Thursday, December 17, 2009

Are we really so bad?

On the previous post, an important point was raised in the comments:

curious in chi said...
This was very well written. But I do have a question that I actually have had for awhile. Of course our generation is not entirely righteous, things are bad. But, can you really say that we are entirely wicked?? I see so much chessed being done, and so many people are returning to Torah observance. Even more so, what is the point of doing good if being "empty" will bring moshiach? But what is the point of striving to be righteous if so much of the generation is wicked? Its almost like the truly righteous people are stalling the coming of moshiach? That just cant be.

This is a very important question, and I am glad you raised this point. When our Chazal speak about a generation that is completely righteous or a generation that is completely evil, I think it is clear that it is impossible to have either extreme completely. Essentially, what happens when the generation looks as our generation does, the value of the mitzvos that one performs is increased dramatically. The fact that the world at large looks askance at religion, and specifically Jews and Judaism, and that much of the world has been seized by an atheistic approach to life, means that the challenge is very great for us to perform the mitzvos of Hashem. To believe, despite the rampant secularism, and to focus on coming close to Hashem and living a spiritual life, in contrast to most of the world, is a tremendously difficult feat. This very chessed that you speak of, and this very teshuva that you speak of, is all the more powerful because of the lowness of the generation we live in. The righteousness of the tzaddikim is all the more greater because of the contrast between their deeds and the deeds of the world. The greatness of using our time wisely is all the more powerful because of all those who allow their days to be occupied with emptiness.

I have mentioned this before, but I think it is important to hear this more than once, that one time, the Ari z'l told R' Chaim Vital that he (R' Chaim) is on the level of an amora (a sage of the gemara). R' Chaim could not understand how it could be that he was on such a high level. The Ari z'l explained that because the generation (at that time!) was so low, and R' Chaim was so great, despite it, his actions were on a much more exalted plane.

Of course, we can't even touch the dirt under the feet of the level of R' Chaim Vital, but I think it is obvious that the generation we live in also can't compare to those times. This gives incredible power to every good act that we do.

I hope this answers your question satisfactorily.

Ari Goldwag

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