By HaRav Zalman Baruch Melamed
Dedicated to the memory of R. Avraham ben-tziyon ben shabtai
(Ed. note: Rav Melamed wrote this over twenty years ago. given recent events, it could not be more relevant)
The Maccabis of long ago were victorious over Am Yisrael's enemies and so it is true of the Maccabis of the present. Just as the victories of the past were not instantaneously won, neither will the present day struggles be solved all at once. Although it will take time, the pure will overcome the impure, the righteous will overcome the wicked, and the malicious will fall into the hands of those who follow the Torah. History proves that, despite the fact that the pure were few and weak, The Maccabis and Am Yisrael were eventually victorious because a strong inner spirit always overcomes external strength.
So it also is for Am Yisrael today. The Jewish nation's faith consistently grows stronger, and any attempts to weaken and destroy it are thwarted until these attempts themselves are eventually destroyed, thereby causing the nation's faith to become greater. Those who have faith realize that nothing exists in this world which Hashem doesn't control. He directs and supervises everything. Even hardships and struggles involving faith have their purpose. They test one's faith in order to deepen it, and bring it to a higher level. That is why those who have faith are not afraid of the challenge, rather, the opposite. They rise to the challenge in order to overcome it and to develop new strengths. Indeed, the tests are hard and it is difficult to keep ones high level of faith in today's world, with its permissiveness, atheism, superficialities, and hedonism. And so, it is a test for only those who maintain excellency, for those with special strengths, for those who are great believers. Only they will pass this test successfully and their faith will grow deeper and stronger in the process. Hence the spiritual seed that has been planted will grow into a great tree. The foundation will be established upon which a great building will be built that will encompass the whole Jewish nation.
It can be said that all of Am Yisrael is in the process of a spiritual progression. On the surface it seems exactly the opposite, as if the nation is in a crisis and going through major hardships. However, this is not the case in the deeper reality. The crisis is only superficial, it is only on the outside of the hand or the feet, but the heart is beating and is being built up, the brain is growing stronger. The heart of the nation is the heart in which the faith rests and the brain is where the connection to Hashem takes place. The heart and the brain and all the appendages which the soul is dependent upon, have their developments and elevations but the soul is created by these crises an hardships. In the end, the heart and the brain will let loose a torrent of faith that will flow to the all the organs and appendages of the nation, and the life of faith will fill everyone.
There is no need to explain this concept to those who have faith, for they are growing stronger everyday. The Torah is being spread out, the benches of the Yeshivot are being filled up, more Yeshivas are being established, and with this additional knowledge and wisdom better quality is achieved. There is also no need to explain to those who love the Land of Israel that they are also growing stronger everyday. The settlement towns are growing in size and number, the love of the Land is escalating, and cleaving to the Land is reaching new heights. All mitzvahs for which the Jewish people sacrifice their lives will be everlasting, and when the heart of the nation is strengthened, the whole nation is strengthened. "The attribute of goodness is five hundred times greater than the attribute of calamity" (Tosefta Sota 4,a). Although a person may lose his soul for one sin, he will be rewarded five hundred times for each mitzvah he fulfills. Multiply by five hundred the strength that exists within Am Yisrael in today's world and the proportions will show clearly the correct relation between the Jewish nation's spiritual progressions on the one hand, and the spiritual weakening in the world on the other. It can be said at this time that the spirit is also victorious today, and in the near future this victory will spread out and surround everything. Every day it is increasing and the nation is moving forward.