What are we afraid of?

May 22, 2014

BH

I went with my daughter Mushkie for a sonogram shortly before her baby was born. The technician coordinated the procedure with two-handed dexterity, maneuvering the scanner, clicking the keyboard, pressing the pedal, directing the arrow on the screen to point out parts of a face, first a nose and then an eye socket.

But I couldn’t see what she meant; all I saw was a blur of black on white or maybe it was white on black, definitely not a face.

“Is it looking at us or is it looking up?” I asked in my last futile attempt to see what she saw. I wanted to just say that I saw it, but I couldn’t. My mind had simply not grasped any semblance of a baby’s face.

“Everything looks good,” she pronounced.

“Thank G-d,” I answered, trusting that she knew what she was talking about.

The long awaited Redemption, G-d’s promise to the entire Jewish nation, has been likened to a birth. But until that time arrives, the world looks like that sonogram.  It’s all coming together perfectly, but it can be challenging to see it now.

A Jew whose very life pulsates with the G-dliness of Torah is like that technician; such a person knows just what to do and how to recognize everything. Then there are those who want to appreciate what’s happening even though sometimes it’s hard to get the picture. And of course, there are many people who aren’t even in the room. Some are unaware that the “baby” is soon to arrive and others don’t seem to care.

And there are people who say there’s not a baby at all. To those people, life is just a jumble, not worth deciphering, not leading to anything.

My question is, how can these people be happy?

A recent Fox News Poll showed that people’s happiness has declined over the last decade. It’s ironic that we live better than anyone on the planet has ever lived, yet that hasn’t done the trick. Some would say it is precisely our material well-being that is in causing our spiritual malaise: we are all consumed with ourselves. In Jewish terms, we suffer from yeshus, a preoccupation with our own ego.

Judaism says happiness is achieved in the exact opposite way. True happiness, simcha, comes from bittul, a total dedication to doing what G-d wants, such that one’s ego is totally nullified. The closer we get to this way of living, the happier we are. If my life is all about me, at the end of the day, I am finite. And that’s enough to make me sad.

I am not ashamed to say that I became observant because I wanted to be happier. I didn’t realize how much work it would take, but I am much happier believing that I am here for G-d’s purposes rather than for my own.

And what makes me happiest of all are the clear signs that Moshiach –the Messiah– is arriving imminently. True, the world is confused and evil is rampant, but yesterday, when the garbage man got out of his truck to direct my car so I could pass, I was in a good mood all morning. A little kindness goes a long way. Like that technician, I am trying to train myself to know what to do and what to look for.

Why are these “unhappy” Jews afraid to take one step closer to G-d, or even acknowledge that they would like Moshiach to come?

I think it’s because the very terms “Messiah” and “Redemption” –even “G-d”– have strong non-Jewish connotations that make Jewish people squeamish. It doesn’t matter to these people that belief in the coming of Moshiach is a basic tenet of Jewish faith. We are used to hearing about how only certain people are “saved” by the Messiah and those people never includes Jews. Compounded by the fact that a perfect world sounds just too good to be true and belief in Moshiach doesn’t stand a chance.

This could partly explain why a few friends have told me they will never believe in the concept of Moshiach.

But the true expert, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, saw a perfect baby ready to be born. To “deliver” it, all we need to do is increase in acts of goodness and kindness. Yes, the Jewish “sonogram” is a mysterious picture filled with miraculous triumphs and unspeakable pain, but all of this is secondary to the job at hand: delivering the baby.

Contrary to popular belief, there is nothing to fear, no reason to hope that the Torah is wrong on this one.

No, we don’t deserve Moshiach, certainly not when you think of our ancestors who sacrificed so much for G-d and Torah. But here in the land of lattes, a little sacrifice of myself for G-d goes a long way; because it’s so easy to be preoccupied with ourselves,
G-d appreciates everything we do for Him. Even if we do it because we want to be happy.

But if we really want to be happy, each and every one of us can ask G-d to bring Moshiach now.

What is it we’re afraid of?

1 Comment

  1. Reply

    Esther kaltmann

    Wonderful article.

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