Part 24 – Final Balance
We live in scary times. Russia is no longer a defeated Cold War adversary. Terrorism is a constant threat. From an embassy in Jakarta, to a restaurant in Jerusalem, to a store across the street nobody knows when the next strike will hit. Iran, the world’s leading sponsor of international terror, is less than a decade away from mastering the technology of a nuclear weapon. They already have the capability to deliver their weapons to as far as Europe, How long will it take them to make rockets capable of reaching the United States? Twenty years ago, Israel’s “Palestinian problem” consisted of young men throwing rocks. Since then, they have graduated to handguns, semi-automatic weapons, and light artillery. Today they have rockets.
Along with the new Palestinian threat, Israel has to fight enemies outside its borders. Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia are still actively involved in trying to destabilize the Jewish State. Constant terror threats from Palestinians living in Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt make these countries quasi-enemies as well. As if that weren’t enough, the entire world has judged that the Arabs have the moral high ground. As unbelievable as it may seem, Israel has to constantly justify its existence to Europe, the United Nations, and the international media.
At any moment there can be another Lebanon war. On any day we may face another 9-11. In an instant America can attack Iran and bring us to the brink of Armageddon.
We live in very scary times.
It’s easy to assume that G-d is standing in judgment, waiting for the final Armageddon to wipe out all of us that haven’t lived absolutely perfect lives. One would guess that we are living in an age of depravity, despair, and death.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. We are commanded to have faith in Hashem even as the sword touches our neck.
Throughout history, Hahsem has sent His children countless miracles. This especially applies to the world we currently live in. For the first time in human history, there are more observant Jews today than in the previous generation. Never in history has there been such a mass movement back to Torah and back to Hashem. Children are teaching their parents Torah on an unprecedented scale in Jewish History.
The last 60 years has seen half of the Jewish People come home. A promise made over three thousand years ago is being realized right before our eyes. From the four corners of the world, over 5 million Jews now live in the Holy Land. Less than 20 years ago, we witnessed the biggest mass exodus of Jews from their place of birth to the Land of Israel since Moses led us out of Egypt. This generation will be the first generation since the era of King David where the majority of Jews live in the Land of Israel.
100 years ago, nobody thought any of this could be possible.
We learn from the Torah that Hashem can bring Redemption within a blink of an eye. A situation can go from total peril to a universal happiness in an instant! That is the power of Hashem. That is the opportunity He gave us when He put us here on earth to serve His Will. One moment we are mired in Egypt, broken after the yoke of 410 years of slavery. The next, Hashem is sending us His miracles as we become a free people – secure in our Holy Land.
In May of 1967, we were facing another Holocaust. Three massive armies mobilized to wipe us out. Even the most optimistic general’s were commissioning Rabbis to find parks for mass graves. A month later we are dancing at the Kotel. In 1948, 7 Arab armies with the backing of the British Empire went to war with Israel to wipe her off the face of the earth. 2 months later, Israeli tanks are rolling towards the Sinai. 2 years later, Israel is welcoming 500,000 Jews from Arab countries back home.
Redemption can come in an instant.
It took the Romans 100,000 troops to conquer all the lands in their empire. It took them another 100,000 troops to suppress the revolt of our mothers and fathers in Judea. Had we not fought a civil war while we were fighting the Romans, we would have defeated them.
It took the British 100,000 troops to subdue, and control India. It took them another 100,000 troops to control the Jewish population in Israel. The British maintained control over India for over a century. Israel, about one fiftieth the size of India with 2% of its population, threw out the British in less than 3 decades. Such is the power of the Jewish Will. Such is the scope of the miracles Hashem sends to His people.
Millennia ago, Gidon fought over 100,000 Midianites and Ismaelites with only 300 men. Hashem specifically stated to Gidon that He was sending a miracle to the Jewish People. Gidon’s army of 300 men defeated over 100,000 of our enemies. In the time of Hezekiah, one of the righteous Kings of Israel, the Assyrians surrounded the walls of Jerusalem with 185,000 men. Instead of surrendering, Hezekiah prayed to Hashem. Redemption came in the blink of an eye. When the Jews woke up the next morning, every single soldier was dead. Hashem blessed The Jewish People with a victory against 185,000 soldiers without sending a single man to battle. Never in the history of mankind has such a war been won.
Hahsem, in His great Love, Compassion, and Mercy teaches us that any tsuva, no matter how late, or how simple, or how desperate, can bring His miracles to the world which will overcome any adversity, no matter how dire the circumstances.
Recall the story of Chanukah. The Greeks were defiling the Land of Israel for years. They brought their idolatry, sexual depravity, and godless brand of intellectualism to our shores. Instead of fighting, we accepted their ways. Many of us even assimilated completely into Greek culture. Despite the countless number of Jews committing the absolute worst abominations in the Holiest of places, a small group of Jews asked Hashem for a miracle.
We didn’t deserve it. Even the Kohanim and Levites went along with waves of Jewish assimilation before we so much as lifted a finger against Greek influence.
What position were a handful of Jewish Zealots in to ask Hashem to deliver the greatest world power into their hands?
Despite the desperate, unworthy, and very overdue prayers for National Redemption by a small minority of the Jewish Nation, Hashem sent a miracle.
Go back 1,000 years.
Even as Hashem was redeeming the Jewish People from Egypt, we were worshipping idols! The Book of Exodus states that G-d heard the cry of our suffering and remembered us.
No matter how far gone we think we are. It is never too late to ask Hashem for a miracle, and it is never too late for Him to grant us one.
Rabbi Kook, one of the great Rabbis of the State of Israel, says the following about tsuva:
“Great and exalted is the pleasure of tsuva. The searing flame of pain caused by sin purifies the will and refines the character of a person to an exalted, sparkling purity until the great joy of the life of tsuva is opened for him. Tsuva raises the person higher and higher through its stages of bitterness, pleasantness, grieving, and joy. Nothing purges and purifies a person, and raises him to the stature of being truly a man, like the profound process of tsuva”
Today, we are in the belly of the beast. There is temptation all around us. We aren’t equipped to deal with it. None of us grew up insulated from the vices of the outside world. Many of us weren’t raised in Torah. Some took on these laws later on in life, after we were trained to realize that it is socially acceptable -- even respectable, to commit virtually every form of sexual immorality. We live in a time and a place where we are beset by every temptation imaginable. As a nation, we are as weak as we can possibly be to fight it.
This gives us the greatest opportunity there is.
The task for our generation is to dive into the darkness and redeem the final sparks of light. We are all in an ideal place to do this.
Hashem helps us at every step when we do tsuva. He doesn’t make it too easy of too difficult to take on this mitzvah. For the first year of doing the tsuva of shmirat habrit, Hashem blessed me with a job on Long Island. I wasn’t surrounded by women at work, there were no subway rides with improper things to look at, and because I was married and commuting by car, there were no bars by the corner to stop off at on the way home. It was the ideal location to start my new spiritual journey.
After a year of doing tsuva for a greater standard of sexual morality, I noticed that the capacity of my neshama grew exponentially. Read Rabbi Tzvi Fishman’s book, Secret of the Brit -- I promise you, you will understand what I am talking about. Your soul gets stronger, your energy levels rise. One of the ways your neshama strengthens, is it gets a lot more sensitive. You are able to perceive a lot of things that are going on around you that you were never able to perceive before. You can go to the exact same place, a home, a field, or a city, that you were in, say, a year ago, and feel as if you are in an entirely different place. It felt like I was passing the tests Hashem challenged me with.
Then, Hashem decided it was time for a bigger test. I was fired from my job in the suburbs. I took a job at a Wall Street firm, located in Lower Manhattan.
It wasn’t long before I was faced with a new set of challenges. Every time I went on the subway, I noticed that every woman dressed very revealing. It was so much easier to avoid a woman’s glance when I was on Long Island. On the E line, I have to bury my head in my briefcase just to avoid glances. I must have never noticed this before. When I walk on the blocks to the office building, every other person was a beautiful woman that I want to look at or make eye contact with. I had to look at the tip of my nose, or gaze at the sky just to avoid what was in my peripheral vision. That was the least of it. At every moment, I felt this collective level of impurity. It’s very intense and it is very disgusting. Even after I was able to stop staring at women, the satan found another way to attack me.
I had stopped staring at women. I had stopped flirting with them. Even necessary conversation I had with females in the office was conducted with emotional distance. I was polite, but not too chatty. After all this, there was a part of me that was still losing badly. For whatever reason, my sexual mental images were becoming more creative and intense. It was revolting. Half of my mind would engage in them, and the other half would beg Hashem for forgiveness for thinking them. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t resist. I began to study more, pray harder, and to fix my daily routine so Hashem would help me get rid of them.
This is one of the trials we all have to face, probably more than once, as we do constant Tikkunim on ourselves.
I finally beat them. Well, at least I got rid of them plaguing me all the time. But all it took was one physical image and all the impulses I defeated came back in an instant.
The amazing thing about being Shmirat Habrit is you become a little detached from the whole “male-female” tension. This may be unique to New York, or it may be a phenomenon that exists in every major city. From the time I was single in New York there has been a sub-conscious instinct that I could have any woman I want. No, I don’t think I am Don Juan. But there is this ongoing sense that on average, if I approached a girl and “put in the effort,” I could get what I wanted. Could this be the source of the constant feeling of impurity?
I will never cheat on my wife. I will never cheat on Hashem. In being able to merely imagine the prospect of physical conquest, it presents a big temptation. Overpowering a woman’s inhibitions part of the charm of sex. You can, consciously or not, desire to overcome a woman’s sensibilities without touching her, talking to her, or even making eye contact. Just the feeling that many of these women can be “overcome” brings on this feeling of impurity. This desire, which I have been working very hard to overcome, is a sin of sexual misconduct. The level of impurity is so strong in Manhattan. It’s a bigger challenge than I have ever had to face. I can only imagine how much harder it is for people who live here all the time and have to battle this impurity at every moment. When you are not giving 150% of yourselves to fight it you can be easily overwhelmed by the Satan. You can quickly be controlled and directed by it.
It means that somewhere in the bitter darkness of Sin City, exist the great sparks of light. I know why Hashem has sent us here. I know what our mission is. Our test is to rectify the sins committed in the past. The RamBam, in the Mishneh Torah, Laws of Tsuva reveals that one of the biggest tsuvot a man can do is be faced with the same situation he was in before when he sinned. If this time, he overcomes the temptation that originally got the best of him, he has performed a very powerful tsuva. Tomorrow, I, we, will be tempted with 100 women dressed to kill. We will be confronted with a general attitude that when it comes to flirtation, touching, and sex, there are little or no boundaries. We will be confronted with billboards, people in the street, female workmates, all who want us to check them out, lock eyes with, or even, Hashem forbid, ask out for a cup of coffee, you know, as friends.
Hashem has given us the ultimate opportunity. While riding on the subway, I can look around for something to see, or I can close my eyes and listen to a lecture on my iPod. I can be flirtatious with the women I work with, or I can keep a courteous distance. At every moment, I can indulge in the signs on the street, or I can avert my eyes and affect the heavens. Hashem sets before us two paths. On one path is the option to choose life. The other is to choose death. At every moment we can release the greatest sparks of Divine light into the world from the deepest recesses of the darkness, or we can remain mired in it, blind and weak.
Redemption and Salvation aren’t just taking place in Yeshivot. It’s happening everywhere. It’s all happening right now. HaKadosh Baruch Hu gave us the power to save the Jewish People. He blessed us with the ability to Redeem the world. We have it within ourselves to be so much closer with Hashem, and feel the highest levels of inner joy.
We can do this by standing up to the evils of this world and by taking on the hardest mitzvah there is. We will confront Edom and win by facing their spiritual impurities at their strongest, all the while holding true to our Jewish spirit. We can prove to our Loving Judge and Father in Heaven that the Jewish People can overcome the full attack upon it by the forces of Amalek so Hashem, in His love and compassion for His children, will bless us with the miracles we will need to defeat the physical forces of these nations on earth that are trying to destroy us.
The entire world is on the brink, and every action you do makes a difference. The RamBam, in the Mishneh Torah, laws of Tsuva (3:4) sums it up perfectly.
Throughout the entire year, a person should always look at himself as equally balanced between merit and sin and the world as equally balanced between merit and sin. If he performs one sin, he tips his balance and that of the entire world to the side of guilt and brings destruction upon himself. On the other hand, if he performs one mitzvah, he tips his balance and that of the entire world to the side of merit and brings deliverance and salvation to himself and others. This is implied by the verse in Proverbs (10:25) “A righteous man is the foundation of the world.” i.e., he who acted righteously, tipped the balance of the entire world to merit and saved it.
May we all be Blessed with the strength to perform the mitzvah of Shmirat Habrit, and merit to feel the joys of true happiness.
David Fink is the Editor-in-Chief of the daily investment newsletter, Real Wealth Recon. In 2008, his Real Wealth portfolio MADE MONEY, outperforming the three major indices by 38%, and the average Hedge Fund by 25%. For $99 a year, you get David’s weekly market commentary, instant emails for every trade he makes, total access to David’s portfolio, and a statistical review of the important economic indicators. Why hand over your hard earned money to someone in a suit saying “trust me.” Keep your money and trust yourself. Join the elite investors who are making money this year, it's time to tell Wall Street: YOU’RE FIRED!