ב"ה אור ליום ועש"ק פר' וארא, כ"ד טבת, מאתיים שנה, שנת תשע"ד לפ"ק
Dear Alumni Sheyichyu!
....Beginning in the 1960’s, the youth of the world were experiencing a massive revolution. Known as the hippie movement, young people were strongly rejecting the cultures and ideologies in which they had been raised, and were challenging the accepted norms of mainstream society. In an explosion that attracted hundreds of thousands of followers – with disproportionately high numbers of Jews – and spread throughout the civilized world, these young people were disgusted and disillusioned with the materialistic and selfish focus of the generation of their parents. Developing their own ideology along with its subculture, they preached love and peace, tolerance and spirituality. They rejected worldly comforts, and were instead into togetherness, holding massive farbrengens in the great outdoors while being entertained by rock music. While the momentum gradually waned, it had a tremendous impact on society, which continues to be felt to this very day.
While many of their objections to the norms were actually arguably very valid – including their rejection of societies obsessive pursuit of money and materialism and endless wars and fighting – the movement degenerated into many negative behaviors, including excessive drug use in order to experience altered states of consciousness and extreme permissiveness and liberalism with regard to immodest and immoral lifestyles.
The Rebbe explained that what was taking place, at its root, was the result of theתקיעה בשופר גדול, or the call of the shofar. Blowing shofar on Rosh Hashono represents calling out from the depth of our being to Hashem; a call so pure and absolute that it transcends words and is expressed as a plain cry. So too, the call of the shofar of Hashem to us is a revelation and expression of the very depth and essence of G-dliness; that aspect of Hashem that transcends description and explanation. This is why the era of Moshiach is associated with the “blowing of the great shofar”, for this represents the tremendous revelations of G-dliness that will occur then. And chassidus explains that this process has already begun.
The call of the Shofar, then, refers to a revelation of Elokus that is a forerunner to the ultimate revelation that will occur through Moshiach. It was this manifestation of G-dliness, this intense revelation from Above, the Rebbe explained, that was experienced by those Yiddishe neshomos in the 60’s, which resulted in them being stirred and aroused from their slumber. This in turn resulted with a feeling of unrest and dissatisfaction with the lives they were living and an intense search for something better and more real.
The Rebbe charged chassidim (and klal Yisroel in general) to take advantage of this revival, by channelling the soul-awakening that was taking place into what their neshomos were actually seeking; - a life of Torah and mitzvos.
Indeed, many many baalei Teshuva emerged from this movement, having been helped to identify what it was that their soul was actually craving. In the maamar והי' ביום ההוא יתקע בשופר גדולthat was said on Rosh Hashono 5728, and that the Rebbe was magiha in honor of Rosh Hashono 5752 (the last maamar to date that the Rebbe was magiha for Rosh Hashono) there is discussion (at the end) about the many Jews who have returned to their roots (in recent years) as a result of the call of the Shofar.
Yet, the Rebbe also expressed dismay and disappointment about the lost opportunity of that era. He said that had we properly taken advantage of the circumstances, thousands more could have received the proper guidance and be returned to Yiddishkeit.
This was not merely a means to take advantage of an opportunity. In truth, the only legitimate way to quench that thirst – the call of the inner shofar (which chassidus explains to represent the essence of the neshomo) – is with Torah and Mitzvos, - with genuine G-dliness. The only way to cultivate the yearning of our souls is by nourishing them with Yiddishkeit and chassidus.
Today, as we are ever nearer to the final revelation of Moshiach, the תקיעה בשופר גדול; - the call of the Shofar is surely resounding stronger than ever. It is certain that our neshomos are sensing this, and this causes our restlessness and our yearning and seeking for more fulfillment. It is incumbent upon us, however, to channel this yearning in a spiritually healthy and chassidishe direction. We must take extra caution that our thirst not lead us – as it did to so many of our brethren decades ago - to drink from poisonous waters that are presented as nourishment, and that we not be misled by those who – in the words of the gemoro – hang blue dye on their garments and proclaim it to be tcheiles.
The call of the shofar, the powerful revelation from Above, and the reciprocal awakening of the neshomo are powerful and holy forces. But what we do with them and how we channel them will determine whether they elevate us to the loftiest heights, or chas veshalom the total opposite. The only nourishment for our neshomo, for our shofar, is Torah and mitzvos and chassidus. And only through them can we properly channel this powerful drive to unimaginable destinations.
The paths that the majority of the hippies took may have felt really good and, in many cases, even made a lot of sense. But it couldn’t address the root of their unrest. The call of the shofar originated from their essence, their neshomo which is a “chelek Eloka mimaal mamosh”, - in essence G-dliness, and can only be properly satisfied by true G-dliness.
Any other way of reacting to the turbulent feelings of their souls, was doing so in an unhealthy way. While the ideals that they were drawn to were (in the most part) positive ones, such as spirituality, love, brotherhood and (of course) peace on earth (which is the ultimate goal of creation), not to mention true bittul, still, because the needs of their neshomo weren’t being properly addressed, these “ideals” (though having their origins in the yearnings of their souls) came out convoluted, crooked and warped. The “peace, love and brotherhood” etc. that their souls were truly seeking was Torah and mitzvos (which are true peace (as the Rambam writes) and true love (which is one of the reasons that Torah observant Jews never quarrel . ..) etc.). Devoid of them, it was a sad illusion..
I spent a few summers in Tannersville (which is upstate NY), and for 3 years we had a Yeshivas Kayitz there. Near Tannersville is the town of Woodstock. It is a picturesque little village, about 2 and one half hour drive from NYC, which is (according to my understanding) one of the עשר קדושות of the hippie movement (if not the supreme one). Naturally, it was an ideal place for the bochurim to go on mivtzoim on Friday afternoon.
One Friday, 2 bochurim were strolling through the streets looking for some “customers” to put on teffillin, when they spotted a real-life hippie. Long haired and bearded, in classic hippie attire, he was sitting at a table in front of an old, dilapidated, multi colored van (that matched his own clothing quite well). A sign advertised the fact that he read tarot cards for a fee. When he was spotted by the 2 talmidim, he was just sitting there calmly reading, during a lull in “business”.
To the 2 boys he was a potential “customer”, and they immediately approached him to find out if he was Jewish. But as they neared his table they were surprised to note that the text that he was reading was, in fact, Hebrew letters! Upon closer scrutiny they were even more astonished; - this tarot card reader was learning a maamer! It was a maamer of the Mitteler Rebbe (with the ד"ה ויספו ענוים בה' שמחה)!
It turned out that David had learned in 770 before deserting in order to join (with all his heart and soul) the hippie movement, and while he was, ideologically, a fervent believer in his newfound “religion”, he still immensely enjoyed chassidus and spent much time on it. The bochurim did, in fact, put on teffillin with him (both at the time, and a number of times since), and they kept in touch. In fact, one Friday he came to visit the Yeshivas Kayitz, which was a great spiritual sacrifice for him, being the first time he had left the boundaries of Woodstock in decades!
Sadly, David lost years of his life in his misguided quest for the cravings of his spirit. Because authentic Chassidus is the only answer, the only nourishment, for the immortal essence within each of us. Pure unadulterated chassidus, the way chosid learns it, not the way someone tries to fuse it with Woodstock.
David probably felt: ‘What do you mean? I learned the maamar in 770, and it didn’t affect me then, it didn’t “speak” to me, and now (together with the whole Woodstock scene) it’s suddenly so meaningful and real’ (and groovy and cool). In 770 it didn’t “work”, and now, together with “Woodstock”, it’s “working”.
This was, in a very subtle form, the complaint of Moshe Rabbenu in the end of last week’s Parsha, which is addressed in the beginning of the Parsha of this week. Moshe said to the Eibishter: ‘The method that You prescribed for me doesn’t work! The approach that you gave me to combat the golus, to deal with the challenges of Paaroh and co. were not effective. Not only are the Jews still suffering, but their problems have become worse. What’s the point?! למה זה שלחתני
At times we, too, may think: I’ve been learning chassidus, trying to daven, working on darkei hachassidus and so on. And this has been going on for years. But it’s not “working”. The golus is still there and getting progressively worse, my taavos are still confronting me at every turn (and getting the better of me most of the time . . . ). There’s gotta be a better way.
But, as it was in the story in the Parsha – and as we all know today – the instructions of the Eibishter were, and are, the only thing that can and did and do “work”. And though it was not apparent at all at the time, to the point of puzzling even Moshe Rabbenu, it was that path and only that path that could have ultimately brought about the geula.
Whether or not we can see the effects, we can believe and understand that the only way to deal with the needs of our neshomo, with the call of our shofar, is by increasing its involvement with Torah and mitzvos. Learn another shiur in gemoro, and try to understand it better. Think deeper into the maamar. Work harder on your ahavas Yisroel. And- yes – try to apply the concepts of “iskafya” and “ishapcha” in a practical manner into your daily life.
And regardless of what you see at the time, this does and will work effectively, and will – step by step – bring each of us to our personal geula, and bring us all collectively to the ultimate geula.
One of the early activists on behalf of the Zionist movement was a Jew by the name of Yaakov Zrubavel. He was very intelligent, educated, a very charismatic speaker; - and fanatically anti-religious. When he came to Eretz Yisroel he was very active in the political left, and caused much damage and sorrow to Yiddishkeit (amongst other things, he was involved in the saga with the yaldei teiman). (Toward the end of his life he also had an amazing story with the Rebbe, which I’ll have to write about some other time).
In Europe, he used to travel around trying to recruit Jews to the Zionist ideology. He had a long beard throughout his life (although usually he was stubbornly bareheaded) and was very fluent n Talmudic and Aggadic sources, and – coupled with his charisma – he could be very convincing. Although an avowed apikores, he could appear as an illustrious Rov.
Once, he was a guest in a Lubavitcher shul. At the Kiddush after davening he was invited to speak (no one knew who he was, he had the image of a travelling Rov), and he made a very compelling case for Zionism. With his distinguished appearance, his scholarly presentation sprinkled with maamorei chazal and irrefutable logic and his natural charisma, he very quickly had all present convinced that the Zionist dream was no less than the ultimate fulfillment of everything in Torah and chassidus. They were only waiting for him to complete his speech so that they can jump on a car (or boat or donkey) and go straight to Israel.
At the head of the table, next to the speaker, was seated the Rov, R’ Schneur Garelik. R’ Schneur was a great Talmid chochom and chosid; however, he looked like a feeble old man, and Zrubavel didn’t think he had to be concerned about him. He was sure that the old man couldn’t possibly disprove him, and, in any case, the Rov seemed “out of it”, his head was nodding, and he seemed to be constantly dozing off.
When Zrubavel finished his talk and sat down, the Rov spoke briefly, saying: ‘It says in the Possuk כי יקום בקרבך נביא או חולם חלום. “novi” (from the root “niv sfosayim) means a speaker. Choileim chaloim is a dreamer. There can come a brilliant speaker and dreamer and try to entice you with his colorful dreams, but you shall not be tempted. Don’t listen to him, we have the Torah’.
With those few short words, he broke the spell, and Zrubavel was forced to leave empty-handed!
We are in the grip of the most penetrating call of the shofar ever, and it is resonating within all of us. We need to grab the opportunity to nourish all of these yearning souls, both our own and the souls of others, - not with pipe dreams, as glittering and attractive as they may be, but - with more Torah (both nigleh and chassidus) and mitzvos and real unadulterated Yiddishkeit. We need to turn to our elders, to our chassidishe rabbonim, to follow their guidance and their transmitting of the unbroken legacy. Only this will truly get us to Eretz Yisroel speedily and imminently!
L’chaim! Let us all heed the call of the shofar, and quench the thirst of our soul with increased learning, increased davening and improved performance of mitzvos, and may the Eibishter in turn complete His carrying out our request of תקע בשופר גדול לחירותינו, ushering in the “yom hahu” when “yitoka beshofar gadol”, the ultimate call of the shofar that will awaken all of us to return fully to Him, with the immediate hisgalus of Melech haMoshiach TUMYM!!!
Rabbi Akiva Wagner
לזכות ר' שלום מרדכי הלוי בן רבקה, לגאולה וישועה קרובה ושלימה, תומ"י ממש בטוהנוהנ"ג