Tuesday, April 16

Remember When... there were Refuseniks?

When I was in high school, we said that when the Refuseniks get to go to Israel, Mashiah will have come.

And here we sit watching the Speaker of Knesset (yuli Yoel Edelstein) say Sheheheyanu, as Yom HaAtzmaut is also his personal Yom Ness, the date he was released from Soviet Prison 27 years ago, after being sentenced for teaching Hebrew.

Has Mashiah come? Are we living the Geula?

When I was a kid, Olomeinu magazine published futuristic stories of Mashiah coming that were all supernatural, with shuls and school buildings flying in the air and landing in a rebuilt Yerushalaim, with a complete Beit HaMikdash ready and waiting.
From that perspective, Mashiah might never come.

But from the perspective of the Gemara, of the Rambam, Mashiah / Geula is here - in the form of a bit more light shining from Yerushalaim, a few more Jews coming Home, a few more Jews taking on a few more mitzvot, a few more organizations being started to improve the country according to Torah values in different areas of life. And at the same time, some truly supernatural events that we don't appreciate because we are living through them, and as the Gemara says אין בעל הנס מכיר בנסו (נידה לא א). Do we recognize the miracle in the USSR opening the Iron Curtain and letting the Jews leave? It happened almost overnight - Gorbachev , who rose through the ranks of the Red Party, and should have been as Commie as the next guy, opted for Glasnost and ended 70 years of decrees against the Jews. 70 years, the length of Galut Bavel, long enough for a new generation (people my age) to grow through teenage-hood knowing nothing about being Jewish except that it was a reason others could beat you up.

It seems so natural to us that 600,000 Jews, with few weapons, no real army, very few adults, many young holocaust survivors, should be able to stave off 11,000,000 arab soldiers - and go on to conquer territory!!

It seems so natural to us that with an enormous defense budget, we should have a government that provides free education to a population that is 25% schoolchildren, It seems natural to us that Israelis, after losing three years between high school and university to the army, and then a month a year to reserve duty, should win more Nobel prizes per capita than the US, Canada, France, Germany, Australia.... than 60 out of 71 countries that have laureates.

It seems so natural to us that children should play in the streets of Yerushalaim, that the elderly should sit and watch the children play, with their walking sticks , as they live to a ripe old age. (1)

It seems so natural to us that the land which lay barren for almost two millenia, should suddenly, when the Jews plant, bear fruit - fruit that is exported all over the world, winning awards for its wines and other products. (2)

It seems so natural to us that Torah learning in Israel should flower - that Torah learning should be part of "secular" radio and tv programs, and get high ratings, week after week, year after year. It seems natural to us that Jewish holidays are official days off work, that the school year, including college, are almost entirely set by the Hebrew calendar. (actually, college school years ARE entirely set by the Hebrew calendar). It seems natural to us that every mall and public building has a beautiful shul. It seems so natural to us that kids from all over the world should learn Torah and enter an international contest on the Tanach, and just hop on a plane to Yerushalaim to compete with other Jews from other places around the world, compliments of the Israeli government.

It seems so natural to us that a State should pay for this competition, dedicate resources from both civilian offices and the army , to support the learning of Torah. It even seems natural to us that there should be an army unit called the Army Rabbincal Choir.

It all seems so natural to us because we are going through it. Just as Yetziat Mitzrayim looked natural to anyone who didn't want to see HaShem's Hand. Paroah's magicians could copy some of the plagues. Some came about, probably, through earthquakes and volcanoes. So natural. (Forgetting, of course, that HaShem created Nature too.)

But if we look at the broader picture, take a step back and look at the headlines of the last century and a half of Jewish history - the Geula / Mashiah is making his slow and steady entrance, קמעא קמעא, as the Gemara says. (3) In order not to blind us with his light. In order to give us chances to improve - as individuals and as a nation- from the sins that lead to the exile, and deserve a Beit HaMikdash which will stand forever.

(1) "כה אמר ה' צ-באות: עֹד ישבו זקנים וזקנות ברחֹבות ירושלִָם, ואיש משענתו בידו מרֹב ימים. ורחֹבות העיר ימלאו ילדים וילדות משחקים ברחֹבֹתֶיהָ" (זכריה ח', ד-ה).

(2) "ומנין שכעת התחילה הגאולה האחרונה? זה מפורש בגמרא במסכת סנהדרין (דף צח.): "אמר ר' אבא: אין לך קץ מגולה מזה שנאמר 'ואתם הרי ישראל ענפיכם תתנו ופריכם תשאו לעמי ישראל כי קרבו לבוא'". ומפרש רש"י: "'מגולה מזה' - כשתתן ארץ-ישראל פריה בעין יפה אז יקרב הקץ ואין לך קץ מגולה יותר".

(3) תלמוד ירושלמי, ברכות, פרק א, הלכה א :
רבי חייא רבא ורבי שמעון בן חלפתא הוו מהלכין בהדא בקעת ארבל בקריצתה, וראו איילת השחר שבקע אורה. אמר רבי חייא רבה לרבי שמעון בן חלפתא בירבי: כך היא גאולתן של ישראל, בתחילה קמעא קמעא, כל מה שהיא הולכת היא רבה והולכת

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