I, Isaac Streicher, hereby record the eerie conversation that I overheard in the old Jewish cemetery of Odessa, on a rainy night in late December 1899. I shared the conversation with friends and neighbors, but they rejected its authenticity and accused me of fabrication and mental instability.
They said, “Streicher, you’re mad! Two spirits talking in a cemetery about the coming century. What preposterous nonsense.”
No matter that I pointed out that the Talmud (Brochos 18b) relates a similar story about a righteous man who slept in a cemetery and overheard the conversation of two departed souls. One spirit had traveled “beyond the curtain” where she had learned the Divine plan for the coming year, and she related this information to her friend. In truth, I do understand people’s skepticism, since the predictions that I foretold for the coming century appear too fantastic to be true.
I have prepared this manuscript for two reasons. Firstly, there is no doubt in my mind that the events of the future will confirm my story. Still, I fear that people will fail to discern the hand of G-d as it majestically weaves a wondrous and deliberate pattern on the tapestry of Jewish history. It is often difficult to appreciate the significance of events as they unfold. To perceive Divine providence, one must step back and view the masterpiece in its entirety. This document describes some of the dramatic upheavals and cataclysmic changes that the Jewish people will experience in the 20th century, and provides a perspective of the picture that may otherwise not be recognized. Secondly, the spirits conveyed a powerful message (found in the concluding paragraphs), which must not be ignored.
Transcript of a Conversation of Two Spirits in the Odessa Cemetery
Elimelech: The tide of assimilation continues to sweep a path of devastation through Eastern Europe. How will the Jewish people survive the 20th century?
Herschel: I traveled “behind the curtain” and heard the Divine plan. It is almost too incredible to believe. During the next century, millions of Jews will relocate to a country of their own. Though large segments of the population will continue to be non-observant, their Jewish identity will be preserved.
Elimelech: That’s impossible. Where is there enough land to accommodate millions of Jews? True, there is space in the desert, but no one can possibly survive there.
Herschel: The Jews will return to their homeland of Eretz Yisroel. Since the exile began 2000 years ago, G-d has kept His promise to maintain Eretz Yisroel in a state of desolation. (Vayikra, 26:32. See Ramban 26:16) As soon as the Jewish people return, the swamps and malaria will disappear, and the barren desert will blossom once more.
Elimelech: Why will millions of Jews uproot themselves from their homes and move to a desolate land?
Herschel: Many will be inspired by Zionist aspirations. Others will come in the aftermath of a horrific annihilation of European Jewry. For reasons understood only by the Almighty, six million Jews will perish, and the downtrodden and beleaguered survivors will return to their homeland.
Elimelech: Won’t the anti-Semitic nations of the world prevent a mass migration to Israel?
Herschel: Immediately after this genocide, the nations will briefly experience a sense of guilt and shame for their complicity and lack of intervention. During this window of opportunity, they will endorse a Jewish State, though they will subsequently regret this decision.
Elimelech: Won’t the secular Jews in Israel attempt to eradicate the Jewish character of the State, and assimilate with their Arab neighbors?
Herschel: Yes, many Jews will favor an Arab-Jewish State, and some intermarriage will occur as well. But an unprecedented torrent of Arab hatred and hostility will be unleashed, beyond imaginable proportions. Ironically, the greater the effort to assimilate and live in harmony, the more the Arabs will attack and terrorize the Jewish population.
Elimelech: The Arab nations are poor and backward. Won’t the Jews easily overpower them and impose peace?
Herschel: Other more powerful nations from around the world will rally in support of the Arab cause. There will be no peace between Israel and her foes in the 20th century, and this ongoing conflict will render assimilation with the Arab world impossible.
Elimelech: If powerful allies support the Arabs, won’t they attack and destroy Israel?
Herschel: Yes, in fact the Arabs will wage four major wars against Israel. The Arab forces will far outnumber the small army of the Jewish State. If the Arabs were to win any one of these battles, the entire Jewish population of Israel would be slaughtered in a horrible blood bath. However, an even more powerful country, the United States of America, will supply Israel with sophisticated weaponry, as well as financial and political support.
Elimelech: Why will the nations support the Arabs in their struggle against the Jewish State?
Herschel: Partially because of anti-Semitism. But a second force will also drive this alliance. During the 20th century, the Arab nations will become wealthy from vast reservoirs of crude oil, which G-d has hidden beneath the ground in their land. Suddenly this black gold will bring them great riches, and immense political influence.
Elimelech: Arab oil has no value.
Herschel: In the next century, inventors will develop machines that have an insatiable thirst for oil. Daily, millions of barrels will be pumped from the ground and sold around the world.
Elimelech: Why will countries purchase oil from the Arab nations and not continue to extract it from their own lands?
Herschel: Because these countries will deplete their own supplies, and much of the worldwide oil resources are found in the Arab nations.
Elimelech: Israel is situated in the center of Arab territory. Won't Israel have her own resources of oil, which will neutralize Arab influence?
Herschel: No. Remarkably, a sea of oil will surround Israel, but she will be almost bereft of this natural resource.
Elimelech: Which nations will support the Arabs?
Herschel: Initially, an evil empire, the Soviet Union, will be the primary supporter of the Arab states. In addition to inciting Arab terror against Israel, the Soviet Union will persecute their Jewish population and forbid all forms of religious expression. Eventually, G-d will put an end to this force of evil. After 70 years of cruel domination, the Soviet Empire will suddenly collapse, and more than one million Soviet Jews will immigrate to Israel. Yet as Soviet domination fades, worldwide anti-Semitism will increase. Many nations will align themselves with the Arabs and prevent Israel from decisively defeating Arab terrorism.
Elimelech: You indicated that the United States will be more powerful than the supporters of the Arab countries. If so, why won’t the alliance of Israel with the United States allow the Jewish State to defeat the Arabs?
Herschel: The key to understanding Jewish history in the 20th century is to recognize that Hashem will maintain a balance of power at all times. Though the President and Congress of the United States will favor Israel, United States interests in Arab oil will temper and modify this support. American backing of Israel will prevent the Arab nations from destroying Israel, but at the same time it will not be strong enough to enable Israel to completely vanquish the Arab terrorists, and establish peaceful co-existence with the Arab neighbors.
Elimelech: How will distant countries exert influence over the affairs of the Middle East?
Herschel: In the 20th century, G-d will allow the development of marvelous means of communication and travel. Representatives from every country will join a league of nations, and they will use this platform to condemn the State of Israel. The United States will be the lone voice protecting the Jewish nation. Eventually, the Arab-Israeli conflict will become a focal point of international concern, and the entire world will be drawn into a major struggle over the State of Israel.
Elimelech: Why will G-d involve the whole world in this conflict?
Herschel: I believe for two reasons. Firstly, the Jews will experience a profound sense of isolation. This will underscore the special and unique role of the Jewish people, as foretold in the Torah, “Behold it is a nation that will dwell in solitude, and is not counted among nations.” (Bamidbar 23:9)
I can best explain the second reason by telling the following story. Long ago, two cities feuded over the sovereignty of a parcel of nearby territory. The dispute made its way to the attention of the King and he ruled that the conflict be decided through a tournament of strength. The King ordered the erection of a giant scale and had 200 pound boulders placed in the nearby vicinity. Whichever city would succeed in placing more weight on their side of the scale would win the land. The strongest men in each city arrived at the tournament and began to lift the heavy boulders onto the scale. The competition was fierce, and each city matched boulder for boulder of their opponent. To everyone's surprise, when the pile of boulders was depleted, the scale was perfectly balanced. Suddenly, a young boy appeared before the King, and proclaimed that he will tip the scale in favor of his city. As the crowd scoffed at the insolence of this weakling, the boy deposited a small stone on the scale, and the scale sank decisively to one side.
During the 20th century, many powerful nations will become engaged in this conflict between the Arabs and the Jews. G-d will maintain a state of equilibrium between these mighty forces and balance the struggle with great precision. Only one thing will break the stalemate and tip the scale in either direction.
Elimelech: What is that?
Herschel: The deeds of the Jewish people.
Elimelech: Which Jews will have this power?
Herschel: Every single Jew.
Elimelech: Which deeds will be decisive?
Herschel: Any mitzvah performed with a pure soul will tip the scale in the favor of the Jewish State. Transgressions committed with a cold heart will move the scale in the opposite direction.
G-d’s plan for the coming century is incredible. Hashem will return millions of Jews to their homeland, while surrounded by tens of millions of hostile Arabs. The Arabs will possess oil fields, which will provide them with wealth and power. Most of the nations will rally in support of the Arab cause. As a counterbalance, the United States of America will be an ally to Israel, though not in an absolute fashion. Ultimately, the entire world will be engaged in a giant tug of war of sorts, with neither side having a decisive upper hand. Why will Hashem orchestrate this international struggle over the State of Israel, a tiny sliver of land? So that each Jew will recognize the immense significance of his every single deed. The balance of power will be so precarious that the slightest movement in either direction will tip the scale. The fate of the Jewish people will sway back and forth like a great pendulum, in accordance with the religious conduct of the Jewish people.
Elimelech: Herschel, everything you have told me tonight is almost beyond belief, but this last suggestion is simply ludicrous. While the world is locked in a great struggle, one mitzvah of a single Jew will move the pendulum in favor of the Jewish State? Impossible.
Herschel: But my dear Elimelech, have you forgotten the haunting words of the Rambam, which he wrote over seven hundred years ago, based on a Gemorah in Kiddushin (40b). The Rambam states unequivocally, " A person must constantly view the entire world as if it is half meritorious and half guilty. If the individual performs one sin, he tips the balance for the entire world toward the side of guilt and brings destruction to the world. If he performs one mitzvah, he tips the balance to the side of merit and brings salvation." (Hilchos Teshuva 3:4)
Elimelech: Will Jews living in the 20th century recognize that G-d has set the stage, and realize the enormous power they wield?
Herschel: Unfortunately not.
Elimelech: Is there any way that we can let them know?
Herschel: We can try. Look – do you see Isaac Streicher in the Odessa cemetery…
Rabbi Yaakov Luban is the Executive Rabbinic Coordinator of the Kashruth Department at the Orthodox Union. He is the Rabbi of Congregation Ohr Torah in Edison, NJ.
Other Elul/Days of Awe stories by Rabbi Luban:
* The Angel's Deception
* An E-Mail from Hashem
* A Story for the Days of Awe
* Changing Perspectives
* The Grand Slam
* If you received e-mail from an angel, would you heed… The Heavenly Call
* The Merry – Go – Round