reflections: Redemption

B”H

17 Tammuz 5780

“And Moses said unto the people: ‘Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the L-RD, which He will work for you to-day.” – Exodus 14:13, JPS 1917 Tanach

Is the time drawing near for the sea to part? Is the Geulah (Redemption) at hand? The sages, in all of their sharp acuity, draw a parallel between the First Redemption, and the Final Redemption: akin to plagues that devastated Egypt, before the exodus of the Children of Israel, so will many plagues, even more than those inflicted upon ancient Egypt, precede the final redemption. This is gleaned from the following verse: “As in the days of thy coming forth out of the land of Egypt, will I show unto him marvellous things” (Micah 7:15, JPS). Could the modern day plague of the coronavirus be a foreshadowing of the Messianic Age?

The current exile (galus) of the Jewish people began almost two thousand years ago, when the second Temple was destroyed by the Romans. We were dispersed amongst the nations, as we still are today to some degree. Even though the state of Israel was renewed in 1948, without the Third Temple, we are technically still in exile. This is one reason why we proclaim every year, at the end of our Passover seder, “Next Year in Yerushalayim.” In essence, this does not refer to having the opportunity to fly to Israel via El Al Airlines, in order to make aliyah to our Biblical homeland. Rather, this alludes to the Geulah (Redemption), when Moshiach will reign from Jerusalem.

At that time, “peace on earth,” in all of its splendor will prevail over the unruly forces, that have no interest in recognising G-d’s sovereignty. Needless to say, we are only witnessing the beginning of these forces to potentially impact society in an unprecedented way; the road has been paved ever since the Age of Enlightenment, when the Deity of Reason was worshipped, to the diminishment of a focus on G-d, and religious values. This set the background for the French Revolution.

Behind the facade of a higher cause, these forces hold sway over any godless movement, whose roots are deeper than its claims to higher ideals, human rights, or “power to the people.” It is interesting to note, that as a result of the Bubonic plague of the 14th Century in Europe, “some historians believe that society subsequently became more violent as the mass mortality rate cheapened life and thus increased warfare, crime, popular revolt, waves of flagellants, and persecution” (Wikipedia). As far as I know, excepting self-flagellation, this seems to ring true today, in the face of COVID-19. “If we do not learn from the past, history will repeat itself.”

Am I overconcerned with the state of affairs in the world, and, more specifically, in America today? Others are apparently even more concerned. “In a normal month [Nefesh B’Nefesh] receives several hundred to a few thousand calls,” yet, this past June the Jewish organisation that promotes aliyah from the U.S. to Israel received 25,000 calls (VosIzNeias). For myself, I would only take that step, if and when I would hear the call from H’Shem, as has been mentioned by several fellow Jews in the not so recent past, concerning intuition from Above. Yet, the call to teshuvah, in and of itself, is primary; and, may be viewed the in light Hillel’s adage, “It’s not where you are, but how you are.” And, “if not now, when.”

“And thou shalt bethink thyself among the nations, whither the L-RD thy G-d hath driven thee, and shalt return unto the L-RD thy G-d.”

– Deuteronomy 30:1-2, JPS 1917 Tanach

daily meditation: Refuge

B”H

March 20, 2020

(24 Adar 5780)

“Closing time, every new beginning comes from some other begining’s end.”

– Closing Time, by Semisonic

As we close the doors behind us, and shut ourselves in for the duration of this plague, let us recall the night before our first redemption, when the Angel of Death passed over the homes of B’nei Yisrael.

We who placed our trust in H’Shem, by obeying His commandment to place the blood of the Pesach lamb on our doorposts and lintels, while sheltering behind those doors. The prophet makes reference to this event, while speaking of another day.

“Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee; hide thyself for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.”

– Isaiah 26:20, JPS 1917 Tanach

The sages liken the final redemption to the first redemption. As Egypt was inflicted by ten plagues, so will the world be subject to an even greater set of plagues. Those of us who trust in H’Shem may seek refuge in Him, within the confinement of our homes at this particular time in history.

By turning our hearts towards Him, we prepare ourselves for the redemption that is at hand. Although this may only be a forerunner of the ensuing judgment upon the inhabitants of the earth, we shelter in expectation of our freedom, when Moshiach will reign.

Additionally, while our hunkering down during this time period, may also only be a prelude to a greater need to seek refuge in H’Shem down the prophetic timeline, we trust that He will safeguard us.

“He concealeth me in His pavilion [sukkah] in the day of evil; He hideth me in the covert of His tent; He lifteth me up upon a rock.”

– Psalm 27:5, JPS 1917 Tanach

after Shabbat: weekly shpiel

B”H

motzei Shabbos shpiel:

It is interesting to note, that in Nesivos Shalom, a significant point is made in regard to the light of the menorah in the Mishkan. As is well known, this light represents the original light of Creation, that was hidden away after the Mabul (Flood). This same light is said to be revealed to the righteous at the time of Moshiach (Messiah).

Until then, we may glimpse that light on Shabbos, as well as receive its residual glow through observing the mitzvot (commandments), and diminishing the yetzer hara (evil inclination), not necessarily in that order. Rather “sur meira, v’asei tov – depart from evil and do good” (Tehillim [Psalms] 37:27). In this manner, according to Nesivos Shalom, we may enhance our sensitivity to the light.

Vayeishev – Judah’s Teshuvah

B”H

Torah Insight for parashas Vayeishev 5780

Judah, the first ba’al teshuvah (penitent),
by Tzvi Schnee (21 Kislev 5780)

Yes, he was the first to leave the derech (path), and the first to return: as is written, “Judah went down from his brothers,” depicting his spiritual descent when he left the company of his brethren; consequently, he went into a business partnership with an Adulamite. Being within those circles of influence that pertain to the commonalities of one’s profession with other’s of similar interest, he thereby became enamoured of the daughter of a prominent merchant. The result bring that he married her, who in all likelihood was a Cananite. Note that Abraham had not permitted Eliezer to take a wife for his son Isaac, from amongst the Canaanites.

Yet, this did not turn out well for Judah. His first son was evil, and died. His second son refused to honor his Levirite marriage to his deceased brother’s wife. H’Shem did not approve; so, Judah’s second son also died. Out of superstition, Judah delayed to give his third son to Tamar, the woman in question, after both her husbands died. Yet, justice prevailed for the sake of Tamar’s reputation, who took matters into her own hand. In fact, it is noted in the Zohar, that she had a prophetic vision, concerning Moshiach. She envisioned that he would descend from her offspring; for that higher reason, she disguised herself as a harlot, and enticed Judah. Incidentaly, Judah’s wife had already passed away; this should, at least, be noted in regard to his cohorting with a harlot, who he did not realize was his daughter-in-law, Tamar. Regardless, his conduct may still be seen as morally reprehensible by some. Yet, G-d can bring light out of darkness. “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?” (Job 14:4, JPS 1917 Tanach).

Judah’s repentance occurs when he admits in front of many that the staff, cord, and signet that Tamar presented was his own, given to Tamar, who he thought was a harlot, as a pledge of payment due, namely, a goat from his flock. Judah’s acknowledgment of sin, regards not giving his third son to Tamar. “And Judah acknowledged them, and said: ‘She is more righteous than I; forasmuch as I gave her not to Shelah my son.’ And he knew her again no more” Genesis 38:26, JPS 1917 Tanach). The progression of Judah’s spiritual descent, having run away from his past involvement in selling his brother, Joseph as a slave to Midianites, includes his assimilation, and eventual humiliation, wherein he admitted his culpability. As for Tamar, she bore twins: Perez and Zerah (Genesis 38:27-30). From her son, Perez, the royal line descended (see Ruth 4:18-22).