emunah, tefillah, a little mussar, and a shmeck of geula

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Litmus Test of Achdus

And who doesn’t want that there should be achdus amongst Yidden? But how many feel the need for it?  How many of us are driven by such a burning need for achdus that we are willing step out of our comfort zone to make it happen? And how many of us are so tortured by this need that we would be willing to compromise on anything that didn’t contravene Halacha? 

Apparently there was no show of hands of those whose burning need for achdus was such that they were willing to step out of their comfort zone to do something about it.  Hashem therefore took matters in hand and caused it to happen that tens of thousands of Israelis were wrenched out of their comfort zones against their will, and into shelters, in response to the Red Alerts that abounded during the latest simulation of brotherly love emanating from Gaza. 

The sirens are quiet now, and those tens of thousands of our brethren have long since left the shelters and crawled out from under the stairwells.  And from all appearances it seems that they have held up rather well.  And if it would have been a test they would have passed it with flags flying. 

But it wasn’t.  It was rather a crash course in sensitivity training.

The real test, as such, begins now. 
Before the Six Day War, children living in the environs of the Hula Valley spent countless nights in the shelters due to the Syrian artillery and mortar barrages coming from the Golan Heights.  Some of them never slept in their own beds.

While those days are long gone, their spirit lives on in the south of Israel which for years now has been the whipping boy of the vast majority of the missiles being launched from Gaza. 
In EmunahSpeak: Goin’ Ostrich, we spoke of a piece that had appeared in Mishpacha Magazine about Netivot when the first kassim rockets fell within a kilometer of the town.  The people quoted in that story made it very clear that they viewed the possibility of rockets, chas v’shalom, falling on Netivot as a tragedy of major proportions.  That it was happening tog un nacht in Sderot which is only a few kilometers up the road was not even mentioned, and therein lays the real tragedy.  One doesn’t have to look further than Parshas Vayeira to see what kind of midda this is.

And then we asked:

What future is there in a country where the concern of anyone as to what’s happening runs only to the extent that it’s happening to them?

Now that the besserer mentchen living in the coastal plain and in the environs of Yerushalyim have been recently sensitized to the world of bomb shelters there can be no excuses anymore.  Are we going to feel the pain of the Jews in Sderot, Ofakim, Netivot Ashkelon, and Ashdod, to name but a few of the communities that may well find themselves still on the Hamas target line or will it be business as usual wherein, as we said above, anyone’s concern for what is happening runs only to the extent that it is happening to him?

That’s the test.

In EmunahSpeak: Nu? we said: the path to Moshiach, which is in no small measure the path of achdus, will only be trod by transforming the grief, emoted in the comfort zone of our chevra, from a proprietary emotion to one that encompasses the entire Klal without dulling that emotional edge. 
If we make this our derech then the missiles from Gaza will hit nothing but a soft spot in our heart for a fellow Jew.

If not, then we had better take shelter.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Land of My Fathers

The sole claim that Klal Yisroel has to the Land of Israel is based on the fact that Hashem gave it to our forefathers to be passed on to their descendents. But to listen to Israeli spokespersons and officials, one would think that the Land of Israel was discovered by them in much the same way that Columbus discovered America.

In his comments explaining the ceasefire that he had reached with Hamas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said:

From the day the State of Israel was established, it has had to deal with complex challenges in the Middle East, and we can all see that these challenges have increased in complexity in the last few years. Under these conditions we are required to navigate this ship, the State of Israel, wisely and responsibly while taking into account all considerations – military and political alike.

We have had to deal with complex challenges in the Middle East since the time of the Avos, but for Bibi it seems that the clock starts from the day the State of Israel was established.

He then went on to thank everyone and his uncle for the great success that he was claiming for the State of Israel:

I would like to thank my colleagues, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman. We worked together as a team, in full agreement. I also thank the Nine-Member Ministerial Forum, the Cabinet and the Government, for working – each in its field of responsibility – for the citizens of Israel. I also appreciate the factions of the Opposition and the factions in Knesset for standing with us and proclaiming their support. I thank the Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, the Chief of Shin Bet, Yoram Cohen, the Director of the Mossad, Tamir Pardo, and all of their people for their exceptional efforts in reaching our accomplishments in Pillar of Defense. On behalf of the people of Israel, I thank the IDF commanders and soldiers, the pilots, the Iron Dome operators and developers, the members of the intelligence services, and to the reservists, who left their families.

With one exception, he pretty much got everyone in.  By the way, did anyone see Hashem at the news conference?

He must have been in Florida.

Bibi then closed with:

…and above all – I salute you, the citizens of Israel. We have a strong army; we have a strong people.  I am proud to be your Prime Minister.

Personally I’m ashamed, but at least it’s clear why Hashem didn’t rate so much as an honorable mention in his remarks.  It seems that we have a strong army.

It would have been a very big Kiddush Hashem for Bibi to have stated that this is the Land of my Fathers and to acknowledge Who gave it to them.

He didn’t.

But, as they say, Nature abhors a vacuum so someone else said it instead:

Palestine, from the river to the sea, from the north to the south, it is my land. And the land of my fathers and grandfathers, inhabited by the Palestinians from a long time ago. This is my land, my right,” said Khaled Mashaal, the Numero Uno of Hamas in his comments as to the ceasefire.

I don’t know what’s worse. The fact that Bibi didn’t say it or that no one challenged Khaled Mashaal when he did. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Seeing the Whole

In EmunahSpeak: Seeing the Good we spoke about bringing the concept of gam zu l’tova down to street level by seeing the good in those things that happen to us that at first glance would seem to be anything but good as that term is generally understood.

Whereas the seeing the good that was mentioned above was in the context of life’s travails, it’s not the only game in town.  It conceptually applies no less to people and we get there by way of first seeing the whole.

Rabbi Moshe Weinberger tells us that a person who sees the whole understands how precious every Jew is, be he a Sephardic Jew, a Hesder yeshiva student, a Chasid, a kollel yungerman or a secular Jew.  He sees the greatness of every Jew because he is looking at the place of greatness.

This is what Rav Kook z”l called a unifying perspective, and Rabbi Weinberger let’s us hear that a person who has internalized this unifying perspective as part of his hashkafic toolset responds to tragedy with the thought that Hashem is telling him to go help others.  Although he was referring to a person responding to his own tragedy by helping others, this unifying perspective is no less susceptible of being internalized by those Jews who are standing outside the line of fire peering in.

And we need look no further than Tropical Storm/Hurricane Sandy for a case study of this principle in action.

By what other means should one describe the manifold activities of Achiezer in the Far Rockaway/Five Towns area along with the many volunteers that they marshaled to do what ever needed to be done or the Boro Park Shomerim who were so active in the wake of the devastation that engulfed Seagate?

And what about the bus loads of volunteers that shlepped from Baltimore to wade into the flooded basements of Seagate to pump out the water, carry out the debris, and clean up the mess that was left behind?

Moreover, Rabbi Weinberger takes us a step beyond to reveal in the name of Rav Kook z”l that as a person’s unifying perspective grows deeper, stronger and clearer, it penetrates all the more into the depths.  As a consequence thereof he sees reality more and more in the way that the true tzaddikim look at reality.

And what does he see?

In particular he sees the unity of all Jews.

Rabbi Weinberger points out that a tzaddik sees that every Jew belongs to the whole – that every Jewish child is the child of every Jew.

Or as the Lubavitcher Rebbe zy”a answered when asked why he reached out to non-religious Jews:

And what if they were your children?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Gut Rehab

The give and take of our daily existence has been something of rocky road as of late.  Tragic murders committed by our own, terrorist murders committed by the usual suspects, the placement of what was once the world’s richest and greatest country on a road leading to a Third World existence, and a seemingly unending spectacle of the Ribbono Shel Olam’s koach as manifested in “Nature” all over the world, including a local appearance in the form of an earthquake, with the serious possibility of a devastating hurricane (Irene) following in its wake only 72 hours down the road, have all taken a toll on our equilibrium.
Sort of catches the current wave, mood wise, doesn’t it?
And in Red Alert! we also quoted from EmunahSpeak: Now We Know, in which we averred, in response to the murder of little Leiby Kletzky, a"h, that:

Everyone seems to be in agreement with the suggestion that we should all take on something, be it increased tzeddakah, a commitment to work on a given middah, Shimiras HaLoshon or anything else that will strengthen our Yiddishkeit. 

To that we added the following:

Maybe we should be taking on two somethings rather than one.  The first, which is reactive to the potch, conveys our understanding that Hashem is very upset with us, our present confusion as to the details notwithstanding.

That second something is proactive and carries a simple message:

Please, Hashem, let there be no next time.

And returning to EmunahSpeak: Red Alert! we said:

In light of all the tragedies that have both subsequently befallen us and are presently hovering over us (Hashem should protect us) coupled with the very unraveling of the secure world we have known these past sixty plus years, “taking on something”  doesn’t quite hack it anymore.

Events have moved so rapidly that even the suggestion to take on “two somethings,” a suggestion which I thought was a big deal at the time (merely a month ago) doesn’t come close to addressing our predicament as it presently exists at street level.

The days where we could throw Hashem a bone so to speak and go about our business are over.

We suggested there that we all have to look within ourselves with laser like penetration at everything, not just something, and then take on as much as we can handle, each and everyone according to his strength of character.

And this was pre-Irene, long before Sandy traumatized a number of communities in the Tri-State area leaving an incredible amount of destruction in her wake.

What should we say now?

In EmunahSpeak: A Real Deal Teshuva, we pointed out that teshuva is not a once a year spiritual form of Pesach cleaning or something to be pulled out of the bull pen on the ruchniyas equivalent of rainy days, to level out the speed bumps that we invariably hit as we navigate our way through the minefield of life’s challenges.

And, according to the Rambam, it’s not enough to do Teshuva for the sins we have done. We also have to do Teshuva for who we are if we’re not who we should be, because a lot of life’s challenges reside within, in the form of bad character traits, which also require Teshuva. 

The bottom line here is that we don’t just change our actions and call it a day. 

It’s not simply that yesterday I did, while now I no longer do, but rather that yesterday I was, while today I no longer am.  The growth process is about changing you.

Change your desires.  Change your ideals.

As I watched all of the sheet rock being ripped out from the first floor of my house which took a hit during Sandy I came to terms with the bottom line meaning of changing you…change your desires, and change your ideals.

In the ruins of Long Beach, Belle Harbor, Seagate, and Staten Island, to name but a few of the worst hit areas, Hashem has revealed to us where we go from here. The gut rehab that hundreds of us are doing to all or part of our houses is a moshol for the gut rehab we have to do to ourselves.

You have to become a different you, period.

And we don’t mean doing the Daf, writing a big check for disaster relief, or becoming a regular on the Shemiras HaLoshon Hot Line or at the Ohel Sara Amen Group.

As we said above, The days where we could throw Hashem a bone so to speak and go about our business are over.

We’re talking Tikkun HaMiddos here as the Mesillas Yesharim understands it. Simply put, in paralleling what we are doing to our houses we have to rip out our gaiva, taiva, kas, and kina and toss it into the dumpster with the sheet rock.  

Anyone who thinks he can get away with less shouldn’t live anywhere near the water.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Presidential Musings

As you have no doubt observed, the Name of this blog is EmunahSpeak.  Under these words there is a tag line which reads: emunah, tefillah, a little mussar, and a shmeck of geulah.

The word, politics, is nowhere to be seen because we are concerned here with how one plugs into, so to speak, the thoughts and desires of Hashem and our place in his world.

And we are decidedly not interested in the machinations of politicians, be they hucksters, outright crooks, morally dissolute low lives, or those who could be charitably described as plain vanilla morons.

Be that as it may, I can’t let the disaster of November 6th, otherwise known as the presidential election, pass without comment.

The incredibly destructive storm (Sandy) that whacked New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut amongst other places the week before the election is an all too grim reality for those that Hashem chose to put in its path. But it also serves as a metaphor for what the Presidential Empty Suit and his radical leftist (pardon the redundancy) gang of wreckers who will systematically do to the economy, security, and to what’s left of the moral fiber of the United States of America.

Hashem Yerachem.

End of comment.