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

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

So How Do We Wait?

The twelfth of the Rambam's Ikkurim is as follows:

I believe with complete faith in the coming of Moshiach, and although he may tarry, nevertheless, I wait every day for him to come.

A number of us actively articulate that We want Moshiach Now, and the majority that is somewhat more reserved on this want still lives very much in anticipation of his coming.  And so we wait and wait and still nothing.

In EmunahSpeak: A Burning Need we pointed out the difference between wants and needs as follows:

Wanting is passive and, as such, it’s not wired for tachlis.  If it so happens that that which was wanted actually comes to be, the fruition of that want was not in response to it.  A need, by contrast, is proactive and, by virtue of its fiery nature, it can (and usually does) clear a path for itself.

If you go through life merely wanting to do, nothing will ever get done.  But if, with a soul on fire, you take that journey needing to do, nothing will ever get in your way.

And so we concluded that the reason Moshiach is not here is because we want Moshiach now as opposed to we need Moshiach now.  In its terminal passivity, the wanting of Moshiach in and of itself will do nothing to bring the Geula. If he comes, he comes.  If not, we’ll keep on wanting until he does, whereas the need for Moshiach will inevitably push Klal Yisroel in innumerable directions that will create the conditions to bring the Geula ever so closer, speedily in our days.

And one of those directions in which it should push us is within ourselves.  Hashem has placed the ticket that will bring Moshiach in our hands.  If we write it He'll punch it.

All we have to do is to prioritize the burning need that we spoke about in EmunahSpeak: A Burning Need, and we begin by taking a second look at the Rambam's words:

I believe with complete faith in the coming of Moshiach, and although he may tarry, nevertheless, I wait every day for him to come.

So how do we wait?

Do we wait with the same anticipation and excitement that we manifest for our favorite team to win the world series?  Or do we wait with the same longing that a thirty-four year old girl waits for the phone to ring with a call from a shadchan? 

And if we were to answer yes to these roll calls it still wouldn't cut it because the bottom line here is:  do we wait for Moshiach more than the way we wait for something that we really want whether we need it or not?

And when we do we'll get our ticket punched speedily in our days.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Bomb Shelter Achdus

Once again, the sound of the Red Alert sirens can be heard in the south of Israel, and that invariably means a pit stop in the closest bomb shelter.

In EmunahSpeak: Nu?, we quoted HaRav Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal's fascinating account of a great assembly of gedolei Torah that met at the home of R. Yisachar Dov of Belz ztvk”l in the city of Rutzfort, Hungary to where the Rebbe had escaped at the outbreak of the war in 1914. He describes how for almost an hour the senior member of the group, R. Moshe Dovid Teitelbaum z”l, av beit din of Madiar-Lapush in Zibanbergen, grandson and foremost disciple of the Yitav Lev z”l, petitioned the Rebbe of Belz to initiate a movement of awaking to repentance which “would undoubtedly influence the entire generation to return their hearts to our Father in Heaven.”  When he finished, the Rebbe answered him briefly and to the point:

“O Rebbe of Lapush, have you concluded your petition?  When Mashiach arrives, the Jews will repent.  In the meantime, it is of utmost importance that the Jews love one another.  One must love even the lowliest Jew as himself.  One must engender unity and keep far away from anything that causes disunity.  The salvation of Israel during times of trouble rests on this.”

On these words Rav Teichtal commented: “Know and understand this, and do not be a pious fool who is quick to find fault with Israel.  Do not cause disunity among those who are united, particularly at a time when the divine attribute of justice hovers over all of Israel.  It is a time of trouble for Ya’akov, may the Merciful One protect us!”

No one who made a difference gave these words the time of day, neither then nor now, a hundred years later.

And that includes funerals, for as we pointed out in the same essay:

In the way we deal with others Hashem deals with us.  When we ask Hashem to send us Moshiach when we don’t deserve it are we not asking for the ultimate chesed that He could do for us?  And isn’t the ultimate chesed on our part a chesed shel emes?

And yet, when a family of Torah Jews is slaughtered in their beds or eight Yeshiva bochurim are gunned down in their Yeshiva we seem to be incapable of stepping outside of our label saturated existence long enough to attend the funeral.  It matters not a whit how many people show up because it’s not a numbers game.

It’s all about the mosaic of Torah Jewry.

In Shomayim, three hundred of EVERYBODY at a levayah will trump thirty thousand of only a certain SOMEBODY every time. 

Hashem wants that there should be achdus by Yidden.  Period.

There's nothing to talk here.  What Hashem wants Hashem gets.  If we can't get it together by means of our own free will, even at a funeral, then Hashem will force it upon us.  He will bring about circumstances that will send us running for the nearest bomb shelter and we won't care who's in there with us because it's a matter of life and death.

Given a choice we would hold our nose and look to hang out elsewhere.  So for that very reason many of us will not be given a choice.  We will be forced into a situation that in better times we would have avoided like the plague, but we'll be okay with that because the bomb shelter, in addition to offering physical protection, is also reputation safe.

We don't have to worry what our ideological comrades will think of us when we come out into the sun sandwiched between two guys sporting knitted kippas.  It's understood that we were forced into this juxtaposition by the exigencies of the moment.

Unfortunately, what others think of us all too often trumps our better instincts.  So when we are confronted by situations in which our participation can't readily be explained away by the exigencies of the moment we take a dive as to our better selves and take a pass on a funeral and the like lest someone think that our presence signifies agreement with the world view of the dearly departed.


Monday, June 1, 2015

It's a Matter of Perspective

The long and short of it is as follows:

After a fruitless search for the someone who could shine some meaning on his life, a certain troubled person who was contemplating suicide finally reached out to Reb Gutman Locks.

The bottom line here is that despite the fact that he acknowledged that his life was good, in that he had everything and more, he felt totally empty inside which in turn led to depression which in turn led to twisted thoughts of jumping the gun on Hashem's calculations by taking early retirement from this world, chas v'shlalom.

So what do you think he answered him?

"It's a wonderful blessing that you became depressed, he said. "

 But he actually said somewhat more than that:  "It's a wonderful blessing that you became depressed when you were not trying to accomplish your spiritual goals in life.  The depression led you to search for something more than you were finding.  Had you not become depressed you might have (G-d forbid) become satisfied with your physical life and never have sought more."

Very nice.  He's finally tripped into the right store, so now what?

If one thing is certain it's that a person who wants to pack out before his time has no understanding of why he's here to begin with.  So Reb Gutman told him:

"Everything in Creation has its unique purpose in having been created what it is.  You are a man, and as such have certain purposes related to being a man.  You are a Jew, and with that comes an additional set of purposes.  To succeed you have to fulfill all of what you have been created to do."

So how does one navigate himself out of the material wasteland?  As Reb Gutman tells it it's a matter of elevation not negation.

"The performance of any mitzvah makes one holy, and the more holy you become the more you elevate yourself form an entirely physical perspective, and the more you gain a spiritual perspective.  The entirely physical perspective causes man to live a life of an animal whose only concern is satisfying its animal inclination.  When you gain a spiritual perspective you do not throw away the physical.

"You elevate it."

"You learn use the physical to reveal the spiritual."

"It's a lifelong avodah, not a one day quick fix.  Each day, again and again, try to remember and help others remember why we're here."

And finally:

"Even the slightest spiritual success removes sorrow, but don't expect a free ride as in a life without speed bumps.  Life is a struggle.  We have to work to remember why we're here and the reward is measured according to the effort."