There is a principle that the redemption only comes after a series of severe troubles (see: אוצרות הרב יצחק אברבנאל, p. 124)

יש לדעת כי הגאולה הרוממה באה רק אחרי רצף של צרות קשות

One of these troubles is, as the Gemara in perek Cheilek, Daf 97a describes, that Torah-scholars will diminish, as Rabbi Yochanan teaches:

Rabbi Yoḥanan says: During the generation in which the Messiah, son of David, comes, Torah scholars decrease; and as for the rest of the people, their eyes fail with sorrow and grief, and troubles increase. (emphasis mine)

I've read an explanation that this means that when Torah-scholars diminish, we don't have anyone to "lean on" and to ask for help, so to speak, in spiritual matters, but also in matters of halacha (my own interpretation of source below; מוסרי קלצק, p. 67):

בגמ סנהדרין צז ע"א איתא דור שבן דוד בא בו תלמידי חכמים מתמעטים והשאר עיניהם כלות ביגון ואנחה וביאור הענין כי בשעה שתלמידי חכמים מתמעטין ואין לנו כח זכות הצדיקים והת"ח שיגינו עלינו ממילא שאר כל העם אין להם על מי להשען וממילא עיניהם כלות ביגון ואנחה

Similary, Rashi, on the Gemara "Until the students of Torah have become few" (97a) writes that the Torah scholars lead the people onto the right path.

Are there other explanations on what it means that the Torah-scholars will diminish during the period in which Moshiach comes? Does it need to be read literally, or is there a lesson in this Gemara that we need to understand? It seems to me that the message the Gemara is conveying, is that without Torah scholars, people have nobody to lead them onto the Torah-path and guide them in Torah. But does Moshiach not come until that happens?

  • 1
    Oh we certainly see it, especially the last 4-5 years!
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Dec 6, 2022 at 18:33
  • 1
    @RabbiKaii what happened in the last 5 years?
    – Double AA
    Dec 6, 2022 at 19:47
  • @DoubleAA I lost count of how many big gadolim we lost in the last 5 years... Rachmana litzlan.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Dec 6, 2022 at 19:58
  • I also lost count of how many rabbis died in the last century. Do you usually manage to remember for 5 years and this was worse than usual?
    – Double AA
    Dec 6, 2022 at 20:08
  • @DoubleAA yes, I really think so.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Dec 6, 2022 at 21:06

1 Answer 1


I would like to present a partial answer to this question. I am still waiting for another, official answer.

One of the "pshat"-reasons is that there will be terrible suffering in the generation in which Ben David, Moshiach comes. The ArtScroll version of Sanhedrin (97a, footnote 2) says:

The righteous will die beforehand so that they will not have to endure this suffering. Moreover, such troubles cannot be imposed while the righteous are still living and protecting the people.

So, according to this, "Torah scholars decrease" means that the tzaddikim in our generation(s) will be spared from these troubles, hence they "decrease".

There are several sources that explain that one who clings to a Torah scholar, is considered as if he clings to the Shechina (starting with Kesubos 111b, אגרות ר' יצחק אלחנן, מנורת המאור, אדרת אליהו).

The Lubavitcher Rebbe (Sichos Yud Shvat 5721) explains:

Although the body is a limited physical entity stemming from kelipas nogah, while the soul is “an actual part of G‑d,” the two should ultimately work in harmony. Not only will the body not be negated by the soul, the soul should endow it with life.

Nevertheless, this G‑dly life-energy is hidden, and it is the responsibility of each person to realize and reveal this potential through his Divine service. He should come to the awareness that every one of his limb derives its life-energy from the G‑dly soul. (emphasis mine).

From the explanation of the Rebbe, we can introduce an possible explanation, namely that instead of clinging to the sages, and this way clinging to the Shechina, we need to "work by ourselves" in order to literally "going from strenght to strength" (Tehillim 84:8; see Torah Ohr by the Alter Rebbe, Shemos 1:9 and Torah Ohr Megillat Esther 9:2). Back in the generation of the Gemara, clinging to the sages would mean clinging to the Shechina. But now, we need to cling to G-d by our own effort, seeking G-d through our own efforts, not by simply clinging to the sages.

On the other hand, as I pointed out in the question itself, the sefer מוסרי קלצק explains that we do not have anyone to lean on and to ask halachic questions and how to apply them to our lives. This is, as Rashi writes, the protection offered by the sages in the generation.

Then how do we get protection during the generation in which Moshiach comes? Well, learning Torah ofcourse, but in a broad sense: performing mitzvos, since the very word "mitzvah" is related to the Aramaic word "Tzavsa" which means connection. See for example Hayom Yom; Cheshvan 8:

Mitzva is an idiom of tzavta - "joining," "attachment." Whoever performs a mitzva becomes joined to the Essence of G‑d - may He be blessed - Who issues that particular command. This is the meaning of "The reward of a mitzva is the mitzva (itself)":1 His becoming attached to the Essence of the En Sof Who ordained the command, is itself his reward.

Actually, it is a mitzvah to cling to G-d, as the posuk says in Devarim 11:22. The Sefer HaMitzvos says that this can be done, when clinging to a Torah scholar, that is the same as clinging to G-d (see also the Gemara mentioned earlier, including the sources mentioned there.). However, when "Torah scholars decrease", we are meant to find a way to cling directly to Hashem, without the "intermediate step" of clinging to a Torah scholar.

  • That was an absolutely stunning answer, thanks so much, and for those sources. Why don't you think this answers the question?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Dec 15, 2022 at 20:16
  • Thanks. I've got this answer partly from my own Rabbi. The reason why I find it difficult to understand is because why would all of this be necessary for Moshiach coming? The attachment to G-d part is understandable and reasonable.
    – Shmuel
    Dec 15, 2022 at 20:38
  • In Shem Olam (Shaar Hachzakas HaTorah 15), the Chafetz Chaim writes that whatever merit a Torah scholar attains, his student will also attains (not only student, even a supporter). However, when Torah scholars decrease in our generation, do we need to attain that merit on our own?
    – Shmuel
    Dec 15, 2022 at 20:44
  • You are looking for the deeper reason. I've thought about it a lot. I don't know what the answer is, maybe no one does. What makes sense is that Hashem wants us to be able to do it ourselves. Believe in beis Yisrael!
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Dec 15, 2022 at 22:32

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