I thought it would be very interesting to talk about the stages of mashiach. How can we recognize and understand the process itself?
Before I begin, let me just say this shiur should be a merit for the health and success of the families of Regina bas Yosef Reuven, and Ishaia ben Israel, and Benyamin Wolf ben Zvi Hersch.
Anyway, I thought that it would be very interesting to understand what the stages of the messianic process are really all about; that would be very instructive. Then, we’ll examine the stages in the current context, now, in 2022. I think that would be, in many ways, enlightening for people.
General Requirements, Scenarios
The stages of the messianic process are not specific but, in general: the galus—exile ends, meaning, the ability of goyim—non-jews and the Eirev Rav who are Jews who want to take us away from Torah, away from the covenant with G-D—ends. Their ability to dominate the Jewish people, and, therefore, Jewish history, ends. That's the end of the galus, which is an astounding concept.
Then, there's a change in consciousness. G-D does not want amoratzim, Jews ignorant in their Torah, in a messianic era. That cannot prevail because mashiach will introduce the Jewish people to ideas so sophisticated, so lofty that, if millions and millions of Jews don't know anything, how can they possibly understand what mashiach will say?
To use a secular example, it's like employing Albert Einstein as a kindergarten teacher. We can laugh at that, right? How in the world can you employ someone who's considered one of the greatest geniuses of mankind to be a kindergarten teacher? It would be very peculiar.
Obviously, how could the mashiach teach Torah if Jews don't know anything. They don't even know basic ideas of Torah. I mentioned the article about Houston Texas, that there are 70,000 Jews in Houston Texas yet there are fewer than six-hundred families in the whole of Houston Texas. And it said in the article that most Jews know nothing! Could you imagine mashiach coming to these people? It's not just Houston Texas; it's all over the United States. It's certainly true of South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. How can a person like mashiach that is so unbelievably lofty—because he's the mashiach—teach people who know nothing about Judaism? Obviously there has to be a decisive period of time for the Jews to be trained to know their Torah. That is a very important idea.
That happens after the exile is over. Once that happens, they can come to Eretz Yisrael that has the Beis Ha’Mikdash, and then the mashiach arrives, the population having been appropriately prepared to accommodate themselves to this type of figure and the environment he introduces, one which is beyond belief.
I once explained that the messianic era is something we cannot even begin to understand because it's “malei ha'aretz dea es Hashem” (Habakkuk 2:14), that the Earth will be filled with the knowledge of G-D. I once mentioned, also, that the Torah of Moshe Rabbeinu, the Torah we’ve had, is nothing compared to the Torah of the mashiach. There’s a gulf that separates the messianic Torah with the Torah of Moshe Rabbeinu, which is everything we have: “Bavli,” the “Yerushalmi “ all the Midrash—everything. So, how in the world can you take an such a towering figure as mashiach and introduce him, expose him, to the Jewish people as they are now? It wouldn’t make sense.
Clearly, the Ribono Shel Olam will bring a tremendous amount of Torah to the Jewish people and then they’ll have Mashiach ben Yosef whose job it is to launch that period. He's the one that will contend with the tumah--contamination of goyim, all those enemies of G-D, contend and vanquish them, afterwhich time the entry of Mashiach ben David ushers in the messianic era. Once he does that, t'chiyas ha’metim—resurrection of the dead begins as part of the continuing messianic process.
These are the general stages of the messianic approach.
What Brings Mashiach?
What is important to know is: what brings the mashiach? Basically, there are three potential pre-conditions that could preclude his coming: the Jews worthy and righteous, or they sin but repent, or they reach the mem-tet-sha’arei tumah—49th level of defilement.
If they are righteous, that's zakai—worthy; they all do the mitzvos, are a tremendously holy nation, observe the Torah—everything—then mashiach will come. That makes sense.
With the second scenario, even if the Jews sin greatly but they all do teshuva, they all repent, mashiach will come then too because their repentance will have completed the tikkun. This is exactly what happened by Haman and Purim where G-D says that all the Jews, as He decreed, should be annihilated. Mordechai was aware of this impending doom and Esther prompted a three-day fast which meant that all the Jews did teshuva throughout the kingdom of Persia which was, basically, the whole world. They were saved because they did teshuva. I once mentioned that Ezra could have been Mashiach ben Yosef, and he brought back the Jews after this series of events. Why wasn't he?—because only approximately 70,000 Jews came back with him, most Jews preferring to remain in Babylon; obviously, that didn't work. That's the second way mashiach comes.
The third way is if the world—especially the Jews—reach the level of mem-tes-shaarei-tumah—49th gate of defilement, whether you regard it as sinning, ignorance, or whatever. We certainly are at that point. So, the mashiach—I once gave an entire shiur about—actually comes because of the mem tes-shaarei-tumah, especially if that level of sin would destroy civilization or destroy the spiritual roots of the Jewish people—a very important idea.
In any case, these three kinds of events, three scenarios, can bring the mashiach. We are now in the mem-tes-shaarei-tumah, which I've spoken about, so the mashiach can certainly come as a result of that. We now qualify.
Let's take a look at the first time it happened and we can actually identify the different stages. Egypt, Mitzrayim, was the geulah, was the Redemption, right? We can identify the different stages based on the redemption from Egypt, yetzias mitzrayim—exodus from Egypt.
The first thing that the Ribono Shel Olam—master of the universe does is to separate the Jewish people from the nations of the world because, as long as they are intermingled with the nations of the world, it's very difficult to avoid learning from them. We've seen that many times in the Torah. The Ribono Shel Olam says there's a mitzvah to kill the seven nations in Cana’an because they will influence you to sin, G-D says. That’s in the Torah portion, “Devarim.” He certainly has to separate the Jewish people from the nations of the world.
After He separates them, he has to remove the Jews from among the nations, not just separate them. While He's doing that, He reveals a powerful experience of ruchnius—spirituality. After removing them, He brings them to a place where they will absorb the awesome spirituality, the ruchnius. This is exactly what happened in Egypt: separation, removal, and delivery to a place of awe-inspiring spirituality.
The first way G-D separated the Jews from Egypt is by the makos—blows, by the ten plagues. Once those makos began, the Jews were no longer slaves; they were “separate.” They were no longer under the dominion, the jurisdiction, of the Egyptians. It’s interesting that each makah, each plague, was not just a punishment for the Egyptians; it was also a revelation, a tremendous spiritual insight, a revelation, to the Jewish people. This mitigates the problem of—again—redeeming the Jewish while they’re ignoramuses. The mashiach is so lofty that the nation must be prepared. Each makah, itself, was a stupdendous revelation, some aspect of a Divine revelation; that's Torah! Torah conveys, teaches Who G-D is, as they witness the Egyptians experiencing a makah.
After separating them, G-D removed them and they left Egypt. Then, they experienced the second greatest enlightenment of Torah, kyriat yam suf—splitting of the Reed Sea. As we all know, a maid-servant saw more of the Divine structure, Divine secrets, than Yechezkel Ha’navi—prophet Ezekiel who wrote “Ma’aseh Merkavah”—Divine Chariot. Imagine what she saw! Removed from Egypt, they were experiencing breathtaking revelations of spirituality.
The third aspect of the process was their arrival at Har Sinai, Mount Sinai, to experience matan Torah—reception of the Torah which is, of course, the ultimate ruchnius. Moshe Rabbeinu should have been Mashiach ben Yosef because he was the person that redeemed them but, because of the Sin of the Golden Calf, he was not the Mashiach ben Yosef.
Egypt provides us a model of the stages of redemption because, if you think about it, we are in the same mess as they were. We are in the mem-tes-shaare-tumah. You can realize, based on certain psukim—verses in the Torah, that this is the way it's going to happen. Like I said, there are three ways. They could either be all righteous, all ba’alei teshuva, or at that 49th level of evil or defilement. You can actually discern this correlation.
The first place to discern this is a pasuk—verse in “Nitzavim.”It says that, “Even if you are outcasts, if you be at the ends of Heaven, from there I will gather you,” says G-D. Obviously, the question is what is meant by “from there”? What are the Jews doing at the “ends of Heaven”? That’s the mem-tes-shaarei-tumah. G-D says, “misham”—from there “I will gather you.” This shows you the way it's going to line up historically. Mashiach is going to come because of the mem-tes-shaarei-tumah. That's a proof of that concept and what's going to happen. G-D will redeem us from the farthest reaches, from the “ends of Heaven,” which is that place of utter despair and defilement.
The second proof is the pasuk that says “lo sishachak (Torah) mipi zaro” (“Devarim” 31:21), that the Torah will never be forgotten from among the Jewish people. What does that mean? The Jews will be in the mem-tes-shaarei-tumah. Why are they told that it will never be forgotten? Obviously, it refers to a time that the Jews are at such a low level, at that 49th level of defilement, that G-D has to say: don't worry, they won't forget it. Why does He say it?—because that's exactly what the situation is going to be. They're going to be at that degraded level, but G-D promises that they will never forget their Torah. There will be at least one Jew that remembers the Torah. G-D is telling them exactly what will happen at the End.
There's another predictive proof. Another indication that the Jews will wind up in the mem-tes appears in the Torah’s verse: “v’ha'aretz hayta tohu va'vohu v’choshech al pnei t’hom”—and the Earth was unformed and void and Darkness was on the face of the deep.
Then it says, “v’ruach Elokim—and the spirit of G-D, “merachefes”—hovers “al pnei ha’mayim”—on the face of the waters.
There's a “Baal Ha’Turim” that says that the numerical value, the gematria, of “v’ruach Elokim merachefes”—and the spirit of G-D hovers in the midst of the Darkness equals that of “zu hi rucho shel melech ha’Mashiach”—this is the spirit of the king messiah. This mashiach hovers in the middle of the Darkness, right? Then it says, “vayomer Elokim 'yehi ohr',”—and G-D says 'let there be light'. That means the mashiach will hover in the middle of Darkness. What darkness?—the mem-tes-shaarei tumah, the 49th level of defilement!
So, there you have it, three different verses that indicate that the mashiach is going to come because the Jewish people, and, actually, the entire world, will be in the mem-tes-shaarei-tumah. That's how low it will sink. Torah is telling us exactly what will happen.
When the Torah says, “Even if you’re outcasts, be at the ends of heaven, from there I will take you,” it means that G-D will enter mem-tes-shaarei-tumah. He'll enter what's called the “klippah,” the domain of the Satan, the domain of his malachei chabala--angels of sabotage, of destruction. Why does G-D have to enter?—because if there's no Torah in klal Yisrael, the Jewish people will not exist. Jewish existence depends on their being “fed” from the shechina—Divine Presence. In other words, the shechina issues a tremendous shefa—Divine flow to them and the flow comes through Torah; that's how it comes. So, if the Jews are in the klippah, they're not learning Torah, a situation that is apparent. If that's the case, how do they survive? Therefore, G-D commits to going into the klippah directly to facilitate their survival from the shechina itself that is in the klippah, in the domain of the Satan.
That's an incredible concept, that G-D Himself—so to speak, the Divine Presence—enters the klippah to provide this Divine energy necessary to sustain Jewish existence. Since they are in the Darkness, the mem-tes, they won't be able to survive. Imagine that! Due to our sinning, we’ve “compelled,” G-D, in order to save us, to enter the klippah to energize us, allow us to exist. That's why G-D says, “and from there I will gather you.” It’s not that G-D comes into the klippah; He’s already is in the klippah! That's where He's been for thousands of years, in the klippah itself, in order to save the Jews once they went into galus. He, Himself, had to enter the klippah and, from there, He rescues, redeems, separates the Jews from the goyim.
But then it says, “u'misham”—and from there, after He gathers them, “yikachecha”—He will take you. That's a very interesting concept. What does that mean? Every Jew is going to become a formidable talmid chacham—scholar. When you learn Torah, it's as if G-D “takes” you, because the greatest path to be with G-D, the greatest path to “hug” G-D, to be davuk--attached to G-D, is to learn His Torah because it is through Torah that the shefa, that the Divine energy flows. When it says “u’misham yikachecha,” and from there He will take you, it means He’ll transform everybody into a towering talmid chacham. Isn't that amazing? That's exactly what He did in Egypt except they didn't become talmid chachamim through Torah because there was no Torah then. That “Torah” was the gilui—revelation of the makos and the krias yam suf, revelations given via the plagues and the splitting of the sea. That was the Torah in their day. They experienced unbelievable revelations; that was the “Torah” they were experiencing.
It then says, “v'heviacha”—and He will bring you to Eretz Yisrael—there you are. And Eretz Yisrael is where they will finally come, having left all the goyim. That's the end of the exile. Could you imagine? All the Jews will leave America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia—you name it. They will leave those countries and will all come to Eretz Yisrael. Why?—because, in Eretz Yisrael, there will be a Beis Ha’Mikdash. That will be the third Beis HaMikdash and there’ll be no need to convince Jews to leave America, or wherever, because the amount of Divine energy coming out of the Beis Ha’Mikdash will be beyond belief and an inarguable, captivating enticement.
I once mentioned in a shiur—lecture that Beis HaMikdash HaShlishi, that third Beis HaMikdash, is really the Beis HaMikdash l'ma’ala, in heaven, the spiritual realm called “Olam Yetzirah,” which will become physical and descend to Earth. It will intoxicate everybody. Imagine if there were a drug that could give you a high so indescribable, non-addictive in the physical sense, harmless to your body. I guarantee you that half the planet, or maybe the entire planet, would line up to take it; who wouldn't want to experience such unbelievable joy? That's exactly what's going to happen when the Beis HaMikdash HaShlishi, the third Beis HaMikdash, is in Eretz Yisrael. All the Jews will then go to Israel, but not by compulsion driven by fear. In fact, they're going to run to Eretz Israel to receive that inconceivable experience of divinity, of shechina.
Mashiach ben Yosef and the Impedence to “Doing” Torah
All of this will be orchestrated, basically, by the Mashiach ben Yosef. He, himself, has to grow in learning because, as I mentioned, he accepted upon himself, in order for every Jew to get Olam Ha’ba—Future World, tremendous suffering. I also mentioned previously that the suffering of Mashiach ben Yosef is tremendous amoratzus—inability to learn Torah. It sounds strange and, not that he doesn't know Torah, but it's an unbelievable struggle for him to learn Torah as Mashiach ben Yosef.
From this, a question arises. How are the Jews going to learn the Torah? They don't know anything, right? So, how are they going to learn the Torah? G-D wants them not only to learn Torah, but to “do” Torah. G-D wants them to have the merit of actually doing the mitzvos. How is that going to happen?
Well, there's a very strange midrash from “Midrash Rabbah” from which we can understand how it can happen. In the “Midrash Rabbah,” based on parashas “Tzav,” third section, it says the following: “ein ha’galuyos mizkantzos”—the exiles will only be gathered—meaning that the exile will end—“ela b’zchus limud mishnayos”—based on the merit of having learned mishnayos. That's what it says. When the Jews will learn mishnayos, that will remove the exile.
What does that mean? What mishnayos really is, is the totality of Torah she’ba'al peh—oral law of the Torah; that's what it is. The midrash is telling us that G-D wants the Jews to know the totality of Torah she’ba'al peh, all of it, and mishnayos is that sefer—book that has the totality of the entire oral law, which is basically the entire Torah. The midrash is saying that if you'll learn the mishnayos, all of it, the shisha sidrei Mishnah—six orders of the Mishnah, not only will you really know it in its entirety, especially if you learn it b’iyun—in depth, not just superficially, you will know the entire Torah, which is amazing!
From that midrash, and this is what the misdrash says, it says, “Zos Toras ha’chatos”—this is the law of the korban chatos, the offering of the chatos. So, the Gemara poses the question as to why it reads, “Zos Toras chatos” instead of just saying “zos ha’chatos”—this is the chatos, the sin offering. The Gemara explains that, if you learn the laws of offerings, kornabos, then it is as if you have broughtkorban chatos. That's an astounding concept!
We see, therefore, that if you learn Torah, if you learn mishayos, which is all of the oral law, not only will you have the mitzvah of limud haTorah, learning Torah, you will also have the mitzvah of doing the entire Torah because, just like a chatos, if you learn about the chatos, it's as if you brought chatos. The midrash says if you do learn mishnayos, since you're learning the entire Torah—being that mishnayos is really where it is—it's as if you have done the entire Torah, observed the entire Torah! Learning mishnayos, the entire six orders of the Mishnah, you not only learn the entire Torah—especially if you learn it b’iyun—in depth—you will know hundreds of thousands of halachos of mishanyos and it will be as if you have done, have performed, the mitzvos.
That's what that midrash means, that the exile will only end—when?—by the merit of learning mishnayos has presaged it. Why? We now know why. When you learn mishnayos, not only do you get the mitzvah of limud haTorah, learning Torah, you get the mitzvah of asyas ha’Torah, performing the Torah and therefore that will be in the end the way G-D will teach the Jewish people their Torah. Then you see that from the actual “Midrash Rabbah.”
It's an astounding Midrash Rabbah that reveals a profound secret. In fact, if you learn four mishnayos a day, you would finish 4,192 mishnayos in three years. Could you imagine that? Were you to learn in a certain way, how to remember it, you would know the entire oral law in three years. Could you imagine? There are ways to learn it in one year, if you learn 12 mishnayos a day, you finish all of it in one year. Could you imagine all the Jews motivated to do that? They will not only have learned mishnayos, they will not only have learned the oral law in one year if they do twelve mishnayos a day, they will actually have performed every single mitzvah of the Torah because learning and doing comes from learning.
And now you understand why it says “Talmud Torah k'neged kulam”--learning Torah is as significant as all the mitzvos combined. Why?—because, if you do a mitzvah, you get rewards from the mitzvah, but if you learn the mishnayos of the mitzvah, which is talmud Torah, you not only learned the mitzvah, you did the mitzvah. Obviously, it's worth more, in a certain sense, than performing all the mitzvos of the Torah. That's what it means, that learning the Torah weighs more than all the other mitzvos. That's how you can take a poor person who's an amoretz—one who’s ignorant and make him into a scholar, if you know how to teach the mishnayos correctly, and there's a way of doing that.
The problem is that, today, Torah is in the klippah because they did the chet ha'egel. When they received the Torah, Moshe Rabbeinu was coming down with the Ten Commandments and, all of a sudden, he saw that they were worshipping a golden calf, so he hurled the luchos, the tablets, to the bottom of the mountain, breaking them. What that means is that the Torah itself is now in a klippah. What does that mean? The Torah itself has now entered the domain of the Satan because of what the Jews did. The Satan has dominion over your ability to learn; that's what it means, that there’s a satanic impediment to your learning of Torah. The way to get that Torah out of the klippah is misiras nefesh—self-sacrifice, and yegiah—steadfast labor, struggle. These break the klippah's ability to hold on to the Torah itself.
And like the Chieda says in b’nei David, the job of the Jew is not so much to learn the Torah as to break the Satan’s grip on it. When you break that through yegiah, you automatically release the Satan's hold on the Torah and it flies into your mind. There's a great deal to talk about regarding this, about the Sin of the Golden Calf resulting in the Torah’s capture and its being dominated by an evil force. In order to take it liberate it, you need to struggle to learn.
This is why it's so difficult to learn, because you have got to pull it out of the Satan’s grasp. He's blocking your ability to learn. The Ari (Arizal) says that, one of the manifestations of the fact that the Torah is in the klippah, in the domain of the Satan, is having a question because, in the original Torah, there were no questions; it was clear. Now that there's a blockage, automatically, you have questions, lack ease of understanding. It’s is one of the reasons why learning Torah is so difficult. It takes so much struggle, such energy and patience, to learn it because what you're really doing is trying to liberate it from the domain of the Satan.
This is also why the Torah looks the way it does. When you look at the mishnayos, the Gemara, you begin to see how disorganized it is, very disorganized. It's very advanced; it’s in pieces, and that is one of the manifestations of the klippah, that much of the difficulty stems from its disorganization, its fragmentation. Many times, mesechta mishnayos will present what should have appreared later, first, and what should have appeared first, later. It's disorganized. That's the fault of the klippah, making it harder to understand.
What's going to bring it out of the klippah? For that we have a very interesting phenomenon—daf yomi. Why is there a daf yomi? I once spoke about this. What is the rationale behind learning a blat—page per day? How could you know the Torah by learning that way? The reasoning behind that is that, at the End of Time, there will be tremendous Darkness, as I said, the mem tes shaarei tumah, that “darkness, in the face of the deep.” The problem is, if there's darkness, the Jews will be amoratzim, ignoramuses, because that's what the darkness is comprised of, the ignorance of the Jewish people. If that's the case, they're not learning Torah. If they're not learning Torah, then who's going to take out the Torah from the klippah?
I once spoke about this, what it means to learn a blat—page a day. How can you learn the Torah by learning one page per day?
At the End of Time, there will be tremendous existential Darkness, the mem-tet-sha’arei tumah—49th Gate of Defilement. That means that the Jews will be amaratzim—ignorant. They will be ignoramuses. That’s the “Darkness.” It that’s the case, they’re not learning Torah. If they’re not learning Torah, who will take the Torah out of the klippah—“husk”of impurity which surrounds and imprisons it?
Therefore, the Ribono Shel Olam—Master of the Universe put in the mind of Rabbi Shapiro to create the “Daf Yomi” structure, learning a page per day. Therefore, the misiras nefesh—self-sacrifice it takes to get up at 5a.m., or whatever, for seven-and-a-half years fufills the sacrifice of one’s comfort which fulfills the idea that it’s the yegiah—labor, the sacrifice itself, that takes the Torah out of the klippah. This is why such a practice is enormously valuable. There are thousands of Jews doing the Daf Yomi. Whether they have comprehension or not, they have to struggle to keep up with it. So, the Ribono Shel Olam arranged a spiritual event that can actually, in a certain sense, solve the problem of taking the Torah out of the klippah through struggle.
But G-D must educate the Jewish people too as part of the Redemption. He’s not going to bring the Jewish people, as total ignoramuses to a mashiach. I’ve outlined certain ways that this is very possible to do.
This is the concept of the stages of mashiach, how he will come, what the stages are, and the prediction that the Torah actually tells us of, that there will be a mem-tet-sha’arei tumah. Let’s hope that, this year, the process of mashiach will begin and the dominion of evil over the Jewish people will cease and there will no longer be evil but only tov—good.
Q&A: The Current Failure and the Solution
Participant: Ha’Shem has to educate the Jewish people for mashiach to come. The education doesn't have to be like a deep concept; it could even be on the surface? The main thing is the struggling and sacrifice of our time to hear it? Is that basically how we're going to be redeemed, because of the sacrifice of it?
R’Kessin: No, they'll actually know the Torah.
Participant: We will actually know the Torah?
R’Kessin: Yes, because, as I showed you from the midrash Rabbah, if you learn mishnayos, you can, actually, learn the entire Torah. People do not realize how much there is in the mishnayos. There are 4,192 mishnas. It's a lot of mishnayos. If you think about it, each mishnah has approximately eight halachos—laws so, if you multiply 8 x 4,192, that's over 33.000 halachos. Do you know how much that is, 33.000 halachos?
The interesting thing about the mishnayos is that mishnayos is not a textbook. What Rebbe wrote is not a textbook. It's a record of the oral law and, therefore, there's a tremendous amount missing, the introduction to the Mishnah, many ideas that the Mishnah does not bring down and which should have been brought down. Then there are ideas from meforshim—exegetes, classical rabbinical commentaries on the Mishnah. So, if you add up all the missing information, basically, there are over 100.000 yedios ha’Torah mishnayos—concepts of the Mishnah.
That is a phenomenal amount of information that, if you learn, especially if the mishnayos is organized in a certain way—and it can be as I once talked about with “mishneic maps”—then it is possible to know and to become a formidable talmid chacham in a very short order. This is because mishnayos is the entire platform of the oral law; that's what Rebbe did. If somebody really focuses, really concentrates on that, he will know over 100,000 yedios.
Ask yourself: how many people know a hundred thousand facts, information of the oral law?—very few! Very few have that type of mastery or command of the oral law. So, could you imagine what it means to learn mishnayos beiyun—in depth? It’s not hard because mishnayos is not like Gemara in the sense that there's no give and take discussion, no debate; it's straight facts. If this material were organized and taught in a precise, sequenced path, a consistent method, it would be incredible.
If you taught everybody four mishnayos a day, you would know the whole thing in three years. Could you imagine, in three years, knowing the totality of Torah? And if you learn six mishnayos a day, you could finish in two years and four months. Ultimately, if you learn twelve mishnayos a day, you'd finish the whole thing in one year! It’s possible—you should know—to finish all of it in one year! There are sefarim—books, publications that allow you to do that.
Therefore, it's a no-brainer. Imagine any kid in high school has a seder—not the whole day because he can learn Gemara a part of the day—but had one seder--time period when he learns four mishnayos a day. Imagine a 13-year-old kid who, by the time he's 15 or 17, will have become an incredible talmid chacham! If he commits it to memory—which isn’t hard, by the way; there are ways to memorize all of it, all 4,193 mishnayos—imagine what this kid would become! It’s beyond belief—and at only 16 years old!
That, eventually, has to happen because that's the only way to educate somebody in a rapid way. It's called “rapid education.” There is no other way. The question is: will G-D do this through natural means, or supernaturally? I believe that it's going to be through natural means because, when the mashiach comes because the world is at the level of mem tes shaarei tumah—49th Gate of defilement, mashiach will come naturally because the Jewish people do not deserve that he come supernaturally.
So, the question is: is there a natural way to teach, educate the Jews in a very accelerated, expeditious way without sacrificing depth and comprehensive command of the entire oral law? The answer is: yes—mishnayos!
Mishnah includes many ideas that are not in the Mishnah but are part of the Mishnah. You can include Rishonim, Acharonim and so on; there's no end to how much you can include but, in the end, it means that you can know the entire oral law with incredible mastery just by learning mishnayos, you see?
Today, there are many ways to do that. For instance, ArtScroll has three mishnayos, three different types. They bring down all the missing information that the Mishnah leaves out. If you learn mishnayos with Art Scroll, or Kehati, or a superb mishnayos called “Besiyata Dishmaya,” you will become a tremendous talmid chacham. You will know more than 90% of all Jews just by that. So, there are educational alternatives to what is going on today.
This doesn't mean you learn mishnayos all day—no. You could learn Gemara in the morning and the afternoon, but there has to be a time period that people will wake up and realize that you could become an unbelievable talmid chacham by learning facts, halachos, and not learning Shulchan Aruch because a lot of it is minhagim—customs. You want to learn the ORAL LAW so mishnayos is an incredible way to do it.
Participant: Where does this whole process of learning fall into the process of mashiach? Is it after Mashiach ben Yosef is revealed? Is it after Gog U'Magog, the war? Is it before Mashiach ben David? When are we going to have this revelation of knowledge across the border, across all the Jewish nation?
R’Kessin: There are many obstacles to overcome, but I believe that, if people wake up and realize that what G-D wants is to have a mastery of the Torah--as it says, “Ashrei me she’bo l’kahn v’talmudo yehie b’yodo”—happy is the man who comes with the entire talmud, the entire learning, in his hand. That's called “mastery.” If people thought there were a way to do it...do you think the only way to master the oral law is to learn the entire Shas?—no, not really; it's just one way. But there’s another way, and you see that from the Mishnah, where it says in “Mishnayos Pirkei Avos” that, by five- years-old, you should learn Tanach. By ten-years-old, you should learn mishnayos. By the age of fifteen, you should learn Gemara. So, the Mishnah itself tells you that you need to learn mishnayos first because that is the knowledge itself, the database that you have to have before you learn Gemara.
Even if you want to learn it simultaneous with Gemara, how could you not learn a database? This is the basis of the entire Torah, the mishnayos. People ignore that and, therefore, many people never really succeed in learning and mastering the oral law.
From the midrash—exegetical commentary, the secret is exposed of what this really means. The “Midrash Rabbah” that I communicated to you says that the exiles can only end due to the zechus—merit of limud mishnayos—learning mishnayos. Do you realize what that statement is, that the galus—exile will end, can only end, due to the zechus, the merit, of limud mishnayos? How else could you take advantage of the enormous advanced level of what will be going on in the messianic era? That midrash points out exactly how. It’s a midrash, not me! G-D must educate the Jewish people. You cannot enter the messianic era as an ignoramus. That midrash points out exactly how. It's the midrash; it's not me! It says: mishnayos. I'm merely explaining what the midrash means and why. It’s because mishnayos is a complete record of the oral law and today we have sefarim that bring down all the missing information. It’s unbelievable!
I believe that, if you took even a 10-year-old kid and imparted to him the entire shisha sidrei Mishnah, I believe he would possess impressive scholarship. You could compare him to almost anybody and he would easily knock everybody out. It's an incredible idea that, for whatever reason, it’s not caught on. People don't realize that you need an introduction, need a basic preparation to learn Gemara. You need data, halacha, but not the halacha of Shulchan Aruch. You need the halacha of the mishnayos because that is the totality of the oral law.
I'll tell you of one incident which is very interesting. There was a very big gadol b’Yisroel, Rabbi Yisroel Zev Gustman. A lot of people have heard of him. He lived, I think, till 1990. He was an incredibly great, scholarly person. He was on the beis din, on the court, of Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski who was the gadol ha'dor—great one of his generation. He was on that beis din to sit and adjudicate cases. Do you know how old he was? He was 21-years-old sitting on a beis din with the gadol ha'dor. That's incredible! How does a man achieve such greatness, such command of Torah? The answer is because—I read a biography of him—when he was a little kid, he went to a cheder and the minahel--principal of that cheder did not allow any kid to learn Gemara unless he finished all shisha sidrei Mishnah. That's exactly what happened in Europe. You couldn't learn Gemara unless you knew the entire shisha sidrei mishnah; that's 4,192 mishnayos. It’s written in his biography that Rav Gustman, therefore, learned shisha sidrei mishnah—all of it, and he knew it by heart! Could you imagine a 10- year-old kid knowing the entire mishnayos by heart? That's how he was able to finish Shas at 16, right? Mishnayos, by the way, is forty percent of Shas; people don't realize that. That's why he was able to sit on the beis din of Rav Chaim Ozer at the age of twenty-one.
Beyond the study of mishnayos as a database, a foundation, there is a further advance to be made. It is based on the RaMCHaL’s “Method.” That method would significantly structure the content, synthesizing it and creating a “map.” I describe this in greater detail in some of my other shiurim. Therefore, there are two changes to be made. The learning of mishnayos in depth committed to memory during or before the study of Gemara, and having access to “mishnaic maps” that elucidate the material making it easily grasped by the mind. The relationships among the many ideas becomes succinctly and logically perceptible.
Imagine if you had every kid—and I believe you can do that with every kid—memorize all shisha sidrei mishnah! Imagine what they'll know! I'm not saying they're going to sit on the beis din, obviously, but imagine the unbelievable advancement of klal Yisroel if they knew the entire oral law by heart? It would be monumental yet nobody seems to understand and, like I said, mishnayos is forty percent of Shas. That's how much “room” it takes.
If there were one seder—let’s say a two-hour seder when each kid would learn four to six mishnayos a day, doing that in a shiur and committing it to memory which is not that hard—imagine what they would know! Imagine what that would do for the Jewish people! If a Jew wants to “come back” to become a baal teshuva, he would be able to learn the entire oral law in two years. Could you believe that? Instead of taking thirty-five years, he would do it in two. People don't realize the profound significance of that.
And I want to tell you something; here's the mistake that is made in the kiruv movement. Here it comes; in order to make somebody a baal teshuva, there are two things you have to do. The first is to “turn ‘em on,” to inspire them to become committed to being Jewish, to learning, to doing mitzvos, but especially to learning. The second is to transform them into remarkable talmidei chachamim because then they'll remain with the Jewish religion. You need the Torah. Without that, they slip and fall back.
But how to accomplish that? A guy going to yeshiva takes thirty-five years to figure out what's going on, until he finishes the whole Shas. What a mistake! He could learn mishnayos beiyun, could finish it in two years and, in those two years, he would know 4,192 mishnas, would know forty percent of Shas and know over 100,000 yedios, facts, knowledge of the Torah itself. And he can even do it in one year; it's possible. He would have the Torah! That's what the baal teshuva movement has to do. The only way to make a guy stay is if you teach him Torah. But it can't be Torah that takes decades. They've got to know it now. They haven’t the time or the patience. So, actually, mishnayos is the solution to making baalei teshuva committed to, remain devoted to, Yiddishkeit.
It would save all the baalei teshuva. Imagine that baal teshuva can know the Torah in a year, or two years or, maximum, three years and he learned it beiyun, in tremendous depth? Could you imagine what that could do?
What about all those adults that learned in yeshiva and hardly know anything? This approach would save them because, with this advance, they could learn mishnayos beiyun, in depth, and would be able to master the entire oral law in 1-3 years. It would save them. Imagine, too, what it would do for the high schools.
What about the daf yomi guys? What is “Daf Yomi”? How can a guy remember anything with Daf Yomi? But, what happens if a guy learned the mishnayos of that masechta that he's going to learn in Daf Yomi and he knew it by heart? That would change the entire fabric of that masechta because he would have all the knowledge. It would be absolutely incredible! It would take Daf Yomi and transform it from a “learning experience” to a “knowing experience.”
I believe it will also save all the at-risk kids. How? The reason most people rebel is because they fail. You can't believe the number of kids that fail in the yeshiva. I believe that seventy percent of any given class never make it. Eventually they leave because Gemara is an advanced limud--study. Gemara is advanced; it presupposes that you have a thorough grasp of the database of Shas. Only mishnayos can give that to you if it's taught the right way. Take an at-risk kid and you teach him mishnayos employing methods that will greatly spur him on and increase his interest. There are different ways of teaching it. Done the way I envision, he would re-commit to learning Torah and being Torah-observant.
Look at the payoff; it would save the baalei teshuva, would be the adult education, would massively improve Daf Yomi, would save the at-risk kids and, were it introduced in every high school with a two-hours seder of mishnayos beiyun, it would make every kid in every high school—maybe even in the 7th or 8th grades—into a superlative scholar, a talmid chacham. It could be designed as an incredible textbook, digital and otherwise, based on the mishnayos. Wouldn't that be incredible?—and it would end the galus. There you are; I make my case.
Participant: How do we turn the ignoramus into one who learns in a natural way? In my opinion, the only way to do that is through a supernatural way.
R’Kessin: What you are saying is true, but I believe there's a concept called “pyramid.” Let me explain that to you. We make a mistake. There are hundreds of thousands of Jews—forget millions! Let's just deal with the people now. There are hundreds of thousands of Jews that are dying to be talmidei chachamim, dying to know the Torah. Think of Lubavitch. The Lubavitch has five thousand shluchim—emissaries. Each has a judaic center, has who knows how many hundreds of thousands of baalei batim—parishoners who don't know anything. What happens if there were an educational process that can make every baal ha’bas, a master of the oral law? That's Lubavitch.
What about Lev L’achim in Eretz Israel? what about Arachim, right? There are so many baalei teshuva movements. They don't know what to do with the guys, basically, so they do the standard, teach them Gemara. Of course, that's not going to work because it will take years and most people don't have the time.
They're not the only ones. There are hundreds of thousands of adults that are basic amoratzim who’ve failed and don't remember anything even though they'd been in yeshiva for twenty years. I've spoken to who-knows-how-many. They don't remember what they learned in yeshiva. How could they? It's very difficult to learn Gemara because Gemara is shakla v’tarya. Ninety percent of the Gemara requires give and take, requires debate, and nobody remembers the shakla v’tarya unless you review it fifty times. Nobody reviews it fifty times.
Walk over to any guy who went to yeshiva and ask him, “What do you remember from what you learned? Likely, he’ll say “little” or “nothing” but what happens if he memorizes a certain platform—mishnayos—and they knew that by heart? Do you know how easy it is to recall anything when you know the entire mishnayos by heart? Then you have the entire “file cabinet.” You know exactly where every halacha is because you know all 4,192 mishnayos. Do you see? This is really, in the end, what has to happen.
The beauty of this is the midrash Rabbah where it says this innovation of approach will end the galus. I'm just explaining that G-D wants Jews to master the oral law and the way to do it is to learn mishnayos. There are many gemaras that talk about this. It's really astounding what knowing all mishnayos can do for a person if he learns it the right way, in depth, and commits it to memory which is not hard. It's the mistake that people make to think it is hard. This is the way to do it.
How do you convince people? I don't know. Someday, they will be convinced because I believe this is the way to do it, through natural means called the “limud mishnayos,” and that will end the exile.
I’m trying to convey that here are hundreds of thousands of Jews who, now, want to learn Torah. They want to master the Torah and they can't because everybody thinks the only way to master the Torah is Gemara. Of course, it's true, but that's not the only way. For many, a different way is called for. In fact, much more basic is to master the mishnayos, like that which we learn from the story of Rav Yisroel Zev Gustman. But even this can be improved upon by synthesizing the material and structuring it further.
The Gemara itself says that: first it’s ben chamesh l’mikrah—5-year-old learning Tanach—Five Books, then eser shana l’mishnah—10-year-old learning Mishnah, and then learning Gemara at 15.
You have to ask yourself: what's the rush? Why do you have to subject a pre-adolescent kid to learning Gemara? Why don't I teach him the entire shisha sidrei Mishnah? To my mind, all of this is tragic; everybody's learning advanced material without knowing the basics—mishnayos.
Start off with these people; educate 300.000 Jews, making them masters of the oral law. I guarantee you that all the baalei teshuva will now introduce this method to the people that they make religious, so it will “pyramid” because people will be astonished at the speed of mastery. So, it will pyramid! First you'll have—let’s say—a hundred students. They will tell their friends and it becomes a thousand people. They will tell their friends that there's a way to do this that's validated by the chazal—sages.
There's a masechta Sanhedrin, page 42, where it says that Rav Yochanan says, “With whom can you find a Jew that could wage war with Torah?” In other words, this he refers to somebody who can learn Torah and actually understand it, somebody who has “bundles” of mishnayos. It says that; it's a gemara. Rashi comments on that, saying that even if you have a great head, there's no comparison to knowing the Mishnah because then you have all the yedios, all the knowledge, all the basic information and concepts and, therefore, that's the way to do it. This is on Rabbi Yochanan. There are many gemaras like that.
I believe this would be a tremendous means for solving the amoratzim predicament of klal Yisroel. It would be interesting to have a convention. There's no such thing in Judaism. There are medical conventions, legal conventions and so on, but there's no such thing as a convention in traditional Judaism. Yes, people will tell me there is, like “Torah U’vsorah,” that have conventions, but they fall short of the mark. It must be examined why is it that so many people, after being in yeshiva for twenty years, hardly remember anything. Do these conventions ever deal wit this fact?—no of course not.
Did you ever wonder how a college makes a guy an engineer in five years? Do you know how much information of physics and mathematics a guy in college has to have to become a certified engineering? How do they do it? They don't begin with an advanced book. They begin from the beginning, “Engineering 101.” They don't begin with a journal article about engineering.
What few understand is that Gemara is an advanced treatment of Torah. You can't begin with that, especially not a 10-year-old kid; it’s insane. Why?—because they don't know the basics. They need a database, a foundation. Kids don't have foundations. If every adult would have the foundation of the entire oral law and would know it by heart, could you imagine what kind of revolution that would be? Yes, there should be a convention that announces this to people, tells them, “You people are making a tremendous mistake.” This misconception is why most kids, tragically, aren’t learning to “know” anything, or hardly anything; they don't remember anything. They'll know it when they learn it—maybe—but they’re not going to remember anything because they're learning Gemara, learning Torah from an advanced sefer without a foundation. Nobody does that or advocates for that in professional educative circles but that's what is done all the time in yeshiva. What can I tell you; It's tragic. Any other questions?
Participant: Since you know it so well, why don't you put out a memo to all the yeshivot to let them know?
R’Kessin: Because nobody will buy it. Everybody's convinced what they do is the way; that's why. Logic will not work because everybody wants to learn lamdus. Everybody wants to learn Gemara in depth. Nobody's interested—of course they are interested incidentally—but nobody realizes you need a basis, need a foundation of a database before you really can know anything. If you don't do it that way, you'll always know the Torah piecemeal and won't remember it because, as I said, almost all of the Gemara is debate. Nobody remembers that unless you review it ten, twenty, thirty times, which nobody does! That's a tragic mistake that everybody makes.
I once said, imagine an organization called “Dirshu”—to seek and they pay you, give bechinos—exams. So, I once tried to convince one of the people in Dirshu to do the mishnayos. In other words, you have to learn six mishnayos every day and then you get tested, get feedback. In two-and-a-half years, you will know the totality of the oral law instead of in seven-and-a-half. Then you can learn the Gemara once you have the database of mishnayos, knowing the entire oral law in depth. Then, you get bechinos, get examinations, the assessment. That's the way to do it or, at least, make a separate track for that. It fell on deaf ears. What can I tell you? That's how it is.
There's a great deal more to say about all of this which, but this is, obviously, not the forum for that. I've just described, in many ways, a tragedy because, when people go to yeshiva for twenty years and hardly remember anything, how do you think they feel? They feel terrible because they know they don't remember anything. Can you imagine going to school for twenty years and hardly remembering anything? When you learned it, perhaps you knew it. But the main test is whether you retain it well after.
If you asked G-D, “What do You want?” do you know what He’d answer?
He’d says, “I already told you.” It says in “Kriat Shema” "V’shinantam l’vanecha"—and you shall teach them to your children diligently.
The Gemara in “Kiddushin” asks, “What does it mean ‘teach them diligently’?” It means that the content should be “sharp in your mouth.” Rashi explains that “sharp in your mouth” means that, if somebody comes over to you and asks you something, you should be able to spit out the answer immediately. You know what that's called?—“mastery.” That's what G-D wants—mastery.
The quickest and most efficient method, the best way, is to master the mishnayos because that is the entire oral law, then you do Gemara. You do mishnayos first, four mishnas a day, which will take three years. Then, since you know the entirety of mishnayos which is forty percent of Shas, you’re equipped to do the Gemara.
When you undertake Gemara, you do two blat a day, reducing what would have taken instead seven-and-a-half years to only four years because you're now studying two blat a day because you know forty percent of Shas. You'll finish in almost four years. 4+3=7. In seven years, you will be an adam gadol ad meod, one of the greatest talmidei chachamim of this generation! You will know mishnayos by heart, forty percent of Shas. You’ll have mastered every area; no area will be too strange to you. In seven years, you would have knowledge enough to join the beis din with Rav Chaim Ozer! That was Gutsman.
Yes, in seven years you could master the totality of oral law plus the Gemara. You will have done it correctly having laid down a foundation first.
By the way, I'm not the only one that says this. The Maharal is famous for this. He screams at people who don't know mishnayos first. He said that the current endeavor is suicide and he's right. That's why seventy percent of the guys that go to yeshiva, basically, will hardly remember anything. What kind of statistic is that? Learn Gemara one seder, two sedarim, but there should be time alloted to learn facts, to accumulate the knowledge of the oral law which is “Torah she’ba'al peh.” Mishnayos is the way to do it, especially today when there's many mishnayos written that bring down all the missing information that Rebbe left out. They bring Rishonim and Acharonim; it's tremendous what ArtScroll and the Besiyata Dishmaya have done. There are certain incredible mishnayos that would solve the problem.
And the bad news is we're losing guys because nobody remembers anything. Maybe they remember just a couple of ideas, but they have not mastered anything. We're losing a whole generation of people that don't remember anything so who is going to transmit the Torah? Do they realize this? Why is it that all the gedolim today are over 70, or 80, or 90-years-old? If you learn mishnayos beiyun and you memorize it, you will be an adam gadol, guaranteed, especially if the mishnayos is taught beiyun, in the right way.
People have no concept of what mishnayos could do for a guy. It would solve the problem and change the Jewish people. That's how pivotal it is. I want to connect this to the “Midrash Rabbah”, that it, actually, will end the galus; that's what it would do.
Participant: I think it would be changing our consciousness which you said has to happen.
R’Kessin: I'm showing you the way to do it. This is the solution and the proof of that is the “Midrash Rabbah.” But you don't even need that; it’s obvious! You do not learn advanced material without a preliminary foundation. When you want to build a building, you can't start with the fifth floor, right? You’ve got to dig a foundation first. Everything needs a foundation and, as far as I'm concerned, that's why colleges succeed with people getting certificates. I'm not saying colleges are perfect, but they're able to make a professional lawyer in three years, an accountant in two, an engineering in five, a doctor in seven. How do they do it? Do you know how much information is out there that a professional must know? They can do it because the curricula are structured and the foundational information is taught first. You don't learn advanced material first; that's in graduate school, not in undergraduate.
An example I always like to give is to imagine a guy wants to become an engineer but he doesn't want to go to undergraduate courses. He hasn’t the time or the money so, somehow, he makes his way into a graduate engineering program. After two weeks in that program, the professor gives a quiz and this guy who bipassed the undergraduate studies gets a measly score of “3.” He says to the professor, “I don't understand; I studied hard so how in the world did I get a “3”?
The professor says, “You're right; that's odd. How did you do as an undergraduate?”
The guy says, “Undergraduate? I never went to undergraduate school in engineering.”
The professor, incredulous, says “Are you crazy? This is graduate, advanced material. What are you doing here?”
Gemara is graduate school. The Gemara is a collection of sugyos. A sugyah is a problem-solving format that presupposes that you have a massive database and, if you don't, most of your time you don't know what's going on because: what are you doing in graduate school?
It's elementary and obvious but nobody seems to get it because the goal of yeshivas, unfortunately, is to learn, not to know; they would like to know, but that's incidental. The goal of yeshivas is to be a big lamden, lamdus, but what a mistake! You can be a phenomenal lamden if you know mishnayos because that's the database. It just requires logical thinking to solve a humongous problem in klal Yisroel that nobody seems to get, basically. There are some people who realize this, but their voices are not heard because everybody's entranced with lamdus in the Gemara, learning without knowing anything. What a mistake! What can I tell you? It's a tremendous mistake because the two disciplines could be done simultaneously. You want to learn Gemara?—okay! But, give some type of a seder, two hours or whatever, to master the mishnayos and commit it to memory.
That's why I love this story with Rav Yisroel Zev Gustman. A 10-year-old kid knew the entire shisha sidrei Mishnah, all of it! Obviously, he had a tremendous mind, finishing Shas at sixteen years of age, but he was able to do so because he already knew forty percent because he knew it by heart. At twenty-one years of age, he sat on the beis din with Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski! For sefardim, that's like sitting on the beis din of Rav Ovadia Yosef! It's the same thing! Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski was the gadol ha'dor, so imagine a sephardi kid sits on the beis din at 21-years-old with Rav Ovadia Yosef?! Wouldn't that be something, huh? It can be done if it were taught the right way with the right sequence.
It would pyramid. People would be astonished at the mastery that they acquired and it would spread because, in the end, what do you think a guy wants? He wants to know it. It's nice to have a lamdus, nice to be able to answer a RaMBaM or whatever, but it's more important to remember everything, to know, like it says,
“It should be sharp in your mind.” The Ribono Shel Olam says that; it's G-D talking. 'V’shinantam l’vanecha,” means you should know it. master it, have command of it. Who does that today? It's not even a goal, really. Yes, they're going to say well, I learned the beginning of the mesechta and then tried to finish the masechta, but the idea is not to learn it through the masechta all day. Learn mishnayos because it brings you the basic concepts without having to go through the debating, the back-and-forth.
Focus on the information, on the knowledge, on the facts. Later, you can focus on the debate itself, how the information was arrived at. You don't do that initially; that's graduate work. It shouldn't be done in the equivalent of elementary school. It, certainly, shouldn't be done all day and nothing else.
Tragically, many guys going to yeshiva will remember very, very little. They'll be turned off because there no hatzlacha—success. The greatest way to ensure continued success is to be successful, right? And then you get a sipuk, a tremendous satisfaction from your learning. Mastery will give you that satisfaction like nothing else can. It doesn't take that long.
Participant: So, the galus could end by learning mishanyos but if we just take on to start, we wouldn't have to wait those two years; we could beat it without going through the whole two years of mastering it?
R’Kessin: I'm not understanding your question. Is that a question you're asking?
Participant: Okay; it takes two years to learn the whole mishanyos, right?
R’Kessin: It could take one year depending upon how many mishnas you learn a day.
Participant: So, if we actually could get groups of people to commit to actually doing this, maybe we don't have to wait for them to have completed that one year.
R’Kessin: That, we don't know. We don't really know. It's very hard to change the system. They're all committed to lamdus, Gemara, which is fine, but it’s not fine unless you've mastered the mishnayos first. To not do so is a tremendous mistake; what can I tell you?
Okay, thank you for the opportunity to unravel what I feel about this unacceptable tragedy, for a guy to invest twenty years in yeshiva and hardly remember anything. It’s an unbelievable tragedy and it continues on a daily basis. In the end, we pay for that tragedy because many guys would have stayed longer or come out knowing an incredible amount of Torah in depth if only the system of learning were different.