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Today, we see before our very eyes the actualization of the prophecies about the period leading up to the redemption.
The evidence that this prophecy has been fulfilled is incontestable. The Jew has become the symbol of wanderings to all four corners of the globe. This characteristic has become so much a part of the universal concept of the typical Jew that it when botanists sought a name for a flower that spread in all directions, it was only natural to call it the “Wandering Jew.” Israel's prophets foretold not only of their coming dispersion and suffering; hand in hand with the solemn warnings of disaster came predictions of redemption and rejoicing. In this area, our generation has an advantage over those of the past. A Jew who was witness to the extensive suffering his people endured fifty, one hundred, or even a thousand years ago, needed unbound wellsprings of profound faith in the future redemption to avoid falling into despair. In those days, there was no concrete indication of the future blessings G-d promised us from which to draw courage. Centuries ago, what served to ensure the average Jew that all these pledges would indeed, one day, be fulfilled? On the basis of pure reason, an unbiased observer would not have found any cause for optimism regarding the survival of the Jewish People. Certainly there was no reason to predict that they would one day prosper and flourish; only an unshakable faith in the veracity of the Bible's verses could provide this ray of hope. Today, this situation has changed radically. We see before our very eyes the actualization of the prophecies about the period leading up to the redemption. What is more, the events which took place in recent years which we continue to witness day after day are not simply extrapolations of existing circumstances. On the contrary, they are a striking reversal of the state of affairs which had prevailed in the Holy Land for nearly two centuries. Let us take just one example. During World War II, Germany and her allies conquered a substantial percentage of the world. Much of Europe, a substantial section of Africa, and strategic portions of Asia were under their control. Their war machine continued to roll eastward over northern Africa. Everyone assumed that it was only a matter of time until the Nazi forces would reach Palestine and crush it. Victory followed victory; their forces seemed invincible. The Jewish population in Palestine of the time cowered in fear. Their leaders proclaimed fast days and gathered the community in desperate prayer, pleading with Heaven to protect them from the butcher of Berlin who had declared he would purge Europe of its Jews. They could imagine only too well what the Nazis would do once they conquered Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as well. Yet the Aryan war machine continued to roll eastward across North Africa, ever closer to its goal, the budding Jewish settlement in Palestine. But He who grants victory in battle or, alternately, imposes defeat, all in keeping with His master-plan for the world, He who grasps the reins of history firmly in His hands, had declared thousands of years previously: “...on Mount Zion there shall be a refuge, and it will be holy.” (Obadiah 1:17) What human being could have predicted that the Germans' spate of conquests would be arrested just when they reached the borders of the Holy Land? Only the Creator, the Master of History, He who determines the outcome of all wars and conflicts. Another point: Could any human mind have foretold that after the devastating destruction of one third of the Jewish People in the Holocaust, the survivors would gather in the Holy Land, rather than any other spot on the globe? Furthermore, who could have predicted the mind-boggling transformation of the Holy Land from barren wastelands to verdant fields, orchards, and citrus groves? No one could have made such a prediction even ten years before the onset of the Holocaust. Only He who grasps the reins of history in His hands could have declared thousands of years ago that “On Mount Zion there shall be refuge, and it will be holy.” (Obadiah 1:17) The Holy Land began to prosper once again. For nearly two millennia, it had lain desolate and destroyed; now it gave forth new life. Gradually, the barren rock and soil were converted by a carpet of green. The slopes were transformed into verdant fields of grain and crops. Wasteland became orchards of trees heavy with fruit. Groves hung with sweet, juicy citrus fruits, and vineyards heavy with clusters of luscious grapes. Today, the visitor to the Land finds it difficult to imagine that these same acres of thriving crops were a desolate wasteland for centuries. This development was also predicted by the prophet long before it became a reality. We read of G-d's command to Ezekiel to prophesy thus in the name of the Creator: And you, O mountains of Israel, put forth your branches, and yield your fruits to My people, Israel, for they are drawing near to coming (Ezekiel 36:8). On this verse, we find that the Sages comment that there is no clearer sign of the approach of the redemption than this. When the land of Israel once again becomes luxuriant with verdant fields and rich crops, we can safely assume that the redemption will not be long in coming. Another indication of the imminence of a new era is the swelling wave of Jewish men and women who are discovering their heritage for the first time and enriching their lives with a new-found knowledge of Torah. The Teshuvah Movement, both in Israel and abroad, gains momentum from day to day. This phenomenon stands in sharp contrast to the trends foreseen by rational and clear-thinking analysts only a few decades ago. To those who were not familiar with the prophecies listed above, and to those who rely on human reasoning rather than the Scriptures, it appeared that Orthodox Judaism would soon be a thing of the past. Tallis (the prayer shawl) and tefillin (phylacteries) were doomed to become mere artifacts of a glorious past which had faded into near oblivion. So, too, would the matzah, the haggadah, and the seder nights of Pesach, the lulav and esrog of Sukkos and the joyful dancing of Simchas Torah, rapidly fade into a fond memory of the older generation. Today we see that just the opposite is the case. The only faction of modern Jewry which is growing more numerous (and by leaps and bounds) is the Orthodox. The study halls of yeshivas (Torah-oriented schools) are fuller and more numerous than ever. What is more, the sons and daughters of those same “realists” who predicted the demise of Orthodox Judaism are returning today to Jewish tradition and becoming avid members of the “doomed” community, bringing it new life and vitality. This trend of a return to spirituality and a renewed bond with the Creator was described over three thousand years ago in the Torah itself: And it shall come about when all these things will happen to you … and you will return to G-d, your L-rd, and you will hearken to His voice (Deuteronomy 30:1-2). The Torah foretells that the myriad travails of the exile, coupled with the straying from the ways of Torah, will bring about a renewal of Orthodox religious observance. One who is standing next to a skyscraper cannot truly estimate its height; he is too near, and lacks perspective. So, too, are we too close to this phenomenon of the mass return to Jewish values to grasp fully its extent and its significance. Nonetheless, we can certainly be aware of the fact that millennia ago, the prophet Amos foretold that this is exactly what would happen to the People of Israel: Behold, days are coming, saith G-d your L-rd, “and I shall cast a hunger on the land; not a hunger for bread, nor a thirst for water, but rather to hear the word of G-d” (Amos 8:11). The ubiquitous thirst for spirituality can be found it all strata of our people. It is not an accidental development or passing phenomenon, but the expression of the collective soul of the Jewish People longing for its former deep bond with its Creator. The prophets foresaw it coming over 2,500 years ago. All these events, and many others mentioned in the Torah, are indicative of the period immediately preceding the messianic era of redemption. We are witnesses to the gradual fulfillment of the dream of generation upon generation of our ancestors. Likewise, we are experiencing the expression of our Creator's boundless love for His people. As His nation treads along the path of history, He strides with us, step after step, marching us forward toward the fulfillment of the destiny He assigned the Jewish People from its inception.
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