by Roy S. Neuberger
Is there nechama? Can we realistically expect to experience comfort and consolation?
When I was twelve, my family took a trip to the eastern tip of Long Island. We wound up in the direct path of one of the most destructive hurricanes in recent history. We were staying in a big old hotel. You huddle inside for hours, wondering whether you will survive. Suddenly, it's "all over," and you are in the middle of a cloudless, placid, sunlit day. That's what you think, but you are in the eye of the storm! You believe it's all over, until suddenly the winds come back violently from the other direction and you are once again being clobbered by this ferocious storm, hoping you will survive.
Any comfort and consolation we feel today is like the eye of the storm.
We don't trust it. We are waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Realistic people in today's world know that we are living on the edge of the cliff, waiting in tension for events which will affect us mightily but over which we have no control. There is an overwhelming feeling of trepidation. Many people's lives are out of control. Society seems out of control. Events in the world at large are ominous.
And we talk about comfort and consolation?
We have to know, my friends, that nechama is real. We desperately need to cling with all our strength to the ancient truths which have sustained us since the days of our Father Abraham and our Mother Sarah. We need to keep reminding ourselves that we live "chutz min ha teva," not subject to the forces which bind the rest of mankind in an eternal cycle of slavery and mortality, "those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, shackled in affliction and iron." (Psalm 107) We are servants of the Eternal, and as such we are going to survive whatever terrible storms buffet this fragile planet. If we can remember that, we can survive.
Every day, we say powerful prayers that can keep us from succumbing to the cycle of mortality which haunts the world. "Hashem, our G-d and the G-d of our fathers ... accustom us to [study] Your Torah and attach us to Your commandments. Do not bring us into the power of error, nor the power of transgression and sin.... Let not the evil inclination dominate us. Distance us from an evil person.... Attach us to the good inclination and to good deeds and compel our evil inclination to be subservient to You." (Shacharis)
The Book of Deuteronomy (Sefer Dvarim) is frighteningly powerful. The prophetic passages literally describe the scene before our eyes, some forty-five hundred years later! "When you beget children and grandchildren and you will have been long in the land, you will grow corrupt and make a carved image ... and do evil in the eyes of ... your G-d. I call the heavens and the earth this day to bear witness against you that you will surely perish quickly from the land which you are crossing the Jordan to possess ..." (Deuteronomy 4:25-26)
Are the heavens and the earth not "bearing witness," my friends? When the storms rage and the sea boils, when the volcano spews and the ground shakes, are the heavens and the earth not following the commands of the One Who is all-knowing?
But listen to this!
"G-d will scatter you among the peoples and you will be left few in number among the nations where Hashem will lead you.... From there you will seek Hashem, your G-d, and you will find Him, if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things have befallen you, at the end of days, you will return unto ... your G-d and listen to His voice." (Deuteronomy 3:27-30)
My friends, is this not EXACTLY our world? Almost five thousand years ago, the Torah told us that we would someday be "scattered among the peoples," and that at "the end of days," in the midst of our "distress," we would experience a miraculous "return unto Hashem" and we would "listen to His voice"!
Has there ever been a time of such RETURN TO G-D? Have there ever before been so many baalai teshuva? There is NOTHING that anti-Torah forces and secular governments can do to stop it! Uncounted numbers of Jews are returning to G-d from "the Four Corners of the World"! This is fulfillment of prophesy! It is happening before our eyes!
HOW CAN ANYONE DENY THAT HASHEM IS PREPARING FOR THE FINAL REDEMPTION?
I am going to quote an extreme statement. I did not say this; it is from Gates of Emunah, by Rav Shimshon Dovid Pincus ZT"L: "We live in a modern world, but with all its technological advances ... the results are shockingly poor. Everything is put to use for the bad. The world was a more beautiful place without modern cameras and their streams of indecent images.... There is no modern invention that did not do harm to the world, without exception....
"One example... It used to be that when a Jew would desecrate Shabbos, it would be by stoking a fire or walking in the public domain carrying something in his pocket. Now, he gets in his car and drives. Every time he steps on the gas pedal he creates thousands of sparks per second. A single trip from New York to Baltimore causes more Shabbos desecrations than took place from the beginning of the world until the invention of the automobile!" (Page 273)
This is the world we are living in. This is the culture of Edom. It is not our culture. Ours is the world of Torah, pure and simple. That's how Hashem created the world, and mankind did nothing since Creation to improve upon it ... with one exception: when we live in the Sea of Torah, then we are doing what our Father in Heaven intended when He created the world. There is nothing else. That is all.
This is our job in the world.
This is our comfort. This is our consolation. This is our life!
"Nachamu, nachamu ami... Comfort, comfort My people, says your G-d. Speak to her and proclaim to her that her time of exile has been fulfilled, that her iniquity has been conciliated, for she has received from the hand of Hashem double for all her sins. A voice calls in the wilderness, 'Clear the way of Hashem, make a straight road in the plain, a highway for our G-d.' Every valley shall be raised and every mountain and hill shall be made low, the crooked shall become straight and the rugged a level low land. Revealed shall be the glory of Hashem and all flesh as one shall see that the mouth of Hashem has spoken." (Isaiah 40:1-5, Haftaras Va'eschanan).
Roy S. Neuberger