By Daniel Keren
Rav Avraham Chaim Feuer, Rosh Yeshiva of Mesoras Mordechai in Ramat Beit Shemesh and the son-in-law of Rabbi Mordechai Gifter, zt”l, spoke yesterday at the Labor Day Yarchei Kallah Event orchestrated by Hakhel and the Torah Projects Commission of the Agudath Israel of America that was held at the Agudath Israel of Madison shul in Brooklyn. Hakhel is a Flatbush-based organization dedicated to promoting a greater awareness of Torah-true values in our community.
The topic of Rabbi Feuer’s lecture was taken from a pasuk in Tehillim 73:25 – “Tefillah: Who But You Do I Have in Heaven: When I am with You I Wish for Nothing Else on Earth.” He began by stating “Tefillah…tefillah…tefillah.” Dovid Hamelech had declared “My essence is of tefillah!”
Rabbi Feuer said that tefillah is not just about what we do three times a day. It is an all-day long affair about our dialogue with Hashem. Indeed the author of the Kuzari wrote of tefillah that it is the heart of our day. One should leave the shul with a great reluctance. Rather one should work to develop the attitude that the shul is our primary home.
If one however looks forward to getting out of shul quickly so he could dive into the pages of The New York Times or the Wall Street Journal and then get involved in the exciting action at the office and perhaps even play games on the computer, he is not going to have the proper attitude when the time comes to return to shul for Mincha.
Communicating All Day Long with the Great Dispatcher
We should, Rabbi Feuer said, aim to be like the car service driver who every few minutes calls the dispatcher to let him know where he is, how many more minutes he will need till he gets to his destination, etc. One should throughout the day be communicating with the Great Dispatcher – Hakodesh Baruch Hu. That is what Yiddishkeit is all about. It is not a religion. It is about developing an abiding relationship with the Abishter. Yiddishkeit is not just about building beautiful shuls. Tefillah is about being “Ani Tefillah” Yidden.
One was not allowed to in the time of the Bais Hamikdash to construct a matzevah, a monolith for a mizbeach or altar upon which to offer sacrifices to Hashem. Why? We know that our Avos hakadosha served the Abishter with matzevahs.
A monolith or matzevah is formed from just one large stone, whereas one has to take many small stones and embed them into a concrete format in order to build the type of altar permitted in the times of the Bais Hamikdash. The answer is that Hashem despises arrogance and we have to recognize that we are simply not on the spiritual same level as the Avos.
Our holy forefathers were alone in their time when it came to be devoted to fulfilling the service of the Abishter. But we must be part of the larger Kehillah and not isolate ourselves, even if we think that the other mispallilim are not acting properly (i.e. talking during davening.) If their behavior bothers you, rather that stop coming to shul for communal davening, complain to the rabbi. That is his job to control the kehillah.
Falling into the Terrible Sin of Arrogance
But don’t you run away to Pocatello, Idaho or eastern Montana in order to be isolated from other Jews and thereby not be distracted by a less than perfect kehillah in order to perfect your own avodas Hashem. To behave as such is to fall into the terrible sin of arrogance by comparing yourself to the Avos and that is an act similar to the prohibition of constructing a matzevah.
Yes, Rabbi Feuer said, we are certainly allowed to talk about Moshiach. That doesn’t make one into a Messianic Jew. Rather it is basic Judaism. The Ramban in the aftermath of his famous Disputation in Barcelona against a Dominican priest (who had sadly converted from Judaism) before King James I of Aragon writes that we can never be first class citizens in galus. Rather we must realize that we are second class citizens.
Today, even in Eretz Yisroel one must understand that he is still in galus, albeit the Shechina is next door. Rabbi Feuer declared “I am a Zionist as defined by Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi, whose main desire to live in the Holy Land was to forge a closer relationship with Hashem.” Galus is like a prison. Outside of Eretz Yisroel, this galus is like mamash being in a prison, whether it be a minimum or maximum security penitentiary. Being in Israel is also galus. Although it might be a more pleasant type of house arrest, it is still not the freedom of geulah [to serve the Abishter without interference from the non-Jews.]
The Ramban writes that [because we don’t understand that we are really second-class citizens] we are missing the precious opportunity that Galus affords us to properly cry out to Hashem and plead that He send us the Moshiach to redeem us from this spiritual exile. Indeed, Rabbi Feuer said, this is the basics of Yiddishkeit 101 – to request to Hashem that he send us Moshiach.
Hashem’s Gift of Reminding Us that We are Still in Galus
We have to correct our mistaken image of ourselves in [this Medina shel chesed] that we are first-class citizens in America. Rabbi Gifter once told his son-in-law that the fact that many Jewish urban neighborhoods in America have [experienced dramatic and unpleasant demographic changes] was Hashem’s special gift to us to remind us that we are still in galus and that we need to daven with more intensity to Hashem that He send us Moshiach and give us a chance to forge a truly stronger relationship with Him.
No matter how comfortable we now feel, Rabbi Feuer emphasized that even Flatbush or Boro Park or Lakewood is not forever and this understanding should bring us into a closer relationship with the Abishter. And in that merit may we be worthy of a chasima v’chasiva tovah.