We stand at the threshold of a new year.
What will 5769 bring? Will we greet Moshiach? Will we see, God forbid, a world of troubles? Perhaps both.
As we approach the end of 5768, several huge financial firms, pillars of Wall Street, have collapsed or are on the verge of collapse. One can say the stock market is of no concern to him, but in today’s world everything affects everything else. The entire financial structure of our country is endangered.
The shocks to the system are becoming profound.
I believe it is time to fasten our seatbelts. I am sure most of us prefer an orderly world, but events seem out of control. Let us remember that before the Exodus from Egypt, the entire dominant civilization of that ancient world collapsed suddenly. Our rabbis tell us that our Final Exodus will resemble the biblical Exodus, and I believe we should try to prepare for events of huge magnitude.
I know this is shocking. How can we contemplate such things in our own lives? But we may not have the luxury of choice. Think back a mere seventy years. It was not so long ago that our parents and grandparents in Europe saw the collapse of their entire world.
How does one prepare for cataclysmic change?
We must constantly remember what happened in Egypt. There, the collapse of the dominant culture was followed by the greatest event in the history of the world – the Exodus from that alien society and the Revelation of the Torah at Mount Sinai. In our case, I would suggest the only way to deal with current cataclysmic changes is by having hope and belief that God is bringing about the Final Redemption and that “He will let us hear, in His compassion, for a second time, in the presence of all living … ‘I am your God.’” (from Shabbos Mussaf Kedusha based on Isaiah 11:11).
Moses, Aaron and those Children of Israel who followed them escaped unharmed from crumbling Egypt. Our rabbis tell us that those of us who grasp onto the Torah with all our strength, who hold fast to our God as we have done for two thousand years of exile, will live to enjoy the New Exodus and the New Redemption, culminating in the building of the Eternal Temple.
I recently heard Rabbi Matisyahu Solomon discussing the importance of Shema Yisrael. We say in our prayers, “Guardian of Israel, protect the remnant of Israel, let not Israel be destroyed, those who proclaim, ‘Hear O Israel.’”
What is so powerful about saying the Shema?
It is written (emphasis added), “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your resources….”
What does “all” mean? Perhaps it means exactly what it says. Perhaps it means there is no room for anything else. Perhaps it means that unless we are completely devoted to God we are not going to survive.
Perhaps it means that everything else is gornisht – of no importance, not real.
Perhaps it means that our infatuation with money, our obsession with sports and popular culture, our love for fine glatt kosher dining, luxurious cars, the “good” life, the life we have learned to value in America, the sumptuous houses, the vacations, the entertainment – perhaps they are all a trick of the Accuser to suck us into the bottomless pit of Exile, God forbid, just as our ancestors were sucked into the bottomless pit of Egyptian idolatry, where they descended to the forty-ninth level of depravity, only to be rescued by God at the very last second before disappearing forever.
But not all were rescued – eighty percent never left Egypt (Rashi on Exodus 13:18).
So we have to ask ourselves: Are we in love with exile? Are we in love with the culture that surrounds us?
If so, then we are in mortal danger. I am not speaking only about America. America has been good to us and we must be grateful, but the entire Western World is in danger right now. This is a fact, backed up by the words of our prophets, who described the events that would occur at the end of history. Listen to the words of the Prophet to the Nations: