Roy Neuberger - Nov. 28, 2014

As I write these words, the headlines read, "Terror in Tel Aviv, Gush Etzion." And then, the following week, the headlines read, "Terrorists kill four rabbis."

I don't like the term "terror." We keep using these words, and the words influence us. We have to choose our words carefully, so that we control the words and the words don't control us. It's like the Biblical spies, who seemed to be "grasshoppers" in their own eyes. When they described the inhabitants of Eretz Canaan as "giants," they became afraid of the images they had created with their own words. (Numbers 13:33)

"Terror" is defined as "great fear." When we use these words day after day, we become more and more afraid. But why? We are not allowed to be afraid. As King David says, "Hashem is with me. I have no fear. How can man affect me?" (Psalm 118)

At least three times every day, we say the bracha "t'chias hamaisim... the resurrection of the dead." Anyone who pays attention to these words has to know that we are beyond death! We are not allowed to be afraid!

Every Pesach Seder ends with Chad Gadya, in which the Angel of Death is slain! This is not just a song; this is how we begin our entire Yom Tov cycle. We are not allowed to be afraid!

As we enter the month of Kislev, it seems that we are indeed in the midst of blackness. Meteorologically, this is the darkest period of the year. The fortunes of our beleaguered Nation seem to reflect that darkness. We are surrounded by vicious enemies in Israel and around the world! "All the nations encircle me ..." (Psalm 118)

But still, we are not allowed to be afraid. "They encircle me. They also surround me. In the Name of Hashem I cut them down." (ibid)

I don't want to minimize the threat. The worldwide situation is extremely dangerous, but that is all the more reason to strengthen our trust in G-d. Our Rabbis warned us about the chaotic conditions which would prevail before the coming of Moshiach and for that very reason instructed us how to react: "Upon what, then, can we lean? Upon our Father in Heaven." (Sotah 49b) If we lean on our Father in Heaven then we will not be afraid!

In an era in which not only the world attacks Israel, but the government of Israel itself attacks the fundamental basis of our way of life, we have to consider these words very seriously. The basis of our trust and hope for the future must be institutions of Torah which bring us all closer to the Presence of Hashem. That, and not the empty ideals of the other nations, has to be our focus.

The image of the lights of Chanukah in the darkness of winter is very strong. Similarly, there are lights in the darkness of this Golus. You would think that, in such a dark world, there would be no light at all, but that is not true. Wherever my wife and I go in our travels, we find pure Jewish souls who are yearning to come closer to the Source of Life.

I want to tell you about some of the places we found in Israel where the flame of Torah is glowing strongly. After all, Hashem allows us to exist only because we live by His Torah. There is no other reason that we are allowed to survive on this earth and there is nothing else which will get us through these times. "Rabbi Elazar was asked by his students, 'What can a person do to be spared the travail of Moshiach?' [And he responded,] 'One should occupy oneself in [the study of] Torah and in acts of kindness.'" (Sanhedrin 98b)

So let's meet a few people. These are only two of the lights in the darkness; there are many more. But these are some that we have encountered in the past few months.

Imagine that you come on aliya after you retire from business. That is beautiful, but what do you do after you arrive? How do you fill your day? There is a yeshiva that caters to you. It is called Tsama Nafshi and is the creation of Rabbi Hillel Faerman. At Tsama Nafshi, men who have spent their lives earning a living but now have leisure are able to immerse themselves in the Sea of Torah, acquiring the skills that they had not been able to acquire before. The entire curriculum is geared toward filling the gaps that had characterized their lives up to now. We know some of these wonderful people, and Tsama Nafshi is filling the spiritual vacuum with the pure air of Torah and eternal life.

For years, Rabbi Efraim Stauber was a rebbe in yeshivos that catered to young men who were far from Yiddishkeit. He was successful in drawing them into the world of Torah, but he realized that, after they got married and needed to earn a livelihood, their connection to the lifesaving world of Torah was not as strong as it had been while they were in yeshiva. And so, Rabbi Stauber established a kollel where these young men could learn part of the day and work part of the day. In this way their connection with Torah would be maintained and strengthened; what they had begun would not be left behind. Not only that, but their family life would be illuminated by the infusion of Torah.

As we near Chanukah, it is imperative for us to remember that only our connection with our Father in Heaven keeps us alive. If we allow the darkness to close in on us, then our very souls will be threatened. If we keep the light of Torah burning brightly, we will soon see the day on which "You shine a new light on Zion, and may we all speedily merit its light!" (Morning prayers)


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