The Ultimate Contact Never give up hope. No matter how bleak your plight may
seem, do not allow yourself to surrender to despair. This is what we are
told. This is what we tell others. This is what we believe. Hope springs
eternal in the human heart.
In this week's Torah reading, however, we find an altogether different
perspective. On the last day of his life, Moses addresses an evocative poem
replete with metaphors and allusions to the Jewish people. With broad
strokes, he presents a sweeping view of the past and a searing vision of the
future. When will Hashem bring an end to the suffering of His people? He
tells them. When the power of their enemies spreads uncontrollably and no
one can withstand the onslaught.
What does this mean? The Talmud provides the answer. It is a reference to
the Messianic era. Moses is prophesying that the Messiah will come when then
Jewish people abandon all hope of redemption, when they despair of salvation.
The commentators are mystified. Why is despair a prerequisite for
redemption? Yearning for the arrival of the Messiah is one of the central
tenets of Judaism. If so, why does the Talmud contend that this yearning
must be forgotten before the Messiah can come?
The commentators explain that the yearning for the ultimate redemption must
indeed remain strong and vital among the Jewish people without any
interruption. The Talmud, however, is addressing a different brand of hope.
What is our first reaction when we face an anti- Semitic crisis? Do we turn
toward Hashem and plead with Him to save us? Or do we consider other
avenues? Do we mobilize our military forces, if we have any? Do we bring all
our political and diplomatic influence to bear? Do flex our financial
muscles? Do we call upon the press and the media to help us?
This then is the hopelessness that will hasten our redemption. First, we
must recognize the utter futility of self-reliance. We must despair of
solving our problems on our own. Only then will we turn to Hashem with
absolute trust and faith in Him as the sole Source of salvation. Only then
will we deserve to be redeemed.
A great sage was sitting in his room, immersed in a pile of holy books.
Just then a distraught woman burst through the door and planted herself in
front of him.
"You must help me!" she wailed as tears ran down her cheeks. "My husband is
"Come back tomorrow," said the sage.
"Tomorrow?" she shrieked. "I can't wait until tomorrow. He may be dead by
tomorrow. I need your help now!"
"If you insist," said the sage. He closed his eyes and pursed his lips.
After two minutes of silence, he opened his eyes. The woman looked at him
with breathless expectation.
"I'm very sorry," he said. "I can do nothing for your husband."
The woman went deathly pale. She clutched her head and screamed, "Lord in
Heaven! Help me! I am lost. Even the holy sage cannot help me. Only You can
save my husband. Please! I beg of you!"
Then she collapsed into a chair, her body wracked by wrenching sobs.
"Go home in peace, my child," said the sage. "Your prayers will be answered.
As long as you placed your trust in me, there was no hope. But the
hopelessness in your heart led you to our Father in Heaven. He is the only
One who can give you what you need."
In our own lives, as we strive for financial and professional achievement,
how often do we think to ourselves that the key to success lies in contacts,
marketing or other stratagems? But that is not really true. No matter how
hard we work or plan or scheme, Hashem can wipe it all away with a flick of
His figurative wrist. So what are we supposed to do? Of course, we need to
make our best efforts, to go after the contacts and the marketing and
whatever else seems to be indicated. But we must always keep in mind that
Hashem controls the world, and if we're looking for contacts, He is
undoubtedly the Ultimate Contact.