Friday, February 27, 2009

Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain!

This winter has been terribly dry for us in Israel, as many of you may know. The water levels here are dangerously low, and the drought is having a devastating effect on this year's crops. We have been saying special tefilos for rain every day, and there was even a special fast not too long ago. Boruch Hashem we had a rainy Shabbos last week, and the weather reports were right about today's rain. Please keep us in mind in your tefilos!

Here is a recording I made of the rain today outside of the window of my studio/sealed room. You can hear some thunder, the birds in the tree, a truck passing by... and of course the rain!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Understanding a Gadol

A good friend of mine is a very close talmid of Rav Goldstein, the Rosh Yeshiva of Sha'arei Yosher. Sha'arei Yosher is a special school in Jerusalem that generally caters to Charedi Israeli students who have found themselves distanced from the path of their ancestors. The yeshiva does a wonderful job of helping these young men to rebuild themselves. One of the main rules that Rav Goldstein has for his boys is that each boy must develop at his own pace when it comes to his learning. Great demands are not made for boys to be on time to davening, nor to seder. Nevertheless, the ground rule is that in order to remain in the yeshiva, one must behave like a mensch. If one does not develop good middos, he can not stay.

My friend shared with me that Rav Goldstein is a paragon of Bein adam l'chavero. He has endured many an embarrassment and even a great loss of money, rather than cause another person embarrassment or spiritual harm. Rav Goldstein has the ability to demand menschlichkeit of his students because he himself constantly exudes it.

My friend told me a story that happened one Purim. As is the case with many bochurim in Israel, the Sha'arei Yosher boys went around to collect for their yeshiva on Purim. They came to a certain home and as they were about to receive a donation, another group of boys from another yeshiva came storming in. The group was somewhat drunk, and they saw that the Sha'arei Yosher boys were about to receive some money. One of the new group called out and said, "Don't give to them, they don't even know how to learn! Give to our Yeshiva, as your money will be put to good use!"

One of the Sha'rei Yosher boys turned to the man and said to him, "It might be true that we are not known for our learning, but our Rosh Yeshiva has taught us to be a mensch, and you would never hear one of us speak like that."

They got their donation.

My friend also shared one more thing that he heard from Rav Goldstein, and that was that he is wont to tell his students from time to time to ask their question to a gadol like Rav Kanievsky. But he cautions them to return to him with the gadol's answer.

When the student returns, Rav Goldstein explains what the gadol meant. When he turns to ask the student if that was how he had understood the answer, the student inevitably responds that he understood the exact opposite.

Rav Goldstein's constant refrain is that we hear what we want to hear, and not per se what is objectively being said. Most often, the bochur will hear what he wants from the words of a Rav Kanievsky, and it takes a great person like Rav Goldstein, who is both objective and a da'as Torah (not to mention a tremendous ba'al middos tovos) to help him see what was actually being said.


What is the significance of the different parts of the Aron?

Why did Hashem speak to Moshe exclusively from there?

Why did the Keruvim look like children?

Why would they embrace?

Find out in this week's Parsha podcast.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

More on shining God's light

Ari, please help me to synthesize your recent blog messages, if you can. You sang of how Mashiach will bestow Tzion on the humbled klal. Today you posted about shining our personal power at

Now, how does one combine intentional use of superb unique abilities with anivut (humility)?

Great question!

The answer, like a good joke (or a good speech), is all in the delivery.

I'm sure you have met people who are talented, good-looking and successful, and they are absolutely full of themselves. Such an individual will come across as high and mighty - another opinion is worthless, and another perspective is meaningless. Theirs is the only one that could possibly be correct (after all there is only one objective reality!) and Heaven help you if you believe differently then them. If you are stuck in a room with this person, you want to find the nearest exit.

Then there are individuals (who are somewhat harder to come by) who recognize that they do have greatness, but their greatness is not their own. Every move they make speaks the fact that they recognize that it comes from Hashem. There is humility in their thoughts, words, and actions. These people are magnets, because they are focused outwards - not on drawing attention to themselves, and not on proving their own views. They ask about you, focus the conversations away from themselves and their own accomplishments. And by doing so, they accomplish the opposite (without intending). They draw you in, because they give you belief in yourself. They attract you with their light, and this light is not their own - it is the light of Hashem shining through them.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bring my children from afar

I recently read an article on Israel National News about the aliyah of a number of Yemenite Jews due to the terrorism there. It brought to mind the passuk in Yeshaya (43:6), "אומר לצפון תני ולתימן אל תכלאי הביאי בני מרחוק ובנותי מקצה הארץ" - "Say to the North wind, give, and to the Southerly wind, do not hold back. Bring my sons from afar, and my daughters from the ends of the Earth."

The psukim there are speaking about the redemption, and the special nature of Hashem's relationship with the Jewish people. It uses the word Teman for the word Southerly wind, and I could not help but think of a possible alternate explanation of the verse. The word Teman is also the Hebrew name of the country Yemen, so the passuk could also be saying that Hashem says to Yemen not to hold back its Jews, rather to bring them all back to Eretz Yisrael.

Thus, this article struck me as a sign that we are nearing a critical stage of Kibbutz Galiyos (ingathering of the exiles).

The following Gemara becomes all the more meaningful.

The Gemara in Menachos on Daf 110 explains the verse "Bring my sons from afar, and my daughters from the ends of the Earth," by saying that there are two groups of people referenced in the verse. As Rashi explains there, there is the group of 'sons', who live in Babylonia, who have special treatment from the government, and therefore feel quite settled and unthreatened there. They are referred to as 'sons' because in general men are more settled. Then there is the group of 'daughters' who are less settled and do not feel as comfortable in the lands that they live in.

In our day, the 'sons' would be those living in countries that are not hostile to the Jew, for example the United States, and the 'daughters' would be those living in countries that are indeed Anti-Semitic.

Putting together this Gemara with what we said previously, we can offer the following interpretation. When Yemen no longer holds back her people, all of the Jews will return to Israel, whether they feel comfortable where they are or not. כן יהי רצון מלפניו יתברך אמן

Monday, February 23, 2009

Shining God's light

I'd like to share a quote which I read recently in Stephen Covey's book, The 8th Habit.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

-Marianne Williamson

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Thank you

Last week, I was spurred to write twice for this blog, after a bit of a hiatus when my daughter was born. What was it that gave me the push?

My wife had been in the center of town, and a woman in the neighborhood expressed appreciation for my blog, saying that it was good to find others who are excited about Moshiach.

It's this kind of encouragement that gives one impetus to keep going, to keep inspiring, to keep giving.

Later, I reflected on this, and realized that we are programmed this way - to respond to gratitude with a greater desire to give. And as the Nefesh Hachaim writes, we are created B'tzelem Elokim, which means that we are programmed in a way that corresponds to the workings of the Universe. If we respond to gratitude with a desire to give, this reflects the higher reality - that when we show our gratitude to Hashem, it creates a desire in Him to give, as it were.

This reminds me of the time I came to Reb Chaim Kanievsky to ask him for a bracha. It had been three years since I and my wife had had a child, and I told him of our situation, looking for his blessing.

When I told him that I baruch Hashem have two children, a boy and a girl, he told me I should be satisfied with what I have. This response was a little shocking to me. Here I came for a bracha, and I was told by the gadol that I should be happy with my lot? Did this mean I would have no more children ח"ו?

I spoke with my rav about the interaction, and it became clear that Rav Kanievsky did not mean that at all. What he really was saying was that in order for more blessing to come into one's life, one must appreciate the blessings he has. When we truly have a deep sense of gratitude for what we have, and we express that, Hashem responds by giving us more.

Indeed, our new baby was born a little over a year from that conversation (four weeks ago). We named her תהילה אשירה, which means, "I will sing praise!" Thank you Hashem!

Daf Yomi Blog

I have started a new blog on the Daf Yomi. Bezras Hashem I'll talk about interesting questions from the daf and my discoveries or personal thoughts. I am interested in anyone's thoughts and responses, so feel free to check it and comment.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mishpatim & Yisro

What's the Sinai-Mishpatim connection?

What does Sinai really represent?

Why are the mitzvos between man and man greater than the mitzvos between man and God?

Find out in the parsha podcast on parshas mishpatim.

Also, I did not get to put up last week's podcast, which was very powerful.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Absolute Mercy

I recently came across the following beautiful quote from the sefer Sha'arei Orah (שער י):

The tenth [and highest] name of the Holy Names is called אקיה (Ehkyeh). This is the name that reaches the level of כתר - Crown - that none other than He knows. This is the name of absolute Mercy with no admixture of Judgment. From there the thirteen attributes of Mercy are drawn.

We must mention the great mercy of Hashem, that even if the people of the world are judged in the Heavenly courts and are deserving of all types of punishments, the supplications can switch it all to good. This is what the verse says, צדיק מושל יראת אלקים - The righteous one rules fear of God. The gemara in Moed Katan (16B) explains that Hashem says, "Who rules over me? The Tzaddik. For I make a decree and he annuls it."

How is this? At the time that there is a tzadik in the world who knows how to meditate on his tefila, and he knows how to reach the level of Hashem's desire and Mercy, even though there is a decree in the Heavenly court, the prayer of that tzadik reaches up to the Crown (כתר), and the gates of the World of Mercy are opened. When that occurs, those judgments are nullified, because the lights of Mercy have appeared and filled all the Sefiros with mercy and an influx of blessings and nearness [to Hashem].

After we have given this concept to you, it should be known that when the time came for the Jewish people to be redeemed from Egypt, they were not fitting for redemption. What did Hashem do? He saw the time (קץ) had arrived and they were not worthy so He revealed the face of the Crown (כתר) which is the world of pure Mercy. Then all the sefiros and all the channels were filled with Chessed (kindness) and Mercy, and the anger passed.

This is what Hashem meant when He said to Moshe, "Tell the children of Israel that Ehkyeh sent me" - in other words - the World of pure Mercy was being revealed (corresponding to the world of כתר which is denoted by the name Ehkyeh - ag). The attribute of Justice has been switched to the attribute of Mercy, and for this reason you are being redeemed. With this name of Mercy, "Ehkyeh" are you being redeemed.

עד כאן דבריו

The final redemption, too, will occur with this highest level of Hashem's name. It would seem that just as in Egypt the Jewish people were not worthy, but Hashem displayed his unconditional Love for us, so too it will be in the Final Redemption, may it be soon. Amen.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Obama, the economy, and the prelude to Moshiach

Why is the economic situation connected to Moshiach’s arrival? Why does it seem that the current mode of dealing with the problem will not yield bona fide results?

I think that our hearts tell us that both of the aforementioned questions are valid. While this that we sense may be affected by what we’ve read from the autistic messages, the truth is that there is more depth to this notion then we might otherwise have thought.

There are numerous sources in relation to Moshiach that clearly indicate that economics are associated with his arrival. The strongest source is one I have quoted previously, which is Rebbe Nachman’s story “The master of prayer.” Rebbe Nachman stresses from the onset of the story how the desire for wealth is one of the most difficult mistaken life approaches to correct. He tells how the Master of prayer, who represents Moshiach ben Dovid, tries to get through to the people who have fallen into this trap. They have so fallen into their mistake that they can not even begin to fathom that the true purpose of life is to come close to Hashem, nor that they might possibly be mistaken in their approach to life. He then describes how the Mighty Warrior, who represents Moshiach ben Yosef, is involved in bringing the leaders of the land of wealth on the only path to rectification – the path of war. Profoundly, this very path that they travel in order to rectify the leaders of the land of wealth, eventually brings to the reunification of all of the different characters in the story, which signifies the advent of the era of Moshiach.

The clear indication is that the rectification of the mistake of the land of wealth, i.e. the worship of money, is a precursor to Moshiach’s arrival.

The question is, why?

The answer is that as long as we believe that money is the main purpose of our lives, we are completely drawn away from what life is really about – spritual attainments. Even more finely stated, the more we put our faith in money, the less we are connected to Hashem, and the less we depend on Him. This misplaced faith and mistaken goal in life must be corrected before Moshiach can come, where all of days will be spent in constant devotion to growth in our Avodas Hashem.

Another point which is a direct outcrop of this is that the worship of wealth is truly an extension of the worship of self. It is the belief that my extravagant lifestyle is the center of the purpose of my existence, and I will do whatever is necessary to obtain it. Anyone that will stand in my way will fall.

Ultimately it is simply an immature self-centered goal that is all about pride. That pride is what must fall before the days of Moshiach when our lives will be centered completely outside of ourselves – all will join together just to propel each other ever higher in our service of Hashem - ויעשו כולם אגודה אחת לעשות רצונך בלבב שלם – They will join together in a single unit to do Your will with a full heart.

Coming back to the current crisis, there is a tremendous fundamental mistake that is being made by those who are trying to help the situation. Most people will acknowledge that the main problem in this whole crisis is the lack of trust. Markets and investments were mismanaged and misled by those whose whole interest was none other than number 1 – themselves. This self-centeredness ultimately blew up in everyone’s face and continues to plague us with a loss of faith that does not seem to have an end in sight. To work at the root of this, it would be necessary to go back to the source, recognizing that there is a lack of faithfullness that is creating the lack of faith. Instead, there is only hacking at the leaves of the problem. To my eye, this is simply because the leaders themselves (read: Obama) so totally believe that they are the center of the world, and the answer to all the world’s problems that they do not understand the fundamental problem – the lack of character. Their personal deficit in character will continue to fuel the problem, rather than solving it.

All the money in the world will not replace the faith that was lost and continues to remain weak. Only a real investment in what is lacking – an investment in trustworthiness and in simple goodness and honesty – will return people’s faith. Sadly, however, the drive to return the economy to its ‘former glory’ is completely based in pride, whether it is the pride of an Obama, seeking to make an eternal legacy for himself, or the pride of those who were making millions and now find themselves owing the same. As long as pride is the motivating factor, the point will be missed and the lesson unlearned, and the rectification distant.

To me, this is what Rebbe Nachman hinted to in his story when he told us about the people of the land of wealth who would not be convinced of the error of their ways. The sad result is that the only rectification for them is the path to war. Nevertheless, this path ultimately brings about the ultimate rectification.

In the end all, the message for us must be that we must strengthen our own commitment to raising our level of Avodas Hashem, and our own trust in Hashem. What happens to our faith when times get tough? Will we crack under the pressure, or will we strengthen our trust in Hashem, knowing that just as He helped us in the past, he will continue to help in the future? Ultimately, every experience we have in our lives is from Hashem, and is designed to bring out who we really are - צדיקים ילכו בם, ופושעים יכשלו בם - the righteous walk in them, and the wanton ones stumble in them. The tests reveal who we really are, and whether we have true trust.

There is always the multi-millionare who says, "All my wealth is from Hashem!" Whether he continues to say this when he has lost his money will be a real indicator of his faith in Hashem.

חזק חזק - we must stay strong through these trying times. This strength will be what we have to rest upon. There is only One that is our unwavering Support. It is our Rock - Stalwart and Omnipresent. He sheds tears along with our own, and triumphs with us in our true spiritual victories. Let us keep praying for that day when we will all say together זה ה' קוינו לו, נגילה ונשמחה בישועתו - This is Hashem Who I hoped for - let us rejoice and exult in His salvation!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The mon and parnassah

A friend shared with me the following thought, which I found to be very powerful.

Rav Binyamin Goldstein (son of the Rosh Yeshiva of Sharei Yosher in Jerusalem) asked the following question. In regards to the mon, we learn that the tzadikim would find it outside their homes, and the reshaim would have to go far and wide to get theirs. Why didn't the reshaim just take the mon of the tzadikim, or perhaps at least learn from the ways of tzadik so that they wouldn't have to go to all the extra effort and it would come to their own door?

To answer this, let us try to imagine the scene when Moshe tells the Jewish people about the mon. He tells them that they are to collect exactly an omer of mon for each person in the family.

The tzaddik hears the words of Moshe, and on the first day he goes out and is careful to make sure that he does not take a drop more than Moshe said. To be absolutely positive, he even takes a little bit less. Amazingly, when he arrives home, he sees that there is exactly an omer for each person, so he thinks to himself that it was smart that he took a little less, because it turned out that he had in fact taken the right amount.

The next day, the tzaddik goes out and makes sure to take even slightly less so that he won't transgress the command of Hashem. It's a warm day, and when he arrives home, he sees that again the amount for each person is exactly an omer. He thinks to himself that it was wise that he took even less that day, as the heat must have made the mon expand.

The following day is a real scorcher, and when the tzaddik goes out he makes sure to take even less then the previous days, as he is sure the heat will make the mon expand even more. Lo and behold, when he returns home, his thoughts are confirmed and there is exactly an omer for each person.

The tzaddik does not need to go too far from his home to find the small amount that he collects, because he always finds the right amount when he brings it into his home.

Now let us turn to the rasha, whose experience was completely different.

When this rasha heard Moshe say that there is only an omer to be collected for each person, he thinks to himself, "Well how can I survive on only one omer?" He decides to take a little more, to make sure he has enough. When he gets home, so he finds that indeed all he has is exactly an omer. He tells himself that it was a good thing he took that little bit extra, because in the end it seems he only really took exactly an omer.

The next day is warm, and he goes out and says to himself that he'd better take slightly more this time, to be sure he has the right amount. The day is warm, so who knows? Maybe the mon will melt in the heat. Indeed, when he gets home, he finds that there is only exactly the omer, so he reasons that it was smart that he took that extra.

The following day is a real scorcher, and the rasha makes sure to take significantly more this time. After all, it will surely melt and there will only be an omer left. On his way home, he trips, and the mon falls out of his hands and gets dirty. He goes searching around for the amount he needs, but most of the mon has already been collected and he ends up having to go outside the camp to find the amount of mon necessary to make sure he ends up with his omer. When he gets home, he again finds exactly an omer thus confirming for him that it was the right thing to take that extra.

In the end, the tzaddik finds the small amount near his home to be enough, but the rasha is always searching far and wide for his portion, because inevitably something happens to make it necessary for him to collect elsewhere.

Rav Goldstein explains that this is true for us as well. The amount of money we are to make is decreed by Hashem, and is completely unconnected to the amount of effort we do. A person can believe that the livelihood he makes is dependent on his effort, but he makes a similar mistake to the rasha we just spoke about. He searches far and wide, spending much time on his efforts, and in the end, all kinds of different things happen and he ends up with exactly the same amount as was intended for him.

The person who is smart and aware realizes that our livelihood is from Hashem. Yes, we must put in some effort, but the effort does not correspond to the result. Like the tzaddik who minimizes his effort and puts his faith in Hashem, when we trust in Hashem and know that all of our means are provided by Him, we can start to see that our efforts are not as greatly needed. Somehow the amount of effort we do suffices for our needs. We do our part, and Hashem does the rest.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Redemption rising - part two

The introduction to the sefer אחרית כראשית continues:

We find a similar idea in the Zohar on Parshas Vayishlach (קא ע"א) on the verse ויאמר שלחני כי עלה השחר - "[The angel said to Yaakov,] send me for the dawn has risen" :

Rabbi Yehuda began and said (Shir Hashirim 6), "Who is this looking out like the dawn, [beautiful as the Moon, clear as the Sun, awesome as the bannered hosts of kings.]" But "Who is this" refers to the people of Israel at the time when Hashem will stand them up and take them out of exile, then He will open an opening of Light for them, fine and small. Then He opens another opening that is larger, [continuing] until He opens a breach Above, open to the four directions of the World. And similarly, all Hashem does for the people of Israel and the righteous among them is done completely in this way, and not all at once.

This is comparable to a person who was placed in darkness, and his habitat was constantly dark. When they want to provide him with light, it's necessary to begin first with a light the size of a needle's eye, and then a larger light, continuing thus until he is lit completely as is needed. So too will it be with the people of Israel, like the verse says (Shemos 23), "Slowly I will remove them [your enemies] from before you, until you become great..." Similarly, one who [is sick and] comes to be cured is not taken care of all at once, rather bit by bit until he regains his strength.

Esav, however, will not be dealt with in this way. Rather, the Light will shine on him all at once and he will slowly be destroyed; whereas the people of Israel, their light strengthens slowly until they gain strength and Hashem lights up the worlds. Then all will ask them, "Who is this looking out like the dawn?" There is the darkness of morning, then a small light, followed by [a light] "beautiful as the Moon," because its light is brighter than dawn; then [a light] "clear as the Sun," because its light is strong and shines more than the Moon; then [a light] "awesome as the bannered hosts of kings," strongly shining in full force.

Similarly, we find in the Yerushalmi Berachos (פ"א ה"א) and Yoma (פ"ג ה"ב) and similarly in Shir Hashirim (פ"ו אות י) as well as the Shocher Tov on Tehillim, chap. 22:

The great Rabbi Chiya and Rabbi Shimon ben Chalafta were walking together in the valley one morning and they saw the morning light beginning to burst forth. The great Rabbi Chiya said to him, "This is how the redemption of the people of Israel will be. It will start little by little, and as it goes it will get increasingly greater." From where do we know this? From the verse, "When I sit in darkness, Hashem is my light."

Similarly, it says that Mordechai first sat in the king's gate, then Haman took the royal clothes and horse, then Mordechai went out before the king dressed in royalty, and finally the Jews experienced the light (ליהודים היתה אורה).

The truth is that this concept is explicitly brought by the Gemara in Megilla (17B) in regards to the order of the brachos in the Amidah, which teaches that the redemption happens step by step:

Why did they decide to place the bracha of Geulah seventh? Rava says: since they will be redeemed in the Seventh year... How can that be so? Didn't Mar say that the sixth year would experience 'voices,' the seventh would experience wars, and after the seventh Ben Dovid comes? The answer is that the wars are the beginning of the Geulah (redemption)...

Why did they place the bracha of Kibbutz Galios (ingathering of the exiles) after birchas hashanim (where we ask for material blessings)? This is based on the verse that says, "And you hills of Israel will sprout branches and carry your fruits for my nation of Israel, for they are coming soon."

Once the exiles have returned (kibbutz galios), there is a judgment for the evil ones (Hashiva shoftenu), as the verse says, "And I will place my hand on you, and purify you of your dross," and the verse says, "And I will return your judges as before..." And once Jerusalem is built (V'lirushalayim), Dovid comes (Es Tsemach) as the verse says, "After the children of Israel return, they will seek out Hashem their God and their king Dovid..."

When we think about it, we can see that the order of the redemption of the people of Israel is set up in stages, and even when the redemption began, many difficulties came upon them, as will be explained further. From the order [of the previous redemptions] we will be able to discern how it will be in the final redemption. And even though these matters are hidden, we find that the Ramchal and the Gra revealed pieces of information and opened the concept for us as will be explained later be'H.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Beshalach - Accessing the supernatural

Why are we specifically told to tell the story (lesaper) of the Exodus?

Why was Moshe told not to Daven at Yam suf?

How did the Jews survive if they were equally deserving of death because they too served idolatry?

How do we tap into the world of the supernatural and miraculous?

Find out in this weeks Parsha Podcast.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Redemption rising as the dawn

I would like to share a book with you called אחרית כראשית by Rav Aryeh Shapira. The book quotes from Ramchal and the Gra and speaks extensively about the stages leading up to Geulah. The book is written in Hebrew and brings the original sources, and I will translate to the best of my ability be'H.


Our tradition teaches that the redemption of the Jewish people is not something that occurs all at once, but rather it comes slowly, stage by stage, step by step, like the sky slowly brightening as the morning dawns.

This is stated by the sages in Medrash Tanchuma at the beginning of Devarim:

The passuk says (Yeshaya 35) ישושום מדבר וציה [ותגל ערבה ותפרח כחבצלת. פרוח תפרח ותגל אף גילת ורנן כבוד הלבנון ניתן לה הדר הכרמל והשרון המה יראו כבוד ה' הדר אלוקינו] כו - "The desolate desert will rejoice. [And the willow will sprout like a lily. It will blossom and rejoice greatly and sing; The honor of Lebanon will be hers, the beauty of Carmel and the Sharon. They will see the honor of Hashem, the beauty of our God.]" Why is it written this way? To teach you that at the time Hashem reveals his Divine Presence upon the people of Israel, He doesn't reveal it all at once, for they would not be able to receive that Good all at once, for if He would reveal the Good all at once they would all die. See what it says (ibid. 64) ומעולם לא שמעו לא האזינו עין לא ראה אלקים זולתך יעשה למחכה לו - "It was never heard or seen except by the Eye of Hashem - that which will be done for those who wait [for the Redemption]."

Let us learn from Yosef, when he revealed himself to his brothers after many years, he said to them, "I am Yosef your brother." They all died [of embarrassment] and could not respond. Certainly it would be so with Hashem. Rather, what does Hashem do? He reveals Himself bit by bit. At first, he makes the desert rejoice as it says ישושום מדבר וציה - "the desolate desert will rejoice," then the "willows rejoice and sprout like a lily." Then "it will blossom," and then the "honor of Lebanon will be hers." Finally "they will see the honor of Hashem, the beauty of our God."

The sages similarly said in the medrash Shocher Tov (end of chapter 19 of Tehillim), on the passuk, מגדיל ישועות מלכו ועושה חסד למשיחו - "He makes the salvations of His king great, and makes kindness for His anointed" :

One verse says מגדיל (He makes great), and one says מגדול (it is great). Rav Yuden said that this is because the Redemption of this nation will not occur all at once, but rather bit by bit. Thus the verse says מגדיל - He makes great - because it continuously grows before the people of Israel. This is necessary since they are currently entrenched in great difficulties, and if the redemption would come all at once, they would not be able to withstand the tremendous salvation that comes from amidst terrible suffering. Therefore it comes bit by bit, getting gradually stronger. For this reason the redemption is compared to the dawn, as the verse says (Yeshaya 58), אז יבקע כשחר אורך - "then Your Light will burst forth as the dawn." Why is it compared to dawn? For there is no greater darkness than the moment before morning.

To be continued...

Monday, February 2, 2009

Birthing Moshiach

The Geulah process is compared to the birth of a child, and the troubles we currently experience are the birthpangs - the difficulties that will be'H bring about the final redemption.

I was recently thinking about some interesting parallels that this idea leads us to.

For the last few months of pregnancy, the average baby enters a position with its head down and feet up. If it is not in this position, it is quite dangerous for baby and mother, and is referred to as 'breach.' A baby in breach position will many times necessitate a Caesarean section. In a normal case, however, the head is down, in position to exit first, and the baby is thus born.

I would posit that this is why when we look at the world today, the values are backwards - the head - which is the intellect and the spiritual - is on bottom. Spirituality is disdained by much of the world, and the feet - the physical and mundane - is on the rise and enthroned. This is a necessary state for the birth to take place.

Another key point is that when a mother is in the final stages of labor, she experiences acute pain. This pain can be alleviated by taking an epidural, which basically numbs the entire area. If the epidural is too strong, however, the woman will have a very difficult time knowing when her contraction takes place in order to push the baby out.

This would seem to indicate that although be'H Moshiach can and will come with the least amount of pain - with Rachamim - there is a certain amount of difficulty the world may have to endure. If not for this pain, the 'baby,' i.e. Geulah, can take significantly longer. The pain is also a sign for us that the Geulah is indeed near, just as the pain intensifies for the woman who is immediately before childbirth.

A third point that I think is most powerful, is that the child, as long as it is in utero, resides in a world that is completely dark. All of its needs are taken care of, but it is completely unaware from where its sustenance comes. The fetus does not even dream that there is a world of light just outside its little bubble. It could believe that the reality it experiences is truly all there is.

The moment the baby is born, its life supply is cut! But at that very moment it realizes that all along it was being provided for by this mother, and the baby returns to be nourished again, but now with full knowledge of where its sustenance comes from.

We too live in this darkness of the womb, where it is most difficult to see that all our sustenance, and indeed all that occurs, comes from Hashem. We would think that the reality we sense with our physical senses is all that there is, and that things run their natural course. But at the moment of birth, we will exit the current reality and enter the light of the true reality. We will realize how all along it was Hashem who sustained us and gave us the power to succeed. We will be drawn to our Creator to enjoy the 'milk' - which is His Torah, which truly sustains us; and we will enjoy that ecstasy that comes with the knowledge that He was with us all along - throughout the darkness.

We will know that the difficulty we experienced was a labor of love bringing us to the moment of Moshiach and closeness to Hashem.