Last week I wrote that we are now at a very critical juncture in our long history. We have entered the period of ikvesie d’Mashiach – a time of travail when the footsteps of the Messiah can be discerned. We are receiving wake-up call after wake-up call, and they come in many shapes and forms. Hashemis sounding the alarm, but we remain deaf to its implications.
Time and again we, the American Jewish community, have been shaken to the core – but we remained and continue to remain complacent. Somehow we fail to connect the dots and we go right back to business as usual.
This week I want to call attention to the recent stock market crisis, which was accompanied by an amazing phenomenon that must make us stop and ponder. For three consecutive days (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday – August eighth, ninth, and tenth), we watched the market plummet with frazzled nerves as the numbers kept changing.
Incredibly, if you added up the digits of the Dow Jones closingnumbers on each of those days, they all equaled 26.
Monday Close: -634.76 = 26
Tuesday Close: +429.92 = 26
Wednesday Close: -519.83 = 26
According to actuaries, the odds of this happening are millions to one.
Now, many people reading this might say, “Interesting, but so what? The bottom line is that the market suffered great losses.”
Before we go further, allow me to explain the concept of gematria – numerology in Judaism. Baruch Hashem, our Jewish Press readership consists of people from varied backgrounds and I would like to be as clear as possible.
Hebrew is different from all other languages. It is lashon hakodesh – the holy tongue, the language in which G-d Himself spoke. In the holy tongue, every word is definitive and significant and has many dimensions, too complex to elaborate on in the limited space of this column. Moreover, every letter has a numerical value. For example, aleph is not just the letter “a” but is also number 1. Beis is not just the letter “b” but is also 2, and so on. Therefore, when probing a word in the holy tongue, we often add up all the numbers in that word so that we may uncover greater meaning.
Hashem – G-d’s Holy Name – adds up to 26. So allow me to once again call your attention to the numbers: Monday closing: – 634.76 = 26; Tuesday closing: + 429.02 = 26; Wednesday closing: – 519.83 = 26.
This should give us pause. It is a reminder to us that as clever as we may think we are, at the end of the day our sustenance, our financial success, our very lives, are all in the hands of Hashem – 26.
Could it be that G-d is sending us a message that our ability to control the market is severely limited? Clearly, there is a Higher Power at work – a Higher Power that is the true determining factor in the ups and downs not only of the market but of our very lives. Sadly, it is a truth we lose sight of in our crazed, money-worshiping society. Every morning, we recite the prayer “Wealth and honor come from You, and You rule over everything…..” A lesson we would do well to take to heart – but we have yet to imbibe that simple truth.
At the conclusion of last week’s column, I wrote that we can no longer allow complacency to define our lives; that we have to wake up from our lethargy and make the stirring Sabbath prayer of Lecha Dodi our goal. “Kumi” – “Shake off the dust, arise and don your splendid, glorious garments, My people…” But we have failed to understand and heed the call of that prayer.
Tragically, ours is a generation that carries on its shoulders the heavy burdens of the sins that led to the destruction of both our Temples. But for now, I would like us to focus on the sin that launched us into our present exile – sinas chinam, hatred between Jew and Jew, brother and brother. Centuries have passed and sinas chinam has become so much a part of us that we no longer recognize it and have actually come to believe that the dense darkness of hatred, jealousy and animosity is a normal way of life.
But the call of G-d is insistent and keeps pounding on the chambers of our hearts, demanding that we act before it is too late. So what must we do?
First, we must purge ourselves of this poison of sinas chinam. Nearly two thousand years later, nothing has changed. It’s Jew against Jew, brother against brother.
You may protest that this sin does not apply to you. You are not guilty of it, though you know many others who are. Anyway, you are just “little you” and have no ability to bring about such a change.
A man went to his Rebbe for a berachah. “Rebbe,” he said, “I would like to go out and change the world – make peace among our brethren.”
The Rebbe gave him a blessing and wished him well. A few weeks later, he returned. “Rebbe, no one is listening to me,” he complained. “And worse, they resent what I say, so I was thinking that maybe I should limit my efforts to just changing my community.”
The Rebbe once again gave his berachah. But a few weeks later the man returned with the same complaint.
“Rebbe” he said, “I met frustration after frustration, so I decided to revise my plan and will limit my outreach to my neighbors only.”
But here again, he ran into a stone wall, so once more he returned to the Rebbe. “I have to change my agenda. I think I will limit my efforts to members of my family.”
Given the Rebbe’s berachah, he once again set out on his mission, only to return a few days later. “Rebbe, I give up,” he said, “no one listens to me.”
To which the Rebbe replied, “My dear son, have you ever considered that the best way to start is by changing yourself?”
Indeed, the very first step we must take if we are to rid ourselves of this heinous sin of sinas chinam is to understand that this mandate pertains not only to others – but first and foremost to ourselves.
(To Be Continued)