Published Date: July 27, 2020
This Week’s Music – Taking a 9 Day break
Friends, the screaming continues. One need not read or listen to “the news” to know what is going on in our lives. Hashem is screaming and it’s painful. One more test for us all yet this time its newer and bigger. What is my response? Make no mistake about it, I don’t pretend to know why all of this is going on? Certainly having lived on this planet through the turbulent 60’s, the 1970’s when Jewish Federation’s national campaign slogan was “We Are One,” followed by the me generation 80’s and the millennial crowd, I have certainly been blessed to have personally witnessed so many hints, streams of consciousness and behavior. I have personally never heard Hashem screaming this loud at us. Wow! I can hear that He really cares. He wants to take care of His children, who need so much caring. What a gift? Hashem is mamash calling out to us. “karov hasehm l’chol kor’av, lchol asher yikreuhu be’emet,” Hashem is close to all who call him , to all that call him from a place of truth (Psalms 145).
The Slonimer Rebbe teaches us that during this annual period of time in our calendar, which we call the three weeks, or “between the straits,” we are experiencing a time where Hashem is reaching out to us, coming in closer proximity so that we can be more aware of his calling us. He is stepping out of His exclusive place and as always, he is saying, ‘be with Me!’ Sometimes we hear it louder and we call back, “Yes please be with me.” The Holy Magid of Mezritch, the top student of The Baal Shem Tov, explains that Hashem is more openly available in these difficult times. Even though we are experiencing the pain, He is calling out, as if to say, my kids are messed up I need to go help them. This is the dual meaning of this time period year in year out. The Beit Hamikdash was destroyed and Hashem says, “kara elai moed,” call it for me a holiday.
This day coming next week, the 9th of Av, says the prophet Zechariah, will be a day of great joy and a very good festival, as the truth Peace will love each other (Zechariah 8.19).” This is what we need to be yearning for in a very real way.
Where do we turn to get a better understanding of what it is that we need to do? We can’t simply continue to ignore the relationship of Hashem, to everything that happens in the world and our personal and collective connection to Him. Here is a thought. We can learn something from our enemies. Sad as it sounds, the truth is that we have enemies. This is nothing new. Its basis can be found in the Torah. The Holy Torah, whose words and meaning are still alive in our lives today spells out for us who are enemies are. Those enemies of the Torah are still here. They may go by different names, have moved location, but there goal and tactics mirror those of our enemies in the Holy Torah. There is still a Bil’am who wants to trick us into his spiritual traps, there is still a Haman who plainly wants to kill us and will do anything he can to united governments against us, and there is still an even wiser Titus, who takes the time to get to know us and use that as his strongest tactic against our having any future. My chevruta Moishe Hendel sent me this quote from the sefer “Me’am, Loez,” authored by Rabbi Yaakov Culi in 1730. (Me’am Loez “Story of 9 Av” translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan zt’l) “…finally Titus said to them. There is only one plan that will work against the Israelites (that’s us) and I will not turn aside from it. We will put the city (Jerusalem) under siege. We will not fight. Their food is gone. Let starvation defeat them. Furthermore, if we do not fight against them, if they do not have a common enemy, they will begin fighting among themselves. If we carry out our plan correctly, whatever we want to do to them, they will do to themselves.
Clearly our enemies understand. Haman says to Achashverosh, “yesh am echad mefuzar umforad bein ha’amim…” We have one nation among us who is splintered and disconnected from all other nations, their religion is different from all other nations and the religion of the king they do not follow. why should you allow them to be (Megilat Esther Chapter 3.8).
Haman was right. We are different. Our history is different. Our relationship with God can be different. First we need to accept the teaching of the Torah that indeed we are the “Am segulah,” the specific nation set aside, “am hanivchar,” the people that were chosen to receive the Torah, keep the Shabbat, live in The Holy Land and be the leading vehicle to bring Peace to the world . We have the potential to see the world with different eyes. Haman new that, Titus knew that. Why don’t we seem to know that? We so often deny that we are different. We so much want to be the same and seen as the same. We think that will bring more respect in the world, when the opposite is true. It only continuous to bring us more disrespect and anti-Semitic hatred.
Listen to Titus. “…if they do not have a common enemy, they will begin fighting among themselves. If we carry out our plan correctly, whatever we want to do to them, they will do to themselves.” We are so together when we unite against our common physical enemy, but we can’t seem to get it together with “simchah,” against our common spiritual enemy, argument and hatred. Love and “simchah” will do the job to get rid of these negatives traits in our collective lives.
We are clearly going through an extremely turbulent time and what are we doing? Blaming each other. Wrong! Takes us nowhere than closer to the “sinat chinam,” of the Beit Hamikdash time 2000 years ago. We need to fix ourselves.! What better time to do it than now? I need your help, you need mine. We need each other to really care. If that means that I don’t call you out, criticize and embarrass you and instead take a moment to try to understand why you think that way, what causes you to act that way, and I need to do so right now. What a leap of “loving kindness” between us we can take. It is no longer some pipe dream come true. No longer some fanatic crazy fantasy. “Nice idea, but it will never happen,” I have sadly heard so often. It can happen. It will happen. Its time is now. It has always been its time, but we chose not to take the initiative of honestly seeing of who we are, to see that there are those who care about who you are, and want to share our ideal level of “Ahavat Chinam,” with the world.
So friends, on this “Shabbat Chazon” as we try to connect with the vision of the prophet Isaiah, and we look with hope and yearning towards “the festival” of Tisha B’av, the day that will herald the coming of Moshaich, the complete redemption, the day when truth and Peace will clearly be in love, leading to the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash, we must approach this lofty goal with deep humility. We must stand together, all of us as one, because in the end, “all we have is each other.” In Tractate Shabbat, 139 a, we learn as follows: Ula says: Jerusalem will be redeemed only through righteousness, as it is stated, “Zion will be redeemed with justice and those who return to her with righteousness” (Isiah 1.27). I simply want to live in a caring world one where “tzedakah,” connecting to each other through honest giving and receiving, is the number one priority between us. Our opinions are much less important then what must be our bottom line. Not who is right and who is wrong, but who are we as a whole. You are my brother or sister!. We must be humble in our lives in a caring way. In short, each of us, instead of looking to criticize and blame someone else, must take personal responsibility and focus on the questions of , what am I doing here? Why was I sent here? What is my unique job? Not only on behalf of myself, but on behalf of all of the people. As far as who we are towards each other, in place of blaming each other in these dark times, we should know that The Magid of Kuznitz recommends that dark times call for us to give each other strength, to create a space where we don’t lose hope and look towards a better future together.
May we stay together in holiness. May we all enter into the holiness of the land of Israel and allow its holiness to enter into us. Baruch Hashem, the fixing is going on all over the world, however, the cleansing needs to take place in The Holy Land, Eretz Yisrael. That is because the cleansing and polishing are synonymous with Holiness. And may we be blessed to celebrate together in The Holy City of Yerushalayim right now!