In this week’s Torah Portion, life on this planet is destroyed. I believe the Torah is showing us that everything in the material world is vulnerable. Since mankind has left the Garden of Eden, life has been a cycle of destruction and rebirth. We depend on Hashem’s promise of techias Hamaisim (Resurrection of the Dead). Just as “Noah” is the second Torah Portion, so “Techias Hamaisim” is the second blessing in Shemoneh Esreh: “And You [Hashem] are faithful to revive the dead!”
Right now, the news is alarming. Sounds of war reverberate. Haters of Israel raise their voices. The United States, the “bastion of democracy,” echoes with anger and increasing anti-Semitism. In Northern Syria, a confrontation is unfolding which could involve America and Russia in direct conflict.
It behooves us to study this Torah Portion as a guide to survival in a time of world catastrophe. It is clear that Hashem values His beautiful world and those who inhabit it. Based on that premise, it seems that we should try to live in such a way that we give Hashem a reason to save us.
Every Shabbos we say, “Moshe rejoiced in the gift of his portion, that You called him an ‘eved ne’eman’… a faithful servant.” Hashem watches over those who desire to serve Him. “Then those who fear Hashem spoke to one another and Hashem listened and heard and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear Hashem and those who give thought to His Name.” (Malachi 3:16)
I once had occasion, when my father was honored in 2007, to visit the White House. Hashem answered my prayers and I was able to speak personally to President George W. Bush. I discussed the historical role of Israel, how the Patriarchs’ children are returning to the Holy Land in accordance with Biblical prophecy and how he could actually ally himself with Hashem’s plan. I also praised him personally (he was under fire at the time) for his belief in G-d and his adherence to Biblical ideals of morality. Shortly after our conversation, one of his aides came to thank me, saying “The President needs to know he has friends.” It is considered praiseworthy in our world to show honor even to a “king” of flesh and blood.
In Israel recently, I had a taxi driver with a strange hair style. I thought, what kind of creature is this? Just before our destination, he stopped short and started yelling. Standing alone in the middle of the street was a small child, dressed only in a diaper. I jumped out of one side of the taxi and he jumped out the other. He started running up and down the street yelling for people to come out of their houses while I carried the child to the sidewalk. Finally, a lady appeared who knew where this baby lived. She took him home. The taxi driver turned out to be a compassionate Jew! “Mi k’amcha Yisroel, goy echad b’aretz … Who is like Your people, like Israel, a unique nation on earth!” (II Samuel 7:23)
There are surprising examples of kedusha (sanctity) in this world, like gold buried beneath the earth, but one must dig for it. During the days leading up to Yom Kippur we lay the foundation for a new year by breaking open our souls before our Creator. This is the “digging.”
Dovid Hamelech says of Hashem, “You reduce man to pulp and …say, ‘Repent, O sons of man….’” (Psalm 90) We awaken early to say Selichos. We try to tell the truth about ourselves: “The lurking enemy (the Evil Inclination) is concealed within (man) from the time of his birth…No strength nor might does the body have to stand against it and hold its own…. Consider, L-rd, our aching spirit; look at (our) broken hearts … Strong, Mighty One, we have not forgotten Your name. Please do not forget us for all eternity!” (Selicha 98)
We are exceedingly vulnerable to the Evil Inclination, but, if we are honest with ourselves, we have a chance for survival. There is hope for one who “speaks truth within his heart.” On such a basis, a new world can be built.
From many places in Yerushalayim, one can see Kever Shmuel Hanovi (the Burial Place of Samuel the Prophet), high on a hill behind Ramot. It looks out over the Holy City, watching and guarding us. Hashem said to the Prophet, “Fill your horn with oil and go forth; I shall send you to Yishai Bais Halachmi (Yishai, the inhabitant of Bais Lechem)….
“Yishai presented his seven sons before Shmuel, but Shmuel said to Yishai, ‘Hashem has not chosen these.’
“Then Shmuel said: ‘Are these all the boys?’
“(Yishai) sent and brought (Dovid). He was ruddy with fair eyes and a pleasing appearance. Hashem then said, ‘Arise and anoint him, for this is he!’ Shmuel took the horn and anointed him in the midst of his brothers, and the spirit of Hashem passed over Dovid from that day on.” (I Samuel 16:1ff) The gold is buried deep within the earth. One must dig for it.
We may think we know how Moshiach will come, but it is hidden from us. “A heavenly voice rang out and proclaimed, ‘It is My secret! It is My secret!” (Sanhedrin 94a), on which Rashi comments, “The time of Moshiach is known only to [Hashem].”
On misty days, especially at dusk, if you look at Kever Shmuel Hanovi, it appears like a man mounted upon a donkey. Through the mists of Golus, a figure is approaching. “For behold, your king will come to you, righteous and victorious is he, a humble man riding upon a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9)
We will survive every Flood, every challenge, every blow, every enemy. Soon, suddenly, in Hashem’s abundant mercies, the surging waters will recede and the redeemer will come.
Kever Shmuel Hanovi through the mist.
Do you see the man riding upon the donkey?