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Y2K: 2000 Years of the Galus Virus!
By Rabbi Naftali Estulin, shaliach of the Rebbe MH”M
in Los Angeles, California

Lubavitchers always look at events with the willingness to learn lessons in the service of Hashem from these events. What can we learn from all the commotion that surrounded the ushering in of the new millennium? The whole world set off fireworks and went out of their keilim, like the mighty Roman Empire with its wild celebrations in its time. But as Rabbi Akiva noted, “If the transgressors of His will can celebrate like that, how much more so will those who obey His will have cause for celebration!”


As everyone knows, the so-called New Year’s Eve was even crazier this year than usual with the arrival of the secular year 2000. Millions if not billions of people congregated in public places and partied as if it were going out of style. The whole phenomenon brings to mind the Talmudic story of Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Eliezer ben Azaria, Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabbi Akiva. They traveled to Rome to ask for help in abolishing the terrible decrees from which the Jewish people were suffering. Long before they reached Rome, the Sages could hear the noise of the exultant crowds, which was so loud that it carried for 120 miles.

The Tannaim began to weep, but for some reason Rabbi Akiva seemed to be happy.

“How can you be happy at a time like this?” the Sages asked him.

Rabbi Akiva, like any good Jew, answered with another question. “And you, why are you crying?”

“These Kushites bow down to idols and burn incense to the stars,” they replied, “yet they still enjoy peace and tranquility and dwell securely. As for us, our Beis HaMikdash has gone up in flames; how can we not weep?”

Said Rabbi Akiva, “Indeed, that is why I am laughing. If the transgressors of His will can celebrate like that, how much more so will those who obey His will have cause for celebration!”

When a Jew sees the gentile world uncorking its champagne bottles over the year 2000, he cannot help but contrast it to our own almost 2000-year-old exile. Two thousand years of the concealment of G-dliness; 2000 years without the Beis HaMikdash. For almost two millennia, we’ve endured a terrible, painful, and horrifying exile.

Our minds are almost overwhelmed with images of the millions of Jews who have died because of the exile. The bloodthirsty Crusaders wiping out any Jewish community in their path; the Inquisition and the expulsion from Spain; the pogroms of the years “tat v’tach.” Not to mention the victims of the Holocaust.

Then there is the spiritual exile we’ve endured, which in many ways is even worse. The darkness has increased seven-fold in the last few years, with our inability to see the holy visage of the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach shlita with our physical eyes. Every day that goes by is torture. Every moment until we finally behold him ushering in the Messianic era is torment.

These images must wake us up out of our indifference, must elicit from us a tremendous and overpowering longing for the Geula. For that has always been our Sages’ way of interpreting events.

When a Jew sees the goyim celebrating the new millennium, it should remind him of what G-d promised will happen to the holy city of Jerusalem with the Final Redemption (Yechezkel 41:7): “And it will become wider and wider, as one circles higher and higher.” Not only will the noise of its joyous crowds be heard for miles, but the Holy City itself will spread out and expand.

A further lesson is that just as “the transgressors of His will” are not rewarded by G-d stingily or without generosity, we too must have confidence that our reward will be “above all measure and calculation,” in an infinite manner.

The Rebbe once told a story about the famous Chassid Reb Hillel of Paritch, who always avoided saying the mournful Psalm “Al Naharos Bavel” before bentching. Reb Hillel always had a different excuse. Either there was a guest in his house, or some kind of simcha was being celebrated (somewhere in the world). In short, every day was Purim.

But one day Reb Hillel had a problem. There were no guests at his table, and for some reason all the simchos seemed to have disappeared. It looked as if he would have to actually say it. But Reb Hillel came up with a novel twist. “Nu,” he said, “today we have a very important guest with us  Al Naharos Bavel”! It’s only fitting that we say “Shir HaMaalos” to mark the occasion!”

Reb Hillel understood all too well that we are in exile. But at the same time, he did not concentrate on its darkness; he focused on the good that will eventually emerge from its service of “plowing” (as it says in that Psalm, “raze it to its foundation”).

That, in essence, was also the outlook of Rabbi Akiva.

* * *

From the non-Jewish point of view, the so-called millennium really is cause for celebration. After hundreds of years of conflicts between kingdoms and nations, and two World Wars, the world has reached a stage where the Communist menace has disappeared, and most countries at least recognize the need for peace.

Of course, the goyim, for the most part, do not yet recognize who is responsible for this revolution. But, boruch Hashem, we know that it is none other than the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach himself, whose 50 years of nesiyus we are now celebrating. The change in the world is all part of the Rebbe’s function as Melech HaMoshiach, whose role is to bring about the fulfillment of the prophecy: “And they will beat their swords into plowshares.”

A Midrash explains that Queen Esther merited to rule over 127 lands because of the merit of Sara Imeinu, who lived 127 years. For 127 years, Sara devoted her life to transforming the spiritual nature of the world, spreading the belief in one G-d, together with her husband, Avrohom Avinu.

We, the Chassidim of the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach, have been fanning out throughout the world for 50 years, spreading the Rebbe’s message of Redemption. His message, uttered on the day he assumed the nesiyus, is simple: we are the seventh generation, the last generation of exile and the first generation of Redemption.

Thus, as the world turns the page of the secular calendar, we should bear in mind the testimonial of Rabbi Akiva, who said it first and best: “If the transgressors of His will can celebrate like that, how much more so will those who obey His will have cause for celebration!” 


The New York Times Predicts the Future…

The New York Times recently printed an imaginary newspaper page dated January 1, 2100. At the bottom appears the customary reminder to Jewish women and girls to light Shabbos candles 18 minutes before sundown. What a wonderful demonstration of the status of Orthodox Judaism in America. (Indeed, just a few years ago this liberal newspaper predicted the demise of authentic Judaism, ch’v.)



Long before they reached Rome, the Sages could hear the noise of the exultant crowds, which was so loud that it carried for 120 miles...



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