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Our Generation of Greatness

Written by Rabbi Yehoshua Alt, 30/12/2019

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Our Generation of Greatness

We are taught that Yosef and Binyomin cried on each other’s neck over the destruction of the sanctuaries that would be built in their respective territories.[1] The Chassam Sofer[2] is bothered how could Yosef and Binyomin cry if it was Shabbos,[3] as it is forbidden to cry on Shabbos?[4]


Although we recognize how impure and immoral the world is today, we must realize that this also shows our greatness, as we still serve Hashem in such a situation. The אור לשמים[5] (1767-1831) brings from the Sefer Bris Menucha that the expression אם ראשונים בני מלאכים אנו בני אנשים...[6], if the scholars of previous generations were sons of angels, we are sons of men; if they were sons of men, we are like donkeys… applied in their day. However, today where there is so much darkness and yet we strengthen ourselves to serve Hashem according to our ability, we are considered greater than Tzadikim from earlier generations!


The Arizal (1534-1572) once told R’ Chaim Vitaal that nowadays, in the darkness of Galus, even just one crying out or a groan that comes from the depth of one’s heart is like many fasts of earlier generations! The Yismach Yisrael[7] points out that this was in the time of the Arizal. Imagine what a sigh or groan from us today is considered, as the Galus and troubles of today are much worse.[8]


The Beis Aharon[9] (1736-1772) writes an idea he says that are found in many Sefarim. That is, that which Tzadikim from earlier generations worked to attain for days and months, nowadays it’s possible to accomplish this in one hour since the world today is more lowly (This was in the 1700s.).


In explaining why Moshe was so humble—[10]ענו מאד—the Rashab says the following: The Midrash[11] tells us Hashem showed Moshe the Sefer of Adam Harishon in which he saw all future generations from בראשית until תחיית המתים. When he saw the generation of עקבתא דמשיחא—how they are trying to have Emuna and be religious—he was so humbled and said they are greater than me.[12]


Binyomin and Yosef saw all that would happen to us in Galus—which was caused by the destruction of the sanctuaries—and that we would withstand the tests until לעתיד לבא when the Beis Hamikdash will be built. From this דביקות and Simcha they cried as such crying is permitted on Shabbos![13]

Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

[1] Breishis 45:14, Rashi.

[2] Drashos Chassam Sofer, חלק א, דרוש לח' טבת, s.v. ועד"ז אני מיישב.

[3] See Breishis Rabba 92:4.

[4] Unless it is a cry that comes from Simcha and such connection to Hashem. See Orach Chaim 288:2 with the Taz s.v. וכן.

[5] Tetzave, s.v. עוד נ"ל רבוע יהיה. He was R’ Meir of Apta, a student of the Chozeh of Lublin. During the years 1824–1825, he engaged in a range of contacts with Polish authorities concerning police investigations of the Chassidic movement and restrictions on the establishment of Chassidic prayer houses. Through Jacob Bergson, a wealthy Jew from Warsaw, he lodged a formal complaint against the local police, who were impeding his efforts to hold gatherings of his followers in his court. R’ Meir was among the leading Rebbes in Poland. From one police report it is estimated that about 200 Chasidim convened at his court on a regular Shabbos, and on holy days that number rose to up to 600.

[6] Shabbos 112b.

[7] Chanuka, 56, s.v. והסבר.

[8] The Zera Kodesh (Vaera, s.v. וידבר ה') says that one who is on such a low level that he can’t open his mouth properly to speak to Hashem should know that just the desire and yearning to speak to Hashem properly is so significant to Hashem.

[9] Pesach, s.v. אהוביי.

[10] Bamidbar 12:3.

[11] Shemos Rabba 40:2.

[12] This is implied from והאיש משה ענו מאד מכל האדם, Moshe was exceedingly humble from all other people (Bamidbar 12:3), as he was humble because of other people.

[13] Orach Chaim 288, Taz s.v. וכן.

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