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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Mashiach’

Getting Back Together

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

We all know we have to take the Three Weeks seriously. But at the same time we all just want the time between the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha B’Av to pass already.

Each year seems more worrisome; this year is no exception. Every day brings new evidence that the world situation is deteriorating, with tzouris on every level. Of course, Israel is becoming more and more isolated. The rockets fall, and no one cares except us.

What exactly should we focus on during this sober time of year?

We all know that sinas chinam, gratuitous hatred between Jew and Jew, caused the destruction of the Second Temple. We all know it, but clearly we are having trouble incorporating it into our lives. The knowledge is not going to help us unless it becomes an imperative whose urgency is driven by our desire for a real solution to our problems.

We’ve all become somewhat depressed, affected by the cynicism we learn from the surrounding society, which is content to try to enjoy itself as the world spins out of control. How many people really believe the world can ever be transformed into a peaceful planet on which the Children of Israel can live in our Holy Land, “each man under his vine and under his fig tree, and none will make them afraid” (Micah 4:4)?

Let’s try to understand how we can really make this happen. If we took this seriously, we could well be rejoicing soon in the new Beis HaMikdash. Since we are not there yet, we obviously need to hear it again.

Here is the source:

“[At the time of] the Second Temple, [we know] that the people occupied themselves with Torah, mitzvos and acts of kindness. Why was it destroyed? Because of the gratuitous hatred that existed there. This teaches you that gratuitous hatred is tantamount to the three sins of idolatry, immorality and bloodshed [put together]” (Yoma 9b).

I know of instances in which Jews try to hurt each other and do hurt each other. This is crazy, of course.

People are not using their brains. Maybe it is because so many of us are lost somewhere inside our smart phones or computers. If we would think, we would not act this way, because this behavior is suicide.

All our tzouris stems from the fact that we have no Beis HaMikdash.

“Because of our sins, we have been exiled from our land and sent far from our soil. We cannot ascend to appear…before You…in the…great and holy House upon which Your Name was proclaimed…” (Yom Tov Mussaf). When we will return to our land in teshuvah, Hashem will “command rain for your land in its proper time, the early and later rains, that you may gather in your grain, your wine and your oil. I will provide grass in your field for your cattle and you will eat and be satisfied” (Shema prayer/Devarim11:14).

* * * * *

I am going to suggest a few ideas.

There are things we can do.

We have to become closer.

We are one family.

My wife and I recently conducted several programs in the beautiful Syrian community of Mexico City. Before going, we wondered how we would be able to relate. After all, we are Ashkenazim from New York. It’s a different world, right?

Wrong!

It is unbelievable how close we all are. In fact, we learned that our granddaughter from Israel was best friends with the daughter of our host in Mexico. They had met at camp in the Catskills. Do you understand? It’s 7,732 miles from Israel to Mexico, and they met at a camp in between.

Mashiach is almost here. We are all about to unite as “one man with one heart.” Let’s get serious. It makes me insane when I see not only how cruel we can be to each other but how we often just distance ourselves. Would you pass your brother on the street and not greet him? Would you stare in the other direction as if he didn’t exist? If we all would try to modify our actions, then perhaps one – even unnoticed or invisible – act of chesed could tip the scale and bring Mashiach.

First Of The Land

Friday, June 29th, 2012

There are 613 mitzvoth – we all know that. We also all know it is impossible for one person to perform all 613. Twenty-five mitzvot can only be performed in the Land of Israel, which leaves many Jews out in the cold, shall we say. After all, the people of Israel and the Land of Israel are inextricably intertwined; they are in fact dependent on one another for survival. But Judaism has a solution or as a modern Israeli would say, a “patent.” Mitzvot can be performed by proxy; by taking a part in a mitzvah one merits a share in the whole.

For example, let’s say you want a share in the mitzvah of reshit hagez, the first wool of the first sheep shearing that is brought to the Kohen. No problem, you just contact, Reshit Ha’aretz, a farm established in Beit El, a community that also fortuitously has a stellar Yeshiva. They sheer the sheep on the farm and bring the first wool to the rabbis who are also Kohanim in the yeshiva there.

Reshit Haaretz, now in its fourth year was established for the precise purpose of performing the mitzvot that can only be performed in the Land of Israel. And the cooperative also offers you the opportunity of performing these mitzvahs virtually. It’s an opportunity Moshe Rabbeinu would have treasured.

“We thought that we were really missing out because so many important mitzvot, obligatory me’de’oraita, are so very distant from every Jew, and we began to think of a practical way to enable every Jew to participate in their performance,” explains Rabbi Ronen Zer, 46, the founder of the Reshit Ha’aretz farm. Zer means bouquet, so it appears his agricultural calling was predestined.

“After receiving blessings and approval of the endeavor from the most prominent rabbis, I left Tzfat together with my family and settled in Bet El. Here in the region designated for the tribe of Binyamin, we decided to establish the Reshit Ha’aretz farm.”

The farm enables any Jew, no matter where in the world he resides, to be a partner in the purchase of the farm and the performance of the 25 land-related mitzvot. The farm spans an area of several dunams and contains fields of crops, vineyards and olive groves, enclosures for animals and livestock and a winery where the biblical mitzvot are performed using the fruits and produce of the farm. For example- setting aside terumot and maasrot (tithes), neta revai (the eating of fourth year produce in Jerusalem), peah, leket, shichecha and others. And the holy animals of Israel are also not neglected. For example, The rarely performed mitzvoth of Peter Chamor, the aforementioned reshit hagez, and the gifts of zeroah, lechayayim and keiva to the Kohen among others. During a Shemittah year, of course all the laws are stringently observed and the fruit orchards are open for the public at large, who are free to help themselves. The fruit is hefker, after all.

“With the establishment of the farm, we intended to grant merits to the residents of Israel living in cities and urban areas, who wouldn’t have an actual opportunity to perform these important mitzvot personally,” explains Rabbi Zer, as he plants a new vineyard on one of the farm’s slopes. “Afterwards, we thought that if we can grant merits to Jews in Israel, why not also grant the same privilege of these mitzvot to our brothers and sisters overseas, as well? We approached Torah leaders and they gave us their blessing for this holy enterprise. The Institute Machon HaTorah VeHa’Aretz cooperated with us and we composed a monetary contract that is halachically binding and a means by which our brothers and sisters abroad can also become partners in the farm.”

A few weeks ago a festival celebrating reshit hagez was held at the farm, as well as the mitzvot of zeroah, lechayayim and keiva, with the participation of rabbanim and an appreciative crowd of participants. The wool of an entire of flock of sheep was sheared, the parts of the animals undergoing ritual slaughter were presented to the Kohen amid a festive atmosphere, and the celebration also included hands-on activities and creative workshops for children, music, and a food market. It was a grand festival celebrating the performance of mitzvot ha’teluyot ba’aretz, reinforcing our attachment to and ownership of the land of Israel and our joyful adherence to its mitzvot.”

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Two: Golda

Monday, June 25th, 2012

All of that night, Tevye was unable to sleep. He rose from his bed, paced around the tiny room where his family had shared their modest meals, said a prayer over his sleeping children, and walked outside, holding his aching head from the after-effects of the vodka he had imbibed earlier in the day. The winter was ending, and the night was cold and black. Rays of moonlight shone now and again from behind a thick quilt of clouds. A thin layer of snow remained on the ground like manna, the wafers of food which God provided six days a week to the Jews in the wilderness. Tevye glanced up at the clouds.

“My God, and God of my forefathers,” he said, as if speaking to someone close by. “I know you are Master of everything. I know that a blade of grass does not grow unless you give it an order. I know we are like sheep in Your hand. I know that Tevye, Your servant, is a worm and not even a man. But what great sin did I transgress that You, in Your very great kindness, are throwing me out of my house? Haven’t I tried to please you all of my miserable life? Haven’t I woken up before dawn to milk the cows You gave me? Haven’t I trudged off to work day after day, pausing only at sunrise to don my tefillin and say morning prayers – just as You have commanded us in Your Torah? And though I could not always pray in a minyan with nine other men, and though I do not study Talmud as much as I might, haven’t I always tried to be a good Jew? And for my reward, I am given three days to abandon my house and my village. Yes, I know, Tevye is not the world’s biggest saint and tzaddik, and sometimes my neighbor’s horse looks a lot healthier than mine. But what, may I ask, do You want from us here in tiny Anatevka? Instead of uprooting us from our homes, don’t You have something more important to do in some other part of the world?”

Tevye walked through a familiar path in the forest. The night was as dark as the exile of the Jews from their land, but Tevye knew the path’s windings by heart. How many thousands of miles had he traveled back and forth through the forest, bringing his milk products to the neighboring villages, and to Boiberik and Yehupetz, where the aristocrats lived? Usually, he would lead his horse and wagon along the main road, but when the four-legged creature was sick, Tevye would drag the cart behind him in order to delivery his fresh milk and cheeses on time. And that meant taking the less traveled path through the forest.

Now in the moonlight, he could see the Jewish cemetery. A glow seemed to shine off Golda’s small tombstone. Careful not to step on Lazar Wolf, the butcher; nor Mendel, the cantor; or Shendel, the wife of the sandal maker; nor on the grave of the poor tailor, Motel, his son-in-law, Tevye walked to the only resting place his Golda had ever enjoyed.

He sighed a loud, weary sigh, a sigh of centuries, the sigh of a gypsy who has to wander on to yet another temporary home. A sob shook his body. He was not a man to break down like a woman and cry, but if he could not share his feelings with Golda, if she was not at his side to listen to his complainings, kvetchings, and moments of despair, where would he find the strength to carry on for the children? Hadn’t she been his helpmate since the day their fathers had brought them together under the canopy of the marital chuppah? True, she always moaned that she had been a fool to agree to the match, yet, dutifully, she had borne the pain of seven childbirths, and raised up seven daughters. As it is written in the Holiest of Books, “And they became one flesh.” She was his wife. Even in death. How could he leave her? How did he dare?

The Last Secular Jew in Israel

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

It’s no secret that a tremendous spiritual revolution is approaching in Israel. Even the secular Jews know it, and that’s why they’re so uptight. In a big way, it’s already happening. Israel is the Torah center of the world. Religious Jews are everywhere. The baal tshuva phenomena is booming. And while secular families in Israel have one, two, maybe three children, the religious start with five and end up with twelve or more. You don’t have to be a genius at statistics to realize that even if the rate of tshuva isn’t accelerated more than it is today, and even if the Lords of Flatbush and Brooklyn Dodgers don’t come on aliyah from New York, even without them, in another decade, the religious will have a majority of seats in the Knesset, and then we’re in for a lot of fun! So, as part of our continuing tribute to Jewish Book Week in Israel, we are posting another short story from Days of Mashiach  about the last remaining secular Jew in Israel. Happy reading!

OPERATION HALLEL

The chief of staff, the generals, nuclear physicists, and rabbis stood staring at the panoramic screen in the IDF’s Strategic Military Control Center. The computerized screen spanned a wall in the war room which had been code-named “Magen David” because of its star-shaped design. Up on the screen was a satellite map of the world. Israel was a small red light in the center of the globe, like a heart amidst the organs of the body. Other lights were flickering on the screen from all over the northern hemisphere. New lights flashed on over Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico. Each light marked the launching of a nuclear warhead from an underground silo. Russia had started the massive attack only a minute before with a wave of missiles which were now on their way over Turkey and arcing steadily closer toward Israel. Bombers were streaking toward the Mediterranean. None of the bearded men in the room seemed surprised when the United States joined in the air strike. America’s participation in the UN coalition against the tiny Jewish State had been predicted for weeks, ever since the mass arrests of Jews in America. The Arab oil embargo had crippled world economy and left Americans angry and cold. Until Palestine was freed, the Arabs were refusing to export their oil. On the pretext of safety, American Foreign Service personnel had been evacuated from Israel. Once again, the Jews had been set up for slaughter. On the screen in the war room, lights were flickering now over Pakistan and, France, and Germany.

“It’s seems like every uncircumcised dog with an A-bomb wants to get a crack at us,” Yehuda growled, throwing up his hands in dismay.

For a moment, everyone laughed, even the rabbis. In fact, Yehuda, the world-famous air-force commander was the only non-religious officer in the underground center. The secret bunker had been re-nicknamed “The Covenant Room” because all of the bearded, skull-capped men present believed that this was the place where God would reaffirm, before the eyes of the world, the ancient Covenant He had made with Abraham, bequeathing the Land of Israel to the Jews. Yehuda believed it, too, in a deep non-religious way which he couldn’t define nor express. He was a simple man, a soldier’s soldier, born with an ardent love for his land and his people. In war after bloody war, he had risked his life on the battlefield and in the skies. Both Jews and Arabs called him the Lion of Yehuda. Now, once again, he had stayed on to fight, long after many others had left, because he knew, in the way only a military specialist could know, that Israel’s great victories over much vaster forces had been caused by something more than military prowess and weaponry. Yehuda had sensed, almost mystically from his very first battle, the presence of some unseen helping hand.

All of the eyes in the room were watching him now. Lights had flashed on over China and from submarines scattered throughout the seven seas. Yehuda gazed at the tense faces around him. They were all good solid soldiers. Many were graduates of Hesder yeshivot. Others were Russians who had spent years in Siberian jails. Several of the bearded men had been his soldiers before they had become baale tshuva during the great religious revolution in Israel. Seemingly overnight, the nation had returned to the Torah. After the last elections, when the majority of the Knesset became religious, most of Yehuda’s contemporaries had fled. The people he had grown up with, the builders of the country, had become a tired and spiritually empty minority – all of the socialists, liberals, democrats, professors, and writers who had lacked the final faith to continue the struggle against what seemed like insurmountable odds. The young people had abandoned the country with them, the children of the kibbutz generation who had yearned for peace at all costs. The orphans of Rabin Square had fled the country for the more peaceful plazas of L.A. and New York when the religious parties took over.

Days of Mashiach

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Since so many of you enjoyed the story, “The Great America Novelist,” here’s another literary gem from my collection of fun and poignant short stories about the Jewish People in our time, Days of Mashiach.

I wrote the little fable in order to explain the first sentence of Rabbi Kook’s book, Orot, his classic treatise on the Redemption of Israel. The book begins: “Eretz Yisrael is not a peripheral matter, external to the inner essence of the Jewish Nation.” Rabbi Kook wants us to know that the Land of Israel isn’t just a nice place to visit, or merely a place to do extra mitzvot, but that it is an essential part of our lives, attached to us by an inner oneness, like a person’s mother or his wife. It’s not something you give away.

By the way, for readers who thought I was serious about going to LA – I was only kidding in order to make the point that, in our generation, a Jew has to do whatever he or she can to promote the rebuilding of Israel, and not only worry about his personal material pleasures. I’m actually driving to Beit El today to see how I can help out in the struggle to save the Ulpana neighborhood. I made a poster to hold up at demonstrations and I want to drop it off to the local troops who are faithfully trying to save the threatened buildings. Along the way, I’ll drop some posters off on the embattled settlement of Migron. Here’s the story. Let me know what you think.

EHUD

Ehud was a happy man, truly content with his lot. He had a lovely wife, three lovely children, and a lovely house in a lovely community. He had a good job and good friends. He liked and respected all people, and all people liked and respected him. He was friendly, optimistic, and always tried to see the good side of things, believing that everything that happened in life was for the best. He did whatever he could to help people, and he avoided quarrels and fights, believing that peace was life’s most precious value. He was a smart man, an educated man, but humble, never thinking he was better than anyone else. He had his opinions, but he respected all points of view, except for the radical. He kept to the middle path in life and followed the rule, “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” He wasn’t a religious man, practicing rituals and the like, but he lived a very moral, principled life.

One quiet evening, while Ehud was reading his newspaper, there was a knock on the door. A man stood outside. He was a tall man, a big man, with a nondescript face. He might have been a Gentile, or an Arab, or a Jew.

Ehud greeted him with a smile and a pleasant hello. The man seemed surprised that Ehud didn’t recognize him.

“The other day in town, I lent you twenty shekels,” he said.

Ehud didn’t remember. He thought and thought, but he couldn’t remember a thing. It wasn’t like him to forget, but the man seemed quite certain. It wouldn’t be polite to argue, Ehud thought. It was only twenty shekels. And apparently he had given the man his address. Ehud apologized for forgetting, gave the man twenty shekels, and said goodnight.

The very next night, he returned. The same man. He appeared at the door while Ehud’s wife, Tzipora, was cooking dinner in the kitchen.

“I came for my television,” the man said.

“Your television?” Ehud asked.

“The television set that I lent you,” the man said. “I want it back. My children don’t have a TV to watch.”

“What will my children watch?” Ehud asked.

“I’m sorry, but that isn’t my problem,” the man replied.

“But the television is mine,” Ehud protested. “I bought it, and I have a warranty to prove it too.”

Ehud walked to the cabinet where he kept all of his papers in alphabetically arranged files. But the television warranty wasn’t there. He searched through his old bank statements, phone bills and medical records, but the warranty was nowhere to be found. Embarrassed, he returned to the door.

My Hero, King David

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

The Bible introduces us to many fascinating and inspiring personalities, righteous men and women whose example of piety continue to guide and uplift us to this very day. There are some, however, to whom we can relate in an especially powerful way and whom we can truly strive to emulate.

One such righteous figure is David HaMelech, someone who has left a direct, profound impact on all of us.

One reason King David is a figure with whom we closely identify is his famous work – the Book of Tehillim. We all shed tears reciting the beautiful words of Tehillim, praying for ourselves and others and connecting to Hashem through the prayers of King David, in his merit.

The Book of Tehillim is so holy that, as our sages teach, when one reads the entire book he is considered as having read the entire Torah.

Throughout the generations, people have always turned to Tehillim to find the words with which to come before Hashem. And Hashem loves to hear these prayers. Our rabbis teach us that Hashem regarded one day of David HaMelech’s prayers as greater than all the sacrifices brought in the Bet HaMikdash.

King David excelled in many areas, surpassing even other righteous people. He suffered for much of his life, being forced to flee for several years from King Shaul, and even enduring a revolt against him by his own son Avshalom. But throughout all these ordeals, rather than question God’s justice, King David remained firm in his faith and devotion to God – and, as we see in Tehillim, constantly expressed his gratitude to Hashem for his blessings in life.

Through his constant praise of Hashem, David HaMelech reached lofty spiritual levels that no other righteous person achieved (Baba Batra 17a). When we read the beautiful praises of Tehillim, we can gain inspiration from David’s ability to feel grateful even during times of hardship. This should help us put our own problems in perspective and be appreciative of what we have even during the more difficult periods of our lives.

This message is reinforced by the Gemara’s famous account (Pesachim 119b) of the great “Feast of the Leviathan” that will take place in the messianic era. Our righteous forefathers will sit to enjoy the special meat of the Leviathan, and when the time comes to recite the blessing on the cup of wine they will initially hand it to Avraham to grant him the honor of reciting the berachah. Avraham will refuse, noting that he had fathered a sinful son (Yishmael) and thus does not deserve the honor. The cup will then be passed to Yitzchak, but he, too, will refuse, because he had a wicked son (Eisav). Next will be Yaakov, who will also decline, due to his marriage to two sisters, which the Torah forbade.

Moshe Rabbeinu will then be approached, and he will say, “I do not have the merit, since I was not worthy to enter into the Holy Land.” Finally, David HaMelech will take the cup and make the blessing.

The rabbis ask, what special merit does David possess that the others do not? After all, like Avraham and Yitzchak, he also had sinful children. So why will he be given the privilege of reciting the berachah?

The Midrash answers that, as mentioned, David HaMelech was always praising Hashem, even when confronting difficult situations. As expressed through the praises of Tehillim, David believed with complete faith and conviction that everything Hashem does is for the best, and he therefore responded to all events – good and “bad” – with songs of praise to Hashem. This special quality rendered him singularly worthy from among all the great tzaddikim to recite the blessing.

David HaMelech spent his days immersed in Torah study and prayer. The Gemara states that David would never sleep more than sixty “horse breaths,” preferring to devote all his time to the service of Hashem. And this passionate engagement in Torah continued even until his final day.

The Gemara relates that King David knew he would die on Shabbat, though he did not know on which Shabbat. He therefore made sure to spend every moment of Shabbat engrossed in learning, since the angel of death cannot seize a person’s soul as he studies Torah.

Towards A Zionism Of Destiny

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Some still think that the rightist leadership is actually capable of getting the State of Israel off the route previously charted out by the Zionist Left. They really think that the reason why our national train continues to speed down the Oslo track is because of the people in charge.

Menachem Begin surrendered the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt because he was tricked. Benjamin Netanyahu was amenable to Yasir Arafat because he is pliable. Ariel Sharon destroyed Gush Katif because he is corrupt. And the list goes on. But the truth is just the opposite. The Right continues to slide down the slippery slope of the “peace process” not because of the weakness of its leaders but despite the fact that its leaders are eminently capable. Who can compare to Begin’s dedication to the nation of Israel? Who is a greater war hero and builder of the land than Sharon? And can we really compare the “leadership” that the other parties have to offer to Netanyahu’s talent? Netanyahu likes to boast of his ministers’ achievements – and he is right. The executive arm of this government is functioning well and Israel enjoys one of the most professional and effective governments that it has ever known.

We should not be searching for the failure of the Right in its chosen leaders, but rather for its ideology. The ideology of the classic Right must ultimately drag it to destruction. For the political Right is the right hand of Zionism. And Zionism’s current creed, that it “has no connection to religion,” is really much more appropriate to the Left than to the Right. That is the root of the reason why Zionist legitimacy remains with the Left, despite the fact that the majority of Israelis are rightist and traditional.

What was the idea, the tremendous force that established the State of Israel against all odds? What was the spirit that restored the nation of Israel to history? It was the shaking off of religion that was considered – justifiably – to be the noose hanging the Jew above reality.

At this point I must provide a short explanation to readers with raised eyebrows. When the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, the national Jewish connection to reality was sundered. The Temple, the perfection of the world in the Kingdom of the Almighty, is the ultimate purpose of our national existence; it is also the axis around which the daily lives of the individual and the collective revolved. The Temple provided a timeline, the thrice-yearly ascent to Jerusalem, an entire annual cycle of life.

Jewish sovereignty without the Temple is like a state without a capital, a parliament or national holidays – without anything. Religion in its present configuration was the most successful start-up in history, the virtualization of Israel. It was the preservation of its national existence outside reality until its return to Zion and the building of the Temple.

But in the course of 2,000 years the virtualization became an existential consciousness. Lamentations, recited on the 9th of Av, have their set place on our bookshelves, ready and waiting for the next year. The Mashiach has been transformed from the symbol of vibrant Judaism interacting with every level of reality into a non-intrusive fantasy with no demands – thus delaying Mashiach’s arrival.

The Zionists who cut the religion umbilical cord suddenly felt the earth under their feet; they sensed it responding to the national flexing of muscles. Suddenly, we were a normal nation. A monumental redemptive energy that was suppressed for 2,000 years burst forth after the disconnection from religion. That energy carried the Zionist revolution on its back. It inflated the sails of the ship until after the Yom Kippur War, Entebbe and the Right’s victory in the 1977 elections. And that was the end.

It was only logical that when the Zionist spirit dissipated, it was specifically the Right that led the great retreats. For while Begin retained Jabotinsky’s strong nationalism, what connection did he have to the Sinai? Not the Bible. He hurriedly called upon the more dovish Moshe Dayan and Ezer Weizman to join him so that he would enjoy legitimacy from the Left for the move that looked like the end of Zionism, but was really its natural outcome – actualizing the dream of normalcy. The self-destruction mechanism built into Zionism was triggered. IDF bulldozers destroyed settlements in the Sinai. Now they are on their way to Ulpana Hill. Ehud Barak is today’s Dayan, Shaul Mofaz is today’s Weizman – and the principle was determined.

Face To Face With Miracles

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Our sages teach us that when we have left this life and face the Court on High, we will be called upon to answer for our lives. Among the questions we will be asked is, “Did you throughout your lifetime eagerly await and anticipate the geulah, the ultimate redemption?”

This is a deceptively difficult question. On the one hand, the answer seems self-evident. Of course we awaited that glorious time of redemption. How could we not? The travails of our lives and the lives of Jews everywhere have kept our thoughts on the coming Messiah, on the coming redemption. And yet, if we are truly honest, have we, with all of life’s day-to-day distractions, pressures and mundane preoccupations really, fully, eagerly awaited and anticipated redemption?

We have been distracted by our lives. We cannot help but be. As Jews we are aware that we have been created both flesh and soul, of heaven and of the earth. Our thoughts by virtue of our creation must be focused on both redemption and the world. As such, the question is impossible for us to answer in the affirmative.

But we will be asked. So, perhaps, the challenge is not in how we must answer but in how the question is phrased.

Perhaps it will be, when that awesome day comes, that the question will be asked, “Was there a day, an event, a moment, when you felt that redemption was at hand; that you were actually engaged in the redemptive process, that Mashiach was actually knocking on the door, awaiting entry?

In short, was there a moment when you felt the miraculous?

There are those who proclaim that life is filled with miracles, that if we truly open our eyes we cannot help to see that it is so. To them, miracles abound. But what is it that they mean when they speak of miracles?

Is it a miracle when you are accosted on a street corner only to have a police car “miraculously” drive by at that moment? Is it a miracle when, faced with foreclosure of your home, you win Lotto? Is it a miracle to notice the beauty of a field filled with wild flowers?

Does a miracle depend on the suspension of natural law?

Is it all of these things? None of them?

I would suggest that the thing that makes a miracle (versus a fortuitous confluence of circumstances, i.e. “luck”) is God’s involvement. When God is involved in our lives, not only are we experiencing the miraculous but, by definition, redemption is as close as the beating of our own hearts.

The truth, as our sages have taught, is that God is close by always. Yet even closeness is not always so easy to discern. We can follow God’s commandments, pray fervently, and lead lives of exemplary behavior and yet not feel the closeness of God.

As Jews, our history and tradition have taught us that God indeed engages in our lives. Didn’t He intercede in the lives of the Hebrews, redeeming them from slavery? The challenge for the modern Jew is that we tend to embrace miracles as communal events and most often in the distant past. They happened long, long ago. Sinai comes to mind.

But personal miracles? The modern Jew often dismisses such things. Isn’t embrace of miracles the domain of other religious traditions? Aren’t we more “rational” and “legalistic” in our lives?

The truth is, God engages us all the time and our experience with miracles is not wholly communal nor in the distant past. Miracles animate every aspect of our existence. It is our success or failure to note and embrace these miracles that will provide our answer to that question on High.

Have we experienced redemption? Yes! Once. A hundred times. A thousand times.

More than asking, What is redemption? or, What is a miracle? we might want to ask, What does it mean to have God in our lives, to know the holiness of the Divine touching our everyday lives? To feel as did the Jews at Sinai, who saw the mountain smoking and saw the voices and the flames, who trembled in awe as they responded, “we hear and we act…”?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/face-to-face-with-miracles/2012/06/06/

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