There is a tradition from the Vilna Gaon that Milchemes Gog and Magog at the time of Moshiach will last only 12 minutes. In that short amount of time 1/3 of the world will be destroyed, 1/3 severely wounded and 1/3 will survive. Until recently this was incomprehensible – how could such destruction happen so quickly? The answer came with the onset of the atomic age. With nuclear weapons, mass destruction can occur, G-d forbid, in just moments. However there is a deeper explanation. The great baalei mussar explain that this war will not be a mere physical battle, but rather a battle of emunah – faith. This battle will be the final attempt of the forces of evil to conquer the world. The whole world will be thrown into turmoil and our very faith in Hashem will be tested to the utmost. Those who are steadfast will merit seeing the coming of Moshiach. This test will be only take 12 minutes, but it will be overwhelming. If we prepare ourselves now, we will hopefully pass that great ordeal with flying colors.
In truth, our generation is being tested in ways previous generations never imagined. The abundance of wealth, lives of comfort and easy accessibility to the worst sins have shaken our nation. We can only hope for the quick arrival of Moshiach to save us from further deterioration. The Satan knows that his days are numbered, and soon his Domain of Evil will be wiped off the face of earth forever. He is therefore bombarding us with weapons that have never before been at his disposal. How can we strengthen our faith in Hashem so that we can survive his massive onslaught? The chag of Shavuosgives us a great opportunity.
The Foundation of Our Faith
Many years ago in Yemen the Jews were suffering from severe religious persecutions. In order to strengthen them, the Rambam wrote a beautiful letter called Igeres Teiman – the Letter to Yemen. He writes: “It is proper for you my brothers to raise your children on that great event (i.e. the Revelation on Mount Sinai), and relate in public its greatness and honor and splendor, for it is the pillar which our faith stands on…. for this great and massive event which was seen clearly, never happened before in the world’s history and will never happen again. That is, that an entire nation should hear the word of Hashem and see His honor with their very eyes. Raise your children on that great experience!” The Rambam teaches us that to strengthen our faith, we must reiterate to ourselves and our children that we saw clearly – with our own eyes – Hashem’s Glory and Sovereignty, as it says: “You have been shown that Hashem is the only God – there is none besides Him!” (Devarim4:35)
The Point of the Revelation
Continues the Rambam, “The point of this event was in order to give our faith a great strengthening… as the Torah tells us (Yisro 20:17) ‘In order to test you, Hashem is coming, and in order so that His fear should be upon you so that you should not sin.’ In other words, the reason why He revealed Himself in this manner was so that we should be able to overcome any test which may come upon us in the end of days, so that our hearts should not budge and come to sin.” The Rambam is teaching us that this great experience fortified us so strongly with faith that we now have the keys to withstand the greatest tests in emunah in any generation, and especially the ones before the coming of Moshiach!
How is this so? The Medrash Tanchuma (Parshas Noach) tells us that Hashem raised Har Sinai over the heads of the entire nation and threatened to bury them alive if they didn’t accept the Oral Torah. The Maharal explains that this was really a figurative description of what had happened. At that moment, Hashem revealed the inner workings and secrets of the entire universe. From the highest level of the Heavens, down to the deepest depths of the earth, everything was opened to them and they saw clearly that there is none besides Him! At the same time they saw how the entire universe is dependent on our accepting and keeping the entire Torah. This awareness took away any possibility of not accepting the Oral Torah.
Now we understand how the revelation fortified them. Imagine if the Satan had tried to entice them to sin during that great event. He wouldn’t have stood a chance! With the truth staring them in the face no one would even dream of doing something against the Will of the Creator. But how does that help us over two thousand years later, especially if we did not see that great event?
An Eternal Fortification
Firstly, in the Medrash it states that the neshamos, the souls, of the entire nation of Israel until the end of time were present at Har Sinai; every one of us saw this great event. The clarity of Sinai is something that we have inside our neshama. This subconscious awareness serves as a vaccination against sin, as long as we don’t actively smother it.
Secondly, even though we were not physically there, this revelation is something that we know to be the truth. Mamad Har Sinai has been passed down from father to son, teacher to student, generation after generation. In fact, the bible has been translated thousands of times throughout the years, by many of the world’s nations. This testifies that they do not deny anything in the Torah, including this entire revelation. Truthfully, it would be impossible to fabricate such a story and get away with it. You cannot claim that over 1.8 million people experienced such an awesome event if it really did not happen. And because we know that it did take place, speaking about it, discussing it, will strengthen our awareness of the lessons learnt, making it a reality in our everyday life.
And finally, every year on Shavuos itself we can experience once again that great revelation. The Ramchal writes that the same light which shined during past events, shines again every year, on a smaller scale, on that day. Each year on Shavuos we are being given a follow-up dose of emunah!
In truth, both the Ramban and Rambam write that we are commanded to constantly relate this revelation; at least on the day when it happened, let us make a point to do so. On the day of Shavuos let us tap into that fountain of faith, and strengthen ourselves. Let us tell ourselves, and our children, that we are different from the rest of the world, as we saw the truth with our own eyes! Our entire nation merited what none other did; direct contact with Hashem. The more we talk about it and describe it, the more the lessons we learnt will become real to us, helping us to stand up against the Satan. Even if our faith will be tested, we will be able to say, “don’t even try to tell us your lies, we saw the truth with our own eyes!” Through this may we merit to survive the labor pains which we are undergoing now, and greet Moshiach speedily in our days.
About the Author: Rabbi Eliezer M. Niehaus, raised and educated in Los Angeles and subsequently Yeshivas Toras Moshe in Yerushalayim, is the Rosh Kollel of the Zichron Aron Yaakov Kollel in Kiryat Sefer , Israel. He lectures for the public and is the director of the Chasdei Rivka Free Loan Gemach. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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