Rabbi’s Corner

Rabbi’s Corner: New view of current ‘exile’

Rabbi Israel Becker

As I was praying alone in my study this Passover, words I had been saying my entire life suddenly popped out of the siddur: “We have been exiled from our land. We are unable to serve you in your Holy House.”

We also are experiencing an exile, from our synagogues and our Torah study centers.

Our Holy Temple is not rebuilt, so we cannot serve G-d there. Although our synagogues and Jewish schools stand, we are restricted from serving G-d in those places. The bottom line is the same. We are in a state of exile. What are we to do about it? What is G-d asking of us?

In writing these words my intention is not to preach, but to share that which I believe in my heart of hearts. I have been taught that history does not just unfold randomly. History is directed by G-d.

G-d’s involvement in the intricate details of the world at large and in our own individual lives is encapsulated in the very first of Maimonides’ 13 Principles of Faith: “I believe with complete faith that the Creator, Blessed is His Name, creates and guides all creatures and that He alone made, makes, and will make everything.”

G-d’s love is expressed repeatedly in our prayers: “He chooses his nation Israel with love” (from our daily prayers), and “You gave us Hashem our G-d with love, Sabbaths for rest, appointed festivals for gladness.” Our reciprocal love relationship with G-d is the core of our most important prayer, “Shema Yisroel,” and is passionately described in “Shir Hashirim,” King Solomon’s Song of Songs.

Yet oftentimes G-d camouflages His involvement and conceals it from our eyes so that events of small or worldwide significance appear to be generated by nature (Sefer Hachinuch #132), by decisions of world or local leaders (Talmud Brachos 55a) and even by the direction of media (Medrash Rabba Genesis 88:1).

This is because G-d’s modus operandi is for man to grow closer to Him by seeking Him. If G-d would remove the veil of camouflage covering our eyes we would be denied the freedom and joy of choice and discovery. Man is the sole creation of G-d formed “in His image” and gifted with the challenge of free will (Deuteronomy 30:19: “And you shall choose life”).

The Jew who believes in the presence of G-d in every detail of our lives and the world around us can use his G-d endowed gift of free will and make the choice to recognize G-d’s hand in the current “stopping of the world.”

We Jews have a popular expression: “gam ze yaavor,” meaning “this too shall pass.” This phrase is actually the theme of many posters and songs in Israel today, optimistically looking forward to the end of the fear and restrictions brought to us by the coronavirus. “Gam ze yaavor” is a great and comforting saying. Yes, the virus and these tough times will pass, but only with G-d’s help.

Take this opportunity to recognize G-d’s involvement in our lives and strive to decipher His message to each one of us. Replace our fears with faith and turn our physical “social distancing” into a glorious doorway to spiritually connect with G-d and to one another on a level that would have forever remained untapped without the ramifications of the coronavirus.