Here in Jerusalem, everyone’s talking about the approaching Redemption. In my neighborhood, two classes are being given on “the End of Days” according to sources in Chazal and the Rishonim. A woman who just moved to Israel told me that she went to see Rebbetzin Kanievsky, who said to her, “It’s good that you’ve come to Eretz Yisrael now, because the Geulah is coming very soon.” At the entrance to the women’s section of the Kosel, women hand out what I call “Moshiach sheets.” These are two-sided Hebrew pages quoting statements by contemporary Gedolim about the imminent arrival of Moshiach, as well as Talmudic and Midrashic statements describing the advent of the Geulah (sounding like today’s headlines). For example, Rav Dovid Abuchatzera of Nahariya, the grandson of the Baba Sali, dreamed that the Baba Sali appeared to him and angrily upbraided him, “Moshiach has been by you twice, and you didn’t stand up for him.” Since then, Rav Dovid stands up for every one of his visitors.
Thus filled with excitement about the dawning Redemption, I was sitting at the Shabbos table on Shabbos Shmos when my husband delivered a Dvar Torah that turned my anticipation into worry. He was describing how, the day after Moshe killed the Egyptian taskmaster, Moshe came upon two Jews fighting with each other. After Moshe tried unsuccessfully to stop their quarrel, the posek states: “Moshe was frightened, and he said, ‘Indeed, the matter is known.’” [2:14] Of course, we all know what was “known”: that Moshe had killed an Egyptian. My husband, however, quoted Rashi, who cited the Midrash that Moshe suddenly knew that because Jews were fighting with each other they did not deserve to be redeemed.
I felt like the Redemption is a ripening fruit almost ready to fall. Could our divisiveness and discord be a sticky black pitch that keeps the Redemption stuck to the branch?
Two weeks later an article in Hamodia sent me into further paroxysms of doubt. The author quoted Rav Gedaliah Schorr, zt”l, who said that even when things are decreed Above and destined to happen here below, whether or not they actually occur depends on human behavior. Thus the Ramban accounts for the discrepancy between Hashem’s prophecy to Avraham that his progeny would be strangers in a land not their own for 400 years, and the final calculation of the Torah in Parshas Bo that Israel left Egypt after 430 years. Although the Geulah from Mitzrayim was destined to occur after 400 years, Am Yisrael’s unworthiness extended the exile for another tortuous 30 years. So, I wondered, Moshiach is here in Israel now, and he’s visited Rav Dovid in Nehariya twice, but could the Redemption be delayed another tumultuous 30 years because of our infighting?
In November, 2008, Rav Noach Weinberg zt”l went to see Rav Elyashuv, shlita. The Gadol haDor said to Rav Noach (and I heard the words from Rav Noach’s own lips): “The danger to the survival of Am Yisrael is greater today than in the darkest days of the Holocaust.”
So how are we supposed to bring the Geulah? The Midrash (Bereishis Rabba 2:4) states unequivocally that Moshiach will come only in the merit of Am Yisrael doing teshuva. The Gemara offers two possible scenarios: Rav Eliezer says: “If Yisrael repents they will be redeemed—and if not, they will not be redeemed.” Rav Yehoshua, however, insists that one way or another the Redemption will come. Either we will do tshuvah out of our own free will, or Hashem will subject us to a “king whose decrees will be as harsh as Haman’s,” and then in desperation, we will do tshuvah. [Sanhedrin 97b] In other words, the Redemption will come, but whether it comes sweetly or harshly depends on our doing tshuvah.
After the conclusion of the Gaza War (Operation Cast Lead), Rav Moshe Sternbuch, shlita, giving a shiur in Har Nof on Shabbos Parshas Vaera, said: “A great world war is on the horizon, and what we have experienced so far is a mere skirmish compared to what the future holds. … Whoever wishes to witness the Redemption must act now and make substantial changes in their lives. … Now is the time to shake ourselves awake and prepare for what Chazal foresaw would take place b’achris hayaimim, in the days preceding the coming of Moshiach.”
But what exactly are we to do tshuvah on? We could make improvements in so many areas: prayer, tsniyus, the way we treat our fellow Jews. The time is short, and we cannot work on everything. What is the most crucial area to do tshuvah on?
The Chafetz Chaim, in his preface to Sefer Chafetz Chaim, states clearly that the Redemption is being delayed because of the sins of loshon hara and sinas chinum, hatred among Jews. As the Manchester Rosh Yeshivah, Rav Yehudah Zev Segal, z”l, summarizes the Chafetz Chaim’s proofs: “The 2,000-year-old exile is not a continuous punishment for the sins of those who lived during the Second Temple era. Hashem stands ready to end the exile immediately—were it not for the sins of sinas chinam and loshon hora which continue to wreak destruction among our people. … The Chofetz Chaim says that if we analyze our sins, there is only one that can be so powerful as to cause Hashem not to redeem His beloved children—the sin of loshon hara. It is simple logic. If loshon hara, and the sinas chinam which it caused, had the negative spiritual power to destroy the Beis HaMikdash, then certainly it has the power to prevent the rebuilding of the Beis MaMikdash.”
The Chafetz Chaim admits that he wondered how good, frum Jews end up speaking loshon hara, a sin as terrible as eating treife. His answer is that the Satan convinces the would-be speaker of loshon hara that the subject of the loshon hara is an evil person and therefore it is permissible (and even praiseworthy!) to speak loshon hara about him.
Let’s be honest. After decades of the grass-root movement for Shmiras HaLoshon, very few of us would gossip about friends and neighbors. The loshon hara that still thrives in our community (and prolongs our nightmare exile) is usually directed at prominent individuals we don’t know personally or groups of Jews who differ from us religiously or politically. Thus, here in Eretz Yisrael, no self-respecting Jew would say, “Did you hear what just happened between _________ and her husband?” But it is common to hear diatribes against political figures, left-wing groups, and even different Torah-observant factions. And all this many decades after the Chazon Ish poskined that the halachas bein adam l’havero apply to all Jews, not just Torah-observant Jews!
Chazal [Yoma 9] say something that should wake us all up like a splash of cold water on our faces. Although Torah and chesed were abundant among the generation of the destruction, they did not prevent the burning of the Bais HaMikdash and the consequent exile, because the evil of rampant hatred among Jews outweighed the merit of Torah and chesed.
Our generation, too, abounds in Torah and chesed, but they alone are not sufficient to end the exile and its suffering. No matter how we justify, rationalize, and excuse our hatred, it is the ugly black wall that blocks the gateway to the Geulah.
Source: 21 Days of Ahavas Yisroel