Sunday, September 12, 2010

Aligning your רצון with Hashem's רצון

During Elul and the aseret yemei tshuva we submit our will to that of our King. In all the confessions and accounting of our actions and behavior over the past year we surrender ourselves completely to our Father. We note the things we want for ourselves and beseech G-d in the hope that our prayers are answered “l’tova”, for the good. Of course we want certain things for ourselves but sometimes when we ask for them year after year and the answer seems to be “no” we start to question: Is my prayer not strong enough? Maybe I’m not asking in the right way? Is my desire for that thing not real enough? Perhaps I really don’t want it enough? Does G-d not think that that will really be for me “l’tova”? Maybe G-d really doesn’t want that thing for me? If so why am I wasting my time when I could be channeling my desire to things that are good for me that are good for the Jewish people that are good for the world? Am I being punished?

Why is the answer no?

My teachers always said sometimes G-d’s answer isn’t “no” but “not yet.”

It just seemed like a cop out. What does that mean, “not now”? “Dear beseecher, we have received your request but cannot fulfill your order at this time. Please try back later.” Well, thankyouverymuch.

With High Holiday liturgy replete with imagry of G-d as Father, I always wondered if becoming a parent myself would make some of these more esoteric ideas understandable. One of the wonderful things about your friends becoming parents is that you get to be a doting adopted aunt to an ever growing number of adorable kids. You have the tremendous merit of watching them learn and grow, develop and mature. You have the pleasure of watching your friends sing their kids praises - how well he eats, how she expresses emotion - while right behind them the baby pushes all the noodles on his tray onto the floor…

While I may not be a parent yet, it is true that spending time with younger kids makes ideas in t’shuva much clearer. It’s in those most mundane moments where a lofty, spiritual concept becomes tangible and it all just clicks.

It happened on shabbat.

I graciously thanked my hosts for putting me in another food coma and grabbed my glasses to go home but when my chevruta and I decided to get in a little learning after lunch, the lovely Marc Jacobs shades were dropped haphazardly on the coffee table. The low table. Within reach of smiling, mobile baby. (I can’t blame her, the kid has good taste!) I love baby and am always happy to share but I also wanted to keep my sunnies in one piece. I redeemed the larger-than-life frames from her tight little grip and swiftly placed them out of reach. Poor kid looked up at me with tears welling up in her big blue eyes. I got down on the floor and gave her a hug and a kiss and said “not yet”.

It just hit me like a ton of bricks and I realized in a very real way that sometimes that really is G-d’s answer to us.

Sometimes the answer really is “not-yet” and there’s good reason. Sometimes we are just too immature in our spiritual growth, sometimes we’re not “tall” enough and what we want is out of our reach. It’s not that we can never have what we desire and it’s not even that our desire is out of line with Hashem’s desire but our timing is out of sync. One day the answer will be “now”. The gates will open and our prayers will bear the most beautiful of fruits. Sometimes we just have to wait a little longer.

If she holds out a few more years you can bet I will be only too happy to take this kid shopping.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

“We are orphaned. Left without a father.” - L’ilui nishmat HaRav Mordechai Tzemach Eliyahu ben Mazal Tov

“We are orphaned. Left without a father.”

These were the words of Rav Chaim Druckman upon hearing of the passing of HaRav Mordechai Tzemach Eliyahu ztz”l.

My landlord came by yesterday to fix my tris as I sat in my house broken and bewildered. Busying herself with the screwdriver she casually asked “He was a tremendous Tzadik but what was your connection to the Rav?” I said that I was privileged to have received HaRav Eliyahu’s blessing on several occasions. To have received guidance from him in times of need. He was the mesader kedushin at the wedding of one of my closest and truest friends who herself comes from an illustrious family of Torah giants and lovers of the Land of Israel, the Torah of Israel and the people of Israel with a generations long connection the Rav’s family. He was the personal Rabbi of my Rabbi and close friend and my “ke’ilu” older brother. I have had the priviledge of sitting with HaRav Eliyahu’s ztz”l son, HaRav Shmuel and his Rabbanit in their beautiful home in Tzfat drinking tea and musing over the future of the Jewish people, Torah and recipes for baking with whole wheat flour. But in the depths of my kishkes at the core of my being I thought “What was my connection? The Rav was so connected to every Jewish soul in the world. He devoted his life, his spirit and ultimately suffered immeasurable bodily pain, was moser his entire life for the good of the Jewish people. With his soul torn from this world do you not feel the tearing of your soul as well?”

It is told of the Baba Sali ztz”l that he had a special robe, a cloak that he set aside to wear when he would greet Mashiach. When he became aware of a Heavenly decree that untold harships were to befall the Jewish people he asked that the suffering be placed on him and that the Jewish people be spared. G-d canceled the decree but the price was that the Baba Sali would not live to see the coming of Mashiach. He gave the special robe to HaRav Eliyahu and with it a promise that he would merit to welcome the Mashiach cloaked in the majestic garment.

Two years ago on pesach HaRav Eliyahu fell ill and was rushed to Shaarei Tzedeck hospital. He underwent countless operations and procedures. After one particularly lengthy and harrowing operation his non-observant “chiloni” doctor explained that there was no medical reason why the Rav should still be alive. If he were to write an article for a scientific or medical journal about the case, the scientific community would not know what to make of it. He concluded that the Rav was alive by the will of G-d alone. His life would only end when G-d deemed it so.

HaRav Mordechai Eliyahu was a giant on the shoulders of giants, versed in the revealed Torah and under the guidance of the Baba Sali was intimately connected with the world of the hidden Torah as well. It is my belief that just as the Baba Sali was moser nefesh to alleviate the torment of the Jewish people, like a parent who begs G-d to spare his child pain, so to the Rav was moser nefesh on our behalf.

Yesterday, The Rav “halach l’olamo”. Hashem took his soul from this world and brought it to the next. How joyous they must be in shamayim, the Chida, the Ben Ish Chai, the Baba Sali, the Torah giants of all the previous generations. But in this world, we are orphaned. Left without a father, a leader, a guide. With the loss of our tzadik, pillar of Am Yisrael and with seemingly no one at the helm to carry the torch of the light of Torah nor the weight of the pain of the Jewish People, we are once again reminded that we have no one to rely on but Our Father in Heaven.

May the memory of HaRav Eliyahu strengthen us in our time of mourning. May we strengthen ourselves in our devotion to the Land, Torah and people of Israel and take upon added intention in our observance of G-d’s mitzvot. May we increase in ahavat chinam, loving and caring for our fellow Jew, mending the fragments of the Jewsh nation to become the One People we are destined to be. May we too prepare our days in full faith that we merit to greet the Mashiach and see the building of the Third Temple, a binyan adai ad speedily in our days.

Amen, kein yehi ratzon.

HaMakom yenachem et'chem b'toch shar avay'lay Tzion vee'Yerushalayim