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To Want Mashiach Now
In Memory of Leah bat Tzvia
There I was, in bed at 3:00 a.m., wide awake and feeling as empty as ever. I went to aish.com/wallcam, and before I could take a closer look at the picture, my tears started flowing, and they wouldn't stop. There is an Aish camera in Jerusalem, which snaps pictures of the Kotel (Western Wall). They say, "It's the next best thing to standing there." It might be. I just don't see why we should settle for an image on a computer screen which refreshes every twenty minutes.
See, it all started a while ago. A friend came back from Israel and brought me a gift. It was a little model of the Kotel, with people standing by it. Truthfully, at that point, I didn't know what the big deal was. For years, I saw people's excitement as they shared their experiences in Israel, though, I never felt a pull towards it. I figured there had to be something wrong with that, but I didn't see how I could change it. I placed that little model on the center of my desk at work, and after seeing it day after day, I decided to talk to G-d about it.
I said something along the lines of, "G-d, I grew up in Queens. It's my home. I can't imagine living my life anywhere else. And while most people might say that I live in a bubble, I don't care. I love it that way. There's just one problem. When Mashiach comes, I'll have to go. And by not wanting to leave, I'm holding Mashiach back from finally revealing himself. You want me to want Mashiach. I want to want Mashiach. Take me to Israel, and show me what I'm missing. Please make me want it."
Before I knew it, I was at the El-Al website, buying my ticket. G-d answered my prayers. (It wasn't as easy as it sounds. I had to get permission from parents who thought they would never ever let me go. G-d has His ways.)
I came back to New York a few weeks ago. On the taxi ride home, I observed my surroundings. The only question that kept replaying in my head was, "What are we doing here?" Ever since then, I don't feel the comfort of living in Queens like I used to. I can't seem to get settled. My feet don't feel like they've touched the ground. Is this what galut (exile) feels like?
People tell me, "Yeah, don't worry. It happens to everyone who goes to Israel. Wait a little bit. Life will get back to normal." While that does sound nice, I don't think I want it to. I don't want to feel at home in galut. I don't want to be so attached and comfortable here that I'll resist Mashiach and refuse to go when the time comes.
"By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat, we also wept when we remembered Zion" (Tehilim 137:1). When the Jews were exiled from their land and taken to Babylon, they cried. What were they crying about? I learned the following from Rav Shimshon Dovid Pincus:
At that time, the Jews went through immense physical and emotional pain. Millions of men, women, and children experienced horrifying things. "Better off were the victims of the sword than the victims of hunger..." (Eicha 4:9). Our Sages tell us that the Euphrates River killed more Jews than the Babylonian king, Nevuchadnetzar, did. In Israel, they drank rainwater from springs and wells, but in Babylon, they drank from the Euphrates, and many died on the spot. The Jews mourned those who died, in addition to all who died along the way and weren't buried. While they were mourning, Nevuchadnetzar and his officers celebrated with music on a ship. The kings of Yehuda were in iron chains and were walking unclothed on the banks of the river. When Nevuchadnetzar saw them, he said to his servants, "Why are they walking without a load on their shoulders?" Immediately, the servants gave loads for the Jews to carry. At that time, the Jews cried, and their cries reached Heaven.
This is only a small description of how the Jews suffered. Still, through it all, every time they cried, it wasn't because they were being hurt or killed. What kind of thoughts did the Jews have? Only yesterday, they were rich, and today, they had nothing. Yesterday, they had children, and today, they buried them. And at night, when they went to sleep, they twisted and turned in bed because of all the pain. Of course, who could sleep in a situation like that? But we have to understand what they were feeling pain about. "On my bed at night, I sought him whom my soul loves..." (Shir HaShirim 3:1). They missed G-d! They missed Jerusalem. They missed the Shechina (G-d's Divine Presence). This feeling was so great that they even forgot all their other pain.
Imagine a child who never saw the light of day. He grew up in a dark basement and spent his whole childhood there. He doesn't know anything about the world. He doesn't even know that there is a world out there. He doesn't know what light is. He also doesn't know that he has parents to miss. Just like that child, we can't understand the depth of the love that the Jews had for G-d. I spoke with a friend a few days ago, and I told her that I miss being in Jerusalem. She said to me, "Just remember, the sad part is that we don't even know what we're missing." That sentence hit me hard!
We're missing this feeling of, "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your love is better than wine" (Shir HaShirim 1:2). When they had the Beit HaMikdash, they experienced Simchat Beit HaShoeva. For seven days and nights, they danced nonstop and felt true happiness in their hearts. They drew Ruach HaKodesh (Divine Inspiration) from there. We all know how to draw water into a bucket. How can you draw Ruach HaKodesh, though? We don't know this, but they did! I remember standing by the Kotel and praying. It felt so peaceful and comforting to be there. Even though it was my first time, it felt as if I had been there a million times before. If that's what I experienced praying by one wall (which is the outer wall that surrounded the Beit HaMikdash), can we even begin to imagine the emotion that will come with having the whole Beit HaMikdash there? Can we picture having G-d's Presence and all the good stuff that comes with it --- the happiness, the clarity, the peace, the joy, the blessings, the fulfillment?
It's hard to imagine because we never saw it before with our own eyes, but our fathers and mothers did. They experienced it all. Even though we don't know what we're missing, this shouldn't be used as an excuse to settle.
One of Rambam's thirteen Principles of Faith is: "I believe with full faith in the coming of Mashiach. And even though he may delay, I will wait for him every coming day." Are we really waiting? If he were to show up right now, would we leave our little world, our bubble, behind? Would we go to Israel with joy? Are we missing G-d? Are we feeling lost in exile?
Being told to desire something and following through on it can be difficult, especially if you don't want that specific something and you don't see any reason why you should. In this case, wanting the desire helps! Tell G-d how you feel. Let's say, for example, there are people who have a hard time praying. Some days, they just don't feel like it. There are two choices. They can either settle and say, "Well, it is what it is," or they can turn to G-d for help and say, "G-d, I want to desire praying. Please give me the love for it. Let me look forward to it. Let me enjoy it and feel fulfilled by it so that I'll want to pray even more."
The same goes for missing G-d and desiring the Beit HaMikdash and waiting for Mashiach. Ask G-d to make you want it, and welcome the new thoughts, emotions, and opportunities He'll send your way. Create the desire, and bring Mashiach closer!
My dear readers: Originally, that was supposed to be the end of the article. Something happened on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, though, which calls for more to be said. Someone very close to me passed away. Her name was Leah. No one is ever prepared for these types of things. There was no reason to think of it because she only just turned three years old and she was very healthy. The first thing I remember saying when I heard the news was, "No. This doesn't happen to us. This happens to other people. Not to us." I was in denial. The idea of Leah not being here anymore wasn't one my brain could process. It was the type of news I would hear about a different family in another city. It was the kind of story I would read in a book about emuna (faith) and bitachon (trust) --- you know, the one where the couple loses their baby and then is told by a holy rabbi that their baby had a special soul which came back into this world as a reincarnation to correct one last thing and earn great reward in Heaven. No one ever thinks this kind of thing will happen to them, though.
All the Jews are connected. Any time we do a mitzva (commandment), we create merits for the entire nation and we get closer to G-d. However, if we do aveirot (transgressions), we distance ourselves from G-d. When we experience pain, it atones for our aveirot and purifies us. The rabbis at the funeral said that instead of having many people suffer in order to atone for our nation's aveirot, G-d decided to take just one very pure soul. He chose Leah. Leah's mother said to me, "Look how kind G-d is. She went to sleep with a smile on her face, and G-d took her neshama with a kiss. She went to shamayim (Heaven) in her sleep, without pain and without suffering."
Leah was born on the 29th of Adar, the week of Parshat Vayikra. After living three complete years, she passed away on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, again the week of Parshat Vayikra. Nothing is coincidence. As we know, Parshat Vayikra is Parshat Korbanot (the portion about sacrifices). Leah was the korban, complete and without any blemish. It's a great comfort to know that our Leah was here in this world on a special mission and that she fulfilled it.
The most painful thing for me is when I hear, "This isn't fair. You are such good people. How could this happen to you? You don't deserve it," or when I hear, "It was so-and-so's fault." This Was Completely From G-d. G-d is the true Judge, Entirely fair. Anyone who saya otherwise is blind. Rav Pincus actually says that this is the big miracle of today --- the possibility for people not to see G-d in their lives. It's because of exile. There is darkness around us, and it blinds us. Otherwise, it would be absolutely clear that G-d is here and that He is the one who runs the world every moment.
In these times, we must strengthen ourselves with emuna, and we must pray to G-d that He should help us have greater trust in Him daily. I recommend you read "The Garden of Emuna" by Rav Shalom Arush (translated into English by Rabbi Lazer Brody), and practice what it says every day. Another book which was just published is "Nefesh Shimshon: The Gates of Emuna" by Rav Shimshon Dovid Pincus.
I know that through all of this, I am holding on to G-d very tightly. I'm crying for Mashiach more than ever before. My brothers and sisters, wake up. Hearing her mother cry and call out "Leah, Leah, Leah" over and over again, as they escorted the body out in a small coffin, pierced my heart. This is exile. Wake up! Do teshuva. Work on your emuna and bitachon. Do a self-evaluation. What kind of relationship do you have with G-d? What kind of relationship do you have with your family? How do you treat your life? How do you react to joyful things in your life? Do you say that it's from G-d? Do you thank Him for it? How do you react to painful things? Do you say and believe that it's completely from G-d? Are you able to accept it and feel at peace in your heart? Think about it, and take action. The time is now!