Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Truth and Moshiach

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

How many times have you been stuck in traffic and forced to crawl along for miles for no apparent reason? It is a beautiful summer day and your family is off to Lakewood for Shabbos to visit Uncle Chaim and Tante Chani and spend an enjoyable Shabbos with the cousins. You left early so that you will make it on time. You are zipping along in your air-conditioned car, the kids full of anticipation and excitement about the trip. Everyone’s in good spirits; it’s going to be a wonderful day. You can almost taste the potato kugel from Shloimy’s you know will be waiting for you when you get there. The kids play games and count license plates as some singer croons in the background.

You’re almost there when, suddenly and inexplicably, traffic slows to a crawl and then stops altogether. The Garden State Parkway becomes the Garden State Parkingway. You sit there for what seems an eternity, moving inch by agonizing inch. The kids don’t stop asking when they are ever going to get there. You shut off the air-conditioning because you’re afraid the car will overheat. The music starts giving you a headache and you grow increasingly aggravated as the traffic doesn’t move.

For as far as your eyes can see, the cars are lined up bumper to bumper. In each car are people who, like yourself, are slowly going out of their minds. Time drags on with excruciating slowness and you begin to regret having started out on your trip to begin with.

Finally, after your nerves are frayed to the breaking point, you come upon the reason for the multi-mile-long backup. You see them there off to the side - two old, small cars, apparently involved in a fender-bender. It’s hard to tell what exactly happened, so you slow down even more as you rubberneck to get a quick look at the cars. After a few seconds of taking in the situation, you move on. Quickening your pace, you ramp up to normal highway speed and move quickly on to your destination.

When you get there, your hosts ask why you came so late. What caused the delay? You blame it on the automobile accident. But think for a moment. Is that really the case? A minor traffic accident is itself incapable of causing such an exaggerated backup.

What ruined your day and everyone else’s was nothing short of the instinctive but thoughtless behavior that characterized the actions of just about everyone on the road.

“Me?” you protest. “What did I do wrong? How can you blame that on me?”

The answer is that the rubberneckers, who slow down - each for just a few seconds - to get a good look at the accident, are the ones who cause so much anguish for thousands. Those seconds add up cumulatively to a huge chunk of time, causing a huge traffic jam that stretches for miles and miles.

Our actions affect others. What we do carries consequences that are more weighty than we imagine. We cannot exonerate ourselves by arguing that a few seconds don’t count and that dropping our guard for mere moments cannot possibly have harmed anyone.

If you are sitting in a bais medrash filled with the melodious kol Torah and you stand up and turn around to see who is standing by the door, countless other pairs of eyes will follow your example and peek out from their Gemaros to see what it is that interests you. In such a case, you have not just wasted your own time, you have caused bittul Torah of a rabbim.

If you scoff at things that everyone around you considers hallowed, you have not just mocked the holy; you have caused others to lose chashivus for what is sacred. You have weakened their observance. If you talk during davening and those around you say, “If he can do it, so can I,” you have done something far more serious than merely share a tidbit with your neighbor.

The ripple effect of your own transgression magnifies that deed many times over.

From one person’s lack of decorum in shul can flow greater harm than you would imagine. There can be an entire shul full of yeshiva bochurim davening with great intensity, but if some ignoramus focuses on the one person talking, he has another excuse to degrade Bnei Torah.

In a bais medrash filled with hundreds of people learning, one person rising to stare at the guest being shown around by the yeshiva fundraiser has given that visitor an excuse to say that the yeshiva is not really all that great. He may even decide not to give the nice-sized donation he was planning on giving, using one person’s indiscretion to rationalize his tightfistedness.

When we study Torah and observe its precepts, it is not enough to go about it lightly, cutting corners and slacking off here and there. We have to embrace it with all our being, never taking our minds off of it for even a brief period, and never lowering our guard. Even the tiniest indiscretion can lead to disaster.

For if we allow ourselves a lapse here and there, we are akin to the rubberneckers, each of whom wastes only a few seconds of their time gawking but whose collective bittul causes misery for thousands.

We live in a world of lies and illusions. What’s right and wrong doesn’t count; those considerations take a back seat to what is sold to us in the media. The truth is so often twisted and mangled that it is no longer recognizable.

Everywhere we turn, it seems as if the forces of sheker are gaining. It is astonishing to see how people can be so willfully blind. It is truly mind boggling how they can twist around the facts so that black is white and white is black. We don’t have to travel that far to see the koach of sheker.

Examples of the ascendancy of sheker are too prevalent and obvious to thinking people to require a listing of examples. We all have to make extra efforts to be more truthful in our own lives. We have to make sure to speak the truth and not engage in devious behavior. Even little white lies have the power to bring us down. They snowball. And like those rubberneckers, they slow us all down and give us all a bad name.

In these days of bein hametzorim, we should show that the truth appeals to us, that we are not guided by the ever-changing trends of the day, but rather by what is true and good. Let us give strength to the emes and not become victims of the sheker. Let’s do what we can to weaken sheker and its henchmen.

In this period, when we mourn the churbanos and destruction our people have endured during this time of year, we grieve over the loss of the Botei Mikdosh and the loss of the light of truth and holiness which they provided the world.

Each one of us has the power to hasten the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu to redeem us from all that plagues us and to rescue us from the falsity around us.

Talmidei HaGaon taught that since Moshiach will return the emes to its rightful place and cause worldwide kiddush Hashem, the sitra achra seeks to do everything in its power to cause ascendancy in sheker and chillul Hashem during the period of ikvisah dimeshicha, leading up to the redemption.

Thus, in the period of as’chalta d’geulah, every little lie makes a difference. And every time we speak the truth, we are bringing Moshiach closer. We have to beat back the forces of evil by doing our utmost to enhance the koach of emes and increase kiddush Hashem.


Post a Comment

<< Home