“Even though I walk through the valley overshadowed by death, I will not fear evil, for You are with me….” (Tehillim 23)
Human beings go through a lot. We cannot even begin to understand some of the pain that we ourselves and others endure. How did even one person survive the Shoah? Even one? How can one understand what they went through? These were the holiest of the holy, pillars of righteousness! How do we understand?
My friends, I described to you last week the aftermath of my recent surgery. Looking back, I see there was no choice. I needed that surgery. Yet the pain was huge. I believe that this is a vignette of our life during this unspeakable Golus. We are getting to the Bais Hamikdosh. Oh yes, we will get there, but we apparently need to go through something before we get there, and that “something” can be pretty tough.
This week we read the second Tochacha in the Torah. One of the lines in that terrible drumbeat of destiny has always profoundly affected me: “You will go mad from the sight of your eyes ….” (Dvarim 28:34) The Torah uses the word “meshuga.” We joke around with that word “meshuga,” but it is deadly serious. It means that my resources are insufficient to deal with the reality of life and my spiritual system is collapsing. This is the lifelong padded cell. This is not a joke. This is one of the most fearsome things one can imagine.
Does that word “meshuga” not describe our feelings when we look out upon today’s world? It is too much. One feels as if the world will drive one to insanity, G-d forbid. Let’s take a recent headline. (Please excuse me, because I make it a practice not to hear the news, but I understand that this happened.) Here is the headline: “Taliban Takeover.” I heard a religious Jew bemoaning this the other day.
What is so bad?
I’ll tell you. These are the barbarians of the barbarians. What’s to stop them? The U. S. couldn’t stop them, so who is going to stop them … anywhere? Who is to stop them from taking over the planet and turning it into the stone age?
And then I thought of the only thing that can ever save us, anywhere.
I thought of a beautiful possuk from my hero, Dovid ha Melech. We read it every week, but … my dear friends … every week it saves us. “When the wicked bloom like grass and all doers of iniquity blossom, it is to destroy them ‘till eternity!” (Tehillim 92) Ah, yes! Hashem is in charge, not the Taliban l’havdil! This is a sure sign that Moshiach is around the corner, because the wicked are blooming like grass.
What do I mean by “around the corner?” I mean that you turn a corner and … suddenly Moshiach ben Dovid is staring you in the face!
It will happen that fast! And we will have no warning! Except, “when the wicked bloom like grass …” That is our warning. Get ready, my friends, because (in my humble opinion) it’s going to be just like that! Before you can blink. Like the scene in Mitzraim when the potentate said, “Ani Yosef,” and, suddenly, the curtain was lifted!
I was wondering about the avoda of Elul. What should I really concentrate on this month? Every year we try to prepare for Rosh Hashana. On what should we be focus?
I saw a beautiful piece from Rabbi Yehuda Baum Shlita”h on Parshas Ki Seitzei. The Ohr ha Chaim explains the sugya of “aishes yafes toar … the woman of beautiful form.” (Dvarim 21:10ff) as an analogy to the Great War of Elul, our personal war with the Yetzer ha Ra. As I understand it, the “woman of beautiful form” is our own neshoma, and we are fighting to bring her back from the enemy. She has been sullied by golus.
How do we bring her back?
I think the big avoda of Elul is to break our will. The surrounding culture is totally subservient to its will, its desires, its lusts, its pleasure. “Just do it,” as the advertising says.
No! Do not just do it!
Do what Hashem says, not what my desire says to do! Do not go “acharei levavchem v’acharei ainachem … after our heart and after our eyes.” No! That is the way of the umos ha olam, the surrounding nations. No! Our way is to break our will and go after the Torah.
To wrench oneself from the world of desire on every level, at every minute is a test of astounding difficulty. I know that, each time I make a bracha, I am fighting with my yetzer ha ra. To have kavana on even one word is like the fight of a lifetime. I feel the yetzer ha ra in there wrestling with me. I have to fight to concentrate on each word, each mitzvah, every second of my life.
If we go through life listening to and obeying the Voice of Hashem … that’s what it’s all about. Each moment is a war. We are trying to grab our neshoma back from the enemy. We are trying to break our will.
I know this can be done, because our people have done it over the ages and that is how we have become the Holy Nation.
Look at Avraham Avinu. Talk about breaking your will! How did he bring his beloved son to the Akeida? But he did it, and that is why his children are the holy of the holy.
How did Yosef resist, there in the court of Potiphar, where “no one was looking?” But he did it, because he saw the image of his father. And that is why his children are holy of the holy.
How did our Yidden survive the Shoah and hold on to Hashem? I don’t know, but they did it, and their children are holy of the holy.
My friends, if we imitate the ways of our holy ancestors, it won’t be long before we turn that corner, and … there is Moshiach ben Dovid, right in front of us!
Shoah: The Holocaust
Sugya: A subject under discussion in the Written or Oral Torah
Yetzer ha Ra: Evil Inclination