The Jewish Eye
Rav Elchonon On Klal Yisroel's Collective Punishment In Troubled Times
Can we be punished for the aveiros of our ancestors? Is there reward in this world? These are two fundamental questions that Rav Elchonon grappled with in the period where the Nazi beast was let loose and about to wreak havoc on the Jewish nation. There are vast contradictions in the Torah and Chazal on both these topics.
On one hand, its says that Hashem will only punish a person's aveiros for four generations. On the other hand, the Torah vows that until the coming of Moshiach we will continue to pay for the Chait HaEigel and the Avodah Zara committed after Yehoshua's death. We also know that the Galus Bavel lasted 70 years as a punishment for the 70 Shemittos not observed starting almost 500 years earlier.
With regard to reward in this world, Chazal say (Kedushin 39b) it doesn't exist, only in the Olam Haba. On the other hand the Torah is full of promises of bracha if we keep the mitzvos.
Rav Elchonon says that we need to distinguish between the Yachid - the individual, and the Klal - Am Yisroel as a group. An individual can receive his punishment either in this world, or the next, or both. Therefore we can see a Tzaddik suffer and a Rasha prosper. However the Klal is judged collectively and receives Bracha or Klala only in this world. A good generation will know no evil and a bad one will absorb the wrath stemming from the failure of all the generations in history, as judgement of the nation is taken without regard to past or present. We are all one, spanning across the boundaries of time.
Form Rav Elchonon's words we clearly see that in any generation that the entire generation suffers, it is not the fault of the Dor HaMidbar nor is it the fault of the Dor HaMabul or the Dor HaFlaga. We need to collectively look in the mirror and find our blemished and fix them. If we do this, then we cannot be punished, and in the blink of an eye all will be rosy. It is as simple as that!
Reb Elchonon Wasserman Hy"d was a Talmid and the successor to the Chofetz Chaim. His voice was Da'as Torah for the generation that was led into to the abyss of the Holocaust. He was a Navi L'Hashem, preaching and beseeching the people to do tshuvah and avert the disaster that ultimately struck. He fought like a lion against the prevailing views o his day, which dismissed Torah as irrelevant and an icon of the past.
Despite his ominous warnings and clear vision about the impending disaster, although he was safely on the shores of the US for a fundraising trip and was beseeched not to go back to Europe, he insisted on being with his Yeshiva where he ultimately met a heroes death, butchered by the Nazis Yimach Shimam V'Zichram.
The Nazis are history, but Reb Elchonon's voice still lingers on and is eerily relevant to our generation. A collection of his speeches were collected and published in Ikvisa D'Mishicha.
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