Opinion: Is it Worth Waiting?

by Rabbi Yisroel Newman

During Pesach of this year, Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman sat down for a conversation that has shook and confused the Chareidi world.

Rabbi Shteinman is a prominent, elderly Rabbi, and is widely respected and considered as the “Gadol Hador” to the Chareidi world, especially in Israel where he resides. As Rosh Yeshiva in Ponovezh, he has written and several compiled scholarly works, including his magnum opus – titled “Ayeles Hashachar.”

Recently, when a law was passed in the Knesset that Yeshiva students might indeed be drafted into the Israeli army, Rabbi Shteinman was one of the many Lithuanian Chareidi Rabbis who protested the law and encouraged his followers to demonstrate.

However, his words in this recent encounter with Rabbi Meir Tzvi Bergman, Dean of the Rashbi Yeshiva in Bnei Brak, have left many scratching their heads in confusion.

Amid their conversation on various topics, Rabbi Shteinman mentioned that awaiting Moshiach is something which is practically impossible to fulfill, and is therefore not an obligation for a Torah-observant Jew.

The shocked rabbi responded that the responsibility of awaiting the arrival of Moshiach is codified in Maimonidies’ Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Melachim, Chapter 11. The Rambam writes that “he who doesn’t believe in the coming of Moshiach, or who doesn’t await his arrival, is someone who denies Torah,” and would be considered a heretic. This is also one of the iconic 13 Principles of Faith compiled by the Rambam, which are central to Jewish belief.

Rabbi Shteinman supported his stance with the words of Hillel (Sanhedrin 99A), that “There is no Moshiach for Israel.”

However, due to the teachings of the Rambam (and more recently the Chasam Sofer), this is a view that is incongruent with Torah Judaism.

Now, Rav Shteinman is respected as “Daas Torah” in the Litvish/Yeshivish world, and beyond. He is consulted with in regards to Halacha, Torah observance and many more facets of Jewish life. His adherents follow his opinions with great pride, and rightfully so.

One could possibly pardon Rabbi Shteinman for being misspoken on this issue, primarily due to his being close to 100 years old. Not to suggest that he isn’t cognizant, as I would highly doubt his followers would refer to him on significant matters pertaining to the Chareidi community if that were to be true.  However, I can only imagine that even the greatest minds will err as age takes its toll.

Nevertheless, this whole saga has surprised and shocked many, even his ardent followers.

Instead of looking for ways to attack a contemporary Torah giant, I think I would rather look to the “Divrei Ben-Amram” – the words of our Rebbe – on this matter.

On Shabbos Parshas Chayei Sara, 5745 (1984), the Rebbe spoke – amongst other things – of the Torah observant Jews who would, in the words of Dovid Hamelech, “discredit the heels of your Moshiach,” and may disguise it in garments of piety – referring to those who believed in the coming of Moshiach, but that its time (Heaven forefend) isn’t now.

They will tell you that eventually the redemption will come, but there’s no rush and no need to harass G-d to take us out of this exile within which we find ourselves.

Additionally, those who do beseech the Almighty for Moshiach’s arrival are making too loud a statement, and we ought to be apprehensive of the world’s reaction.

The Rebbe suggested that when we make requests of G-d, and say “We want Moshiach Now,” this is the opposite of the timeworn theory of having to mold our ideals to be integrated into the world. The greatest expression of this was the Lag Ba’omer parades in honor of the Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai – an innovation that the Chareidi world was defiantly opposed to.

In continuation, the Rebbe pointed out that not only shouldn’t we be wary of making waves in the world, rather we should be striving to peacefully impress upon the gentiles that they have a mission in this world, specifically in the observance of the Seven Noahide Laws, while we fulfill our role through the observance and commitment to Torah and Mitzvos.

In the Rebbe’s imitable way, he was sure that the hesitance from the Torah observant community regarding the imminence of Moshiach was in itself an indication of the arrival of the Redemption, as per our Sages in Yalkut Shimoni.

The Rebbe concluded by saying that this should only strengthen our resolve in hastening the coming of Moshiach, through our personal conduct and in the dissemination of Torah and Judaism to others.

The beliefs may have slightly changed, but the message is constant.

When opinions and outlooks from our fellow G-d-fearing Jews are seemingly not in line with our Torah sages, we must look to reinforce the message of our Rebbe. We must recognize that this is part of the journey itself, and much like the Rebbe, who never diverted an iota from his (and our) goal to expedite the true and ultimate Redemption.

Rabbi Newman can be followed on Twitter @askrabbiteddy, and contacted via rabbi@askrabbiteddy.com.

42 Comments

  • 1. beautifully said wrote:

    accurate, to the point, and dealing with the issue without personal rancor-as it should be

  • 2. declasse' intellectual wrote:

    Perhaps, the Goan was trying to tell us:” careful for what you wish for.” Even the Great Sages from those of the Gemora to Hai Goanto the Rambam and Ranban disagreed to what the Messianic era would be like or what the transition period would be. In this Parsha just read and in the Haftorah for Pesach, we read about those Israelites who were killed trying to go up to the land after the incident with the Spies. The Ben Ish Hai and others warned their punishment, in part, was because they tried to force the hand of G-d for their own purpose.

    • 3. Correct #2 wrote:

      One has to be careful what to wish for, and therefore not make claims as to HOW the days of Moshiach will happen. What we do have to do, is cry out, hope and long for (Achakeh Lo), the coming of Moshiach himself, a person as the Rambam says, and the Rebbe stressed many times that the Halocho is like the Rambam, in absence of any dissenting opinions, including the Raavad, who never shied away from voicing his opinion if he thought differently. Interestingly enough, one may even beg for Moshiach for personal reasons, as the Rebbe writes in a letter, do you not long and yearn to see your father and grandfather etc.?
      As to your point of “forcing the Hand of G-d”, I doubt there is anyone in this day and age who is capable of “forcing” G-d’s Hand. And about going up before the time, it is already high time, “Kolu Kol Hakitzim” the Rebbe said, so there is no fear of being “Dochek Es Hakeitz”. I am sure the Rebbe is as good a Posek as anyone alive today.
      Thank you, YNV.

    • 5. do and don't together wrote:

      exactly-this contradictory attitude which once infected so many people is what the Rebbe spoke about about for many farbrengens when he launched the Mivtza Moshiach-looks like some people still have it

  • 6. reb simche wrote:

    why you pst this before asking the Rav how he meant his Statement? accd. to the Rishonim there are several positive Solutions for the Statement of Hillel.

    • 7. K wrote:

      I think Moran Shlitah knows (at least) a little bit more Torah than any commentator on this site.

      I know that some have trouble accepting that – but difficult as it may be to deal with, that is the reality.

  • 9. K wrote:

    This is the PERFECT example of EXACTLY what loshon harah is. TO publish such slander against THE godol hador and the most senior Rosh Yeshiva of our generation simply undermines kedushas haTorah.

    An attack on such a godol is an attack on Hakodosh Boruch Hu.himself!

    Besmirching a godol is pure kfirah.

    • 10. Gedaliah Goodman Crown Heights wrote:

      This person said such a thing himself. What lashon harah? This person was answered that going against the teaching of Rambam one is a heretic. You don’t like the answer, take it up with Bergman. Even without Bergman’s saying so he is still a HERETIC. Thousands of Yidden were killed and harmed by other so called godolim, like eliahu of vilna R”L. Time to undermine the SHEKER of the torah of these people, their torah with a little t. As usual no names as the comments are again unsure of what to say.

  • 11. declasse' intellectual wrote:

    2) And, then again, there was HaRav HaGoan, the Rashab!

  • 12. SoCal Shliach wrote:

    1) it’s not Hillel it’s R’ Hillel. 2 different people. One a tanna the second an amorah.

    2) I mean the following with no disrespect. Since when did the Lithuanian Gedolim place the conxept of Moshiach as a reality, a physical surety like our Rebbe Zy”a did? By and large they never did. They had one agenda. Learning and building yeshivos. Moshiach was never something they related to.
    3) in fairness did he really say ( I couldn’t understand his whispering) that there is no obligation? I thought he said ( still not good ) that it is very difficult for most people so they don’t really do it. Or similar.
    4) those that know his sforim know that he is a sort of ” out of the box ” kind of thinker. His Toirehs aren’t really if the usual sorts.
    He is the current litvish Godol and from the truly ehrlich ones but still ” their” Godol. Not ours at all.
    I’m not surprised at his shittos.
    5) finally, it’s funny that the questioner, the SIL of one who’s name should never cross our lips was merely seeking to show his arrogant bekiyuss and knowledge in a farvofenneh rashi in nach and never dreamed that r ‘ ALS would say what he did.

    Bottom line, the only ones who are shocked are the Chabad chassidus to whom Moshiach is a reality. It’s not like that in the chareidi world. Never was

    • 14. YMSP wrote:

      Thanks for this – that explanation is more plausible (and yes, it still is bad enough, but at least not open total kefiroh).

      For those criticizing you below, Bergman’s shver was the shoiteh hayoduah from Bnei Brak.

  • 15. CR wrote:

    Arguing the words of one godol (the Rebbe) against another godol (RALS) is a perfectly legitimate activity and is not kefirah of any sort. If your klotz kasha had any merit we would be unable to learn a single blatt of gemara because arguing one tanna or amora against another would “besmirch” them.

  • 16. Wondering wrote:

    Weren’t we also told that if ten people believed in moshiach’s arrival, he would come. It’s fair to say that his opinion that the true emunah is hard to accomplish is not so far fetched

    • 17. Anonymous wrote:

      If 10 people said Ad Mosai with an emes not simply believe in his coming. Belief in moshiach is one of the thirteen principles of faith & that’s not even what he’s referring to; he’s reffering to awaiting his coming.

  • 19. yossi & berel, CH wrote:

    SoCal, shliach,
    As a shliach you should know better, especially in light of the fact that you appear to be a discerning fellow (you picked up the misquote of Hillel when its really Rav Hillel)Anyway, if you don’t like Rav Bergmans shver, you don’t need to, however he actually is a very fine and upstanding talmid chochom and was not “trying to show arrogant bekius”.It was a private conversation.Last week we just read about the meraglim and loshonhora, so please…

    • 20. SoCal shliach. wrote:

      I actually do know better. Probably better than u think it know yourself.

      He is a huge misnaged.
      He is related to many lubavitchers in Israel ( Rosenberg and Bergman and other yerushalmi families) and it’s well known among them.
      He happens to be very arrogant and his son Osher is the one who put out some nasty stuff letters etc if his grandfather. Afra lepumei
      He used to be very friendly with the zaientz family in Brazil and stayed by them.
      Fact is. Rosh yeshivas Rashbi never made it big anywhere notwithstanding a nice Sefer al hatorah. He is a relative non entity so anything he thinks or says never rated.
      I don’t believe covering up those that have hurt or try to denigrate our Rebbe ZYA is loshon horah.

  • 21. a thought wrote:

    I hate to say it, but maybe the Rav is slowing down a bit. He is, I believe, 103. maybe he isn’t always saying what he means or meaning what he says. Because it seems extremey odd.

  • 22. reb simche wrote:

    Rav Steinmann has in many of his maamarim a strong emphasis on Moshiach and bringing him and is always expressing his hope, that he finally comes. as i said before , who knows what he meant to transmit.

  • 23. A Friend wrote:

    In 1989 The Rebbe said “This is the last generation of golus and the first generation of Moshiach”

    A generation is 20 years…..Ut, Ut Koomped Moshiach.

    I love that RAL”S said this, Him and RC”K have sharp wit, I’ve met both of them and all they did was make a smart comment about my beard….

    Unfortunately when the Great Rabbi finally says the truth, his follower’s don’t believe him.

  • 25. Larry wrote:

    Like the rebbe said that the moshiac that they want is not coming and the Moshiac that is coming they don’t want.

  • 26. come on wrote:

    Come on! You don’t understand what the Rabbi Shteinman meant
    To say that you wait for Moshiach: What do you practically do ? do you seat everyday looking through the window?

    • 28. K wrote:

      You are right – most commentators have no idea that they are belittling THE godol hador,

      They are belittling kovod hatorah and degrading kovod shomayim.

      There is a special hot place in Gehenim for such rishoim, together with Korach and Dasan V’Avirom – who belittled the godol of THEIR generation – Moshe and Aharon.

    • 29. Citizen Berel wrote:

      This exemplifies why we do not except your gedolim or your shitos or anything else having to deal with you generally, because you will not see a yidden mention gehinom for other yidden coming from anywhere outside lita.

      If the previous poniviture taught us anything at all, it is that you guys spectacularly bad taste in gedolim.

      We have none other that the words of the nasi hador and by those words do we judge the words of your talmidei chochim — sorry GEDOLEI HADOR! — and most of us know little to none about this one save for that he doesn’t really seem to be very much into the whole ben Dovid thing.

      To each his own I guess, so keep on keeping on condemning yidden to hell. Ya shtik menuval.

    • 30. K wrote:

      The same Rambam who lists Moshiach as an ikar in emunah, also lists ‘s’char v’onesh”, so if you scoff gehenim, you are an apikores.

      Lubavitchers seem to only believe in Moshiach.

      Litvish believe in Gehenim and Gan Eden

      To each his own.

    • 31. K wrote:

      CB wrote words of truth, “most of us know little to none “, certainly most of you know little to none of Torah when compared to the Godol Hador. That is the reality. Yet you dare question him on issues of Torah?! That is comical!

      Reshoim and am haratzim will all end up in gehenim and there they will admit and say, “Moshe Emes v’Toroso Emes”, the Gedolim (Moshe of each generation) are all EMES, and you are all SHEKER.

    • 32. YMSP wrote:

      K, nice to see you twisting his words. He didn’t deny Gehenom (R”L). He took issue with your condemning (in your own mind and not in reality) other Jews to it ch”v and wanted to know what kind of sickness that is.

      As far as Lubavitch, please find me one Litvish who can write with a drop of a drop of the Rebbe’s gaonus on any subject.

      Perhaps you don’t accept HRH”G Pinchas Hirschprung, O”H, who could do the pin test (and was once zocheh to witness him placing a small piece of shaimos, to the best of my memory dacht zich mir it was from Tosefos). He said that anyone who’s gone through Likutei Sichos is a talmid chochom b’emes – a statement that most Lubavitchers would disagree with, but not in relation to most Litvishers (we’d disagree because the Rebbe demanded we learn Gemora, poskim, etc. till every Pnei Yehoshua).

      K, in other threads I’ve seen you defend gitei meuso/muto as valid, which would ch”v cause mamzerus and isurei eishes ish. I’ve seen you advocate for the inhumane removal of kids from their parents R”L L”A VL”A. While I’ve fully prepared to accept SoCal’s explanation re R’ Shteinman, which is bad enough, you’re no Talmid Chochom and one has to wonder if Malkiel Kotler told you to eat pork, if you would, because some of the things that you’ve advocated for are worse than eating that dovar acher.

    • 33. K wrote:

      What kind of a sick human being mutilates a gemarah by sticking a pin through it?

      Hey, maybe you would also do the “pin test” on a sefer totah and see which words got pierced!

      You claim that you witnessed someone pierce a gemorah and you did not tear kriyak?! And then you claim that Rav Hershprung PARTICIPATED in this mutilation of a gemorah by joining the “game”?! SHEKER!!! I refuse to believe it!

      You can say what you want about me, but how dare you be motzei shem rah on shochnei ofar?!

    • 35. K wrote:

      No, he is Klal Yisroel’s Gadol, and either you are part of Klal Yisroel or you aren’t.

  • 37. either misunderstood or oy vey.... wrote:

    to #3
    yes we cant force Hashem to do anything but Hashem CHOOSES to run the world al pi teva Hashem wants us to truly want Moshiach and bring it! it should be BY the tachton moshiach now!!!

  • 38. It's Saturday Night Live! wrote:

    R. S.’s intention, could be that he ‘was speaking to Hashem’, saying, Hay, if this is real, bring it on already!
    (It was worth a shot defending him, No?)

    • 39. CR wrote:

      Agree with RALS or not he is one of the pre-eminent Gedolim in the world today. He needs nobody’s Limud Zechus!

  • 40. Great Dane wrote:

    It seems that the article is misquoting Rabbi Steinman. He’s not saying that one shouldn’t believe, but that no one does really believe. Is that so different from what the Rebbe ob”m said that if 10 people really wanted Moshiach to come, “משיח וואלט שוין דא לאנג געווען”?

    • 41. YMSP wrote:

      Yes, there’s a big difference. One is wanting and working to make it happen, but even when one is lacking in that, R”L, one believes.

      This shows omek misnagid apikorus, even when taken the best way (and may their pinteler yid win over their hisnagdus).

    • 42. K wrote:

      To be an apikores, one needs to be a lamdon, for if not, he is merely an am ha’aretz.

      Chassidim will never be apikursim.

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