Everything that happens to us, individually and collectively, happens for a reason. Rather, an entire array of reasons, each contributing a shade here, a subtlety there. The challenge for us is that they don’t arrive with labels to identify these reasons.
In the flurry of pre-Rosh HaShanah/Yom Kippur preparations, we tend to focus only on the reward-punishment dimension and remain unaware of the rich reality all the other many dimensions together generate. Thus it’s very easy to overlook the contribution of the “Greater the Kedushah the Greater the Tumah” mechanism. We then misread the message of many things that obstruct us and resist our efforts as punishment, leading us to wonder what we did wrong, when, in fact, this very resistance might be trying to signal to us just how right we are! And, the stronger the resistance the closer we might be to success. Additionally, this process operates on both the individual and the communal/national scales.
Our challenge, however, is that this resistance/opposition don’t come with handy labels for us to identify whether they are encouragement or discouragement (or are on an entirely different parameter) . We need to work that out for ourselves. This actually parallels a question posed by Devarim (13:2-6), how do we distinguish a false Navi (prophet) from a true one? The test is whether or not he leads us to נֵלְכָה אַחֲרֵי אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים אֲשֶׁר לֹא־יְדַעְתָּם וְנָעָבְדֵם, “Let us walk after (follow) “other” (external) gods which we never knew and let us (now) serve them,” or if he keeps us loyal to God and His Torah. The answer partially depends on what we’re engaged in when we encounter all this resistance. If we’re merely engaged in our personal agenda, it might be helping us resist self-damage that might result if we persist (the cliché of driving all over town to find a cheeseburger but finding all the fast-food shops closed). On the other hand, we can view this Yetzer Hara desire to transgress itself as resistance/confirmation of our efforts to eating properly. If we’re engaged in fulfilling our mandate of Torah and Mitzvot, for example settling the land of Eretz Yisrael (including living in Yehuda and Shomron, but also the tremendous difficulty many of us face just trying to bring ourselves on Aliyah to anywhere in the Holy Land), perhaps the obstacles that arise at our every step are ever-stronger signals that we are, indeed, headed on the right path!
Following our return, after two thousand years, to a thriving, albeit imperfect sovereignty in Eretz Yisrael, we continue to encounter the resistance of countless wars large and small since 1948, endless terrorism both in Israel and abroad, diplomatic isolation and raging worldwide antisemitism. As a major, and one of the penultimate steps towards creating the Kedusha in the world, our very raison d’être, we can understand all this resistance either as the mere continuations of age-old Jew-hatred, nothing new but just more, or as the outrage of Tumah, resisting not only the amazing Kedusha we’ve already achieved, but that much greater Kedusha we’re on the very verge of bringing to the entire world. It’s confirmation that not only are we on the right path, but that we’re so very close to success. When we see the jealous, last-ditch battle against any increase in Kedusha, even in such seemingly trivial matters as making a bracha over a drink of water on Har HaBayit, leading to the arrest and detention of the “offending” Jew, and ponder the threatened consequences of organized Jewish prayer on this holiest spot of physical creation, we should be even more encouraged that we’re doing what we should. Imagine the level of international outrage and condemnation when Kedusha is so great that all that remains to do is to build Bet HaMikdash, Bayit Tefilla l’Kol HaAmim, a House of Prayer for All Nations!
No, our goal is not to outrage, exclude or anger anyone. Our mission to return this powerhouse font of Or Ein Sof, the Infinite Life-giving Energy, to its physical manifestation is for the benefit of every nation and every individual, not merely that of Am Yisrael, the Jewish People. It is our exclusive job, yes, but not our exclusive turf. And it’s not the only job that needs to be carried out by Man, it’s just our job. (Our Torah and Mitzvot, addressed to us (while, of course, having important messages for other people), minimally discusses the responsibilities of other traditions, but certainly leaves open that other peoples, all peoples, have their unique roles in this ultimate project of completing Creation. Just as only we need to know the detailed instructions for our task, we don’t need to know the detailed instructions they have for theirs. We assume that they also are tasked with bringing Kedusha into the world (and people of good will and action of all faiths encounter parallel resistance to their good work just as we do to ours).)
Rather than despair, and there are more than enough crises and tragedies in today’s world and certainly within Israel and the Jewish world as well if that’s what you want to do, I choose to anticipate a new year of inspiration. We are so close. לשנה הבאה בירושלים!
May we all be inscribed and sealed for a holy and wonderful year.