28 September 2017

THE REALITY OF REDEMPTION

BS"D
THE REALITY OF REDEMPTION
by Roy S. Neuberger
Dear Friends:
 
I thought that you might like to see the text of the program I presented at the “Teshuva Boot Camp” for women in Tzefas this week. Leah told our personal story and I spoke as reprinted below.
 
Our blessings from the Holy Land for a Gmar Chassima Tova, a year of blessings for all of Am Yisroel. --  Roy Neuberger


THE REALITY OF REDEMPTION
TESHUVA BOOT CAMP, TZEFAS
ASERES YMAI TESHUVA 5778


You have just heard our story. Every person has a story. The beautiful thing is that every story can have a great ending, despite all the challenges, because HASHEM IS ABOVE EVERYTHING AND IS ABLE TO SAVE US.

A VITAL ASPECT of our TEFILLOS during
ASERES YMAI TESHUVA is that WE HAVE TO ASK HIM TO SAVE US.

HASHEM HAS TO KNOW THAT WE WANT TO LIVE!

Today the world is a mess. There are crises on every corner. If you live in a city, you hear sirens; there are constant emergencies. At the airport, there are policemen with machine guns. If you look at the headlines, you will learn about unprovoked attacks upon innocent people. There are crazy people all around, some of them very dangerous.

And then, of course, there is Israel, which everyone hates.

What about the world of nature?

Within the last few weeks, the North American Continent has suffered two catastrophic hurricanes in the South, multiple wildfires in the West and terrible earthquakes in Mexico.

These are just the headlines, but there are countless cases of personal suffering, on every level: emotional, financial, spiritual, physical … these stories you don’t see in the headlines.

Every year, during the Ten Days of Teshuva, we make sincere commitments to improve our lives in concrete ways. This is very challenging. In my own case, for example, when I return the following year to Rosh Hashanah, I wonder what happened to those commitments. I can make a commitment to improve some aspect of my life, LIKE CONTROLLING ANGER OR APPETITE, and find that I have broken it five minutes after having made it. This can be extremely frustrating, because one can come to feel very easily that one’s life is out of control and that a steady upward improvement is totally beyond one’s capability.

WHAT ARE WE TO THINK?

IS THERE ANY HOPE ON A PERSONAL,
NATIONAL OR WORLDWIDE LEVEL?

IS THERE ANY CONTROL OVER LIFE, EVEN MY OWN LIFE?

+          +          +

I want to tell you about something that happened to me.

Several years ago, I had serious surgery. A few weeks after the operation, I was very weak. I could hardly get up. Our children said, “Come to us for Shabbos. Get out of the house for a few days,” so we went to them for Shabbos. We arrived late Thursday night. Friday morning, I was very tired and lay down. I fell asleep and I had an amazing dream.

I dreamt that I was in the Bais Hamikdosh, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The Kohanim (priests), were squeezing fruits in a big wooden press, moving the long wooden handle up and down, up and down. There were many fruits being squeezed, and the juice flowed like a river into a large, wooden container. Droplets of fruit filled the air and the aroma was like the Garden of Eden. As they moved the handle up and down, the Kohanim kept repeating the words, “Pri Etz Hadar … Pri Etz Hadar … Fruit of the beautiful tree.”

And I awoke.

My first thought was that this dream is worth all the suffering I have had since my surgery. I was INSIDE the Bais Hamikdosh! It was like the Garden of Eden. Or maybe I was inside the Gemora!

Whatever it was, I wanted to be there more than anything else, and I knew that I could not have entered there without the pain I had suffered. Somehow I needed to have gone through that suffering to enable me to get to the Bais Hamikdosh. I didn’t know exactly why, but I assume that there was something lacking in me and it needed to be fixed before I could get to the Bais Hamikdosh. So Hashem helped me. And I got there. It was all worth it, and I knew that everything that had happened to me had to happen.

The same is true about my life in general. I suffered a lot growing up, until I discovered Hashem. I didn’t want to have anything to do with Hashem, even admit that He exists. I didn’t want to be Jewish. So I suffered until I broke down and realized that life wasn’t working that way. I was rebelling against G-d and just hurting myself. It wasn’t G-d’s fault; it was my fault!

When that happened, literally at that exact moment, Leah and I met Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis. The whole world of Torah opened up for us and we began to live.

I realized that everything has a cheshbon; everything is weighed and calculated. Everything happens for a reason, and nothing happens for no reason. I needed to get sick and have the surgery. And I needed to have the suffering after the surgery. And I needed to have the suffering in order to get to the Bais Hamikdosh.

I was so happy about this dream. To me, the surgery and its aftermath were all worthwhile, because they enabled me to be inside the Holy Temple!

On Rosh Chodesh Elul we begin to say Psalm 27 and we say it until the end of Sukkos. Why does this Psalm repeat the words, “ka’ve el Hashem … Trust in Hashem …. Ka’ve el Hashem.”?

Perhaps King David, who arguably went through more troubles than almost anyone else in history and who wrote this Psalm, wanted us to know what he learned: that when we reach the outer limits of hope, when all basis for optimism seems lost, that we should “strengthen our heart and hope again,” because THERE IS BASIS FOR HOPE BEYOND WHAT WE UNDERSTAND. We have to “hope in Hashem,” and then, “HOPE IN HASHEM” AGAIN, because, if we don’t give up, then, with Hashem’s help, we will get where we need to go.

 ALL YESHUAS, ALL REDEMPTIONS,
COME FROM THE VERY BOTTOM.

The classic, prototype Redemption is the Redemption from Mitzraim (Biblical Egypt). This is what we focus on during Passover and this is how we start the Yom Tov Cycle. This is the beginning of everything. We got out of Mitzraim only when we had reached “mem tes shaarei tumah,” the 49th degree of degradation. THIS WAS THE BOTTOM. One more degree of descent and we would have disappeared completely into the Black Hole of Egyptian emptiness: idolatry and witchcraft.

THE REDEMPTION CAME ONLY WHEN WE HAD REACHED THE VERY BOTTOM.

(As it was, when Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses) led the Children of Israel out of Egypt, only one-fifth of our people (20%) went out with him! The remaining EIGHTY PERCENT were lost in the Plague of Darkness because they preferred the culture of their enemies. As a result, they actually chose not to take the Hand Hashem held out to rescue them.)

WHY IS IT THAT THE REDEMPTION COMES ONLY AT THE VERY BOTTOM?
WHY DOES IT HAVE TO GET SO BAD BEFORE IT GETS GOOD?

I want to recall the words we just said during the Rosh Hashanah prayers, when we ask Hashem to send Moshiach. The language is unusual. We don’t ask for Moshiach directly, but rather we ask for, “arichas ner l’ven yishai m’shichecha … preparation of a lamp for the son of Yishai Your Moshiach.”

I always wondered about this unusual wording.
Why does it say, “preparation of a lamp for the son of Yishai?”
Why doesn’t it just ask for Moshiach?

I think we have to know that, when Moshiach comes,
IT IS GOING TO BE DARK IN THE WORLD.
He is going to need a lamp to see,
and he is going to need a lamp so we can see him,
and he is going to need a lamp to light up the world.

THAT LAMP IS CALLED “TORAH.”
YOU LITERALLY CANNOT SEE WITHOUT TORAH. 

Let’s get back to the question: Why does it have to get so bad before it gets good?
 
I will try to explain my understanding of this.
 
I would like to read you a passage from my book, “Central Park to Sinai: How I Found My Jewish Soul.”


At 2:00 a.m. on Monday, January 10, 1966, I awoke with a start.

Things had not been going too well lately.  Our marriage seemed to be falling apart, and I began to think I myself was coming unraveled…

Sunday night I was lying on that old green couch with the stuffing coming out.  I can see it now, decades later.  I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t know where to turn.  I couldn’t discuss the problems because I felt so selfish just talking about myself.  But the problems wouldn’t go away, and I didn’t know how to make them go away.

When I awoke at 2:00 a.m., I was desperate. I saw a chasm opening in front of me, a pit from which there was no escape. I looked back on my life.  I was twenty-three years old and we had been married just over two and a half years.  Linda and I loved each other, but there was something between us; tensions were at the snapping point.

I felt as if my life were a long corridor, with many doors on each side.  I had opened each door, hundreds of doors.  There was a door for “hiking in the wilderness.”  A door for “singing folk music.” Doors for “toughness” and “coolness.”  There was a door for “political activism.”  A door to the psychiatrist’s office.  A door for “writing poetry.”  A door for “comparative religion.” Each door had led nowhere, into a blank wall.   Was there no door that led to truth, to freedom, no door to sunshine and happiness? 

I began to cry.  I was through.  There was no future.  I was dying.   There was no place I hadn’t tried, no door I hadn’t opened.  I was drowning.   My life was ending.  Can you imagine this feeling?  There was nothing to live for.  No hope. 

I was sliding: down, down, down . . . falling through space. 

And then, as I fell, a thought brushed by me.  A little thought, a little voice, like a feather floating by in the midst of the void, a crazy little idea.

No, it couldn’t be true.

But then …

What else was there besides death?  

All my life I had been raised as a good American boy.  I went to the finest schools and met the most sophisticated people.   Nobody normal believed in G-d.  I mean, where is G-d?  Maybe thirteenth-century monks believed in G-d, but that was the Dark Ages.  What else did they have in life?  But we live in reality.  This is the twentieth century, the enlightened blossoming of world culture, the age of science and technology. We are liberated.  I mean, just where is G-d?  I don’t see Him.  I can’t touch Him. 

I’m supposed to believe in something I can’t see?

There was one big problem. 

If all that stuff were true, how come I—the sophisticated product of the culmination of all civilization—was a total failure who couldn’t succeed at even the simplest things in life?  I couldn’t breathe.  I couldn’t prevent myself from getting angry and alienating those I cared about.  I was a slave.

I “knew” that G-d didn’t exist. 

The problem was that I felt I also didn’t exist. 

Something was terribly wrong.

Suddenly, I began to turn the whole question around and I saw something I had never seen before. There was one unopened door in that long corridor.  Why had I never noticed that door before?  It was the door to G-d.

I had been sure that G-d did not exist. But now that my own life seemed to be falling apart, I began to wonder.

Maybe I had to turn the whole thing upside down.  When I examined it, it was very logical. When I was honest about my life, I saw that I did not exist—my life was empty—and at that time I was sure that G-d did not exist. 

But what if G-d did exist?  Maybe then I could also exist.  Maybe my existence depends on G-d.

Maybe there was a life I hadn’t even dreamed about.  Maybe if G-d were really alive I could be alive.   Maybe I had been looking at things “upside down” or “backwards” or “inside out.” 

Why did my intelligence have to be the measuring rod of reality?  Maybe I did not understand and G-d did understand.  Did I have to comprehend something for it to be real?  Was I the center of the universe? 

Maybe there was a reality beyond my understanding.

I began to have this crazy thought.  Could G-d exist?  No, it’s crazy.  CRAZY!  All my life I had been raised on “reality.” 

No normal person believed in G-d!

And then I began to wonder if I had ever met any normal people.

They say there are no atheists in the foxhole.  I was in a spiritual foxhole.  I was fighting for my life in a “war to end all wars.”  My entire civilization was falling apart.  I felt the coldness of death and black nothingness where chaos reigns.     
  

When you are drowning, you grab the life preserver.  You don’t ask questions.  I was drowning, and all of a sudden out of the sky came this life preserver.   I grabbed it.                       
 

What choice did I have?  I wanted to live!  

G-d, do You exist?  Could You exist?

Dawn was beginning to break in Ann Arbor as a new light began to glow inside me.  All of a sudden, I started to have this incredible feeling of hope, a new idea that would enable me to live.  

The point I want to make is this: When I look back at my own life I see that I wanted to run away from Hashem. I grew up in America, the “land of the free.” We were free to live whatever way we wanted. No one was going to tell us how to live.

But everyone knows G-d exists, even the biggest atheists. That’s why they are so strident about G-d not existing, because they know that they are wrong. As we learn in the Gemora (Niddah 30b), an angel taught everyone the whole Torah in the womb, even future “atheists!” So everyone knows there is a G-d and everyone knows there is a Torah.

By the way, I believe that includes non-Jews. They also know that the Torah is real, and that is why they hate us. If they were not so busy being jealous, they would remember that their blessing comes from us! When they hate us, they are rejecting their own blessing. As the Medrash tells us, “If the nations of the world had realized how important the Holy Temple was to them, they would have surrounded it with walls to protect it.” (Medrash Rabbah Vayikra 1:11, Kitov page 983)

When we emerge from the womb we forget what we learned in the womb, so we have to search for it again. But since we are taught that we are “free,” we run away from it. And then difficult things start happening to us, and life is not going the way we want it to go. So we start looking for better ways to live. We try THIS LIFESTYLE and we try THAT LIFESTYLE. As you heard from Leah, I spent the first thirty years of my life trying out different lifestyles. Anything but G-d, because I told myself that I am free and no one is going to tell me how to live! We know inside ourselves that, if we go along with Hashem, we are going to have to follow His rules, so we resist admitting that He is Real.

Torah is always the last place we go, because we are trying to make life work without Hashem. And all those false trails and failed experiments are filled with pain.

THIS IS, AFTER ALL, LIFE. It is not a game, and it hurts when things go wrong.

If we are fortunate, when we have run out of options,
WE SEE IT DOESN’T WORK.
And it’s only when we have tried everything else,
that we finally realize
THERE IS NOTHING ELSE BESIDES HASHEM!
“AIN OD MILVADO!”

THERE IS NOTHING ELSE EXCEPT G-D. BUT -- SINCE WE ADMIT THAT
ONLY AFTER WE HAVE EXHAUSTED EVERY OTHER POSSIBILITY -- 
THAT IS WHY WE HAVE TO HIT BOTTOM BEFORE WE ARE REDEEMED.

Let’s get back to the headlines: I am going to read you a quote from the Malbim, a famous rabbi who lived in the Nineteenth Century. This is from the Malbim’s commentary on the Prophet Yechezkel, and this passage can be found at the very beginning of my book, 2020 Vision.

Here are the words of the Malbim:

In the End of Days, after the Children of Israel have returned to their land, the children of Ishmael and the children of Esau will unite to attack Jerusalem. They will form a world coalition against the tiny nation of Israel. But something will go wrong with their plan.  The religious beliefs of the children of Ishmael and the children of Esau will clash, and the two nations will collide and destroy each other. This is what is referred to as the War of Gog and Magog. Following this cataclysmic conflict, the Final Redemption of the Jewish People will occur with the coming of Messiah the Son of King David.” (Malbim on Yechezkel Hanovi 32:17)

It is vital to realize that, in this tense, chaotic, even frightening world we are living in, we are very close to the greatest event in history, the Final Redemption of the Jewish People with the coming of Moshiach ben Dovid, which will mark the beginning of a universal era of peace, justice and harmony for the entire world. Right now, we are near the bottom, and – as in Ancient Egypt – Hashem is about to send a redeemer who will lift us out of this pit.

“In the period which will precede the coming of Moshiach …  insolence will increase … those who dread sin will be despised, youths will turn the face of their elders white (with insolence) … the face of the generation will be like the face of a dog ….Upon what, then, can we lean [in this terrible time]? [Only] upon our Father in Heaven!” (Sotah 49b)”

Because the world is resisting Moshiach, we are pushing away this great moment. But G-d is going to bring it about, just the way He rescued us from Mitzraim, even though we didn’t really deserve it. But we are His People, and He has promised to save us.

There may continue to be very disruptive, even frightening events which take place, but we should all know that – if we keep Hashem’s promise in mind – we don’t have to be afraid.

That is one reason we say, at this time of year.
“Hashem will hide me in His sukkah on the day of Evil.”

In Egypt the Redemption came, and today the Geula will come. We have to know that Redemption is real and Redemption is imminent. The fact that things seem so bad is in itself proof of how close it is. WE ARE GETTING NEAR THE BOTTOM.

As the Gemora tells us,

“All ends have passed, and the matter of the Messiah’s arrival
depends only on repentance and good deeds.” (Sanhedrin 97b)

And that is in our hands.

“Ka’ve el Hashem, v’ya’amaitz libecha, v’kave el Hashem.
Hope to Hashem,
and He will give you courage,
and hope to Hashem.”

MAY WE SEE THE GEULAH SHELEMAH AND GREET MOSHIACH BEN DOVID
IN THE PRESENCE OF THE BAIS HAMIKDOSH, SOON IN OUR DAYS!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What another beautiful article from Roy Neuberger. Wishing him and his, you, Neshama and yours, together with Klal Yisrael a G'MAR CHATIMAH TOVAH!
She'thye Shnat Geulateinu (5778)!