05 August 2016

These are the Journeys of the Children of Israel

This week in Israel we read Parshas Maasei and in Chu”l is read Matos-Massey. Finally, we are joined in our readings of our Ancestors’ Lives and their Wanderings. Parts Maasei contains the command by Hashem to go to "the Land" and to "Live (in the Motives) in the Land" – Eretz HaKodesh. Here we are in the 5776, and have so far the Jews (Yehudim) have lived in countries all over the world, but since the year have been returning to live on the Land, to build it up, and prosper as it was the intention of Hashem. Finally we are coming Home. However, not every Jew feels so inclined to follow the command of Hashem, for whatever reasons they cling to. However also, the world will be spitting them out of their foreign lands and hopefully sending them to this little Holy Island in the Middle of the World. Great days are coming. But in the meantime, we must be mournful about the reason for how long we have not heeded His Word.

The following is from Rabbi Pinchas Winston Shlit”a, the one Rabbi who has not given up on Am Yisrael and continues to speak and write about the virtues of leaving the Golus nations and Living in Eretz HaKodesh. (see links at end)

The Nine Days officially begin this Rosh Chodesh Av. It is the most ominous time of the year for the Jewish people, the climax being on Tisha B’Av itself. This year, though, Tisha B’Av will be mitigated somewhat by Shabbos, on which it falls, and will therefore be pushed off until Motzei Shabbos and Sunday, b”H.

This itself is an interesting point to investigate. Even though Tisha B’Av is a rabbinically-based holiday and Shabbos is instituted by the Torah itself, one might have thought that Tisha B’Av should at least push off the “oneg” of Shabbos. There is no reason to violate Shabbos for Tisha B’Av, but there is also no reason to violate Tisha B’Av for Shabbos.
Indeed, some opinions say that certain pleasurable activities should be curtailed on Shabbos afternoon, just as they usually are on Erev Tisha B’Av on a weekday. Rabbinically-based or not, Tisha B’Av is a Torah-based reality, being the day the Spies returned with their evil report about Eretz Yisroel, prompting an additional 39 years of desert wandering:

“All the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried. The people wept that night” (Bamidbar 14:1) Rabbah said in the name of Rebi Yochanan: “That night was the night of the ninth of Av. The Holy One, Blessed is He, said to them, ‘You have wept without cause, therefore I will set [this day] aside for a weeping throughout the generations to come.’ ” (Ta’anis 29a)
The obvious question is, why punish the children for the sins of the fathers? The only time God does that is when the children sin in the same manner as their fathers. Exactly, and that is when Tisha B’Av becomes a day of mourning for the “children” just as it was for their “fathers,” when subsequent generations err as previous generations did.

Thus, the Talmud states:
Any generation in which the Temple is not built, it is as if it had been destroyed in their time. (Yerushalmi, Yoma 1a)
This says, in essence, that if the Temple is not rebuilt in a particular generation it is because the people of that generation are still doing that which caused its destruction. Otherwise, why would it not be built in their time?

Well, for one, it is very different to tear down something that already exists than it is to build something that does not. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it sure came down awfully fast. It can take a wrecking ball and crew a couple of days to tear down something that took months, if not longer, to erect.

The same thing is true about good and evil. Given the opportunity, evil pours into and fills whatever moral gap it can find. When the power went off in New York City years ago, otherwise “controlled” people quickly began looting and breaking the law. It is much harder to get people to do the right thing as quickly.

This is very true, in most cases. The following suggests something different:
Open up for Me an opening like the eye of a needle and I will drive a wagon through it. (Shir HaShirim 5:2)
Someone who sanctifies himself a little, they sanctify him a lot. (Yoma 38b)

This means that we don’t have to build the Temple. We just have to make it possible for God to build it. We have to set things in motion so that God can carry through and complete the job, even it is the vast majority of it, which it will be. If that is all we have to do, then why after 2,000 years, especially given all the great people who lived during that time, have we not done it?

Furthermore, if previous generations could not initiate the rebuilding of the Temple, how can we? If they didn’t have what it takes, why would we?

The answer to this question comes from the past, but it also refers to our time:

However, since [the miraculous redemption from Egypt] had not been the result of the actions [of the Jews at that time], it was contrary to the purpose of Creation. Therefore, it was not possible for all these [Divine] wondrous lights to remain with them, because free will would have been eliminated as a result of the emanation of the Great Light. The great influx of light was removed from them immediately after the first night of Pesach, because it was intended that its continuation be the result of their own deeds . . . Thus, had the main part of the redemption been in their own merit, then the great lights would not have been removed from them, but rather [the people] would have continued to [spiritually] ascend from level to level without limit.  
As a result, free will would have ended, and that would have been the will of God, May His Name Be Blessed. The actions of the Jewish people themselves would have caused the eradication of the yetzer hara from the world and the sanctification of Creation in His Name, May His Name Be Blessed, as will be the case in the Yemos HaMoshiach. Then merit and demerit will no longer apply, and this is the ultimate purpose of Creation. (Drushei Olam HaTohu, Chelek 2, Drush 5, Anaf 2, Siman 5)

In essence, this is saying that as times goes by and the Jewish people experience more of exile, there is less demand on subsequent generations to bring down the kind of Divine light that can result in a miraculous redemption. At the beginning of Jewish history, prior to the rest of the exiles, the Jews had to do a lot to warrant the “Great Light.” The final generation, after suffering through all four exiles, will not have to do much to justify the necessary light to finally trigger the Final Redemption.

That being so, then why isn’t the Temple here already? Why are we still in exile? What is God waiting for? Given the return of so many Jews to Eretz Yisroel, and how developed the country has become, it is like remaining in your taxi with the meter running even though you have reached your destination. Why not just stop the meter and “get out” of the “cab”?
Still, there is one thing left that we need to contribute, spoken about here:

The Sefer Mitzvos Katan (Rabbi Ya’akov of Corbeil, 1206-1280) wrote in his explanation of the positive mitzvah, “I am God, your God, Who took you out of Egypt,” that it means one must know that He Who created Heaven and Earth alone controls [the world] above and below. To this he added, however, “This [mitzvah] is the basis for what the rabbis teach: After death, at the time of a person’s judgment, they ask him, ‘Did you anticipate redemption?’ (Shabbos 31a). Where is this mitzvah written? Actually, it comes from the [same mitzvah]. Just as, ‘I am God, your God, Who took you out of Egypt,’ means that we must believe that God redeemed us from Egypt, it also means . . . ‘I, God your God, will gather you in and redeem you in mercy a second time.’ ” According to this, belief in the future redemption is part of one’s faith in, “I am God, your God,” and included in the first of the Ten Commandments. (Ohr Yechezkel, Emunas HaGeulah, 1960; p. 287)

We have to believe in redemption. We have to anticipate it. We have to make redemption part of our everyday reality. As we learned from the four-fifths of the Jewish people who died in Egypt during the Plague of Darkness, redemption is as much a part of the mind as it is physical. If you don’t see redemption as redemption, then it won’t be for you. It will dishearten you when it is supposed to uplift you.

If we examine ourselves, it seems as if we are very far from having faith in the future redemption. Occasionally we speak about God having made Heaven and Earth, and that He directs Creation. However, when it comes to the arrival of Moshiach and the resurrection of the dead, we are quiet, as if we are embarrassed to speak about them, as if we have given up [on them] altogether. (Ohr Yechezkel, Emunas HaGeulah, 1960; p. 287)

After all, the Final Redemption is just the last stop along a long historical journey that began when we left Egypt. The 42 camps mentioned in this week’s parshah are just stops along the journey that continues even until today. It won’t officially end until Moshiach comes and finally rectifies the world.

When it comes to such a journey, it is not enough to “talk the talk.” You have to “walk the walk” as well, or it ceases be the Divine journey it was meant to be. 

When that happens, we learn like from the four-fifths who died in Egypt, a person will end up “leaving” exile prematurely, but not in the way he had hoped. 


Read Torah Empowerment Seminar and bring it to your communities (in Chu”l) and it might be a good idea for an Israeli version in Ivrit!

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