From Barbara Ginsberg’s Desktop
Rabbi Meir Kahane 1983
Forward to the Second Edition
It was in 1982 that I wrote this book, “FORTY YEARS”. In the seven years that have passed, the words I wrote and the thoughts I put down here have only been sadly affirmed. The tragedy, the awful national tragedy and catastrophe I wrote about and that need not be, comes closer and closer. And my people see nothing and hear nothing. There are those who, in their tragic ignorance of Judaism and Jewish destiny, simply do not understand what they see and what they ear. And there are those who do not wish to see and do not wish to hear. And so it comes closer.
My people, my poor people…
More than 2500 years ago, the Prophet Ezekiel spoke, in the name of G-d, to the people of Israel, saying: “If I shall bring upon the land a sword – the inhabitants shall take a man from amongst them, and they shall appoint him a tzofe, a watchman for them. And when he seeth the sword come upon the land he shall blow the shofar and warn the people.” (Ezekiel 33)
The tzofe the watchman. Appointed to see the sword come upon the people of Israel and cry out; to blow the shofar and warn his people! That is the role of every Jew who can see and hear and understand – and who loves his people. To cry out, to sound the shofar, to warn them!
That is why this book was written. It is the nation shofar of our times. One will hear it’s warning by reading it, by studying it, by taking it to heart. May the Almighty give us the wisdom to understand and the courage to act on that understanding. For the forty years of which I speak, have passed.
And the days of Judgment are here.
26 Tevet 5749 - 3 January 1989 Meir Kahane
It is seven years since I wrote the manuscript, FORTY YEARS, and with the passing of the 40 years of which I speak in the book, with the Jewish State now past its fortieth year, the terrible realities of which I wrote hem, become starkly clear. Terrible visions become awful realization. The Jewish State crumbles and shakes and shudders before our eyes as the gentile enemies gather strength and momentum and the Jew stands astonishingly impotent and paralyzed – at best – and deeply divided by defeatism, abnormal guilt and suicidal tendencies from within. The dream of centuries becomes a nightmare; the hope that was never lost becomes a thing to be questioned, doubted, attacked.
But, of course, it could never be anything else. The fate of the Jew, despite the foolish arrogance of the secularists and the unfathomable loss of the way of apparently religious Jews, has always been based upon the iron law of Divine determination: “If you shall walk in My statutes and keep My commandments … I will give you peace in the land and you shall lie down and none shall make you afraid… But if you will not hearken unto Me and will not do all these commandments, and if your soul abhor My ordinances so that you will not do all My commandments but break my covenant…I will set My face against you and you shall be smitten before your enemies; they that hate you shall rule over you and you shall flee when none pursueth you.” (Leviticus 26)
The idea first entered my head as I sat, one day, in Ramle Prison. It was the eve of Tisha B”AV, the tragic commemoration of the destruction of both Temples, the beginning of both terrible exiles. I sat, reviewing the book of Jonah, with its message of repentance, on the day of national tragedy. Jonah enters the city of Nineveh, to which he has been sent by the Almighty, to warn them of impending destruction unless they repent. And as I read, the words of Jonah to the people suddenly leaped out at me: “In forty years, Nineveh shall be overturned!”
Forty. The thought suddenly struck me: How many times, again and again, does that number arise in connection with sin and punishment? “And the rain was on the earth forty days and forty nights.” (Genesis 7:12), the punishment of a world flooded for it s sin. Forty. And centuries later, as the Jews of the desert “despised the pleasant land” and wept over their “home” in Egypt, the Almighty angrily decreed that the generation of the desert would not enter the Holy Land saying: “And your children will wander in the wilderness forty years and bear your faithlessness.” (Numbers 14:33). Again, forty. And the punishment of stripes, whipping, is one of “forty shall he strike him, he shall not increase”, and the atonement for sin and the purification process begin with a study of Torah given forty days at Sinai, continuing in a mikva, ritualarium, whose water must be a minimum of forty S’ah.
Forty. Again and again, the number forty connected to sin and punishment. Why forty? I do not know except to quote the rabbis in Bamidbar Rabah 5:5: “And why does the Torah obligate forty stripes? For he (the sinner) violated a Torah given in forty days and brought death unto himself (man) who was created in forty days. Let him therefore, be whipped forty times and be relieved of his punishment, as was done to Adam who sinned, was deserving of death, and was punished with forty. For the world was cursed, due to his sin, forty curses: ten for Adam, ten for Eve, ten for the serpent and ten for the land.”
And in that tiny cell in prison the thought expanded. Not only was the concept “forty” tied to sin and punishment, it was specifically connected to the warning of G-d to the sinner, a warning designed to avert that punishment. Jonah warns Nineveh of impending punishment and this gives them a grace period of forty days during which they might search their souls and change their ways.
In the case of both Holy Temples, the Almighty gave the Jewish people a period
of forty years of grace; time to think and rethink their ways. Time to return to Him
and save themselves from that punishment. In the awful final days of the first Jewish
State, the L-rd tells the prophet Ezekiel: “And thou shall lie again on your right
side and bear the iniquity of the House of Judah, forty days; each day for a year,
each day for a year.”(Ezekiel 4:6)
And the Biblical commentator Rashi declares: “We learn that the time of the
exiling of the ten tribes until the destruction of Jerusalem there was a period of forty
years.” Forty years: The Almighty, having brought down His wrath on the ten tribes of
Israel, begins the countdown to the terrible day of punishment that is decreed for a
House of Judah that has turned its back on its G-d. But one final opportunity is given
them, a grace period. A grace period of forty years. And so a prophet is chosen, a
prophet of grace, of final warning – Jeremiah. And in the words of the rabbis: “The
book of Lamentations was more effective for Israel than the forty years that Jeremiah
prophesied unto them” (Eichah Rabah 4:27)
And the Second Temple “Forty years prior to the destruction of the Temple, the lot (for the Yom Kippur sacrifice) never was chosen by the High Priest’s right hand; and the red slip outside the Holy of Holies never turned white (as a sign of divine forgiveness) and the western candle would not light and the doors of the Sanctuary opened by themselves until Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai admonished them, saying: “Sanctuary, sanctuary…I know that you are destined to be destroyed…(Yuma 39b).
And again: “For forty years did Rabbi Zadok sit and fast in the hope that Jerusalem not be destroyed.” (Gittin56a)
And again: “For forty years prior to the destruction of the Temple, the Sanhedrin exiled itself (from the Temple) and sat in the market place.” (Avoda Zara 8b)
Once again, the period of grace. Forty years. The final hope of the Almighty that, perhaps, His final warning would be heeded. The countdown of forty years, the last chance.
And it was then that the full impact of the thought stuck me: if it is true that in the first Jewish state and in the second, the Almighty granted us a grace period of forty years – is it possible that the same could be true with the third state? Our state – the State of Israel?
The thought has become an ongoing one; call it obsessive, if you will. After all, the final redemption is one that our rabbis have explained as coming in one of two ways – and there is no third. “In its time, I will hurry it (the Redemption).” (Isaiah 60). And the rabbis explain: “If they, the Jews, merit it I will hurry it. If they do not merit it, it will come in its time”.
The difference is more than chronological It is a qualitative difference that goes to the very essence of our existence. A “hurried redemption is one that comes with majestic glory and free of pain and tragedy. But one that is “in its time”, by the very fact that it comes despite our unworthiness, is accompanied by terrible destruction and holocaust as the deserved punishment that precedes the final glory and salvation. How important it is for us to avoid this awful and needless suffering! And how convinced I am that the Almighty pleads with us to do just that; to replace a redemption “in its time” with one that is “hurried”; to search our ways and return to Him And how convinced I am that just as in the past He has given us a period of grace, so, too today we have been granted it.
And it becomes clearer and clearer to me that, once again, it is forty years; forty years of warning, admonition, opportunity. The final chance.
The State of Israel, that most incredible of miracles, marked the beginning of the final redemption, a redemption born – not out of the betrothal of Jew to his Maker through faith and return – but rather out of the wedlock of Holocaust that was the depths of desecration of the name of G-d, the Hillul Ha’Shem that was mockery, humiliation, and denial of the prowess or very existence of the G-d of Israel. It was that Holocaust which broke the patience of a G-d of Israel who watched His name mocked and dragged in the gentile dust for 20 centuries. “Not for your sake do I do this, O House of Israel, but rather for My Holy Name that you desecrated by the very fact of being among the nations.” (Ezekiel 36).
And so, a Jewish State rose from the crematoria and ashes, not because we deserved it, but because the gentile did. Because the punishment and awesome wrath of G-d were being prepared for a world that had mocked and humiliated the name of the
L-rd, G-d of Israel.
The State of Israel, which rose up in the year 1948, I am convinced, is the beginning, not only of the redemption, but also of the grace period granted us. In the very marrow of my bones, I feel that the Almighty, in His infinite mercy and goodness, gives us the final beseeching opportunity to turn needless suffering into glorious and instant redemption.
Forty years. The number may not be exact; it may be a few more, a few less, but the period is clear. Forty years of warning, of heartfelt cry from our Father in Heaven. Forty years of grace, of a last opportunity to reverse needles disaster, to bring the redemption with grandeur and majesty
For make no mistake. The magnificent miracle of return and rise of a Jewish State is surely the beginning of the Final Redemption, but hardly the end. The true finality, the magnificent era of the Messiah, comes to fruition gloriously and majestically and breathtakingly only if we cleave to the great axiom “If you walk in My statutes…I will give peace in the land.” (Leviticus 26)
This is the immutable law of the People of Israel. There is no escaping it. What will be with the Jew; whether his future will be bright or black; whether he will enjoy peace or horrors, depends only on his cleaving to his role, obligation and mission in this world, upon his bending his neck and will beneath the yoke of Heaven.
“If you walk in My statues… I will give you peace… But if you will not hearken unto Me… I will appoint terror over you.” (ibid.).
This is the choice; the only choice. All the rest is nonsense. And time ticks away and the decision is in our hands.
Dear Jew, the Almighty gives us this day life or death. Will be choose life?
My people; my dear and foolish people! We speak of your life and that of your seed, your children and grandchildren. Choose wisely! Choose life! The magnificence is yours for the asking. The horror will be yours for the blindness. Choose life, but quickly; there is little time left. The forty years ticks away.
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