I have trouble praying at the Western Wall (Kosel). At the holiest place on earth one can feel very strongly the absence of the Holy Temple. On a recent visit, I had a powerful sense that the Wall itself was impenetrable, as if my prayers were bouncing off the massive stones in front of me. How could I pray through this barrier that seemed so impervious to the tears I wanted to shed?
My learning partner, Rabbi Shaul Geller, had a brilliant insight. The problem is very clear: we are currently on the wrong side of the Wall! When the Messiah comes and we are permitted on the Temple Mount, then these massive stones will no longer separate us from the Place of G-d’s Presence! Then we will stand “before the Presence of the L-rd … the G-d of Jacob, Who turns the rock into a pond of water, the flint into a flowing fountain of water” (Psalm 114).
In these days of counting Sefira, we are still, thank G-d, very much under the influence of Passover. In Biblical times, our ancestors had just emerged from slavery in Egypt and were marching toward Mount Sinai. We should feel that we too are on that march. Indeed, as I have noted in recent weeks, we should regard the Biblical events as training for the Days of Redemption that are clearly so near.
As you are aware, I am constantly thinking about the words of the Chofetz Chaim, who said that we can learn about the events of the Final Redemption from that which occurred during the exodus from Egypt. Reportedly both the Chofetz Chaim and Rabbi Yechezkel Levenstein zt”l said that during the Footsteps of the Messiah, the dangerous days leading up to the Final Redemption, those Jews who cling with all their strength to the Master of the Universe and reject the surrounding non-Jewish culture will be protected.
During Passover I was thinking intensely about this subject. For years I had searched for a Biblical source for this concept. During this holiday, it hit me with tremendous force that the answer was right before my eyes. In fact, it was embarrassing to think how obvious it is.
Sometimes we are blind to the most straightforward things. I remember hearing Rabbi Matisyahu Salomon shlita”h speaking about the blessing “Who gives sight to the blind.” It’s not that every morning we should get up and expect to have perfect or even functional vision. No! Every morning we should recognize that we have no intrinsic right to expect to see anything at all! We are not only intrinsically blind, we are in fact intrinsically nonexistent! It is only through the mercy of the Master of the Universe that we have life in the first place! Who told us that we have a “right” to see? Who says we are “entitled” to vision? If we are fortunate, G-d gives us a gift of sight, an amazing present from His infinite largesse!
Similarly, we can lose an item and spend hours looking for it, only to discover that it was sitting in front of us the entire time! This has often happened to me! Sight to the blind! G-d opens our eyes and we see!
On Passover, I realized that guidance for our conduct during the Footsteps of the Messiah is hinted at by events at the end of our slavery in Egypt. We call it “Passover” because G-d passed over the houses of the Jews at the time of the last plague. He saved us because we carefully followed His instructions at the moment of our extreme danger. What were G-d’s instructions? Our doorways were marked with the blood of circumcision and the Passover sacrifice.
The Chofetz Chaim and Rabbi Yechezkel Levenstein stress two life-saving necessities at the time of the Final Redemption: Constant awareness of G-d and separation from the culture of the surrounding nations. “In the final war before the coming of the Messiah, all the Jews who fear G-d will survive. G-d will say to them, ‘All those who are removed from the secular, worldly culture, you are Mine’” (Rabbi Yechezkel Levenstein quoted in Redemption Unfolding).
In Egypt, the blood of circumcision demonstrated our complete allegiance to G-d. Through this commandment, we inscribed in our very bodies the commitment to fulfilling His will, and the blood of that commitment was on the doorpost as clear evidence of our allegiance.
Secondly, the blood of the Passover sacrifice demonstrated our rejection of the foreign culture which surrounded us. At the same time as we dedicated our body and soul to Torah through circumcision, we also – and this is the inevitable corollary to Torah – demonstrated our rejection of the culture of the surrounding nation by slaughtering their object of worship and smearing its blood on the doorpost along with the blood of circumcision.
Thus, the words of the Chofetz Chaim and Rabbi Levenstein seem to reflect exactly G-d’s instructions which saved our ancestors in Egypt! This seems to me an amazing source! Just as our ancestors in Egypt were saved by their own blood and the blood of the Passover sacrifice, so we can be saved in our own times by following the guidance of these sages!
As we say at every circumcision to this day, “‘In your blood you shall live!’ And I said to you, ‘in your blood you shall live!’” (Ezekiel 16:6)
Why do we repeat the phrase, “In your blood you shall live?”
Perhaps we say it once for the Exodus from Egypt and once for the Final Redemption!
May we soon see the day when, “a staff will grow from the stump of Jesse and a shoot will sprout from his roots…. G-d will raise a banner for the nations and assemble the castaways of Israel; He will gather the dispersed ones of Judah from the four corners of the earth” (Isaiah 11; Haftara Last Day of Passover).