Over the Garden Wall
April 23rd, 2020
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I am writing from the Holy City of Yerushalayim. A few weeks ago, when it was still permitted to pray together outdoors, I was fortunate enough to be over a garden wall from a minyan.
I was davening alone (my shul had shut down), but I could hear the sounds of prayer right over the wall. It was amazing to answer “Amen, y’hai Shmai rabbo,” “kadosh, kadosh, kadosh” and to hear the blessing of the kohanim from behind the wall!
And I thought of a verse from Shir ha Shirim (Song of Songs by King Solomon):
“Oh, My beloved, dwelling in far-flung gardens, your fellows, the angels, hearken to your voice of Torah and prayer. Let Me hear it, that they may then sanctify Me.” (Shir Hashirim 8:13) We just read these words on Shabbos Chol ha Moed Pesach, when our love for Hashem is especially kindled and we are painfully aware of our separation.
My friends, Hashem is listening to us over the garden wall. He is hearing everything we say, everything we think and feel. The worse it gets, the greater the Redemption will be: “l’fum tzara agra … in proportion to the tzar is the reward.” (Ethics of the Fathers 5:26).
I do not know whether, when you read these words, the current plague will be abating or continuing to rage, but this test we are undergoing is certainly the forerunner to great events.
We read on the Seventh day of Pesach, “And the earth quaked and roared, the foundation of the heavens shook; they trembled when His wrath flared.” (II Samuel 22:8)
Ancient Egypt was destroyed so that our ancestors could be freed to ascend to Mount Sinai. It is not easy. We tend to long for what we regard as the “good old days,” when life seemed simpler, like the Children of Israel in the Biblical Desert, longing for the days in Egypt, as it says, “We remember the fish that we ate in Mitzraim free of charge; the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.” (Numbers 11:5).
But we are on the path of Torah. As difficult as it may be to travel through this Desert, there is little doubt that the same process our ancestors went through must take place before we reach the Promised Land. We have to let go of what we were used to in order to arrive at the new world which lies ahead.
It is not easy to believe that the manna will fall tomorrow and Miriam’s Well will continue to supply us with water. We were all raised in the culture of Edom, the culture of the Western World, but it seems as if that is fading into the past. This is today’s test.
The world is shaking and the rope to which we cling is flailing violently, but Hashem is listening over the garden wall. “Flee, my Beloved, from our common exile and be like a gazelle or a young hart in Your swiftness to redeem and rest Your Presence among us on the fragrant Mount Moriah, site of Your Temple.” (Song of Songs 8:14)
A new world is dawning. “And Joshua said to the people, ‘Prepare yourselves, for tomorrow Hashem will do wonders in your midst!’” (Yehoshua 3:5; Haftara First Day of Pesach)