18 July 2010

"Torah, Tefilla and Tears"

by Roy S. Neuberger

Dear Friends:

The second paragraph of the Shema contains a terrible prophesy of punishment and exile. It begins after the word, "v'savata... and you will be satisfied." It is perhaps dangerous to be satisfied.

"Hear, O heavens and give ear, O earth, for Hashem has spoken: children have I raised and exalted, but they have rebelled against Me. An ox knows his owner and a donkey his master's trough; Israel does not know, My people does not perceive..." (Isaiah 1: 2-3; Haftaras Dvarim)

My friends, I believe that we are deluding ourselves in trying to find satisfaction in pursuing the goals of Western culture. G-d is smashing those idols left and right. Is it an accident that Western Culture is crumbling before our eyes?

"Fortunate is he who is always fearful; he who hardens his heart shall fall to misfortune" (Proverbs 28:14) is referring to the attitude of the Jewish People at the time of the destruction of the Temple. People had a sense of security because of their "great affluence and serenity, whereas instead "they should have been fearful and concerned...." (Tosfos on Gittin 55b as cited in the Introduction to "Churban and Golus" by Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg Shlita"h)
When will we learn? Is not every individual in pain, every family in agony? If not from my own pain, then from my friend's pain! This week alone, two families in our community were sitting shiva for their children! And this is a drop in the ocean of tears!

On our flight back from Israel last week, I looked out at the endless ocean! Miles deep, stretching on as far as the eye can see, even from 38,000 feet! How many drops are in the ocean? Fewer than the tears of our People?

My friends, what are we to do?

I have mentioned before the words of the Chofetz Chaim ZT"L regarding the "End of Days" (quoted by Rabbi Mattisyahu Salomon Shlita"h): There will be three wars. The first was the First World War. The second (predicted by the Chofetz Chaim before his death in 1933) was to be the Second World War. And the third (assuming that we do not do teshuva before then) will usher in the Final Redemption. The Chofetz Chaim said, however, that the third war would be different from the first two, in that the Angel of Death would in the final war have no power to harm righteous people! And what constituted a righteous person? One who sticks close to G-d and His Torah and who perceives the utter emptiness of the surrounding culture!

Let us try to comprehend this!

I have often experienced this: I have terrible anguish. Something is tearing me apart. Or, on the other hand, I am distracted by an infinite number of obligations, and my mind is going over all the minutiae that I "cannot forget to do." Or perhaps I am filled with anger at the guy next to me who is screaming out his prayers. The last thing I can do is concentrate on my prayers or my learning! And then, by some act of will and sanity, I just say goodbye to my evil inclination. I force myself to concentrate completely on my prayers or my learning. I plunge into the sea of Torah, the words of the Talmud.

My friends, I am not talking about meditating or "feeling good."


There is only ONE PLACE where our fate is decided! Not two, G-d forbid, or two million. Nowhere else is there Reality in this universe than in sticking like glue to G-d and His Torah!

Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg writes, "It is impossible to have a casual attitude to Torah. Success in Torah will spring forth from a vibrant, industrious attitude and drive, and - if not - the result is DESTRUCTION! Spiritual collapse is not simply failure; it is devastation... collective havoc!" (Churban and Galus, p. 37) "No other weapon will succeed against the evil inclination except the learning of Torah." (Quoting Rav Elchanan Wasserman ZT"L, p. 49)
My friends, I like steak. I really do. I like vacations. I like driving down the road with the wind in my face and looking at the beautiful sights. We live in a society that tells us we should indulge our desires, that we "owe it to ourselves" to live life to the "fullest." Go shopping. "Just do it." Entertainment! Sports! Indulge yourself; it's good for you!


The game is over! We cannot pretend any longer that we can be partly in the world of Western culture and partly in the world of Torah!

Rav Scheinberg's book has three chapters: Our Torah, Our Prayers and Our Tears.

Let us plunge into Torah, submerging ourselves into the depths and climbing the heights toward Heaven. Let us dive into our prayers "with all our heart and all our soul and all our resources."

Men, put your tallis over your head. Women, put your siddur in front of your face! No one will see us except our Father in Heaven when we "shed streams of water at the shattering of my people. My eye will flow and will not cease ... until Hashem looks down and takes notice from heaven!" (Eichah 3:48-50)
"Let him put his mouth to the dust ... there may yet be hope." (Eichah 3:29)

Surely He will have mercy on us and turn the day of catastrophe into a day of endless simcha!