Illustration: Benjamin Netanyahu with Donald Trump (Image credit: Amos Ben Gershom/Government Press Office of Israel) [CC BY-NC 2.0] via Flickr
“People are walking around bewildered — wondering what all this means...”
Rabbi Mendel Kessin, November 2019
While unprecedented efforts to impeach Trump are underway in the U.S., Israel is facing an unparalleled stalemate in forming a new government even after two elections. Add to these anomalies the killing of ISIS leader and founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The abnormality of these historic events happening simultaneously demands “an update” in interpretation — one that is based on hashkafa (the Torah worldview) rather than the standard socio-political analysis. Rabbi Mendel Kessin, a leading expert on the Ramchal, spoke on the inner meaning of these events in a profound lesson taught earlier this month, explaining why these phenomena are not happening “coincidentally.”
Using the analogy of G-d as the Great Chess Master, the rabbi introduced several ideas “tied together” to provide a clear picture of the messianic process moving forward rapidly at this time. “Obviously, each move is not random; there is a hidden strategy, but how do you determine the strategy when all you see are individual pieces moving?” he asked. It is only when the game reaches checkmate that one can use hindsight.
Rabbi Kessin employed a framework based on hashkafa (the Torah context) to analyze the events. He asked, “What is happening; why is it happening; and what is it leading to?” He described an agenda which is “variable” based on what the Jews do. Any trajectory can therefore be interrupted and re-directed. However, though the path can vary, the destination is the same: Redemption. Several underlying ideas help clarify the events of our time and the rabbi’s analysis.
The End of Time
The first fundamental idea — something we pray for, hope for, and expect, and yet many find hard to grasp — is that now is the end of time. “The end of time? You’ve gotta be kidding!” the rabbi said, echoing the incredulity many feel or expect that others feel.
What does it mean to be at the end of time? According to the rabbi, it means the tikkun process is nearly complete, i.e., a process of rectifying Creation to “bring G-d('s presence) back" to the physical world. He describes the “Jewish enterprise,” beginning with Abraham, to be one in which human beings have the unique type of souls that can affect spiritual worlds and can accomplish the tikkun of returning the world to its original state of perpetual connection with G-d.
The rabbi stated that Abraham and his progeny who are to accomplish these tasks are designated as Yisroel (Israel). They will do the work of rectification by using three “tikkun devices: doing mitzvot (divine service for G-d), doing teshuva (a return to religious practice), and undergoing yisurim (suffering).” However, since this tikkun has been achieved — or nearly so — “there is no point in continuing with this world” and we are therefore at the end of time.
Jewish tradition teaches two messiahs will arrive in this “post-tikkun world”: Mashiach ben Yosef (the messiah from Joseph) and Mashiach ben David (the messiah from David). Though it may seem that the world has a way to go before it is rectified, we know from the example of the exodus from Egypt — when the Jews were in a very degraded state — Moses still came to redeem them.
The current rectification isn’t apparent because it is primarily being accomplished through the device of suffering (yisurim) rather than through divine service (mitzvot) or repentance (teshuva). The exile of the Jews from our Land afforded suffering which is bringing the process to completion, reminding us that we’re not referring to this exile as simply “wandering, but as brutal slaughter.”
The Death of The Satan
Key to the rabbi's analysis is the notion that “the satan is dying;” this has “tremendous repercussions” for the events unfolding in the fulfillment of the Divine agenda. The satan — understood to be the root of the evil inclination which causes one to veer off the path of righteousness and faithfulness — derives spiritual energy from our sins. Rabbi Kessin explained that satan’s power has diminished so much that what he once had has been returned to the side of holiness. The rabbi used the analogy of the satan being “on crutches” and, therefore, desperate.
Mashiach (Messiah) and Rehabilitation
The rabbi also targeted the need to re-examine our ideas of mashiach (messiah) and the impact of his being revealed. Rabbi Kessin explained that we expect that “he will come out of nowhere — and here he is — to close the curtain on entire world events. Well, yes and no.” G-d is not apt to bring someone who — according to the pesukim (scripture) and midrashim (commentaries) — is greater than Abraham, Moses and the malachim (angels) while the Jewish nation is spiritually unprepared.” The rabbi posed the provocative question, “Who is the most dangerous person who ever lived? The mashiach.” This kind of person coming to the world “would give everybody a heart attack. It would be a field day for cardiologists.”
Therefore, the Jewish people must experience a “rehabilitation” before this time. G-d cannot bring such a powerful individual to a “degraded people who, in the eyes of the Torah, are so far gone, on such a degraded madreiga (level).” Millions of Jews are “gone to assimilation, intermarriage, unaffiliation” and unprepared to bear the experience of such tremendous Divine power.
The Creation Clock
Rabbi Kessin placed today’s events into the cycle of what he termed "a Creation Clock." According to this idea of time, each day of Creation is equal to a thousand years, based on King David's statement, “For a thousand years are like a day in Your eyes.” The sages of the Talmud have stated that the world will exist for 6,000 years, which would be six days on the Creation Clock — a Sunday through a Friday.
But when would Friday (the last ‘day’ of creation) be on the Creation Clock and — since the Jewish day ends at nightfall — when would creation end? The prophet Zechariah stated, “at evening there will be light” (referring to the light of mashiach rather than to photon light). Erev (evening) is defined as a specific time beginning at chatzot (12:30 p.m.), when a shadow can be cast; it is the earliest time that the mincha (afternoon) prayer and the tamid (daily sacrifice) can be offered.
The erev of the Friday afternoon on the Creation Clock occurred in 5750 in the Hebrew calendar or 1989/90 in the Gregorian calendar. We understand that after that chatzot, things began to “heat up” with the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the end of Soviet Communism, and the start of the intifada in Israel. Considering that the current year is the equivalent of 12:45 p.m. on the Clock, we are in that erev expecting things to “heat up” even more.
According to Jewish tradition, the messianic process continues through two ending phases, known as ikveta de’meshicha (the footsteps of the messiah) and atchalta de’geula (the beginning of the redemption). The earlier stage began in approximately 1840, marked by leaps in scientific knowledge, technology, industrialization and the drive toward nationalism.
The next phase, atchalta de’geula is qualitatively more profound, marked predominantly by the mashiach becoming aware of who he is, similar to how Moses discovered his mission at the age of 80, having been constrained by exile and alienated for half a century from his fellow Jews.
Similarly but more profoundly, Mashiach ben Yosef is a “tragic figure.” His tragedy is that he agreed to accept millennia of suffering to enable the Jews to “make it,” to survive to this point in time. Rabbi Kessin described him as “paralyzed. He’s stuck, inhibited by G-d Himself” but, in the phase of atchalta de’geula, he will be “released.”
Freed from that klipa (impurity) of suffering, the Mashiach ben Yosef is debilitated and in need of rehabilitation, as are the Jewish people. Their simultaneous rehabilitation will enable both to “grow.” The nation will then be able to “tolerate” him when he reaches the zenith of his power. The rabbi interpreted this peqida (the initial wakening of the messianic advance) to be similar to Moshe’s fifty-year exile from the Jewish community in Egypt after which his “release and rehabilitation” began at the episode of the burning bush.
What is the point of the rehabilitation? In Egypt, the Jews were rehabilitated from their low level in order to participate in the overwhelming revelation at Mount Sinai. This preparation began with the first plague — all of which went well beyond a punishment for the Egyptians. During the last plague of darkness, the Torah states that “...all the Israelites enjoyed light in their dwellings;” it was a spiritual enlightenment of such magnitude that by the time the Jews reached Mount Sinai, they had been rehabilitated to the point that a common maidservant had greater insight into Divine wisdom than that which Ezekiel experienced in seeing the Divine Chariot. They had become, according to the gemara (Talmud), totally inured to the pollution of the satan. They were at the level of Adam before the sin. How else to explain going from the spiritual depths of Egypt to such an exalted level?
“It was a resurrection,” Rabbi Kessin said. One cannot go “from the lowest pit to the highest roof.” Rehabilitation is a critical stage at the onset of the Redemption. Not only does logic dictate the need for rehabilitation, but we see it in Torah in the Exodus from Egypt; as foretold by Micah, “the last Redemption will be as the first.”
The rabbi clarified that we have reached the atchalta de’geula, the mashiach has been released, and we are seeing a great acceleration toward the final stage — the true messianic era. How is this rehabilitation of the world to manifest itself?
Manifestation of Rehabilitation: America
Rabbi Kessin expresses it by saying we are witnessing an epic “battle for the soul of Esav” in America. America is the tov she’b’Esav (the good part of Esau). The satan is dying and “the soul of Esav is being ripped apart.” In Jewish tradition, the protecting "angel" of Esav is the satan himself; because the satan is weakening, he is losing his “main guy.” He is being forced “to relinquish” Esav as his operative.
The good aspect of Esav as represented by America — by Trump — is in a struggle against the evil part represented by the so-called liberals, progressives, and the Democratic Party. These forces are not simply opposing Trump ideologically, simply opposing his policies. Their agenda is to destroy him and the Constitution and classic American values: individualism, free markets, fair play, due process. The soul of America is under attack by these forces “in a frenzy” to annihilate it.
The forces of opposition, under the sway of the satan, are compelled to destroy Trump because he is a figure who will aid and abet the Jewish people, among other things. Trump is the greatest threat to the satan’s power. They know Trump didn’t commit any crime, but it doesn’t matter. The rabbi classified their behavior as “psychotic” because not only are they violating every notion of constitutionality and dignity, they do so glaringly. Their desperation is obvious.
G-d’s response? Rabbi Kessin asserted that the Democratic Party must be stopped because, in addition to the offenses already described, they have “destroyed the moral fabric of America” in many ways and “payback” is imminent. G-d is allowing their treachery to be blatant so that a backlash is a logical outcome.
Further, the Jews will be reminded that America — as grand as it is and has been for them — should no longer be regarded as the “promised land.” Historically, the Jewish criteria for regarding a country as desirable has been the extent to which Jews can pursue spirituality there. Certainly, America has afforded Jews the freedom to practice their Judaism unhindered, but the current manic and conspicuous attacks demonstrate that America is not the impenetrable bastion of values it has traditionally been.
By allowing anti-Semitism to take hold within the Democratic Party, like a “tumor” spread by a “squad” of women who are openly anti-Semitic and relatively unopposed, the rabbi explained that G-d is destroying the illusion Jews have long held of America as the safe haven, the land paved with gold. “America is not what you think it is,” G-d says. Furthermore, the anti-Semitism is stunningly absurd because the vast majority of Jews in America aren’t religiously observant. Those who are, are a minuscule number relative to 320 million Americans. G-d’s objective is to get American Jews to begin thinking about Israel.
The rabbi noted that Trump’s actions are those of an Esav who has “come back” to his original mission as a patriarch to support his brother, Jacob. Even though we don’t usually think of Esav as a patriarch, because he deviated from his mission and lost the blessings of the first-born, even with his demoted status, he has been participating in the tikkun. According to Jewish tradition, Esav is the progenitor of Western Civilization and therefore has persecuted the Jews causing suffering that ultimately promoted atonement.
Trump’s job has been to assist restoring Israel to the Jews. He has done this by relocating the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and by proclaiming that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. Further, the U.S. has recognized the Golan as part of Israel as well as officially noting that Israeli civilian settlements in Judea and Samaria are consistent with international law and are legal. According to Rabbi Kessin, Trump must protect the Jews from all their adversaries: Europe, Iran, the anti-Semites in the Congress and in the United Nations. He must overturn the immorality and corruption of America because G-d wants to preserve it as the good aspect of Esav. Restoration of morality has been enacted by Trump’s appointing conservative judges to the 140 vacant federal judicial positions left open by Obama — the morality of a nation lies chiefly with its judiciary.
Rabbi Kessin predicted a landslide victory for Trump in the 2020 election due to his phenomenal and growing popularity. The satan “only has permission for the first term,” the rabbi added, after which time Trump will be “unleashed.” The importance of America’s return to greatness should be appreciated for the power and influence it can bestow upon Israel. The prestige of Israel is enhanced by the prestige of America because, said the rabbi, “It is not America that becomes great; it is the tov she’b’Esav (the good part of Esav) that becomes great!”
Turning to Israel, Rabbi Kessin expounded on the Torah section Naso (Num. 7:12-83), which speaks of 12 tribal leaders who bring sacrifices including atudim (goats); because the Torah is written without attendant vowels, this can also be read as atidim (future). The Torah implies that there will be 12 prime ministers. Who is the twelfth? Netanyahu.
This is not taken to mean he is the last of all, but that he is the last of the erev rav prime ministers. Historically, the erev rav were non-Hebrews who participated in the Exodus without Moses’s consent. In a modern context, they are Jews with power and influence, whose objective and impact has been to reduce Judaism to a culture rather than a covenant between G-d and the Jews. Their influence works to wrench Torah from the consciousness of the Jew. Their power has prevailed for centuries in one form or another.
Under their leadership, Israel is woefully unprepared to accept mass immigration despite a relatively healthy GDP compared to other nations with far greater populations and national longevity. Even though Israel is a success story, 1.8 million Israelis live below the poverty line and the economy suffers from too many bureaucratic regulations and insufficient employment opportunities.
As long as Netanyahu is in power, the Jews cannot do teshuva and rise spiritually. Rabbi Kessin warns that Jews mustn’t fool themselves into believing that even though Netanyahu has allowed some legislation or budgetary consideration to favor hareidim (religious Jews), such concessions are “a million miles away from encouraging Jews to learn Torah.”
Here, the rabbi makes a powerful and important distinction between those who would compel Jews to be observant, such as by imposing a “halachic state” (which the rabbi insists is untenable and unreasonable), and those who inspire Jews to return to Torah. According to chazal (scholarly sages of the Talmud), G-d says, “Let them forsake Me, but My Torah let them not forsake.” The Torah itself, the spiritual force within it, acts as an elixir, an antidote to spiritual malaise and complacency. Exposure to the Torah is what will “bring Jews back.”
Jewish tradition teaches in the zohar that G-d, the Torah, and Israel (meaning the collective Jewish neshama (soul)) are one. If you engage one — in this case Torah — the spiritual energy generated taps into its counterparts. Torah taps into the Jewish soul which taps into and “moves” it to return to G-d. G-d testifies to this. Torah “moves” the spiritual essence. As the rabbi insists, “The Torah is you.”
The rehabilitation of Israel will begin in accordance with a famous pasuk (sentence) from Amos: “...I will send a famine upon the Land: not a hunger for bread or a thirst for water, but for hearing the words of the Lord.” An event will occur that indicates this hunger and then, as is written in Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Joel, “I will pour out My spirit upon all flesh.” Thus, the chain of events will be initialized. The hunger will prompt Jews toward Torah, igniting their neshama (soul). This brings a spiritual uplift propelling them to cleave to G-d in preparation for a greater infusion of spiritual power. The rabbi said emphatically, “The study of Torah is the study of you because they are one and the same.”
What is happening in Israel has never happened before: two failed elections. The rabbi asked: “What is G-d saying? You can have all the elections you want but you’re not going to have a government because the erev rav’s capability to destroy that relationship between Me and the Jews is over! Do you have any idea what a gezera (decree) that is?”
The return of the mandate to form the government by Netanyahu to President Rivlin — so that it could be given to Benny Gantz — is indicative of paralysis and debilitation. Netanyahu, rather than appoint a surrogate from his own party, chose action that impeded any resolution. He refused “to see the writing on the wall.” Many will not accept his continuance as prime minister though their reasons are those of a mundane nature. Gantz was unable to put together a coalition. “I have more chance of becoming an astronaut,” the rabbi said early this month, than "Gantz has of cobbling together a governing coalition."
To avoid expensive elections that wouldn’t take place until March, Rivlin has returned the mandate to form a government to the Knesset to select a candidate. Likud has the option to support a different candidate, particularly now that Netanyahu has been indicted. The rabbi suggested that Gideon Sa’ar is the likeliest choice, for many reasons. He is an “interesting person," particularly since his return to government as a shomer shabbat Jew.
Sa’ar’s passion for Jewish education could be a strong point in the path to Jewish rehabilitation. The spiritual calamity of an Israeli education that finds many high school students ignorant even of the shema (the central prayer of the daily services which affirms G-d’s singularity and kingship) must be remedied; the rabbi described this deficiency as a blatant “betrayal” of spiritual nationhood.
In order for the rehabilitation to start, Netanyahu must be replaced, security enhanced, prosperity ensured, and religiosity promoted by the return to Torah. On security, the rabbi challenged: “Ask yourself why the whereabouts of al-Baghdadi were revealed now. Why now? They had been pursuing him for a decade.” He suggested this was a signal that Israel’s (and mankind’s) staunchest threats will heretofore be eliminated, particularly Iran which has been emboldened by an unanswered attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil processing capability. Iran might “press the red button,” “stepping over the line,” which will result in the vicious regime’s destruction.
The rabbi suggests that the killing of al-Baghdadi signaled the rehabilitation component of bolstering security. He concluded his lesson with a 2,000-year-old midrash from Yalkut Shimoni which indicates that Poras (Persia/Iran) will instigate a war against Arav (Arabia) which will then confer with Edom (America). Israel will become frightened by this, at which point a Divine Voice proclaims, “The time of your Redemption has arrived” (Yalk. Shim. 499א).
The final emphasis of Rabbi Kessin’s intriguing lecture was on the obvious harbinger of the coming era of rehabilitation — the removal of the dominion of the last formidable obstacle to Redemption, the erev rav. Once removed, the stage is set for what we have so long anticipated.
Anyone seeking further clarification and explanation of current events and the messianic process is invited to visit Rabbi Kessin’s website, torahthinking.com, for the complete “21st Century” series of video lectures along with 300 shiurim which deal extensively with the hashkafa of the Ramchal. His videos can also be found at https://www.torahanytime.com and on YouTube. He can be followed on Facebook at Rabbi Mendel Kessin.
Rabbi Kessin received smicha from Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, the greatest posek ha’dor of the previous generation. The rabbi also received a doctoral degree in psychology from Fordham University, NY. In 1987, Rabbi Kessin helped found the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation. Rabbi Kessin is considered an expert in the writings of Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, the Ramchal; he lectures extensively and internationally on the Torah of the Ramchal.
The author has written extensively on Rabbi Kessin’s work; click here to read more of this writer’s work in The Jerusalem Herald.