Last week I began to outline the three-fold formula that our sages advise will protect us from the painful birth pangs of the pre-Messianic era. Now with Hashem’s help, I will continue, for this is a subject of great urgency. But to those who have sent e-mails and letters regarding personal problems, let me assure you that I will respond to all your correspondence personally.
Before we come to the second formula prescribed by our sages – gemillus chassadim – allow me to point out that Hashem’s wake-up calls continue. Events keep unfolding that don’t make sense. Let us consider some of the happenings of the last few weeks.
Take, for example, the phenomenal survival of the passengers and crew on US Airways #1549. Undoubtedly, it was miraculous that the pilot brought the aircraft down safely on the Hudson and no one was seriously injured. The presence of mind of the pilot, as well as his own and his crew’s selfless commitment to the passengers’ welfare left us in awe. But, let us ask – was there a message for us in that miracle? As Jews we know that there are no random happenings in the world everything is orchestrated by Hashem.
Rabbi Akiva heard a life-transforming message from a stone. Admittedly, we are not on the level of Rabbi Akiva, and are not capable of hearing teachings from a stone, but the message from that US Air flight should not be too difficult to discern.
If we would only stop a moment and contemplate, we would hear that message loud and clear. “Birds!” Yes, birds knock out a sophisticated aircraft, and in a matter of minutes, succeed in downing it. Our technology and safety measures disappear in face of the birds. If not for the grace of G-d that allowed the pilot to take the measures that he did, those birds would have been responsible for the deaths of all the people on board.
Shouldn’t that give us pause? Shouldn’t we realize that all our knowledge and advances cannot outwit even birds? Shouldn’t this make us aware of our vulnerability? Shouldn’t we stand humbled before G-d? Have we humbled ourselves? Have we renewed our commitment to Him or did we congratulate the pilot and crew for their seamless performance and then continue with business as usual?
Our euphoric mood continues. Perhaps never before in the history of America has there been an inaugural extravaganza as just witnessed. Millions of people descended on the capital, but even as the celebrations went on, the financial markets plummeted to unheard of new lows. The financial meltdown has been consuming our leaders. The experts have been hard put to come up with a solution. Billions of taxpayer dollars have been allocated to overcome the crisis and pump new life into our limping, sick economy.
Billions of dollars have had no impact. Our emaciated economy remains as sick as before. The bailouts have not made a dent, and worse, have mortgaged our descendants for generations to come, and there is no relief in sight. Bad judgment? Lack of oversight? Greed? Corruption? Naïveté? Many fingers have been pointed, but to no avail. Solutions have yet to be found.
Can it be that Hashem is sending us a message and a wake-up call? Have we entered the period to which the prophets refer as the tribulations that will accompany the birth pangs of Messiah? Can it be that the failure of our icons and crumbling of our cherished institutions carry a message for us? Can it be that G-d is sending us a wake-up call so that we may come to the realization “Ein od Milvado – There is no one but Hashem,” or should we ignore the message and attribute it all to bad judgment, lack of oversight, etc. and go on with “business as usual?” In our heart we know the answer.
The wake-up calls abound. I was going about my daily tasks, listening to the inaugural ceremony with half an ear, when I heard the popular pastor of America’s mega-church, Rick Warren, deliver the benediction. Suddenly I was jarred to attention. Was I hearing right? Was this Christian minister invoking our ancient prayer before all America, before the entire world? Was Rick Warren saying the “Shema?” The words were unmistakable: “Hear Oh Israel, the L-rd our G-d, the L-rd is One.”
I have become accustomed to non-Jews borrowing from our Torah, Prophets and Psalms, but to the best of my knowledge, I have never heard the “Shema” from non-Jewish lips, especially in such an awesome venue. The Shema is the clarion call of our people going back to the beginning of time.
Our father Jacob proclaimed those sacred words when he arrived in Egypt and saw his beloved son, Joseph for the first time in 22 years. G-d Himself inscribed the Shema in the Torah for all eternity. Shema, which we recite every morning and every night is our declaration of faith. It is the prayer with which, throughout the centuries, our martyrs sanctified G-d’s Holy Name, and now, incredibly, the Shema became part of the presidential inaugural benediction. Can there be a message therein, or is it all just coincidence?
We have learned that at times G-d sends us wake-up calls through non-Jewish sources. Could this have been one of those times? Could this be a reminder to us to don our priestly garments and proclaim, “Shema Yisrael HaShem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad?”
Amazingly, when speaking to people, I discovered that most who followed the inauguration never heard Rick Warren quote the Shema, or perhaps more correctly, they may have heard it, but the words did not register. The gap between hearing and listening is much longer than those few inches that separate our ears from our hearts…The words were spoken, but not heard, and so it was back to business as usual.
“Wake-up calls” are all about us and there are many more that I could cite, but let us focus on the plight of our brethren in Israel. Our brave, young, valorous soldiers put their lives on the line and accomplished a Herculean task. Undoubtedly, Hashem performed great miracle.
The number of missiles and rockets that fell upon Israel during the last eight years could, G-d forbid, have destroyed the entire country. But Hashem, in His infinite mercy, protected us. While there have been tragic casualties, and many homes were destroyed, when you consider what could have happened, you can only shudder and realize that it was only through Hashem’s personal intervention, that time and again, our people have been miraculously saved – and the same holds true for our soldiers.
The ground operation in Gaza was viewed with pessimism and fear. All the pundits predicted that the casualty rate for Israel would be disastrous. The Hamas murderers arrogantly boasted that they were eagerly awaiting our sons so they might celebrate their blood bath. In Gaza homes, mosques, schools and hospitals…the very streets were booby-trapped and mined, not to mention the tunnels filled with the most lethal weapons.
Additionally, the civilians of Gaza, men, women and children have all been indoctrinated with the belief that killing Jews and annihilating Israel is a tenet of the Moslem faith and fulfillment of the will of Allah.
But once again, Hashem, in His infinite mercy, came to our rescue.
Our sons witnessed to miracle after miracle. This is not a forum for stories that emerged from these battles. Suffice it to say that, Chasdei Hashem, our casualties were minimal, some resulting from accidental “friendly fire.” And please, no one misunderstand. We do not regard the loss of any Jewish life as “minimal.” But when you consider the bloodbath that might have been you have to tremble with awe and say: “Hodu L’Hashem.”
But how many of us have actually said thank you? How many of us have considered the miracle of G-d’s constant protective care? In the wake of the Gaza operation, we salute the IDF, and we should well do so, but, and this is the big but, how many of us have saluted Hashem? How many of us are aware that even our best soldiers are totally vulnerable and helpless, if not for the constant care of Hashem.”Eileh ba’rechev, ve’eileh ba’sussim – They go forth with horses and chariots, but we go forth in the Name of our G-d” (Psalm 20).
As much as we would like to think that there is a cease-fire and the war is over, we know that the reality is sadly different. Even as I write this article, the Gazans are busy rebuilding and re-supplying the tunnels. Hamas may have lost some of its leadership, but that does not deter them. There is never a shortage of madmen who glory in the torture and slaughter of Jews. The destruction of Israel is a basic tenet of Hamas’ charter, as it is of Fatah and all extremist Islamic groups. As long as these Islamic terrorists exist, nothing will change. No matter what Israel does, no matter how much land she relinquishes, the senseless killing will continue as we saw when Israel gave away Gaza, Gush Katif and the region.
Nowadays, hatred of Israel has become vogue, her demonization global, and who should be sensitive to this if not we, who still recall the Holocaust? G-d is calling us, but we do not hear. In attempts to put out the fire, we explore every avenue; we take every road but the high road, the road that G-d Himself mapped out for us thousands of years ago… the road that guarantees our lives, our security, our prosperity.
But instead of choosing that road of Torah, we opt for business as usual, and G-d’s wake-up calls are lost in the wind. We have yet to don our priestly garments and become Mamlechet Kohanim, that Priestly Kingdom that He destined us to be.