We thought that you would want to know about our upcoming program in Jerusalem, which is scheduled to take place, with G-d's help, on Tuesday, August 30 at 8 p.m. at the Israel OU Center, 22 Keren Hayesod. The title of the program is "Working Toward Teshuva.” We hope to see you there!
With blessings from the Holy City and prayers for the speedy advent of the Final Redemption, Roy Neuberger
As I write, Tisha B’Av has just ended, and I am weak to exhaustion. The words have shattered me. The Kinnos are so devastating that I have no strength left. How can any nation survive what we have survived? And how can it be that the Nation of Israel still remains as a distinct entity after the destruction upon destruction which we have endured?
Compounding the spiritual heaviness was the weather. I cannot recall such heavy weather. During the Nine Days, the northeast United States endured intense heat combined with staggering humidity, which turned a ten-minute outing into a steam-bath from which a person would return drenched. At the same time, the West Coast was devastated by raging fires and the Gulf Coast was drowning. The entire country is in turmoil because of a presidential election which borders on the insane, and the entire world is reeling from violence and instability on every level.
My friends, next Shabbos is Rosh Chodesh Elul. We are five weeks from Rosh Hashanah 5777. What kind of year is coming? Elul is the month of teshuva, and all depends on teshuva.
Kinnah 14 states that both the Churban and the Redemption were foreshadowed from the beginning of history. “[The Torah] alluded to [the Temple’s] destruction [in the verse], ‘And the earth was astonishingly empty.’ (Beraishis 1:2) [Hashem] intimated an omen [symbolizing the Churban] as ‘evening,’ and [the future rebuilding] as ‘morning.’” This theme is expanded by Dovid Hamelech: “In the evening one lies down weeping, but with dawn … a cry of joy!” (Tehillim 30)
Think of the implications of this statement. This means there was never a time in history when we were at complete peace, because, even at the height of our greatness, talmidei chachamim understood that the Churban would come. It is like the days of the week; there is never complete peace except on Shabbos, which is called “menucha shelema … a perfect rest.” (Shabbos Mincha Shemoneh Esreh)
We have never had complete peace! All of history is clearly a prelude to the greatest moment, when Hashem will bring the Final Redemption and we will never again have to worry about a return to Golus with its unending tzouris.
“[The Sages of every] generation desired to know the secret [time of Moshiach’s advent] and pushed [to hasten] it, but then they heard [Hashem cry out] ‘I adjure you [Israel, not to attempt to force Moshiach’s arrival], and they sealed [their mouths].” (Tisha B’Av Kinnah 14)
“Rabbi Chelbo says, there are four oaths [in Shir Hashirim, as follows]: Hashem adjured Israel not to rebel against the kingdoms [that will subjugate them], not to force the end [of the Exile], not to reveal [our] secrets to the nations of the world and not to go up from exile [to the Land of Israel by force prior to the arrival of Moshiach]…. For, if Israel were to do so, why must Moshiach come to gather the exiles of Israel?” (Shir Hashirim Rabbah 2:18)
The Midrash further states, “Rabbi Eliezer says, [Hashem] adjured [the daughters of Yerushalay-im] by the heavens and the earth” Why “heaven and earth?” Artscroll refers to Rashi, who says (on Dvarim 32:1): because heaven and earth are “witnesses that last forever.”
What is the message for today? Our generation has still not learned the simple lesson that Chava failed to understand in Gan Eden. We continue to try to “outsmart” Hashem and bring the Geulah “our way.” No, my friends, it will not work. Our avoda in Chodesh Elul is to understand that our way must be subservience to Hashem and His plan for all of history. We cannot rush the Geula, but we can prepare for it and try to become the kind of people who merit the Geula.
Hashem placed us in Golus for very specific reasons. We rebelled against Him and we are required to do teshuva in order to return to our senses. The nations of the world have apparently been summoned to help us do teshuva. Until that process is complete, until we learn to understand why we are being punished, then we are not ready for Redemption.
Heaven and Earth are speaking to us, witnesses to the oaths through which Hashem adjured us. All our suffering is meant to bring us to the madreiga at which we learn the lesson that we failed to learn in Gan Eden and throughout subsequent history: Hashem Echad Ushmo Echad! His Torah is our life; the slightest deviation is deadly.
I wrote years ago, based on personal experience, “If a Jew deviates by one millimeter from the Rules, in the course of time his deviation will become infinite. Once you are headed in a different direction, you just keep going.” (From Central Park to Sinai) You keep going, that is, until something stops you. The sufferings of Golus are designed to stop our deviation.
The Bais Hamikdosh burned, but “the voice of G-d [is] speaking [to us] from amidst the fire.” (Dvarim 4:33) This was foreshadowed when Moshe Rabbeinu heard Hashem speaking out of the burning bush. “Ma’ase avos siman l’banim … the actions of the Fathers are signs for the children.” Our ancestors heard Hashem speaking from amidst the fire, and we must listen as Hashem speaks to us, even though – or perhaps especially because – the world is burning.
“For behold, a day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the wicked people and all the evildoers will be like straw, and that coming day will burn them up, says Hashem, Master of Legions … but a sun of righteousness will shine for you who fear My Name, with healing in its rays." (Malachi 3:19-20)
Soon, through our teshuva, we will see a new world, pure and perfect, just as Hashem made it during Ymai Beraishis. This time, we will not repeat Chava’s mistake. If we listen to His voice, we will merit to live in that perfect world.