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Thought for the Day: Our Four Challenges; Three Down, One to Go

I started listening to shiurim by R' Aharon Lopiansky on the the Maharal's נר מצוה; his treatise on Chanuka.  Why Chanuka, you ask?  Because of those available shiurim, those were on the next holiday.  My choices in shiurim are not entirely random, there is some associated pragmatism.  I also thought, "Heck... with Rosh HaShanah approaching, I could using something light."  (Get it?  "light" as in "not deep" and "light" as in festival of lights?  I crack me up.)  R' Lopiansky begins by noting that the Maharal sees Chanuka as part of the chain of four weaknesses designed into the the fabric of reality by the Creator, the rectification of which is part of Klal Yisrael's job in this world and our reason for existing.  So much for light.

The Maharal begins by quoting a prophecy (couched as a vision from a dream) by Daniel; a vision of four beasts that represent the four kingdoms -- Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome -- which have been the "stars" of our four diaspora's (we are still in the fourth).  The Maharal then relates this to a medrash raba on the second verse in the Torah:
וְהָאָרֶץ, הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ, וְחֹשֶׁךְ, עַל-פְּנֵי תְהוֹם; וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים, מְרַחֶפֶת עַל-פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם
The earth was void (תֹהוּ), without form (בֹהוּ), and darkness (חֹשֶׁךְ) was upon the face of the abyss (תְהוֹם); and the spirit of Elokim was hovering on the face of the waters.
The medrash says that these four terms -- void, without form, darkness, and abyss -- also refers to those same four kingdoms: Babylonia/תֹהוּ, Persia/בֹהוּ, Greece/חֹשֶׁךְ, and Rome/תְהוֹם (there are proof texts from scripture for each association).  Coincidence?  Puh-leeze!  The Maharal says that these four terms refer to the four "weak spots" in the Creation.  That is, the four areas that are most distant (so to speak) from HaShem's direct involvement.  (Perhaps we'll discuss later why there need to be weak spots, why these weak spots are represented by kingdoms, and why precisely four.)

Here comes my value added:
Babylonia represents the void of utter destruction.  We have fixed that with the creation of the Talmud Bavli.  Persia represents the formless-ness of confusion.  We have fixed that with Purim, the holiday on which we celebrate seeing HaShem by careful analysis of historical events; seeing the Divine Providence in the apparent mundane.  Greece represents darkness.  We have fixed that with the light of Chanuka.

What about Rome?  An abyss seems never ending.  Since Rome, mankind has made steady progress in controlling his environment.  Our ability to understand the world through scientific knowledge and technological advances seems to offer limitless control... to the point that some begin to ask, "Why do I need G-d?" (G-d forbid).  Perhaps the rectification is to fully experience that full range of control and understanding that the human mind can plumb, all the while fully acknowledging HaShem's absolute sovereignty.  The three previous challenges required us to see through the destruction, confusion, and darkness to see the Master Planner.  This challenge, our longest and most difficult, requires us to see the Creator and Planner in a world that is so orderly and understood that it is hard to imagine that it needs a Creator or Planner.

May we merit seeing, soon and in our lifetimes, the culmination of our thousands of years of clinging to HaShem and His Torah -- His Kingdom established once and for all, granting us the the true aspiration of His chosen nation, the ability to learn and fulfill His Torah without resistance and without obstacle.

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