Thursday, July 09, 2009

Currently "Between The Narrows"

What do a garden hose nuzzle, a hydraulic power plant, and a shofar have in common? You take something with potential that is currently not doing much, confine it in a narrow space, squeeze it through an even narrower passage, and presto! you can send a spray of water clear across your lawn, light up a small city in England, or transform a mouthful of air into a piercing note.

We currently find ourselves in a stretch of the Jewish calendar called "Between the Narrows" (Bein Hametzarim). On the 17th of Tammuz (this year July 9), the walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Roman legions besieging the city; twenty-one days later, on the 9th of Av, the Holy Temple was set aflame. These two events spawned twenty centuries of galut -- of physical persecution and spiritual alienation for our people. Today, the two fast days stand as markers of national tragedy, with all the pain and frustration of our galut compressed into "The Three Weeks" they enclose.

During this period of bitterness and introspection, we take stock of the faults that led to the destruction of the Temple, and try to eradicate them from our own conduct. Why was the Temple destroyed? One reason given is unwarranted hatred. The Jewish people, even during the siege of Jerusalem, remained fractionalized and divided with a gross lack of love and respect for each other. How can this be corrected? By showing unrestrained love. By reaching out to another person and showing him care and concern. Do a favor for someone else, not because there is a reason to do so. Don’t spend time thinking of reasons why and whether you should help another person. Use that same time to think about how you can help him. Be an initiator and the others will always respond. Ultimately, the heart opens to the heart.

What is the motivating principle for this motif? The fact that at the core of every person there lies a soul which is a G-dly spark, and that every element of existence is being maintained by G-d each moment. By conducting ourselves in a manner that attests to and reflects these truths, we nudge them closer to revelation. Every entity seeks to express its inner nature. Reaching out with love and kindness inspires and encourages the good and generosity that lie at the core of all others to come to the surface.

Such deeds affect the macrocosm as well as the microcosm, bringing closer the Era of the Redemption, when these concepts will be concrete realities, not merely abstract truths.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe would always say that we cannot, must not, dare not, explain the galut. G-d does not need our help to justify His ways; we do Him a greater service by pleading and clamoring for an end to His and our exile. Nevertheless, even as we refuse to accept the travesty of galut, we should still exploit its positive dividends. The Jewish soul, a divine expanse of goodness and light, has been squeezed into the narrow straits of galut. Imagine what will come out at the other end! Already, this cosmic pinch has wrung from the Jewish soul wells of talent and creativity, and depths of faith and commitment, that in the good old broad days were only implicit in its potential.

May we soon merit the great shofar blast of Moshiach, and the great moment of the soul's bursting free of the strictures of galut.


the sabra said...

Yanki Tauber was one major contributor to this post.

(pfff that makes it sound like we phone-typed this together or something hehe)

the sabra said...

Bla bla bla Shaul.

ha'sabra said...

....but I am SO glad I did it. MUCH easier to internalize this way...