As I write, we are still mired in the crisis generated by the New York State Board of Education’s attack on our yeshiva system. It is not just New York. I saw a recent note regarding a Chabad school in Florida, where the regional public schools are threatening to close a program in which hundreds of Jewish children have used school facilities for over a decade. And what about England? Why are we being threatened around the world?
My friends, this is no accident.
It is the Month of Elul and we are counting toward Rosh Hashana. These are the days of teshuva and we have to take stock. I believe that we are required to focus clearly on the havdalah (the contrast) between the surrounding culture and our own. As we say after Shabbos, “Blessed are You, Hashem … Who separates between Israel and the nations….” The world around us is staggering and swaying in buffeting winds. In order to preserve ourselves and everything we value, we must hang on to the words of Torah.
“Rabbi Elazar was asked by his students: What can a person do to be spared the travails of Moshiach? [And he responded], One should occupy himself in [the study of] Torah and in acts of kindness.” (Sanhedrin 98b)
The Gemora in Sukkah (52b) advises, “If the [yetzer hara] engages you, draw him into the bais medrash. If he is like stone, he will dissolve, and if he is like iron, he will shatter.” The Satmar Rov zt”l wrote, “even those who have left the Bais Medrash can be reckoned as still being there if their thoughts are still there.” (Yated Ne’eman, 22 Av)
This is our lifeline. When we say every day, “Place these words of Mine upon your heart and upon your soul, bind them for a sign upon your arm and let them be tefillin between your eyes…” (Shema) we have to know that this is referring literally to our survival.
I trust that the Days of Moshiach are close and I trust that they will be perfect … but I am concerned about how we can survive until then.
“In the period which will precede the coming of Moshiach, insolence will increase and costs will soar … the government will turn to heresy and those who dread sin will be despised and truth will be absent. Youths will shame the faces of elders; elders will stand in the presence of minors… a man’s enemies [will be] the people of his household…. Upon what, then, can we lean? Upon our Father in Heaven!” (Sota 49b)
The time has come to prepare for the Days of Judgment which are coming upon the earth. This Month of Elul is our chance to strengthen ourselves. May we all live to see the wondrous days which are described by the Prophet: “Arise, Oh Yerushalayim … Behold! I have taken from your hand the cup of … My fury. No longer shall you drink from it again. But I will put it into the hand of your tormentors …. O Zion, don the garments of your splendor!” (Haftaras Shoftim)