By Yochanan Gordon
From the amount of time that the earthquake in Haiti has been given in the media it seems that it has left an impact on many lives. The question of course is what is the nature of the impact? In a world that could attest to the human atrocities of Hitler and Stalin and the ugly head of the modern-day Muslim extremists, it seems that little has been accomplished from a moral, ethical perspective towards reshaping a better world.
I was among the many who committed my thoughts to paper last week on the recent earthquake in Haiti. While many of the pieces written were from a humanitarian and political perspective, I decided to digress from that point of view and address it from an angle that will benefit us as a people more in the long run.
The crux of last week’s essay was based on the importance seeing through to the core of the incident. There are no coincidences in this world. In fact, our sages put it quite succinctly, “Devarim gedolim einom b’mikrah”. One of the commenter’s following last week’s submission pointed out that the Tsunami which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives happened as well during the week that the Parsha of Va’eira which would account for seven out of the ten plagues that G-d brought upon the Egyptians as a prelude to the Exodus.
Conversations with various people regarding the news of a dybbuk lodged in a Brazilian man revealed what could serve as an obstacle to our growth as individuals as well as a nation following such devastating and life altering occurrences. In looking to verify or disprove the veracity of the dybbuk many look back eleven years ago to the last report of a dybbuk as well as the exorcist, Rav David Batzri, a known Yerushalmi Mekubal who was commissioned to exorcise the wandering soul in both cases. Following the popularly believed conclusion of the last dybbuk, where the inflicted woman came out saying the whole episode was a farce, deflated the excitement and hopes of those who felt that we had a case of a real dybbuk on our hands.
My family and I spent this past Shabbos in Waterbury, CT where I had learned in Beis Medrash for a number of years as well as having lived there together with my wife the year after our marriage learning in Kollel. Having not been there for nearly a year it was quite nostalgic and a very enjoyable Shabbos which was spent with old friends as well as the newly appointed Bostoner Rebbe of Har Nof, Israel who graced the community with his presence over the weekend.
Towards the end of the Shabbos seudah, having up to that moment discussed various topics on the Parsha and what’s new in and around the community I decided to open a can of worms and throw the question out. Looking at my Rebbe and his Rebbetzin I asked, so what do you think of the dybbuk story that has been circulating over the past month? It seems that the Rebbetzin was more familiar with the goings on so she took the liberty to give her opinion. Basing her decision on the ruling of Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, the Rosh Av Beis Din of the Eidah Hachareidis, she too felt that the whole story was fabricated or set-up as the last one allegedly was. Probing a little deeper I began to search for her reason for substantiating the claim of Rav Sternbuch who never met the inflicted Brazilian man, calling it a mental illness. The truth then came out. While there is seemingly a concept known as dybbuk it certainly does not happen anymore, she claimed. You should realize that in a totally unrelated conversation that I had with a Kollel Avreich regarding the same topic, he had the same claim. As I did in the conversation with the Avreich, I countered, seventy years ago in the time of the Chofetz Chaim it was possible to have a dybbuk but today not? The Rebbetzin as well as the Avreich replied similarly, the era that the Chofetz Chaim lived in was a much greater one than ours which would authenticate the claim of a dybbuk in that time as opposed to our generation which is more spiritually desensitized.
In light of this response it is no longer important whether or not the story of the dybbuk is true or not because we have a much larger problem on our hands than a dybbuk. Have we forgotten the spiritual state of the Jews when they were extracted from Egypt? While four-fifths of the Jews did not make it out of Egypt, of those who did leave, many were idol worshippers. The question begs itself, if four fifths died in Egypt, what was the saving grace, or the distinguishing factor between those that died and those who left despite their idolatrous lifestyle? The famous answer and quite a profound thought is that they may have been idol-worshipers, which was certainly a result of the depraved society that they were a part of for so long. But that did not detract from their will to get out of there! They were addicts who so badly wanted to break an addiction that had become an inseparable part of them. As a result, their conviction to leave Egypt was great and G-d heard their cries as well and counted them from amongst those to leave the bitter exile. In light of this, it could be that some of the four-fifths who stayed back in Egypt were not the worst sinners amongst the people, but their desire to leave Egypt where they had become comfortable was not as urgent and so if it was not important for them as individuals G-d did not intervene on their behalf.
Being privy to G-dly messages or welcoming the final stage of redemption is not always about deserving it, but about how badly we want it. It seems that people among us are forever finding excuses why G-d can’t bring Moshiach and why there can’t be a dybbuk and I believe this attitude causes more pain and anguish to G-d than anything else. That there could be people who daven three times a day, observe the laws of Shabbos, Kashrus and family purity and still after years of savage suffering in galus have not had enough is unconscionable. That a son who has been exiled from the table of their father and has chosen not to return – brings more pain and suffering to G-d than anything else.
There is a video of a public address of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe where he speaks of the tragedies that have been befalling us in the later stages of exile and his question of course was why? Why does G-d have to bring Moshiach amidst such tragedy and sadness as opposed to peaceful times? Briefly, the Rebbe explained that G-d in his infinite wisdom foresaw that if Moshiach would be welcomed in peaceful times after a long, painful exile no one would cry out for G-ds salvation. The Rebbe, with a crying tone and tears streaming from his eyes said that the reason for all the pain is so that after nearly two-thousand years in exile a Jew should not be complacent and forget about the pain that G-d is so to speak personally enduring in exile.
We should be personally moved by the events that have been transpiring of late. They are meant to arouse us individually and collectively to recommit ourselves in areas that we may have been neglecting and to continue to build upon those areas that we have been observant in. But above all, why should G-d want to bring Moshiach if no one wants him? It is time that we open our eyes and ears and acknowledge the message that has been sent our way and in a showing of global unity finally call it from the depths that we have had enough and G-d will respond in kind – because that is all He is waiting for. ♦
Yochanan Gordon is a contributing Editor at the 5 Towns Jewish Times. Comments are welcome below or to firstname.lastname@example.org.