04 August 2017

Parshas Va'eschanan – WITH DAWN, A CRY OF JOY!

By Roy S. Neuberger

“Nachamu, nachamu ami …comfort, comfort, My people, says your G-d. Speak to the heart of Yerushalayim and proclaim to her that her time (of exile) has been fulfilled.” (Yeshiah 40:1-2)

Has our exile been fulfilled? 

If this were the case, then we would today see the Bais Hamikdosh and live in the world of Moshiach ben Dovid. This has not yet occurred. Yet each of us, upon reflection, can look back and see numerous instances of redemption in our own lives. These experiences verify to us that Redemption is a reality, meaning that liberation which seems beyond the realm of the possible can actually take place. Sometimes one feels overwhelmed, as if we cannot survive a given situation, but Hashem rescues us. As it says, “Hashem has redeemed Yaakov, and delivered him from a power mightier than he.” (Yirmiah 31:10)

I was born in New York City, far from the Torah World of Europe. My grandparents’ family names – Salant, Rothschild, Neuberger – reflected the world of European Jewry, but we lived as if we had no connection with that world. Anyone who has read my first book – From Central Park to Sinai: How I Found My Jewish Soul – will know that we celebrated “American” holidays like December 25. I had no bris milah until the age of thirty one. Shabbos was unknown. In Golus, a Jew can easily become lost in the host culture. The prototype was Mitzraim, where many Bnai Yisroel disappeared forever (see Rashi on Shemos 10:22; 13:18). 

In late nineteenth-century New York, there were active movements designed to entice Yiddishe neshomas. One such movement was the Ethical Culture Society, founded by a German Jew named Felix Adler, the son of a reform “rabbi” whose family immigrated to New York in 1857. ECS and its offshoot, the Ethical Culture Schools, were traps for many American Jews who were seeking a way to rationalize their desire to abandon Torah. 

When a Jew leaves the world of Torah – chas v’Shalom! – he or she feels intense guilt. I know, because I grew up with this guilt. Since I stood at Har Sinai, I knew the Torah is Real! I knew that Hashem made me and made the world! You may say this is all “subconscious,” but that doesn’t mean it’s not real. If it were not real, how can you explain my unstoppable desire to rid myself of that guilt, which caused me to come Home to Hashem? 

The guilt is constant because it is based on Truth. If one tries to deny it, then he will look for a vehicle through which he can try to justify his abandonment of what he knows to be true. 
Felix Adler constructed a philosophy which alleges to take certain teachings from the Torah, which he used as “bait” for Jews who wanted to rationalize their rebellion against Hashem. Many Jews joined this movement; I see what happened to my childhood friends. 

My own parents, brilliant and idealistic, were swept along with thousands of others. (Baruch Hashem, I believe I can say that their lives were redeemed when they saw that I, their son, had returned to the Torah of our Fathers. My return created a path for my parents.) 

I attended the Ethical Culture Schools. Probably ninety percent of my classmates and many teachers were Jewish, and we were all indoctrinated with the clichés of those who hate Hashem. Our idols were the United Nations – that supreme bastion of hatred of Am Yisroel – the Theory of Evolution and endless arguments to “prove” that there is no G-d no Torah. 

Baruch Hashem, I had no menucha in those hallways of sheker. My neshoma had no rest, and I started to search for a way out of the suffocating darkness. Amazingly, Hashem sent my future Partner in Life to meet me in this forlorn place, and together we searched to find purity and Truth. After years of ingesting spiritual poison, we began to realize there is an antidote. 

Much later, after eleven years of marriage, my wife and I understood that we had still not found the spiritual medicine we needed. At that moment, we met Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, who introduced us to Hashem and His Torah. Rebbetzin Jungreis’ first yahrzeit is this week, on the 18th Day of Chodesh Menachem Av!

I want to pay tribute to her on this day. She introduced us and so many others to Life! 

The Ethical Culture Schools still exist. Several weeks ago, Jewish and secular newspapers quoted the current head of the schools as having stated that problems had arisen because of the influence of certain parents, to whom she referred as “the Zionists, the Jews.” This made headlines because of the schools’ reputation as a “humane” and “ethical” environment. 

Let’s be clear. The Satan is out there wherever we turn. He is smarter and stronger than we are. He comes in endless disguises. Sometimes he appears to be an “ethical” man spouting phrases which sound as if they come from the Torah. Felix Adler tried to steal Hashem’s children from their Father in Heaven. He tried to drown us in the same waters in which he floated. Is it any surprise that ugly, poisonous vines emerge from that evil swamp? 

But Hashem “redeems Yaakov and saves us from a mightier power!” There is a yeshua every moment. “A voice calls out … The grass shall whither; the flower shall fade, but the word of our G-d shall stand forever!” (Yeshiah 40; this week’s Haftara) 

Dovid Hamelech, who himself was saved time after time, says, “I will exalt You, Hashem, for You have drawn me up and not let my foes rejoice over me…. I cried out to You and you healed me… You have raised my soul from the lower world. You have preserved me from my descent into the Pit…. In the evening one lies down weeping, but with dawn, a cry of joy!” (Tehillim 30)

May we all soon see the Dawn of our Complete and Final Redemption! 

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Roy Neuberger, author and public speaker, can be reached at roy@2020vision.co.il.
© Copyright 2017 by Roy S. Neuberger

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