Saturday, March 8, 2008

Seminary Tragedy

This Shabbos at the lunch table, my husband borrowed from the Rav's drasha that morning to hammer home the terrifying message of this week's tragedy in Yerushalayim: the bochurim were in Beit Midresh when they were killed by the gunman. Where was the protection via Torah learning that has been the impenetrable magen for yiddin for millennia? If there is a crack in that magen, what does that mean for the rest of us? The Rav suggested that we examine our deeds and look at ways to improve ourselves, such as sponsoring poor families in Eretz Yisrael, devoting more time to learning, paying attention during davening, etc. All valuable points to remember.

The horrifying image that became etched in mind while my husband was speaking was of those bochurim slumping over their gemaras in the Beit Midresh. The image stayed with me throughout the rest of the afternoon, and reminded me that we are all interconnected and responsible for each other. While we all recognise that interconnection, sometimes we lose sight of it, and this week's events certainly returned focus to the fact that what I do impacts my brother/sister elsewhere. That the event occurred for Parsha Shekalim is particularly difficult to grasp. The week when all of Shemot culminates in the erection of the Mishkan, when the conduit for our experiencing Hashem in this world was consecrated and introduced into our daily lives- the timing highlights the disparity between our kedushah at that historic moment to now, when such killings could occur where they did.

When I considered this week's parshah, it struck me that sometimes the barrier to our changing our behaviour is the fact that we feel the given task is insurmountable. We consequently rationalise our current behaviour and figure that we are doing pretty fine, thank you very much, and leave things at that. In light of that sentiment, I want to share one idea that came to me as a result of Parsha Pekudei.

We read that it took Moshe Rabbeinu, the greatest prophet of all time, the tzaddik of his generation, a full 7 days to inaugurate the Mishkan. Every day, for 7 days, he repeated the inauguration, and brought a bit more of kedushah down to this world. Finally, at the end of the 7 day period, the Mishkan was suitably holy that it was deemed ready by Hashem for the shechina to rest upon it. What was the lesson that I took from this pasuk? That even for Moshe Rabbeinu, a man of unparalleled kedushah, it took 7 full days of intense effort to render the Mishkan suitable for Hashem's presence. The process of acquiring sufficient kedushah took time and did not happen overnight, so to speak.

For the rest of us then, who are not on the level of Moshe Rabbeinu or any other tzaddik, but are rather just trying to live our lives as Hashem wants in order to make the world a better place, we should find encouragement in this description. If it took Moshe Rabbeinu 7 days to transfer the required kedushah bit by bit to the Mishkan, then it will similarly take us all bit by bit time to improve in our service of Hashem and self-improvement.

We should therefore not get discouraged by where we are today, and can feel confident that if we only start the process, we can eventually improve ourselves by some future tomorrow. Perhaps if we all put more effort into that process, we can smooth out that kink in our magen that was evidenced this week, and maybe even achieve in elevating the world to the degree that Hashem will deem us worthy to render the shechina evident to us all once again.

It should be immediately so. And to the families of those who lost their sons this week, Hashem should bless them with not knowing any future pain.

Gut voch.

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