“Console, console My people,” says your God.… (Yeshaya 40:1)
IN THE PAST when Shabbos Nachamu came around it felt right because it was great to be past Tisha B’Av and the Three Weeks. We had done our time by reducing our pleasure, and had persevered the fasting and saying of Kinos. While the rest of the world was having a summer blast, we live restrained and withdrawn. It was now time to join the fun.
Granted, it did not lead to 100 percent abandon. After all, mourning or no mourning, the Temple had not returned. In fact, nothing had really changed about the Jewish people, so where was the consolation, really? Nevertheless, if the rabbis felt it was okay to sidestep the issue for the time being, who were we to argue and continue on with the sadness really due because of the lack of redemption?
The blessing of the previous years was the issue. The world had problems, but it still seemed relatively calm, basically normal. If wars were being fought, they were not ours. The economy still made it possible to make a living, and we went to work or school as we had for decades already. We were free to roam, locally or abroad, and we didn’t have to think twice about where we went or who we passed. People wore masks, but they were foreigners who we thought were paranoid about becoming ill from the environment. We never imagined having to do the same thing.
What a difference a year can make, or even just a couple of months. It’s no longer just the foreigners who wear the masks, but the locals as well. If we go to shul, it is to pray among plastic barriers that would have looked ridiculous just months earlier. The economy is struggling, and businesses are failing. Weddings are not the simcha they once were since there are far fewer attendees and the affair is far less fancy. It’s a different world.
For some, that is welcome news. People are revolting against the system with impunity. We see an increase in looting and crime without arrests. The conservative approach to life which seemed to dominate for so long is under attack and intimidated. Leftism and Liberalism have grown in power and seem to be taking over. For those on the right, the world is a scarier place.
Perhaps even scarier is how so many Jews have embraced the revolution. They seem to accept or overlook all the dangers of what is happening, and instead stand behind the changes. In the words of one rabbi, “I used to think a Holocaust could not happen in America. It terrifies me to say that given the direction of American society, and knowing history from the past, that has changed. And once again, no one else seems to see it!”
What does he see? Well, aside from the anarchy, changing laws. Until now, it has been the American Constitution that has protected the Jews there, allowing them to prosper. It is far from a perfect, but one of the best set of social rules the Western world has ever produced. While it ran the country, civility ran the country.
Racism exists, but not because of the Constitution. It has more to do with attitudes of people, both on the part of the white and black populations, and these won’t change because the laws do. What is going on in the States is not really in the name of equality. It is in the name of “hefkeres,” a far more open society unbridled by Torah-like values, and THAT always leads to anti-Semitism, somehow, down the road. Jews who support it today will end up running from it tomorrow. It’s a historical fact.
But try and tell them today. No way. Try and show people how history is repeating itself, and they laugh at you, call you a religious fanatic or something. You become an enemy of their state. You want to save them, but they accuse you of the opposite, leaving you with that sinking feeling of, “Those who forget are doomed to repeat,” God forbid.
This has certainly made it easy to feel the reality of Tisha B’Av like it hasn’t been so possible in recent years. But, it also makes it difficult to leave Tisha B’Av behind as we head into Shabbos Nachamu. Some will always be able to ignore the problems of the world as long as they don’t affect them personally. The rest of us can’t, as much as we’d really like to.
Maybe this will all blow over eventually. Not all revolutions lead to bad conclusions. Some have changed society for the better, though the transition was difficult. Maybe this time, the Jews of the Diaspora will not fare as poorly as they have so many times in the past, instead keeping their wealth and living in safety. Maybe the redemption will come peacefully, even if we don’t seem to deserve it.
That’s a lot of maybes. The only things we know for sure is that one day, all Jews have to end up in Eretz Yisroel. The Torah says so. The world has to stop moving away from God, and move towards God. The prophets said so. People have to stop oppressing people, and selfishness with all the other negative vices of man have to become things of the past. The Talmud says so. Right now, we are far away from all of this.
Where’s the consolation in THAT?
Where it has always been. It’s in the knowledge that, no matter how “hefker” the world seems to become, it is not, because God is in control and never relinquishes that control. And everything HE does He does for the GOOD, even if in the meantime it still looks pretty bad.
Just imagine how Moshe Rabbeinu felt. He hadn’t wanted to free the Jewish people in the first place, once he found out that they would go into other exiles later on. God made him do it anyhow. From that point onward, he put everything he had into the mission, despite the fact that he would not be able to complete it.
Even worse, he says in this week’s parsha:
When you have children and children’s children, and you will be long established in the land, and you become corrupt and make a graven image, the likeness of anything, and do evil in the eyes of God your God, to provoke Him to anger… (Devarim 4:25)
That’s even worse than telling hard-working college students that yes, they will graduate, but no, they will not be able to find jobs after they do. “Yes, you will take and settle the land,“ Moshe told them on the east side of the Jordan, “but no, you will not keep it. You will blow it, and be exiled.”
But Moshe knew they would also be redeemed. True, they would be exiled again, but they will be redeemed from that exile too…only to go into another exile. But after that one, Moshe Rabbeinu knew, there would come one last final redemption, and would stay henceforth. It would take a lot of time, and a lot of suffering, but eventually his job would be done, and he would even reincarnate to complete it.
It would certainly be nice to be part of THAT generation, the one to be redeemed once and for all. The truth is, we are so close to the end that we may be. It would be wonderful to personally witness the fulfillment of the final prophecies for Jewish history and, in fact, we are witnessing them. The world may be out of control now, but there is something very controlling going on all the way through it. We just have to work hard to focus on it, and not all the distracting things happening around it.
To think that Moshiach is not only in the world right now, but just moments away from revealing himself maybe outside of the box for many today. But for those who can and for those who do, this is tremendous consolation, even as the sky remains gray for now.