How Have You Changed? by Shmuel Sackett
During these days of the Corona challenge, everyone is focused on what needs to be done now; masks, gloves, social distancing, washing hands etc… but very little, if anything, is being done on what happens the day this all ends. In my opinion, this is where our focus needs to be. Yes, the authorities, security forces and medical personnel still need to work on the present – and a big “Yasher Koach” for everything they are doing – but we, as individuals need to start planning what will happen when the gloves come off (wow… how that expression has changed!!)
Let me refine my point because it’s not what you think. When I talk about planning for “the day after” I do not mean the obvious things such as catching up on school and refilling our depleted bank accounts. I don’t underestimate the importance of both those things but if that is what we are going to focus on when this is all over… we have totally missed the message being sent to us by our Father in heaven.
By now, it should be very clear to you that this is no ordinary challenge. This could really be the one we have been waiting for since the day the Bet Ha’Mikdash was destroyed. Just take a look at the Talmud in Sanhedrin (pages 97-98) and every sign for the coming of Moshiach – yes, every single one stated by our Rabbis – has come to fruition in these last two months. I am not exaggerating. Spend an hour reading, learning, understanding and digesting those pages. If you don’t get chills running up and down your spine, have someone check your pulse immediately! This is the time, my brothers and sisters… let’s make sure we internalize the message and make it happen! But what do we need to do… what now???
Most Rabbis will give the obvious answer; we need to do Teshuva. After all, that’s what is written in the Talmud, on the pages I quoted above: Sanhedrin 97b states – “Rav said… the matter of the Messiah’s arrival depends only on repentance and good deeds… Rabbi Eliezer says if the Jewish people repent they will be redeemed, and if not, they will not be redeemed…” Although this leads to a very interesting discussion – to the point where Rabbi Eliezer becomes silent (which means that he retracts his position), the Rambam writes (Hilchot Teshuvah 7:5) that “the Jewish people will not be redeemed except through repentance.” (Translation by ArtScroll) Therefore, since we see – very clearly – that Teshuva is a prerequisite for redemption, my question needs to be fine-tuned. Instead of just asking; What do we need to do now… the question is really much stronger; What kind of Teshuva is needed now? Is it the same one our Rabbis speak of all the time – studying Torah, modest dress, guarding speech, Shabbat observance and kashrut (all important things which certainly need strengthening) or – during these days before Moshiach – do we need to focus on something additional? My answer is simple: Before Moshiach comes to the Jewish nation… the Jews must come to the Jewish nation. Let me explain.
For the last 2,000 years, the concept of “Am Yisrael” has been lost. We were exiled and dispersed across the globe. What kept us strong – and Jewish - was our individual devotion to Torah and Mitzvot plus our connection to the local community. These communities were the secret of our success during some very dark, depressing and tragic days. They kept us close to one another - in good times and bad - educated our children, allowed us to marry properly, observe the laws and customs and actually flourish – even as the world tried to extinguish our flame. In short, the thousands of Jewish communities all over the world, was the glue that held us together for 2,000 years.
All of this changed – or should have changed – in 1948 when Jewish communal life returned to Jewish national life. The founding of the State of Israel was never meant to just be a country like all others. It was the return to Zion, of which we had been praying for – three times a day – since our Temple was destroyed. It was the opportunity to settle in the same land that was promised to our father Abraham and passed down – via an unbroken chain – to every Jew today. It was the fulfillment of a dream… to build, farm and settle the land! No longer would we be at the mercy of the nations of the world and their czars, kings and landowners. We set up a Jewish government, wrote our own laws and trained Jews how to defend Eretz Yisrael with the creation of Tzahal – the IDF. Dearest friends, do you understand what happened in 1948 and all those years since? The Jewish community – which served us well for 2,000 years – was transformed into two words which had been lost; Am Yisrael… the Nation of Israel!
Fast forward to today. The Corona virus has impacted us all. Shuls, yeshivot, businesses and airports are closed. Everyone on Planet Earth has been affected but, with all due respect to the 7+ billion people of the world, my words are to my brothers and sisters only. Fellow Jews; as stated above, Moshiach is knocking and we need to do Teshuva but the kind of Teshuva necessary, is the one that will reconnect us to our nation and not simply the community. Look at how seriously this plague has hit the religious communities. Is Hashem saying “Enough”??? Lakewood, Monsey, Boro Park, Crown Heights and yes, even Bnei Brak have been hit hard and everyone is asking “why”? Not enough Torah there? Not careful with modest dress or proper speech? Of course, we all need to work on these aspects – myself included – but I beg you to see that there’s much more. I believe the message is clear; in addition to more chessed, Torah and mitzvot, we need to close those communities – and all Jewish communities across the world - and come home to the one, and only one place, where we can be a nation… in the land that Hashem swore to our fathers.
Is this the repentance that the Talmud and Rambam were talking about before redemption? I believe it is!! I call it “Teshuva Le’umi” (national repentance) because above everything else, Moshiach will be our king in Jerusalem… and a king needs a nation. So, please – I urge all of you – to change your priorities now and be ready for when this is over. Start serving Hashem (even those who live in Israel) from a national perspective and not just an individual or communal one. For those living outside the land, start planning the move to Israel and do whatever it takes to make that happen. Do not worry about Israel’s economy since, throughout history, every economic slowdown is followed by economic growth. New jobs will be created and new opportunities – that never existed before – will become reality. The Jewish nation needs you and your family. Don’t worry about rebuilding your broken community… we don’t need it anymore. Rebuild your life and your future – on the Jewish national stage – in Eretz Yisrael. This is the Teshuva needed now. You have been waiting for Moshiach for a very long time but right now – at this moment - Moshiach is here and waiting for you. Don’t keep him waiting.
Am Yisrael Chai!