Rabbi Yitschak Rudomin
Rabbi Yitschak RudominCourtesy

For Important Themes: Part One (Feb 18, 2024), click here.

Note: The following is the way I understood and applied Rav Yitzchok Hutner's words and ideas, it is not meant as a translation or definition of his works.

Rav Yitzchok Hutner (1906–1980) tried to imbue his students and listeners to his Ma'amorim (Torah discourses) with a sense of the Torah's view of world and Jewish History different to the way secular historians do it. There was never any reference to "millions" or "billions" of years, rather the starting point of everything, literally everything, is Ma'aseh Breishis (Act of Creation [by God]) at the start of Genesis. This means that Rav Hutner taught that the world was created by God as described in the opening chapters of Genesis that contained the premises and the beginnings of literally everything.

Rabbi Feinstein and Rabbi Hutner zts"l
Rabbi Feinstein and Rabbi Hutner zts"lRudomin

Following that, Rav Hutner would refer to key turning points in human history following the creation of the world according to the Torah. After the creation of the world, two important stops along the chain of history as the Torah teaches it were the Dor HaMabul (Generation of the Flood) in the times of Noah and the Dor HaFlogah (Generation of Dispersion) following the events of the building of the Tower of Babel.

Each of these events were demarcation points that witnessed huge changes in the nature of the world (Shinui HaTeva). Following the Dor HaMabul was a new creation as God started rebuilding the world from the descendants of Noah. Therefore the blessings and curses that Noah gave to his three sons were foundations in the rise of three different civilizations and their offshoots. Of significance is the blessing given to Yafet that he would beautify the tents of Shem. This would come to full fruition during the time of the Greek Empire and Greek culture typified by the teaching of the Jewish sages that "Yesh Chochma Bagoyim" there is wisdom among the nations in particular Greek wisdom or philosophy but that also "Ein Torah Bagoyim" there is no Torah within the nations of the world since only the Jews as the true descendants of Shem were the possessors of the Torah.

The roots of the struggle between Judaism and the outside world go back to the complex set of blessings that Noach gave to Yafet and Shem, as well as the implications of the curses heaped on Cham.

The Dor Hafloga (Generation of Dispersion), when as a direct consequence of the building of the Tower of Babel, Hashem punished humanity by spreading them all over the world and scrambling all the languages so that people could not unite in communication to rebel against God is another major turning point in the flow of history as the Torah sees it. This was a downfall for humanity out of which would, down the line, eventually emerge the shining lights of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob the three forefathers of the Children of Israel/the Jewish People.

The formation of the Children of Israel (Bnei Yisroel) and their exile in Egypt (Mitzrayim) sets the stage for another great demarcation point in Torah history preparing the way for the birth of the Jewish nation at the time of Yetzias Mitzrayim (The Exodus from Egypt) and then Matan Torah (Giving/Receiving of the Torah) at Har Sinai (Mount Sinai). Yetzias Mitzrayim is like a birthing process with the Bnei Yisroel [passing through the symbolic "birth canal" of the Yam Suf (Red Sea)]. Not just a birth but with passing through Krias Yam Suf (Splitting of the Red Sea) the Children of Israel become different sort of beings, different to the rest of humanity as fish are different to land animals.

With the arrival of the Children of Israel in the Land of Israel the stage is set for something terrible that must happen and has been preordained from the beginning of Creation: Shibud Daled Malchuyos (Subjugation to Four [enemy] Kingdoms) that can be traced back to the first words in Genesis. These four kingdoms that will subjugate the Children of Israel are Babylonia, Persia-Media, Greece, Rome each inflicting unique pain, suffering and punishments on the Jewish People for over more than 2,500 years.

First comes Babylonia which destroys the First Temple in Jerusalem by destroying the Kingdom of Judah, that had survived the the prior destruction of the northern Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians and the exile of the Ten Tribes, and that then takes the people of Judah into a physical exile while allowing Torah centers to be built in Babylon.

Eventually this will become one of the great centers of the Jews eventually producing the Babylonian Talmud. Golus Bavel (the Babylonian Exile) is unique in that the punishment of exile for the Jewish People was an open overt punishment because the three major cardinal sins that the Jews committed, Idol Worship, Sexual Immorality, Murder, were done in the open.

Measure for measure (Mida Keneged Mida) the punishment fits the crime and the Jewish People were exiled for an open fixed amount of time of only seventy years after which they were allowed to return to the Land of Israel to rebuild the Second Bais Hamikdash (Jewish Temple).

Babylonia falls in short order as a world empire and in its place rises the Persian-Median Empire, the second of the Four Kingdoms. The essence of the challenge for the Jewish People of Golus Poras Umadai (Persian-Median Exile) is encapsulated in the Purim story where Haman the Amalekite seeks to exterminatet the Jewish People by genocide of the Jews. Thus the policy of Persia under Haman's tutelage is genocide of the Jews and it is a miracle that God saves the Jews from Haman and the Jew-haters.

The Jewish People almost met their demise under Persia because they had fallen prey to assimilation after they were exiled to Babylonia now ruled by Persia. This almost resulted in the annihilation of the Jewish People as punishment who nevertheless repented and re-accepted (Hadar Kibluha) the Torah willingly. The miracle of the triumph of the Jewish People over the wicked Haman is celebrated on the Jewish holiday of Purim. In spite of this the Jewish People are still not fully freed and remain under the authority of the Persian kings.

From that time on there is a principle that "Tachas Achashverosh Anan": we [the Jews] are still under the rulership of Achashverosh the king of Persia meaning that full Jewish sovereignty is not subsequently fully regained, something that will only happen with arrival of the Jewish Messiah who will lead the Jewish People in the future. Eventually one of the Persian Kings, Cyrus the Great gives the Jews permission to return to the Holy Land and rebuild their holy Temple, the Second Bais Hamikdash.

The Greeks are the third of the Four Kingdoms to subjugate the Jews, coming after the Greeks conquer the Persian Empire and become the new rulers of the world including the Land of Israel. Rav Hutner focused on the main challenge of Yavan (Greece) which was cultural assimilation. Golus Yavan (Greek Exile) is unique in that the Greeks did not practice exiling people and they did not practice genocide, instead they were convinced of the superiority of their own Greek culture, art, philosophy, all things beautiful, and the Greek language and sought to influence and win over all the places and people that came under their control to become Hellenized (take on Greek culture) and become like the Greeks.

Eventually a war broke out between the Greeks and the Jews and the Jews managed to defeat the Seleucid Greeks based in Syria. But there were also the Ptolemaic Greeks based in Egypt where many Jews lived who were more benevolent and encouraged massive Hellenization. Thus the Jews had to fight the Greeks on the battlefields of Judea as well as fight their culture known as Hellenization. The Jewish holiday of Chanuka is a symbol of both the military victory of the Jews against the Greek armies, but more importantly of the victory of the Jews' Torah light symbolized by the Menora over Greek philosophy which is regarded as a form of darkness.

The final and fourth of the Four Kingdoms is Edom-Rome that had conquered the Greeks and inherited the Greek Empire including the Land of Israel. Interestingly while the Jews of Babylonia were safe due to the power of the Parthians whom the Romans could not defeat, everywhere else the Romans instituted decrees against the Jews that resulted in many Jewish rebellions against Rome. The Jews' Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans and the Romans then sent the remaining Jews of Judea into exile all over the Roman Empire.

The Roman exile is not like the Babylonian exile. While the Babylonian Exile lasted 70 years and then the Jews were allowed to return to the Land of Israel, on the other hand the Roman Exile is open-ended and seemingly stretches "forever" which in our terms means the two thousand year exile of the Jewish People that started with the Romans defeating the Jews of Judea and exiling them all over the Roman Empire.

The two thousand year Roman Exile, called Golus Edom combines all the types of exiles of the prior exiles and adds its own types of exiles that overlap each other as each element of exile punishes the Jewish People.

The first stage of the Roman Exile, is physical exile like what happened in the times of the Babylonian Exile. Jews were kicked out of their land in Eretz Yisrael and spread all over the Roman Empire and many others fled to Babylon and Arabia where they also faced harsh conditions.

The second phase of the Roman Exile is similar to what happened to the Jews in Persia where they had to face the threat of killing and genocide. The rise of Christianity in the West subjected the Jews to death in the Crusades, Pogroms and eventually the Holocaust.

The third stage of the Roman Exile is comparable to what the Greek Exile was all about: Cultural assimilation, the Enlightenment and subjugation of the Jews to alien cultures that try to overthrow the practice of Torah, Mitzvos and Judaism.

At the very end all the types of exiles rise up and act together against the Jewish People.

The Arabs are the descendants of Yishmael who was Abraham's rejected son and they seek to take vengeance on the Jewish People as part of the end stage of the Roman Exile. This connects to the definition of Amalek which is basically that nation that is at the peak of striking at the Jewish People. "Am" means nation while "Lak" means to hit or strike. In that sense Yishmael becomes "Amalek" too for both Yishmael and Esav the progenitor of Edom and Rome hate Ya'akov the ancestor of the Jewish People.

The Jewish People, from the time of Abraham to the coming of the Jewish Messiah, need to earn their final freedom from Galus (Exile) by passing through the cauldron of fire of the Four Exiles in order to reach the stage of the Geula Achrona (Final Redemption) also known as the Geula Sheleima (Complete Redemption) and in order to do that they must undergo the subjugation and suffering to the Daled Malchuyos (Four Kingdoms) that will finally be brought to its end with the arrival of the Goel Tzedek (Righteous Redeemer) the true Jewish Messiah in the Acharis Hayomim (End of Days).

In his article "Holocaust – A Study Of The Term And The Epoch It Is Meant To Describe" (Jewish Observer, Vol. 12. Number 8, October 1977) Rav Hutner teaches the correct way to view Jewish History from a Torah perspective: "The pattern of Jewish History throughout the ages is Churban–Golus–Geulah: Destruction–Exile–Redemption, and no event requires new categories or definitions."

Thus with the entry of the Children of Israel into the Land of Israel after the Exodus from Egypt they faced the Destruction of the First Temple (Churban Bayis Rishon) and the seventy year Exile at the hands of Babylon but during the Exile of Persia-Media they survived genocide and merited to the Redemption that allowed them to survive in ancient Persia and to return to the Land of Israel once again. Starting with the ancient Greeks and continued by the Romans the Jewish People once again suffered the Destruction of the Second Temple (Churban Bayis Sheni) and the terrible two thousand year long exile started after Rome defeated the Jews of Judea.

Only in modern times have the Jewish People merited to see the unfolding of the Final Redemption as the power of Rome and its historical offshoots wanes and its control of the Jewish nation is weakened as Hashem brings about the Ingathering of the Exiles (Kibbutz Galuyos) with the return of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel for the final time.

Rav Hutner understood this trend very well and both sacrificed and committed himself to building his own Yeshiva Pachad Yitzchok in Jerusalem, Israel as testimony to Netzach Yisroel (Jewish Eternity).

Rabbi Yitschak Rudominwas born to Holocaust survivor parents in Israel, grew up in South Africa, and lives in Brooklyn, NY. He is an alumnus of Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin and of Teachers College–Columbia University. He heads the Jewish Professionals Institute dedicated to Jewish Adult Education and Outreach – Kiruv Rechokim. He was the Director of the Belzer Chasidim's Sinai Heritage Center of Manhattan 1988–1995, a Trustee of AJOP 1994–1997 and founder of American Friends of South African Jewish Education 1995–2015. He is also a docent and tour guide at The Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in Downtown Manhattan, New York.

He is the author of The Second World War and Jewish Education in America: The Fall and Rise of Orthodoxy.

Contact Rabbi Yitschak Rudomin at [email protected]