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What do you say about Kol Hator and moshiach ben yosef?

Dec. 3, 2007

Dear Rabbi,

"And Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him." This quote from Mikeitz 42:7,8 is discussed in his sefer Kol
Hator by R. Hillel of Shklov the mystic genius student of the Vilna Gaon.
There he explains the verse is in reference to Mashiach Ben Yosef. For
Mashiach ben Yosef will recognize his brothers, i.e. the Jewish people,
but they will not "recognize" him. That is, they will oppose him and his
efforts. However, this does not HAVE TO be, IF one RECOGNIZES the
CHARATERISTICS of Mashiach ben Yosef, then one will recognize him as their
"brother" and support him in his efforts. The key here is to be able to
recognize him; more specifically, to learn and to recognize his particular
characteristics by studying the sugya of Mashiach ben Yosef....before he
comes to the fore, not after it's too late. For if one does not study the
sugya of Mashiach ben Yosef, then surely it will be impossible for his
"brothers" to recognize him and support him. Indeed, one will oppose him
since one will misunderstand his characteristics as being
"anti-Torah/anti-Jewish." And if one doesn't have enough source
information to learn about the characteristics of a Mashiach ben Yosef,
then one should go to someone who does have such information.

I don't know how often and how in-depth the Satmar Rav
spoke about this sugya, if at all, or how much you may have learned about it
from others. So I'll just tell you that I have about 75 pages give or take
on the subject, and it is a rather significant subject to learn and
understand, especially as it relates to everything we have discussed.
Indeed, understood properly, one should come to realize that Mashiach ben
Yosef's purpose is at least equal in importance to Mashiach ben David, and
some would argue even greater. I know that is probably hard to grasp if
one hasn't been taught the sugya of Mashiach ben Yosef in any great depth.
All the more so the subject of Mashaich ben Yosef might seem unimportant if
one has learned only about the subject of Mashiach ben David. If you are
interested, I can fax you a copy of the shiur, along with other relevant

Okay, I'm interested in seeing what you have written about Mashiach Ben Yosef. Just for your consideration, the Kol Hator we have today is not the authentic work of Reb Hillel Mishklov, if there ever was such a work. Shlomo Zalman Rivlin (1886-1962) published parts of it in the late 1940's. He himself admitted that this was an abridged version. The alleged original manuscript disappeared during the Zionist war of independence, and has never been found. Only two copies of the abridged version remained, and they were the basis for subsequent printings by Kasher and the Kol Hator institute. In 1994 a new edition appeared with some new sections based on a notebook found in the house of Shlomo Zalman Rivlin. The notebook was written in the handwriting of Dr. Elazar Hurvitz, who is today a professor at YU. Apparently Rivlin dictated it to Hurvitz. It is possible that Hurvitz himself aided in composing the document.

Furthermore, much of the history of Reb Hillel Mishklov's leading role in the aliyas talmidei hagra is only known to us from Shlomo Zalman Rivlin's book Chazon Tzion, which he published at about the same time as Kol Hator. Later scholars, such as Aryeh Morgenstern (Geulah Bederech Hateva) have shown that much of this history was falsified, that Reb Hillel was not the leader of the 1809 aliyah at all, and that he first came to Eretz Yisroel much later.

Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch published a 10 page article questioning the authenticity of the Kol Hator when it was published by Kasher in the late 60s. He notes that the sefer contains many modern Hebrew words, and it is therefore unclear what is from the original and what was added later.

On the subject of Moshiach ben Yosef, here is something the Satmar Rav said, printed in Divrei Yoel Naso pp. 213-214. Rashi at the end of Vayeishev says that Yosef had to sit in jail for an extra two years as punishment for asking the cupbearer to speak to Pharaoh on his behalf. Why was it wrong of him to make this effort? Don’t we all make efforts to earn a living, while at the same time believing that our success is up to Hashem?

The Shlah (Torah Shebichsav, Maamar Tzon Yosef) writes at length about the dispute between Yosef and his brothers. How could it be, he asks, that the brothers, who were all righteous and were greater than angels, wanted to kill Yosef Hatzaddik? He explains that Yosef and his brothers all agreed that the royal family would be descended from Yehuda, but in order for the Egyptian exile to end and Yehuda to take power, Yosef had to rule during the exile. Yosef’s rule subdued the Angel of Egypt and enabled the Israelites to escape from Egyptian slavery. After the Exodus from Egypt, the primacy of Yehuda was established – the Tribe of Yehuda traveled first in the desert, and in Eretz Yisroel the dynasty of David emerged from Yehuda.

The future redemption, says the Shlah, will follow a similar pattern. It will begin with a moshiach from the tribe of Yosef, who will reign not as part of a permanent dynasty but as a preparation for the moshiach from the dynasty of David.

Yosef understood all of this. But his brothers, when they saw Yosef planning to be king over them, thought that he wanted permanent royalty for himself and was thus challenging the Davidic dynasty, a capital crime.

When Yosef revealed himself to his brothers, he finally explained to them the entire picture. He said, “G-d sent me before you to allow you to remain alive in the land, and to give you life for a great escape” (45:7). Yosef was assuring them that he did not see his rulership as a permanent thing, a goal unto itself, but rather a preparation for the Exodus and eventual monarchy of the tribe of Yehuda.

Since Yosef’s rise to power was a preparation for the redemption, it was subject to the oath against forcing the end, which forbids making any efforts on our own. Unlike making a living and healing, redemption is an area where all human effort is forbidden. That is why Yosef was punished so severely for enlisting the help of the cupbearer. His rise to power – and with it the entire redemption – was postponed.

Although Rashi at the end of Vayeishev speaks only of the sin of trusting in man, and does not mention the sin of forcing the end, he means that because this sort of effort is forbidden, use of it demonstrates lack of trust in Hashem - for truthfully, even efforts to make a living or to heal oneself would have been forbidden, had the Torah not permitted them explicitly.

One might ask: Don’t we see that Yosef made his own efforts to become a ruler? After interpreting Pharaoh’s dream, he offered unsolicited advice on how to avoid starvation during the famine, thus earning Pharaoh’s admiration and his appointment as ruler.

But the truth is that Yosef did not give the advice on his own initiative. One may not offer advice to a wicked man. Chazal say (Bava Basra 4a) that Daniel was punished for giving advice to Nevuchadnetzar (Daniel 4:24). Rather, Yosef’s advice was actually part of his interpretation of the dream.

When Pharaoh related his dream to Yosef, he said, “And [the seven fat cows] came into [the seven thin cows], and it was not recognizable that they came into them, and their appearance was as bad as before” (41:21). This detail of the dream was not mentioned by the Torah earlier (v. 4). The reason is that there is a rule that every dream must have some meaningless element (Rashi on 37:10). In Pharaoh’s dream, the meaningless element was that the thin cows looked thin even after they had swallowed up the fat cows – which would have meant that in the years of famine, people would starve to death and the years of plenty would give them no benefit. Had Yosef not given his advice to store up grain, this would have come true, the dream would have had no meaningless element, and thus Yosef’s interpretation would have been wrong. In order to interpret the dream correctly, Yosef had to prevent the fulfillment of this verse by giving advice. Since this was the meaningless element of the dream, it was not mentioned by the Torah earlier in v. 4.

Thus, Yosef’s rise to power was completely an act of Hashem – Pharaoh’s dream was from Hashem, the interpretation was placed in Yosef’s mind by Hashem, and the advice he gave Pharaoh was part of that interpretation. The only time he tried to take action on his own was when he asked the cupbearer for help, and for that he was punished.

Today there is a school of Zionist thought that says that Zionism is the preparation for the coming of moshiach, fulfilling the function of moshiach ben yosef. It is true that the Shlah says that the future redemption will be preceded by a ruler from the tribe of Yosef, but as we have seen here, this moshiach ben yosef is part of the process of redemption, and therefore no human effort is permitted to place him in power. The punishment for any such effort is that the redemption is postponed – just as it was in Yosef’s case.