28 August 2013

Medinat Yehuda : The Eighth Year (Pt 1)

22 Elul 5773

The following was written in Adar 5762, the first year of a new shmitta cycle. The title is an allusion to these words of Talmud - "in the eighth year Ben David will come." So, it didn't occur in that shmittah cycle or the next, but we still have hope for the current one. We will never lose hope - "...for though he tarry, yet will I await him."

PS. Amazing how relevant the ending is for today.




By now, most of you are probably aware that a new group of women has arisen from the dunghill which spawned the Four Mothers and has presumed to call itself the Seventh Day; an allusion to finishing what was not completed at the end of the Six Days War…the return of “the occupied territories.” I’m writing to confirm what you already know; that they are way off. It isn’t the Seventh Day, but the Eighth Year! Not the night of our surrender, but the dawn of our redemption!!

As I watch events unfold, I am constantly amazed at the many levels and parallels evoked by the phrase “birthpangs of mashiach.” A mother is uniquely qualified to understand this imagery. There are three phases to the first stage of labor, each with it’s own defining quality. A woman experienced in childbirth learns to recognize the signs of each phase and thereby to accurately gauge her progress towards the birth.

The first, or latent phase, is the longest. It is characterized by contractions which are mild in intensity and short of duration with long periods of rest in between, which become progressively shorter. The second, or active phase, is slightly less long, but its contractions are longer, stronger and closer together. Most of the work of labor is accomplished during this phase. The third phase of labor is notorious among women educated to the experience and it is the K2 (of mountain-climbing fame) of childbirth. It is the most dreaded and also the most anticipated period of labor and it is called Transition.

Transition is the shortest, most intense, most painful part of labor. It is characterized by the hardest contractions, each of which begins approximately where the last one ends. There is hardly time to take a breath in between. Awareness and concentration becomes focused inwardly so that the laboring woman is unable to carry on a conversation or pay attention to what is happening in the environment. The urge to quit and give up is very strong at this point and many women even make such astounding statements in the process, even to the point of trying to get up off the birthing bed and leave, as if that were possible! What gets each and every woman through this near-death experience is the constant and unremitting vision of the soon-to-be-held babe. There has never been a natural birth without first enduring a painful and bloody labor. But, it is worth everything to be able to hold that precious newborn on the other side of that haze of suffering.

It is clear that Rosh Hashana 5761 presented us with the onset of labor. The progress of the warfare we have been experiencing ever since gives every indication that this is the real thing. With the movement of the IDF into the refugee camps last week, which the secular press labeled a “new phase,” and the resulting “bloody show” of unremitting, high-cost terror attacks without time or space for relief, it appears that we have just entered into the Transition phase of the “birthpangs of mashiach.”

The end of this most painful phase of labor brings not so much a reduction of pain, but a change in its character as the woman reaches the point where she leaves the position of passive suffering and begins the active work of pushing the baby through the birth canal. Although the hard work is still not finished, it comes as a great relief to most women to be able finally to do something. Whereas previously she felt at the end of her rope and totally unable to go on any further, when given the ok to begin to push, she feels suddenly rejuvenated and with a fresh rush of adrenalin puts her entire being into the task of delivery. Appropriately enough, the imminent birth is announced with the “crowning of the head.”

This is mesirut nefesh---this willingness to provide the body for the conception, the development, the nourishment, and the eventual expulsion of that newborn into the world. This is the collective mesirut nefesh of Am Israel in Eretz Israel. Were it not for the willingness of Jews to stand strong in the face of the enemies, both within and without, in our Land, in these days, there would be no messianic hope. This is Redemption in its time and it will come no matter what we do or don’t do. Our actions or lack thereof are going to determine our own and our family’s ability to survive, but the process itself will be unaffected. Hold fast to what you have and prepare yourselves and those over whom you have influence to withstand the shock of Hashem’s hand reaching into our physical reality. The birth is imminent!

“... Three times in the future Gog and Magog will come against Israel and go up to Jerusalem; the nations will concentrate to go up to Jerusalem ... (Sha’arei Leshem, 491)

With respect to this, Rabbi Lopian said:

I heard in London from the holy Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman, quoting the Chofetz Chaim, that Chazal say the war of Gog and Magog will be threefold. After the First World War, the Chofetz Chaim said that this was the first battle of Gog and Magog, and in about twenty-five years (1942) there would be a second world war, which would make the first one seem insignificant, and then there would be a third battle ... Rav Elchanan concluded that one must suffer the pangs of Moshiach, but the wise man will quietly prepare himself during that time-perhaps he will be worthy of seeing the comforting of Tzion and Yerushalyim. (Lev Eliyahu, Shemos, p.172)

… it is a war that will act as a final test of faith in G-d,….”

Devash, 28 Adar 5762