Our Father Jacob is gone! Joseph is gone! Soon all the Sons of Jacob will be no more and the Children of Israel will plunge downward into Egyptian bondage … hurtling toward “mem-tes shaare tumah,” the Forty-Ninth level of impurity and assimilation into the darkness of Egypt.
The lights of Chanukah are gone. Winter is upon us, the season of darkness.
Recently, I was driving in our local suburban community. I was on a main street, about to turn left onto a smaller street. A car was approaching the intersection from my left. I slowed down to make the turn. There was a stop sign for the oncoming car, but the driver went through the stop sign. I was now straight in front of him, maybe six feet away, and he was headed directly at me. He was not moving fast, but he was moving. I honked, thinking he had not seen me. But he had seen me. He was looking straight at me – I could see his face clearly – and he kept coming, moving forward. I was right in front of him. He just kept coming, making it increasingly difficult for me to turn, because he was now probably two to three feet away from me. But he didn’t stop; he just kept going forward until our cars almost touched each other.
What I am describing to you was intentional, malicious, provocative, confrontational, aggressive and purely gratuitous. There was no reason for him to keep going, but he did. I am sorry to say this, but I believe the world is filled with such dangerous people.
Every year at this time I receive the yearbook from the famous college (founded 755 years ago) that I attended in England decades ago, before we became observant. Every year I see the frightening “yeridas ha doros… descent of the generations” there. This year, the student columns clearly describe the plummeting morality and social chaos which reminds one of conditions before the Great Flood in the days of Noah. The Torah describes those conditions in this way: “G-d saw the earth and, behold, it was corrupted, for all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth.” (Beraishis 6:12)
Fifty-three years ago, my wife and I were living in Ann Arbor, Michigan as college students. My personal life was descending rapidly toward desperation. I had tried every path I could think of and nothing worked. In this very week, fifty-three years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night and saw the abyss before me. There was nowhere to go except down. In desperation, I realized I had to do something I had been fighting all my life. But it was either that or death, so I opened a tiny window in my neshoma and called out, “G-d, if You exist, save me!”
Hashem saved me.
That was January 10, 1966, the 18 Day of the Jewish Month of Teves, whose anniversary is this week. “In the evening one lies down weeping, but with dawn … a cry of joy!” (Tehillim 30)
When we reach bottom, that is when we can bounce upward. From Egypt, the Children of Israel ascended to Mount Sinai, and soon, with G-d’s help, we will all welcome Moshiach ben Dovid!