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If Only Gaza was a Room in a Synagogue

If Only Gaza was a Room in a Synagogue

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The Three Weeks are traditionally a time of mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temples. As we focus on the exiles, persecution and suffering our people has endured since the destruction of the 2nd Temple, it is only natural to look forward to the time when G‑d will finally tell our suffering: "Enough already!" and will lead us all to the land of our fathers, where we will be able to spend our days serving G‑d without any worries or disturbances. This Shabbat we will bless the incoming month of Av, the saddest month on the Jewish calendar. Yet, it has become the accepted Jewish custom to call this month "Menachem Av," – the consolation [which will be brought by the] Av (the "Father").

The Messianic Redemption is not an old Jewish folktale or myth—it is one of the thirteen core-principles of our faith. The belief in the coming of Moshiach ranks together with the beliefs in the unity of G‑d, the divine origin of Torah, and Reward and Punishment. Can this situation forever continue—where the truth proclaimed by the Torah is true only in our minds and hearts?These latter principles make perfect sense – for if there were no G‑d, or if the Torah was a human invention, or if there was no anticipation of consequence for one's deeds, there would be no reason to observe any of the Torah's doctrine. But the notion that the belief in Moshiach is a principle article of our faith is puzzling. Why is Moshiach so integral to the Jewish belief system? For thousands of years we've faithfully served our Creator in exile, studying His Torah and fulfilling His commandments, and received reward for this service in Paradise after the soul departs the body. It would certainly be nice to see an end to global suffering, but that is a universal ideal. Why is that a principle of the Jewish faith?

In truth, however, without the Messianic Era the Torah would be missing a crucial element.

We pray three times a day and we believe that G‑d listens to our prayers; we believe that everything which happens is orchestrated by a benevolent Creator; we believe that through studying Torah and observing the commandments we are connecting to the A-mighty. But as strong as we may believe all the above, these aren't self-evident truths in a world where G‑d's presence is concealed, a world which amazingly has the ability to deny the existence of its own Creator and life-force. Can this situation forever continue—where the truth proclaimed by the Torah is true only in our minds and hearts? How then is Judaism different than the hundreds of other religions and philosophies which also allege to be promulgating The Truth?

This is why Moshiach is so essential to Jewish philosophy. Yes, we await the Messianic Era because we look forward to finally having peace and reaping the fruits of our millennia-long exile toil, but the Messianic Era isn't all about us—it's primarily about a world which is set right, a world which will be a reflection of its Creator, a world where the rights and wrongs of the Torah are self-evident truths. Until Moshiach comes, Judaism is simply a "religion," seemingly relegated to its houses of worship, the tomes which preach its laws and ideologies, and the lives of its faithful adherents. In the Messianic Era, however, the truths of the Torah will be as self-evident as the laws of gravity and mathematics.

"If only Gaza were a room in a synagogue then we would apply Torah law…"Hence, on a deeper level, our belief in Moshiach is our belief in the supreme truth of the Torah. Our belief that the world was created by G‑d who used the Torah as His blueprint, and consequently the world must conform to the Torah and not vice versa. And most importantly, our belief must express itself in a commitment to maintain this attitude even when it takes a large measure of faith and conviction to live in such a manner.

This idea is especially appropriate in these weeks, when the Israeli government is making the final preparations for ceding Gaza to the Palestinians. The Torah tells us that the Land of Israel – every inch of it – is G‑d's eternal gift to its namesake, the Nation of Israel. However, certain people are uncomfortable with such "fundamentalist" statements. "True, that's what the Torah says," they say, "but we're living in a world, not a synagogue! If only Gaza were a room in a synagogue then we would apply Torah law… but we live in a world where the whisperings in the hallways of Washington matter more than the declarations of the Torah."

By living in "messianic" mode, i.e. inculcating within ourselves the realization that Torah is not a "religion," it is actually reality, we will surely merit to see the realization of our most fervent wish, the coming of Moshiach who will reveal the truths which always were.

Rabbi Naftali Silberberg is a writer, editor and director of the curriculum department at the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. Rabbi Silberberg resides in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Chaya Mushka, and their three children.
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