Robin Diamond
Robin Diamond

War of antisemitism: Why Now? Rabbi Mendel Kessin

This is an edited transcription of the audio class given May 24, 2021:

Introduction: This lecture is meant as “light guidance” given recent events which have startled and disturbed many. After enumerating some of these events, Rabbi Kessin will offer, as always, an analysis based on hashkafa:

We have been through a war. Hamas attacked Israel, fired rockets at targets they’ve aimed at before, the southern portion of the country and what is termed the “Gaza envelope.”   But this time, they launched rockets at Jerusalem, and unleashed an unprecedented barrage at the center of the country and were able to force the closure of Ben-Gurion airport. Finally, a cease-fire went into effect.

Remarkable events should be taken into account alongside the war. First, there is a changed America since Biden’s inauguration in January of 2020. Add to that the tragedy in Meron and the collapse of the bleachers at the Karlin Stolin synagogue in Jerusalem on Shavuot killing two and injuring over one hundred. Still, there is no stable government in Israel. Efforts to build one seem to be floundering after four previous failures.

Hamas is designated as a “terrorist organization” by America. Many countries see Hamas as such. Yet, America seems to be sympathetic to Hamas. It is not a sovereign nation, therefore, condemnation of Israel for defending itself, especially by America, makes no sense.

One thing G-d seems to be doing is reminding the Jews that America, so long considered the “golden medina,” is no longer.  It’s a warning that even America can turn against the Jews.

Because of the war with Hamas, antisemitism is on the rise, globally. Brutality in the streets,   large gatherings and marches in support of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are happening in America, Canada, and elsewhere. Such unprecedented, emphatic support for terror constrains reason. It is a kind of tapping into that latent hatred of the Jews.

The war with Israel is a pretext for this to arise. The Jew is being reminded that he has no real friends anywhere; he must rely solely on G-d Who wants the Jews to return to Him, as children return to a father.

There are aspects of this war which are incredibly dangerous and threatening. The “Window” whose closure creates the existential Darkness that is foretold, is moving closer to the sill, to that point from the sill’s edge at which point it slams shut and the “Gate” of geulah opens. The brazenness of Hamas in its most recent act of war, its audacity, shows that Israel’s defenses are no deterrence.

Much worse are the blatant murderous rampages of Israeli Arabs. They’ve rioted, tossed Molotov Cocktails, burned cars and structures, assaulted people on the street. They have declared themselves loyal to those Arabs bent on destroying Israel, becoming a “fifth column.” How will Israel defend itself against the possibility, the probability, of an Israeli-Arab revolution?

(Note: most Israelis cannot own a gun, do not qualify for a license. Only Jews living in “dangerous” areas such as Judea and Samaria, can qualify. — author)  Imagine a mob coming down the street with Molotov Cocktails and hurling one onto your apartment balcony or through a window. Whereas there is a cease-fire for the time being with Hamas, there is no resolution for this new threat.

This would not have happened on Trump’s watch. The other message America is sending to the world in its abrogation of support for Israel is its intent to remove the sanctions against Iran and reinvoke the “deal” whereby Iran could, by 2030, build nuclear weapons. This threat can destabilize the Middle East which, in turn, destabilizes the world. The region will feel compelled to “go nuclear.” None of this will be lost on Putin. He may take over Ukraine and China may move against Taiwan.

Civilization continues its descent.

One of the main reasons mashiach doesn’t come is due to the prevalence of loshon ha’ra — harmful speech, slander, defamation, gossip — speech that harms. This causes sinas chinam — baseless hatred. It also allows the Satan to prosecute in the Heavenly Court. We are not judged until we engage in loshon ha’ra. Then our “file” is opened as our deeds are examined.  Loshon ha’ra against another Jew initiates the judicial process, measure-for-measure. Our sins are “on display,” so much so that we require substantial atonement and that stops the mashiach. It is as if G-d says, “You want to speak loshon ha’ra and create hatred? I’ll show you what hatred is…” and the gentile nations are enabled to rise up against the Jews — antisemitism — classic measure- for-measure justice. “You hate each other? The nations hate you,” says G-d, for exposing all your sins to the Heavenly Tribunal.

Do we have a biblical example for this phenomenon? Classic example is Egypt. In the book of “Shemot,” Moses sees an Egyptian slave-master beating a Hebrew slave and so kills the Egyptian and hides him in the sand. The next day, Moses witnesses one Jews beating up another. Moses asks the perpetrator, “Why are you harming a fellow Jew?

“Are you going to kill me the way you killed the Egyptian?” asks the perpetrator.

Moses’s response, “Surely the matter is known” is commonly interpreted to mean that the matter of Moses’s murder of the Egyptian will be told to Pharaoh by this Jew and he, Moses, will be subject to the death penalty. But Rashi, the revered scholar and commentator, interprets it differently. What Moses meant was to express wonderment as to why the Hebrews were so persecuted and were in exile? The matter is known to me that this Jew will not hesitate to inform on me to Pharoah or to the Egyptian authorities. The matter is known to me why they are persecuted and exiled. What the perpetrator threatened goes even beyond harmful speech to become mesira—to inform to an authority. Moses concluded, according to Rashi, that the cause of the Egyptian exile is due to the severe sin of loshon ha’ra. And Moses did have to run away as a result of being informed upon. Because of loshon ha’ra, Moses, the mashiach, had to run from the Jewish people.

Later, when G-d confronts Moses at the Burning Bush with the directive to take His people out of Egypt to redeem them. Moses says he won’t be believed. This, in essence is, loshon ha’ra against the Jews. G-d tells Moses to go to Pharoah, throw down the staff he was holding. G-d changed it into a snake. G-d tells Moses to pick up the snake which turns back into a staff. What does the symbol of the snake impart? It is the Satan who, true to his duty, opened a prosecution upon Moses’s denunciation of the nation. Two centuries later, G-d tells Moses that the nation no longer speaks loshon ha’ra and is, therefore, redeemable. This change is symbolized in the snake that changed back into the staff.

=We don’t know what happened over 210 years that the nation stopped speaking loshon ha’ra, enabling Moses to be mashiach. The topic of G-d’s tapping Moses to be mashiach and Moses’s rebuttal of “they won’t believe me” is expanded upon in the responsa of Kli Yakar in parashat “Shemos,”

Plainly, loshon ha’ra is when ‘A’ speaks derogatorily to ‘B’ about ‘C.’ The reputation of ‘C’ is degraded in the mind of ‘B.’  That’s the simple basis for loshon ha’ra.  Simple, though it’s  responsible for the exile. Loshon ha’ra equals kitrugim—prosecutions. One other potent message we can learn is from the Torah portion at the shore of the Yam Suf—Reed Sea when G-d says, “Stand back and watch what I do. I will fight for you. Be silent. The directive to “be silent” refers to refraining from loshon ha’ra. This directive was G-d’s response to the people’s complaint that they were brought out from Egypt to die in the desert, the Egyptian army in pursuit. That was loshon ha’ra against G-d! They were reigniting the prosecution! The exodus would have been foiled.

Jewish disunity, borne of loshon ha’ra affects the entire world. Learn the laws about what constitutes loshon ha’ra and teach others; it’s a tremendous mitzvah. The rabbi returns to what  the Chofetz Chaim brings down about Moshiach ben Yosef preparing to build the greatest edifice in the universe, the final Beis ha’Mikdash—Temple, the Temple in Heaven, the incorporeal Temple, which will materialize in this world when Mashiach ben Yosef is revealed.

The mashiach asks, “Who would like to donate to the construction of the Third Temple?”  What Jew wouldn’t wish to have his name inscribed on even one heavenly brick? Many would rush to donate. The Chofetz Chaim says, ‘I can give you a way to donate right now!’ Every word, every sentence which avoids loshon ha’ra emplaces a brick to build the Heavenly Temple. That is the End! With that begins the descent of the Heavenly Temple into the physical world. From there, the shechina—Divine Presence goes out into the entire world and ends this nightmare called “galus”—exile.

The precursor to the end of the exile is the end of the Eirev Rav, which is happening. G-d will not allow a government of the Eirev Rav to continue to rule over the nation. The paralysis we’ve seen is a sign that their dominion is weakening.

Q & A:

Participant: So, we won’t get redeemed on account of those who won’t stop speaking loshon ha’ra?

 Rabbi: That is the purpose of the yessurim—suffering, to compensate for those who will not stop.

Participant: But people don’t associate suffering with loshon ha’ra.

 Rabbi: You’re correct. We don’t know how the Jews in Egypt finally realized the connection. Maybe someone went around preaching during that time that Moses was absent. Could also be because of their suffering; it tends to prevent a person disparaging his neighbor.

Participant: How long do you think the suffering will last?

Rabbi: I believe the exile of 2,000 years is so long, and the suffering so severe, that we are at the end. I’m hoping that this year, something radical will happen. Who would believe that America would become another country? Everyone thought it was the Rock of Gibraltar but it isn’t, and is getting worse.

Participant: Do you think it is time to make Aliyah?

Rabbi: You have to be watchful, aware, that dangerous things are happening, both in America and Israel. Hamas broke the ice and rioting was widespread. How do you address the problem of an enemy that lives within your border? Then there is the expense for repeated elections and Iron Dome. The cost of the collective elections has been several billion dollars. The cost of Iron Dome missiles in this last war was approximately 800 million dollars! And the world is screaming at Israel. We live in a fantasy world, those blaming Israel and defending Hamas.

Participant: Doesn’t it say that, right before mashiach comes, the world will gang up against the Jews?

Rabbi: Yes, the War of Gog u’Magog. This situation does qualify as the ultimate conflict against Jerusalem. If this is the case, we are very close.

Participant: What is said about that war that can prepare us for what is coming?

Rabbi: That war, theoretically, is against Mashiach ben Yosef and the Jewish people. The world realizes that redemption is imminent and a war is evil’s final effort to assert itself. It is the equivalent of the Egyptian army’s final pursuit of the Hebrews to the shore of the Reed Sea in a last attempt to recover them to return as slaves. Though Mashiach ben Yosef has not revealed himself, I believe he is alive and preparing to present himself.

Participant: When all the nations go against ben Yosef, the Beis ha’Mikdash came down and all the Jews are in Israel, right?

Rabbi: Theoretically, yes. But you never know; G-d can pre-empt that war. We see that He almost did this with Yehezkiel. When he warred with Sancherev, he was nearly the Mashiach ben Yosef but the redemption didn’t happen because, after his victory, he didn’t sing shira — praise to Gd for the astounding miracle of that victory. The whole enemy army of 183,000 died in one night! So, we never know; G-d can accelerate, pre-empt, or use some other event which is similar.  This global antisemitism could be that war.

I believe something stunning will happen to turn everything around. The critical thing we await is the end of the decree, that the exile has ended. We watch for the bad to bottom out and the curve that things are moving up, the reversal which is unstoppable and irreversible. Totally unexpected. Shocking.

Participant: Why must Redemption be slow?

Rabbi: Let’s go back to Egypt, the model. How long did it take? Took a year. Why? Because the people had to brought up to speed. You cannot bring that holiness without readiness. The preparation at that time was the plagues. For the Egyptians, these were horrible. For the Hebrews, they were revelatory. They were given a glimpse of the sefirot — Divine emanations. The key concept of the Redemption is spiritual revelation. Without it, everyone will die. We’re not talking about a change as in the past, but of a paradigm shift, a different reality. It requires adjustment.

Participant: Is the War of Gog as it has been described, in which there are so many deaths that it takes years to bury all the corpses?

Rabbi: It won’t be that because the severity has been mitigated by other wars i.e. the Holocaust. That war absorbed much of the horror. It served many functions, one of which was to be associated to the suffering required for the Redemption. It already happened. It says that G-d will redeem us with mercy; a slaughter described in the classic description of the Gog war is not merciful. G-d says, “I will abandon you only for a moment and, with incredible mercy, I will gather you.” Mercy is always the suspension of justice. So there will be confrontations but not accompanied by great slaughter. It will be scary but it will not be horrible.

Participant: How could we be scared if we have the Beis ha’Mikdash and Mashiach ben Yosef already? I would feel like “bring it on.”

Rabbi:  For all we know, G-d could do it before we have these. Though I believe Mashiach ben Yosef is alive, he has not yet been given his crown, the yechida of Adam ha’Rishon — that root soul of primordial Adam.

Participant: What then is mashiach doing?

Rabbi: There are two phases: being aware of who he is (like Moses who wasn’t aware until age 80), and then coming out of his klippa — impediment. Remember, his suffering atones for the Jewish people. He must emerge from that suffering and be rehabilitated. He must adjust. This is compared to a sunrise. Before you see the sun, we see dawning light, the consequence of its imminent emergence. Then, the orb begins to rise. Even then, the light is not full. By mid-day, the meridian point shines the greatest light. Same with the Redemption. The Jews will realize, a dawn. Then comes the sun, the mashiach.

About the Author
Robin is a retired Language Arts high school teacher who taught in the Los Angeles Unified District for 25 years. After retiring in 2010, she hurriedly made aliyah in 2011.
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