Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Diaspora Jew

No, I'm not talking about Yitzhak Baer's Galut, but about the way so many Jews – in Israel and outside – naturally live as though tomorrow will be the same as yesterday, as though Diaspora and distance from Gd is the normal state of the Jew.

I've written before about how hard it is to believe in a mashiach; see here, for example. It is hard.

And the difficulty is reinforced by the fact that our yeshivot learn the 'practical', 'relevant' subjects, not Kodashim and Taharos.

And it's reinforced by the fact that we learn Shulchan Aruch which ignores the korban, and not Rambam who includes it.

And it's reinforced by the rabbis who numbly end speeches "and so we should merit mashiach bimheirah biyameinu amen." (I wonder if they daven that mashiach shouldn't come, lest they be stuck for a closing line for their derashos.)

And it's reinforced by the ritualization of our grief, the printing of Three Weeks manuals and Tishah b'Av kinos, the annual programs on-line and on video from many well-meaning teachers of Torah and inspirers of mitzvos.

My barber told me last week that he was scheduling his vacation for Tuesday, knowing that Jews wouldn't be coming in for the next few weeks. Sam Rezzo has absorbed from the Jews that mashiach isn't coming any time soon.

Have you heard the story about the Rav who was such a believer in mashiach that he put down a non-refundable deposit with a caterer to have his daughter's wedding during the Three Weeks, since he was sure mashiach would come tomorrow?

No, because it hasn't happened. We don't do that, we don't even imagine doing it.

And so rabbis who should know better say, "Of course we can't have visible demonstrations of Gd's existence, that would devalue Emunah (faith)," ignoring the fact that we had centuries of visible miracles when the Beit haMikdash stood, and we will again, Gd-willing.

And so we refer to the Beit haMikdash in the past tense, saying things like, "There was a mitzvah to do X when there was a Beit Mikdash" instead of "There is a mitzvah to do X, although right now there is no Beit haMikdash and so we don't do it."

And so we think of Prophecy as an artifact of history, not a normal part of our relationship with the Divine.

At least for these three weeks – until Tishah b'Av arrives as a day of celebration, I pray – I will work on being מצפה לישועה, anticipating redemption. May my prayers be answered positively.


  1. I'm not sure that waiting and anticipating the imminent arrival of Moshicah requires us to be convinced that he'll be hear by the end of next week.

    I hope and pray for Moshicah every day and wait for the day when I can greet him, but I still have a life insurance policy and pension fund.

  2. I think that as a nation, we have a lot to think about, re: The Beis HaMikdash. I don't think it is for naught that we haven't rebuilt it yet. There are two Beis HaMikdashes, the one that was, and the one that we idealize. In the one that was, while it was a focal point for the people in terms of prayer and pride, it was also the source of corruption and strife. Think of how many times the High Priest changed hands. It's not for naught that the Gemara asks who is on a higher level, a High Priest who is an Am HaAretz or a Mamzer who is a Talmid Chacham, these cases actually happened. Much of the machlokes btwn the groups (Pharisees, Saducees, Essennes, etc) had to do with the Beis HaMikdash, and how to practice in the Beis HaMikdash. It's no wonder that Chazal say the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed b/c of Sinas Chinam. The groups were all fighting over the Beis HaMikdash that it is as if G-d said, o.k., if the only way that you'll all stop fighting is if I take away the very thing that you're all fighting about, then that's what I'll do. So viola! no Beis HaMikdash.
    Now that we don't have it, have we, as a nation, learned and corrected ourselves so that we can merit having it back? Maybe, subconsciously as a nation, we don't know that answer and/or are afraid of the answer. Food for thought.
    May we merit to be able to build the Beis HaMikdash in the right manner.

  3. I once heard that when the Chafetz Chayim sent out wedding invitations for his children, it noted that the chasuna would be in Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh on such and such date. But if chas veshalom the moshiach hadn't arrived yet, it will be in Radin, Poland.

    As R. B. Wein says, if the story's not true, it should be true!

  4. Are you suggesting that all your examples, practically speaking, are not proper?

    Should yeshivos be spending their time learning kodshim and taharos instead of subjects that are relevant right now?

    Should we not have printed kinnos, or planned programming for Tisha b'Av?

    Should we not get haircuts/do anything to prepare for the restrictions of the 3 weeks and 9 days?

    Should we schedule weddings for the 3 weeks?

    Ok, fine - rabbis should end their speeches with either something different or actually mean what they say. But essentially, do you think we should live our lives as if Moshiach will come immediately? If that's not what you mean, what do you mean?

    If I'm hoping that tomorrow will be radically different, is it a contradiction to act with the awareness that it won't necessarily work out that way? Can I even assume that it probably won't work out that way?

  5. Should we not have printed kinnos,
    R'YBS pointed out that in some communities in Europe they trashed the kinnot every year after tisha b'av to show the belief that they wouldn't be needed the next year. IMHO we have here the classic maaseh/kiyum issue - the real question is how do we get people to feel there is something missing in their lives due to our lack of a beit hamikdash?
    Joel Rich

  6. The rabbi you mentioned who booked a wedding in the Three Weeks - he did exist, more or less: at the time of the Shabbatai Tzvi fiasco, a lot of European Jews did sell their property in anticipation of moving to Eretz Yisrael imminently. And look how that turned out.

    Obviously we should do what we can to hasten the coming of Mashiach, but to act as if we know for sure he is coming next week is certain to lead to disaster. Note that the failure of Tzvi to be the real Mashiach caused some of his followers to convert to Christianity or Islam.

  7. Michael-
    Understood; I hear.

    Anonymous 3:36 AM-
    Your picture of "the one that was" is the second Beit haMikdash; I'm dreaming of the first, in the pre-Avodah Zarah heyday.

    True; I was thinking about that when I wrote the post, but I couldn't remember who had done that.

    I wasn't challenging those practices (other than the speech ending), only saying that they contribute to a mentality.
    That said, I do think that yeshivos could stand to learn more kodashim and less nezikin; granted that nezikin sharpens the mind, I fail to see why Shor SheNagach is more relevant to day-to-day life for a non-dayyanus-track student than Eizehu Mekoman.

    Trashed kinos - Yes, the Rav did mention that annually. I would have loved to have seen that.
    And agreed re: your question.

    True, but those people were led by someone who claimed to actually be mashiach, not to be waiting for mashiach.

  8. True, but those people were led by someone who claimed to actually be mashiach, not to be waiting for mashiach.

    I don't understand: are you saying we should be actively waiting for Mashiach, but only until someone claiming to be him actually arrives?
    Or have I missed something?

  9. Daniel-
    Just saying that people are mis-led into extremes when someone is trying to mislead them. I don't see that much of a risk when it's an open hope for mashiach.

  10. I would in fact suggest learning the Rambam. The Shulchan Aruch is good as a commentary to the Talmud and Rambam, but not as a self consistent book. Besides it simply lacks the depth of the Rambam.
    Also building the Beit Hamikdash is not dependent on any messianic figure. It would be a good idea to build it already.

  11. You seem somewhat cynical talking about the coming of Mashiach. Every day before taking off my tefillin I say "ani ma'amin" and ask Hashem how much longer must we wait? There are many who are actively preparing for Mashiach and the rebuilding of the bet mikdosh. Machon Hamikdash is preparing all of the kelim and priestly garments. Techelet has been rediscovered. There is a kollel in the Jewish quarter of Kohanim who are learning Kodashim and Korbanot. I remember last year when the noted mekubal Hachalben announced that there was an opportunity that Mashiach would come between Rosh Chodesh Av and Tisha B'Av. There was great anticipation and disappointment when b'avonoteinu that window of opportunity closed. We are still waiting may he come speedily and in our days-be'ita achishena.

  12. Rosten-
    I agree on the value of Rambam, not so much on building the Beis haMikdash now. That one's locked up in too much halachic debate.

    I suppose I am skeptical about our general attitude toward Mashiach, but I am glad to hear from people who are sincerely מצפים לישועה.

  13. i think this is part of the hypocrisy of MO/RZ. sure each one of us has the perfect excuse why we are still in galus. but if we *really* believed in atchalta degeula it really takes no more than buying a plane ticket (or applying for a subsidized ticket from nefesh be-nefesh) to actualize what is otherwise lip service.


    "R'YBS pointed out that in some communities in Europe they trashed the kinnot every year after tisha b'av to show the belief that they wouldn't be needed the next year."

    i've heard that this is one reason many communities did not lein eicha from a klaf, i.e., because it would necessitate commissioning a new klaf every year.


    "at the time of the Shabbatai Tzvi fiasco, a lot of European Jews did sell their property in anticipation of moving to Eretz Yisrael imminently. "

    this is mentioned in the memoirs of gluckel of hameln.

    and of course the eagerness of jews to aceept one false messiah after another illustrates, at least historically, our messianic hopes.