Wednesday, December 16, 2009

דור שכולו חייב

Our Chachamim say that Moshiach will come either in a generation that is completely righteous, or a generation that is completely the opposite. As things look today, I think it is quite clear that we are not living in a completely righteous generation. If not for this statement of our sages, one would be hard-pressed to imagine how such a low generation could receive Moshiach, and enter into a completely spiritual dimension. On the surface, it would seem that the better option is that the world should be completely righteous, and Moshiach should enter into such a generation. The current situation, on the surface, would seem to be a poor second choice. Recently, I realized that this is not so. In truth, as you will see, the best way Moshiach can come is in a generation such as ours, a דור שכולו חייב.

I recently received a great treasure. When I was in the states for the Aseres Yemei Teshuva, I saw a good friend of mine from Yeshiva, and he told me he was about to get a set of DVDs containing many shiurim from my Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Yechiel Perr. I asked if somehow I could get a copy of the shiurim. About a week and a half ago, the package came in the mail, containing four DVDs of shiurim covering over fifteen years of tapes that were transferred onto mp3. Of course, trying to sift through such a vast amount of material is impossible, but I immediately began listening to the most recent Mussar Vaadim that were there, which were from 5768.

My Rosh Yeshiva has the most wonderful style, where he reads a few lines from a piece in the sefer he is teaching (usually Madreigas Ha'adam). He then proceeds to expand on the ideas, painting a picture through his personal life stories and other anecdotes that bring across his point. It brought me back to my time in Yeshiva when I would get to hear the Mussar Vaadim every day.

Over the past few days, I have been back and forth to Yerushalayim, to play music there for three different yeshivas' Chanukah parties. The most wonderful thing about it is the opportunity to listen to the Rosh Yeshiva on the way to and from Jerusalem. My Rosh Yeshiva is the type of person who says it like it is, unafraid to tell serious stories that bring across his point, unafraid to make his strong Torah opinion known. His message of Mussar, striving for greatness, releasing oneself from the trap of the Yetzer Hara, hits right on target.

Something that struck me, that I would like to share, is that he spoke about the contrast between the way the Jewish people received the Torah at Sinai, and how they reaccepted upon themselves the Torah after the story of Purim. The Jewish people at Sinai were in a state of unbelievable inspiration. They experienced an intense revelation of Hashem and of the spiritual worlds. While it was true that they said נעשה ונשמע, accepting the Torah with no preconditions, our Chazal speak of the fact that Hashem forced them to receive the Torah (כפה עליהם הר כגיגית). The Alter of Novardhok explains that since they were on such a spiritual high, and the reality of Hashem was so clear to them, their acceptance of the Torah was, in fact, forced upon them. They did not have free will in accepting it, because there was no serious alternative. It was like a person who experiences a high on Yom Kippur, and promises himself he will take on a certain stringency. Once he comes down from his spiritual high, it is difficult to live up to the promise he has made.

The Jewish people in the times of Esther, on the other hand, were on a spiritual low. They had begun to assimilate, and they even partook of the party of Achashverosh, which represented Hashem's rejection of the Jewish people as his chosen nation, Heaven forbid. They had reached this great abyss, but they were brought to a great level of Teshuva, where they ended up accepting the Torah on themselves, rededicating themselves to their relationship with Hashem. Because this came out of a very low spiritual state, it was a relationship that they now forged through their own free will. This type of relationship is one that has much more staying power. It is akin to the alcoholic who has descended to the greatest depths on his alcoholism, and has realized that he must climb out of the pit he has dug for himself. He knows that he can never touch the alcohol again. Because he has fallen so low, he knows that he must never go anywhere near the wasteland he had created out of his life.

We don't need to look too far back in history to see how powerful this idea is. Just look at the war that we fought less than a year ago in Gaza. As the soldiers were about to enter into the boobytrapped city where the Hamas hoodlums laid to ambush them, they knew they had no chance without turning to Hashem. There was a tremendous spirit of unity here, where people across the spectrum knew that our brothers were there fighting, and that missiles were raining down on Jewish cities, and that we as a people were under attack. The non-religious soldiers were putting on Tefillin before going to the front lines, protecting themselves with tzitzis and Tehillim. Soldiers were paired with Yeshiva boys who would have them in mind during their learning, so the Torah should protect them and give them success. It was the pressure of the difficult situation that planted the seeds for a great salvation. There was a palpable sense of togetherness, and we turned to Hashem, because there was nowhere else to turn.

The first type of relationship, which is one that is based on a high, is extremely difficult to sustain. The second type of relationship, where one has climbed out of the depths, is one that has the potential to last forever.

This, I believe, is why Moshiach will come in our generation, a generation that is completely חייב. The spiritual low that we experience is one that will form the basis for the greatest relationship that is possible, the open revelation of Hashem. The contrast will be staggering, but I think that it will be born out of the growing awareness of the emptiness that our lives have become. If we look around the world, or even introspectively into our own lives, we will realize that our existence has become filled with a pursuit of emptiness. Empty money, empty houses, empty cars, empty computers, empty relationships, empty Torah. The list goes on and on, because our lives are completely empty. Most of the things we do are just to kill time. The contrast between what we do now and what we will do then will be so stark - it will be the ultimate joke. But I believe we all will laugh, because Hashem will give us a tremendous opportunity, just like the chance that was given to the Jews in the story of Purim. We will be faced with a king whose decrees will be worse than the decrees of Haman. We will be at a low that parallels the low we reached then, and we will climb out of the depths back into the waiting arms of Hashem. Only a דור שכולו חייב can truly reach the highest and deepest relationship that Hashem has in store for us in the times of Moshiach.

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