Thursday, December 8, 2011

Responding to Wake Up Calls: What We Must Do

by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis 

For the past several weeks I have been discussing the contemporary crisis that is engulfing us and how we might respond to it. As we are all too aware, there is a new Hitler on the block. He has multitudes of followers and, as in the past, the world is ominously silent. In this column I will conclude (at least for the time being) this series on how we might respond to our challenges. That which I am writing is not based upon whim or opinion, but that which is rooted and documented in our Torah.

There is an amazing prophecy in the Yalkut Shimoni – a Medieval/Midrashic compilation that eerily foretells the events of today and should give us all pause: Rabbi Yitzchok said: “The year in which Melech Hamashiach will be revealed, all the nations of the world will be provoking each other. The King of Persia [Iran], will provoke the King of Arabia Saudi Arabia. The King of Arabia will go to the King of Edom [the leader of the Christian nations – the President of the United States] to take counsel, and the king of Persia [Ahmadinejad] will threaten to destroy the entire world.

The nations of the world will be outraged and panic. They will fall on their faces and experience pains like birth pangs. Israel too, will be outraged and in a state of panic, ask, ”Where do we go?”

“But say unto them, ‘My children, do not fear. The time of your redemption has come..... And this last redemption shall be different from the first that was followed by further bondage and pain. After this last redemption, you will not experience any further pain or subjection.” [Yalkut Shemoni, Isaiah 59]

The Klausenberger Rebbe, Z’tl, referring to this teaching said, “Remember these words. “They are perhaps not understood now, but in time they will be and be a source of strength to our people.”

Had you heard these prophecies centuries ago, when they were written, you might have laughed and scoffed – even if you read them as recently as 1970, you would have been hard put to believe it, for of all the Moslem countries the Shah’s Iran was probably the friendliest. But today, the impossible has become possible, and events are unfolding so rapidly, that we have difficulty absorbing their impact. So how are we to understand it all?

The Yalkut compares our suffering to birth pangs. But birth pangs are deceptive; when the contractions begin, it’s easy to ignore them since they are mild and occur between long intervals. As the birth becomes imminent however, the contractions intensify and the pain becomes more intense. And just when it appears that the woman can no longer endure the pain, the baby is born and new life enters the world. It is these labor pains to which we are witness today. How long will the labor last? It’s anyone’s guess, but one thing is certain – please G-d, the birth is sure to take place. In the interim however, we may very well ask, “Is it possible to ease the suffering? Is it possible to protect ourselves from these painful contractions?”

For that too, our sages have an answer: “Let he who wishes to be spared the birth pangs of Messiah occupy himself with Torah and gemilas chassidim [acts of loving-kindness] and let him be scrupulous about Seudah Shlishis – the third Sabbath meal.”

The first two recommendations – Torah and gemilas chasadim are self-explanatory and do not require much elaboration, for he who is committed to Torah and mitzvos and to reaching out with loving kindness must, of necessity, become a better, more spiritual person.

But eating a third Sabbath mean is not as readily comprehensible. We are enjoined to have three seudos – meals on the Sabbath – Sabbath eve [Friday night], Sabbath noon [following prayer in the synagogue] and the third seudah – meal —in the late afternoon as the Sabbath Queen prepares to depart. Through these three meals we honor the three Patriarchs, the three sections of our scriptures [Torah, Prophets, and the Writings] and we recall the three Sabbath meals of manna that G-D provided us during our sojourn in the wilderness [Exodus 16:25].

This final Sabbath seudah is called Shalosh Seudah, which translated literally means “Three Meals” rather than Seudah Shlishis – the third meal. Our Sages explain that the reason for this is that all three Sabbath seudos are embodied in this one.

This third mean presents a most auspicious time for prayer. And to this very day, when I close my eyes, I can hear the sweet voices of my revered father and my beloved husband of blessed memory, leading their congregants in singing Psalm 23, the psalm that is traditionally chanted at the Shalosh Seudas.

“The L-rd is my Shepherd, I shall not want... The task of the shepherd is a lowly and lonely one. Day in and day out, he is destined to wander from place to place, seeking pasture for his flock, and yet, David did not hesitate to refer to G-d as a Shepherd, for he perceived that G-d’s love is so total so encompassing that when it comes to caring for His children, nothing is beneath him. What a magnificent and fortifying thought - for no matter where life takes us, even if we have to walk in the treacherous valley overshadowed by death, we need not fear, for G-D, our Shepherd, will always be there to lead us to greener pastures, even if, at first, we do not recognize that the pasture is green.

Still, it is difficult to comprehend how the mere eating of a third meal, singing Psalm 23, and discussing Words of Torah could have such awesome power that they can actually protect us from the suffering that will accompany the birth pangs.

But there is a profound lesson at the root of this teaching. The first two Sabbath seudos are eaten when we are hungry, but after a festive noontime seudoh, we are hardly in the mood for yet another meal. So it is not to satiate our hunger that we gather around the Shalosh Seudos table. Rather, it is to celebrate the Sabbath and sing her praises, and that is why the Third Meal encompasses them all. The Third Meal is symbolic of the conversion of the physical to the spiritual, and ultimately, that is our purpose – to become spiritual beings and to free ourselves from the shackles of materialism – and that is something that our generation, obsessed with materialism and the pursuit of pleasure has yet to learn.

You might of course wonder, “Why must we experience birth pangs in order for Messiah to come? Why can’t he just announce his presence? But the Messianic period will be very much like Shalosh Seudas, when we sit around the table, not to satiate our physical hunger not to glory in our material achievements, but to celebrate our spiritual attainments.

In order for that to happen, we will have to divest ourselves of all the icons that we hold dear. Therefore, our hallowed institutions, the bastions of strength in which we placed our trust, will have to fall away. It is that painful disintegration to which we are witness today. From the corporate world to government, to religious institutions, to science and medicine, they have all failed us. And worse, we no longer feel safe or secure in our daily lives. Terrorists and suicide bombers have become a reality of our existence and no army or police force is capable of defending us from them.

Additionally, we are witness to constant horrific natural disasters – Tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, floods.... we see the devaluation of our assets, be it the dollar or the Euro.... We see dictators, who for generations ruled with an iron fist falling like dominos as they are overtaken by Muslim fanatics, the sons of Yishmael. Yes, prophecy is unfolding before our very eyes.

Shorn of our defenses, we stand vulnerable and terrified and wonder where it will all end...... what is it all about? But we see only that which we want to see and hear only that which we want to understand as our world quickly disintegrates.

How long will these birth pangs last?.... Until we recognize the simple truth – that “we can rely on no one but our Heavenly Father.” So let us sound the shofar, awaken ourselves from our lethargy, and heed the voice of our Father calling us. And that is the only answer to the big question – what are we to do?

Even as I write these words, I realize that this simplistic response may disappoint and irritate many. But there is no way that we, the Jewish people, can escape our destiny.

G-d appointed us to be His light on this planet, a light, which illuminates the world with His Torah.... a light which proclaims G-d is One and His Name is One... And that is our calling – a calling that we cannot escape.


Moshe said...

It says in the Zohar Hakadosh that the 4th seuda(Melava Malka)is the continuation of Seudat Shelishi and who ever missed that it is like he/she did not have 3rd seuda. Somebody have to be careful eat it with a kezait of bread and within 4 hours after sunset.

mj said...

Yes of course moshiach is very close... like 228 years away.

Moriah said...

Palestinians from Syria invade Israel, tens wounded; UPDATED :

Leah said...

Beautiful as usual. We need her so much to continue to be a guiding light to us and to continue to keep us spiritually awake and toremind us that the time is coming sso quickly.Thank you, Devorah for spending the time effort and energy todisseminate these words- it is your merit, too.

Joe said...

Devorah, as I was reading this simple but frank article by the Rebbetzin, these passukim in Yeshayahu 66 kept evolving in my heart.

ז בְּטֶרֶם תָּחִיל, יָלָדָה; בְּטֶרֶם יָבוֹא חֵבֶל לָהּ, וְהִמְלִיטָה זָכָר. 7 Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man-child.
ח מִי-שָׁמַע כָּזֹאת, מִי רָאָה כָּאֵלֶּה--הֲיוּחַל אֶרֶץ בְּיוֹם אֶחָד, אִם-יִוָּלֵד גּוֹי פַּעַם אֶחָת: כִּי-חָלָה גַּם-יָלְדָה צִיּוֹן, אֶת-בָּנֶיהָ. 8 Who hath heard such a thing? Who hath seen such things? Is a land born in one day? Is a nation brought forth at once? For as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.
ט הַאֲנִי אַשְׁבִּיר וְלֹא אוֹלִיד, יֹאמַר יְהוָה; אִם-אֲנִי הַמּוֹלִיד וְעָצַרְתִּי, אָמַר אֱלֹהָיִךְ. {ס} 9 Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the LORD; Shall I that cause to bring forth shut the womb? saith thy God. {S}
י שִׂמְחוּ אֶת-יְרוּשָׁלִַם וְגִילוּ בָהּ, כָּל-אֹהֲבֶיהָ; שִׂישׂוּ אִתָּהּ מָשׂוֹשׂ, כָּל-הַמִּתְאַבְּלִים עָלֶיהָ. 10 Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her; rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her;
יא לְמַעַן תִּינְקוּ וּשְׂבַעְתֶּם, מִשֹּׁד תַּנְחֻמֶיהָ; לְמַעַן תָּמֹצּוּ וְהִתְעַנַּגְתֶּם, מִזִּיז כְּבוֹדָהּ. {ס} 11 That ye may suck, and be satisfied with the breast of her consolations; that ye may drink deeply with delight of the abundance of her glory.

The main point that stands out in these passages as startling odd is passuk 7 that before she,ie Israel travailed she brought forth and before the birth pangs, she delivered a man-child, ie Mashiach.

Reading the entire perek, one may put these passukim into context and be amazed at how they relate to the complexity of our times.
I guess that anything is possible, at least with an open mind and a soft and trusting heart.

Any thoughts ?

Devorah said...

mj: We are currently in the time period known as erev Shabbat - with Shabbat being the year 6000. Moshiach can come any, and will come, for all of us to see, including you.
For more info go to: The Eleventh Hour

Leah said...

Yes, Mj. What it means is that by the year 6000 if Moshiach has not come Hashem will bring him. We are in a time period known both as Ikveisa and Chevlei Moshiach. (both the footsteps and the birth pangs of Moshiach. In past generations they had one of the 15 signs of Moshiach's imminent arrival. Our generation is known as being at the ketz (the end).Our generation has all 15 signs lined up. Our greatest rabbeium explain through the code of the torah that we are at the end of the end. It amy take a few years- but it will not be the 228 years. There comes a certain point at which we pass certain time frames and with the signs we believe we are at that point. There is a vast amount of information on this website as well as others.

Anonymous said...

"The study of Kabbala affects our relationship with the nations
The redemption of Israel and all the worth of Israel is dependent on the learning of the Zohar and the innermost aspect of the Torah. The opposite is true also. All the afflictions and degradations that have come upon the Children of Israel are on account of their neglecting the most intimate part of Torah, and not having valued it but having related to it as something superfluous, G-d forbid."
More here: