot believe what will happen,” he continues. “The entire Creation, the hundreds of trillions of angels, every species of animal, every human…. will be screaming at the top of their lungs, ‘The Jews did it; they did the tikkun’!” The world will enter into a period of incredible tranquility, success, peace, holiness, righteousness. The Jews will be able to “hug G-d and G-d will dance with the Jewish people” and all the nations will exult that the Jews accomplished the rectification of Creation.