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.
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
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.