A Thought for the Week
If you havent noticed the world is going Y2K crazy. Im not talking about the computer bug which may be a legitimate concern. Im talking about the religious issue. It started off with a few fanatics that decided the world is coming to an end, has infiltrated the thinking of main stream religion and over the past few months has even found a home in Jewish thought. Of course the hysteria about the world coming to an end is ridiculous because the year 2000 is not a meaningful year to begin with. Even the Christian dating is off by as much as 200 years, which was a deliberate revision in order to bring the Christian savior closer to the time of the destruction of the Temple and the Roman triumph over Jerusalem. Jesus lived during the time of Yanai the King, which was two generations before Herod etc. So the date is meaningless on all levels. Yet a simple truth came out of the closet that I believe clarifies Judaism. That is what Id like to share with you.
What is the significance, meaning and implication of the "end of days"? The Talmud says that 48 Prophets and 7 Prophetesses spoke only about that time. The apocalypse, a Christian term for the end of days, is synonymous with doomsday, it refers to great or total devastation, and in our language it refers to nuclear war.
By contrast, Yaakov Avinu called together all of his sons and talked to them about the achris hayamim or the end of days. He spoke about blessing, he spoke about growth, and he spoke about greatness.
"Gather together and let me tell you what will happen to you at the end of days!" I have often pointed out that the word "yikoreh - happened" is spelled wrong it should have been spelled with a heh not an aleph. The real translation may be, "Gather together and let me tell you what will call to you at the end of days!" Yaakov explained to each one of his sons and to all the generations that would come forth from them what their calling would be. He told them that they are all different from each other because each one of them has a different purpose in this world. He told them to get in touch with their inner voices, and never try to achieve their brothers goals. You were built different than your brothers, at the end of days you must become spiritually compliant.
By our calculations we are also nearing the achris hayamim. What should we be doing? Where should we be going? The answer is inward; we have to go inward. We have to find our individual calling, our brocha and our individual purpose in this life. When we go to the doctor we have him or her do a physical. Go to your Rebbe and have him do a spiritual!
Id like to say a word about our Shul. We all know that it is a wonderful place. Is it spiritually compliant? Ive pointed out to the Board of the Shul that in a city like Monsey, where there are over 250 synagogues, every Shul, in order to be successful must have a niche. There must be a compelling reason for people to get out of bed, walk past four shuls and come daven in our Shul. What is our niche? If we dont have one, I challenge all of you to create one. I suggest that the Shul people are looking for is the Shul in which people look inward. The kehilla where men and women introspect instead of examining others; where what type of kippah you wear is not as important as to how much kavana you daven with; where everyone wants to grow and they spend every spare moment learning how to do that. If that is a description of our Shul, if that is the atmosphere of our davening, people will flock here to join us.
The day we wait for is not a doomsday. It is a day of life, cooperation and peace. May we all be privileged to see that wonderful time.
Rabbi Yaacov Haber
Rabbi Haber is the OU's National Director of Jewish Education and the spiritual leader of the OU's Pardes Program
Comments and questions are very welcome
"A tree of life for those who embrace it"