During the second summer of our marriage, when we were still in college, my wife and I were employed as fire lookouts in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon. We lived in a mountaintop cabin 9,000 feet above sea level and our view extended 150 miles in all directions, taking in thousands of forested acres. That summer there were two small fires and the world seemed normal.
Today much of western America is burning.
As I have often mentioned, our sages stated that ikvos hamoshicha - the “footsteps of the Messiah” - would be chaotic, as the cultures which have dominated the world for the past two millennia shake and tremble. During recent weeks, we have seen ample evidence of that shaking and trembling. Is there any doubt that we can no longer rely on the stability of “world culture?” Look at the recent stock market freefall and the unnatural dependence of the global economy on China.
Listen to this recent news story from the New York Times: “Nearly 60 million people have been driven from their homes by war and persecution, an unprecedented global exodus that has burdened fragile countries with waves of newcomers and littered deserts and seas with the bodies of those who died trying to reach safety.”
Of all the recent stories, perhaps most shocking was a murder on live television.
These are a few recent headlines, but there is something even more troubling. A reader of the Yated newspaper recently wrote the following: “We are once again as a group in a time where we need Heavenly mercy, but there are no voices calling us … to come together to pray and do teshuva (repent), but only to reach out to … politicians. Why are we not … gathering together in prayer and supplication in response to the current situation?”
This is a very powerful question.
Crater Lake: the West is on fire! (Photograph Oregon Department of Transportation)
Rabbi Shimshon Pincus zt”l writes, “A person who is asleep is not living in … reality. He sees things that aren’t there and when he wakes up he discovers that he is somewhere else altogether… This explains how a person can sit in the study hall and chatter idly with his friends instead of learning. It is because he is actually ‘asleep’” (Moadei Hashana).
My friends, eighty percent of the Jewish People never made it out of Biblical Egypt. They were “asleep!” The Chofetz Chaim tells us that we can learn about the events of the final redemption from the events of the Exodus from Egypt. We cannot afford to be asleep when the events of the final redemption overturn the contemporary world the way Egypt was overturned!
We have to beg G-d to save us! We have to beg G-d to help us become worthy to be saved! Fires are burning! We need tears of repentence to save us from the flames!
King David said, “It is better to take refuge in G-d than to rely on man. It is better to take refuge in G-d than to rely on nobles. All the nations surround me; in the Name of G-d I cut them down” (Psalm 118).
The public reading from the Prophets for both days of Rosh Hashana are strikingly similar. On the first day we read about Chana, whose fiery tears brought into the world Samuel the Prophet, whose hands poured oil on the head of the shepherd and future king, David ben Yishai. On the second day we read about our matriarch Rachel, whose fiery tears will bring the Messiah, the descendant of that shepherd. “Thus said G-d: a voice is heard on high, wailing, bitter weeping. Rachel weeps for her children.” These fiery women overcame the impossible because they were determined to achieve the ultimate redemption for the Jewish People. “In the merit of the righteous women … Israel was redeemed from Egypt…” (Sota 11b).
Isn’t it time that we stop believing that our salvation will come from the politicians? Do we really believe they have power? “G-d annuls the counsel of nations” (Psalm 33:10). Our prayers must be directed to the Source of power.
My six-year old granddaughter told me, “I am afraid of Moshiach coming because of the war.” No one knows whether or not there will be war before the Messiah comes, but she knows enough to wake up and pray for life! We cannot save ourselves when we are asleep! “During the Ten Days of Repentence … every moment is precious…. During the rest of the year it is terrible to waste one’s time, but on these days, wasting time is deadly serious…” (Moadei Hashana).
It is now time to remember that there is no reality but the Reality of G-d. Life and death hang in the balance. It is time to connect with G-d and live! Through our tears we can accomplish what Rachel and Chana accomplished, no matter how impossible it seems! We can save ourselves and usher in the Redemption!
“Thus said G-d: restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for there is reward for your accomplishment, the word of G-d, and they will return from the land of the enemy. There is hope for your future, the word of G-d, and your children will return to their border!” (Haftaras Rosh Hashanah, Second Day)
* * * *
Every year at this time, I extend my appreciation to Artscroll/Mesorah Publications for their kind permission to quote from their excellent translations countless times during the year. As my readers may know, I grew up without the benefit of a yeshiva education. I owe much to Artscroll, upon whose work I depend for an understanding of so many words of the Holy Tongue. May they continue to benefit the Nation of Israel and hasten the final redemption!