Skip to main content

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.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…