Thursday, November 27, 2008

Guest Posting By Rabbi Ozer Bergman - Alarmists

For better or worse, I am not an alarmist. So when I got an e-mail or two that tzaddikim of various stripes were warning "The End is Near for American Jews! Get Out While You Can!" I was a little underwhelmed. After all, I've gotten e-mails in the past that "Mashiach is DEFINITELY coming by this coming Rosh HaShanah" and, sadly, he didn't. In other words, the track record of alarmists is not an argument to heed any of their warnings.

Mind you, I don't mean to say that their messages should be ignored or summarily dismissed. Rather that current events are fairly inscrutable and people should not hurriedly make life decisions based on what's reported in the e-mail de jour that so-and-so said such-and-such. Did he? Exactly what did he say? In what context? Was he addressing his own congregation/community/adherents or all of Klal Yisrael?

Nonetheless, even Ozer Laidback realizes that what we're witnessing requires a response. The world is certainly undergoing some serious changes, even if those changes aren't leading immediately and directly to Armageddon (you'll pardon the expression). Some of us are old enough to remember the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Communism. Maybe now it's time for capitalism and democracy to fall. After all, despite any personal affinity we may have for them, neither is kadosh or Torah m'Sinai.

That said, please allow me a digression. I want to publicly express my dismay and distress about the reaction of too many people. The reaction and my subsequent distress go back to 9/11. Too many (even one is too many) in our community feel that gloating is an appropriate reaction to America's trials and tribulations, to its suffering and setbacks. This is an un-Torah and even anti-Torah attitude and view.

Our holy Torah teaches us that converts from certain nations, though they become Jewish, may never marry into what is called Kahal Hashem. Some may marry in after a defined waiting period (Devarim 23:4-9). Egyptian converts may marry after three generations because we we were guests in their land. Even though they enslaved, humiliated and beat us for close to a century; even though they drowned millions of Jewish babies, because they gave us a place to stay when we were in need we are not to totally shun them (see Rashi, v.8).

In Sefer HaMidot (aka The Aleph-Bet Book) Rebbe Nachman teaches that it is forbidden to be an ingrate, to a Jew or to a non-Jew (Tefilah A:62). This seems to be based on "David asked, 'Is there still anyone left of the House of Shaul with whom I can do kindness for the sake of Yonatan?'" (2 Samuel 9:1); and on "David said, 'I will do kindness with Chanun son of Nachash, as his father did for me...'" (ibid. 10:2). The Rebbe also teaches that one is obligated to pray on behalf of his host city (Tefilah A:56).This is apparently based on Yirmiyahu HaNavi words, "Seek the peace of the city to which I have exiled you. Pray to God on its behalf because its peace will be your peace" (Jeremiah 29:7).

Whatever the shortcomings and failures of the United States of America in regards to its Jews and the Jewish people, it has been a very, very good home to millions and millions of us. Instead of gloating, we ought to be praying strongly for its protection and prosperity. Amen.

Returning to our initial topic: Mashiach has to come; why not sooner than later? God is shaking things up, and that is certainly part of the unfolding process that will result in Mashiach's arrival—speedily, in our lifetimes. Amen! But in the meantime it is both disconcerting and scary. What can we do get our bearings and overcome our fears of the what the future holds?

Rebbe Nachman recommends holding on to a genuine tzaddik. The Torah teaches that in the Messianic era Hashem will grasp the ends of the earth and shake off the wicked (Job 38:13). But the genuine tzaddik—and those holding onto him—will not be cast off. He/they will survive. Let's work on strengthening our faith in Hashem's unending, loving providence (aka hashgacha pratis), that on the heels of this cloudy whirlwind ride, is clarity and calm. Let's actively seek out the clear wisdom and advice of genuine tzaddikim, past and present, and do our best to live accordingly. Amen.


At November 27, 2008 at 5:00:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An excellent article, Ozer. Can you expand on how we, at our level, can identify today's true tzaddikim?

At November 27, 2008 at 11:28:00 PM EST, Blogger Yirmiahu said...

"Can you expand on how we, at our level, can identify today's true tzaddikim?"

Personlly I'm inclined to say we cannot. We have to look to those whom the tzadikim and gedolim of previous generations recognized as such.

I also think we have trust that the community of shomrei Torah has siyata d'shemaya in recognizing them, or at least that those they consider to be tzadikim and gedolim will have siyata d'shemaya being, in-fact, leaders.

At November 28, 2008 at 7:57:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Regarding recognizing a tzaddik, see here.

At November 29, 2008 at 11:20:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You wrote:

"Too many (even one is too many) in our community feel that gloating is an appropriate reaction to America's trials and tribulations, to its suffering and setbacks. This is an un-Torah and even anti-Torah attitude and view."

Just a PS: here in the American Orthodox community of New York, I have not heard even one person, Chassidic, Litvish, Sefardic, Modern Orthodox, or any other brand of frum Jew, express anything resembling the kind of remark you have mentioned. Its a big country and a free one (thank G-d), so no doubt there is somebody out there who fits the bill, but I haven't met him. And I hope I never do.

Thanks again, Reb Ozer, for being a voice of sanity!

At November 30, 2008 at 8:36:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm glad that the "gloating" is not as widespread as I'd feared.

As for identifying a true tzaddik:

[1] See the link A Simple Jew provided.

[2] I'm far from confident about the tzibur's receiving siyata d'shemaya in identifying true leaders. This is in part based on various episodes in TaNa"KH (e.g., Yosef HaTzaddik and his brothers, Shevat Shimon and Zimri) and in part on more recent episodes in Jewish history (e.g., S"Tzvi y'msh).

[3] I think an individual can identify the tzaddik because Rebbe Nachman taught/advised people to do so. How? With a lot, a lot, a LOT of tefilahm and then some more; studying what they teach, observing them (if possible) and, perhaps more importantly, observing their so-called adherents and their true adherents to determine what sort of impression the candidates make. And more tefilah. b'hatzlacha!

At December 18, 2008 at 1:10:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jews, please relax! I guess surely most of you have heard sometime somewhere of someone called Rav Shimon bar Yochai ? Is this tzaddik great enough for you ? Read below what he wrote and what some other tzaddikim too, namely the Lubavitcher Rebbe and R. Shneur Zalman commented :

Tanya, Igeres Hakodesh 26:
On the verse, “And the wise shall shine like the radiance of the firmament,” [Daniel 12:3] Ra’aya Mehemna [Zohar] comments: With this work of yours [of R. Shimon bar Yochai], which is the Book of the Zohar [...] with those [who study this work] no trial is needed. Because eventually the Jewish people will taste of the Tree of Life, which is this Book of the Zohar, they will go out of exile with it, in mercy. [...] In seeking their Redemption they will not have to resort to the favors of the gentile nations, whose patron angels are known as “strange gods.” Rather, G‑d Himself will lead them out of exile and redeem them.
Lessons in Tanya: The Zohar previously states that at the time of the final Redemption the Jewish people will be put to the test; those who belong to the “good side” of the universe will withstand it, while those who belong to the “side of evil” will not. As it is written,“Many will be refined and bleached and chastened, but the wicked will act wickedly; none of the wicked will understand, but the wise will understand.” The Zohar then states (as above) that those who study the Tree of Life, the Zohar [which the Rebbe explains in our days is contained within the teachings of Chassidus--ed.] will not need to be put to the test.

source: posted by Yaakov Natan at

Now, what's the purpose of all this fear and paranoia for ?

At December 18, 2008 at 5:13:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The GLOATING is coming from the alarmists specifically those from Eretz who used to live in the US. Mind you it is just a few on the fringe but when a setback or tragedy strikes here in America, the alarmists gloat.

At December 19, 2008 at 1:41:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks so much reb ozer and asj for posting this.

i was getting annoyed at some rabbis in israel painting these gloom and doom gog/magog scenarios and giving dire warnings to american jews that they better hurry and get out now while you can.

is it true? i don't know.
is moshiach coming very soon? apparently gdolim in israel say he's very close.

still, to exhort american jews with fear mongering is not the best way to get to them. using words of wisdom, as reb ozer does is much more effective.

i wish someone would tell those rabbis in israel who are fear mongering to hold up and reconsider their goals and tactics.

if they have true ahavas yisrael, which i think they do, then use it to attract jews to israel from the soul, not from fear.

when they fear monger all it does is upset american jews and make them shut down, even shut down towards yiddishkeit, Gd forbid.

thanks again for this.
we need more of this!!!

it's great that reb sears also posted a comment.


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