My friends, we celebrated a beautiful Yom Tov of Shavuos last week, and suddenly the world became dark.
What is happening?
“Ulla said: May [the Messiah] come, but may I not see him! And so said Rabbah: May he come, but may I not see him! [But] Rav Yosef says: May he come, and may I merit to sit in the shadow of his donkey’s dung!”
Why were Ulla and Rabbah afraid of the days before Moshiach?
The Gemora goes on to discuss what merits will save us during those tumultuous days. Rabbi Elazar enunciates the famous words: “One should occupy himself in the study of Torah and in acts of kindness.”
THESE ARE OUR LIFE PRESERVERS!
So why are Ulla and Rabbah afraid?
Rabbah replies, “I am afraid, lest a sin [cause me to lose whatever protection I have earned.” My friends, do you hear this! This great man was afraid of sin!
And who are we compared to Rabbah!
My friends, there is a major difference between us and Rabbah:
WE ARE HERE! WE ARE ALIVE NOW, DURING THESE TRAVAILS!
AND WE MUST ACT TO SURVIVE!
I have seen, in the days since Corona appears to be declining, a quick return to a casual approach to life, as if “it is all over.”
My friends, it is not all over.
Please remember that Ancient Egypt was visited with at least ten plagues before it collapsed. We are living in extremely dangerous times; we cannot afford to lower our guard. It is likely that great trials lie ahead before Moshiach comes.
I say in my recent book, Hold On: Surviving the Days Before Moshiach: “The world scene today is extremely dangerous.” Those words were written a year ago. The situation has advanced since then. The world is burning.
My friends, please forgive me, but I must repeat that we have to be prepared for the collapse of the civilization founded two thousand years ago by the Children of Esau and the civilization of the Children of Yishmoel. The colossal words of the Malbim – commenting on Yechezkel ha Novi -- which preface my book, 2020 Vision, and which are repeated in Hold On, predict a gigantic upheaval before Moshiach, in which the world as we know it will implode and make way for the new world whose capital is Yerushalayim.
The travails associated with that upheaval cannot be less than fearsome. If Rabbah was afraid, how urgently must we grab on to the LIFE PRESERVER -- TORAH AND ACTS OF KINDNESS -- in order to survive!
In last week’s video presentation (which you can see on my website), I mentioned a beautiful moshul which I heard from Rabbi Naftali Jaeger concerning “the egg.”
What is special about an egg?
The egg is an integral part of Passover. On the Seder plate, it represents the Korban Chagiga. In addition, we traditionally eat an egg as part of the Seder meal.
Why an egg?
My friends, there is nothing else like an egg.
Many animals are born once, but birds (and many other animals) are born twice!
First, the mother lays the egg. But the chick is still inside and must grow and develop. Then it must peck its way out. This is intense labor; some birds even develop an external “egg tooth” to peck from the inside. When the egg cracks, the chick emerges. This is the second part of the birth process.
So it is with the Children of Israel!
We are also born twice: physically on Pesach and spiritually on Shavuos! In Mitzraim we were born physically. When we left Egypt, we were still at the level of “mem-tes sha’are tumah,” the forty-ninth level of impurity, carrying a slave mentality, unprepared to receive the Torah.
We then marched forty-nine days to Mount Sinai under the leadership of Moshe Rabbei-nu. By the time we arrived, we had worked hard to shed enough impurity to enable us to receive the Torah. We had “cracked the shell” of our enslavement to the culture of Mitzraim. On Shavuos we broke out!
This is the second part of the birth process.
What about after now, after Shavuos? Is the process finished?
Not at all! Our spiritual growth now enters a new phase.
The chick has emerged from its shell. Its little wings are incapable of lifting. It may fall out of the nest! It must learn to fly! Its mother teaches it to trust its wings. Finally, it is ready to take off! Off it goes, tentatively at first, then stronger, and soon it is soaring upward on the wind. Seemingly, it can reach the heavens!
On Shavuos, we emerge from our shell. We have wings of Torah, but we don’t know how to use them. As we grow spiritually, we find that, while remaining part of this world, we can also soar above the world. If we are going to live as Hashem intended, then we are going to have to use those wings to soar upward toward the heavens, above the traps and troubles which beset those who cannot fly.
A Beraisa was taught in the Academy of Eliyahu describing survival during Chevlei Moshiach, “The Holy One, Blessed is He, will make them wings like the eagles, and they will glide over the water [in safety] …. Therefore, we shall not fear when the earth is transformed and when the mountains collapse in the heart of the seas … and those who hope in Hashem shall have renewed strength. They shall sprout wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not be faint.”
My friends, if we strengthen our wings of Torah and our acts of kindness, then we may merit to see the glorious days in which the entire world will be renewed, as the prophet says, “Ki mi Tzion taitzai torah u’d’var Hashem mi Yerushalayim … And Torah will go forth from Tzion and the Word of Hashem from Yerushalayim!”