Tuesday, March 11, 2008

For the past several days I've been wondering what I could write here. There's the weather, which has suddenly turned into a beautiful Spring. There's the melava malka we had last motzi Shabbat at Aish in the Old City with former and current St. Louisans that was a lot of fun. There's the unbelievably wonderful conversation I had last night with a long-estranged relative. There's a lot of chatty, unimportant stories I could relate to you. We're in the Jewish month of Adar now, a time of joy for the Jewish people.

But my heart isn't in it. The tears won't stop flowing and my heart weighs a ton. What is happening in the world these days? This is what's in my life these days:
  1. Cancer. Five friends are dealing with this in their families; only one is in remission and the rest are critically ill.
  2. Divorce. Four couples we know are going through horrendous divorces, and two others have discussed it due to the constant dissension in their homes. These are all friends of ours; all but one couple are religious.
  3. Poverty. Many people who have made aliyah are struggling to make ends meet. They're either working non-stop for little money or they can't find work at all. We're personally doing okay, but we try to help our friends out and it's tough.
  4. Depression. People are emailing me and calling me and speaking to me in person about personal issues that they're having trouble dealing with. Some of the issues are the same for different people. But instead of trying to find solutions, or possibly even failing to find solutions after putting in the effort, some of them are simply giving up.
  5. Tragedy. Oh, my G-d, the tragedies! A) Last month a family down in Gush Etzion had an explosion and fire early one morning. The father was able to get the two small children out of their home, but he has burns over 35% of his body and his wife has burns over 80%. B) Last Friday morning there was a head-on collision about ten minutes down the highway from us and a 23 year old woman and her one year old baby were killed; everyone's davening for the young husband who's in the hospital. This girl has family in St. Louis; her 21 year old first cousin died just a few years ago. C) Sderot down in Southern Israel is bombarded with missiles every single day; when the siren goes off they only have fifteen seconds to find a safe place to go so they always have to be aware of where they are and where they could take refuge. Everyone in the town is traumatized. Now the rockets are reaching as far north as Ashkelon, a city of 250,000. The missiles are coming from Gaza; from land that was torn away from 80,000 Israelis two years ago so the Palestinians would give us peace. What happened instead? They destroyed the beautiful homes and greenhouses and synagogues and began firing into Israel - at a much closer range. D) And the mercaz yeshiva massacre last Thursday night. Teenage boys and young men gunned down as they were studying Torah in preparation for Adar; eight souls murdered, six more still in the hospital with bullet wounds. Blood and bodies everywhere in a library filled with sefarim. And Hamas celebrating down in Gaza. News reports saying it was in retaliation for Israeli troops killing terrorists in Gaza - without mentioning the daily barrage of missiles shot from Gaza at schools and homes and businesses.

Some people would say that all these things happen all the time. There's always forest fires and earthquakes and tornadoes and sickness and people not getting along. I understand that, but it's different now. It seems to me that events are happening on a much larger scale than before; more catastrophic things are happening and at a faster and faster rate, and less people are caring about them. No one sees the "larger picture." So many people are seeing black as white, and white as black. There's no perspective, only moral relativism.

I can't help but feel that as awful as all these things are (and there are so many other things happening as well), it's all careening towards a purpose. There's a reason for all of it. I'm no Torah scholar, or even close, but this is my blog so I'm going to state my opinion.

The Torah is really only about one thing: Treat other people the way you want to be treated. If we all lived by that maxim, if we all truly believed that Hashem is our Creator and that He loves us and wants what's best for us - none of this would be happening, at least not on this scale. We would still have our challenges, of course, because that's how we grow. But because we, the Jewish people, have not learned to tolerate each other or treat each other with respect, Hashem has to bring Moshiach to us the hard way. Right now he's telling us to stop what we're doing, talk to Him, count our blessings, start doing chesed, and care about each other. We have to get the message!

I truly believe that when we do what we're supposed to do, He'll do what he promised. I believe that He's going to give us the cure for cancer, put gentle words in our mouths when speaking to our spouses and children, and find a way to eradicate the evil surrounding us. At some point he's going to stop hardening the hearts of our leaders/enemies/news reporters. Then, as in the Pesach story, He'll redeem us, this time by bringing Moshiach to lead us out of the chaos into a world of emmet - truth. The question is - are we going to make it through the present crises if we don't make some changes?

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