During these three weeks of pain, there’s three weeks of reasons.
Deep into the summer routine, we take a break from our regular programming to tend to the business of mourning our long lost Beis Hamikdash, once again. But it’s only a slight break, really. We observe all of the halachos of the Three Weeks, and then the Nine Days, while working to fit them as seamlessly as possible into our ongoing summer fun. Whether it’s with workarounds like siyumim and a capella, or just simply continuing to enjoy ourselves as much as possible and not letting the hilchos aveilus interfere with our summer mindset, it is easy to begin viewing these halachos as a minor nuisance, chas veshalom, and not as a reminder of what we should be feeling in our hearts.
I’m not saying this in criticism per se. We know Hashem doesn’t want us to wallow in grief, and enjoying our summer is what we are supposed to be doing, even during the Three Weeks. But the problem begins to arise when we completely let these days slip by, without feeling even a tug of longing for the geulah. For all of our aches and pains, life is good, we are comfortable, and it becomes easy to forget why we are mourning, what we are missing.
Just as a gentle reminder, here are twenty-one reasons why we need Mashiach, and we need him now. As you continue with the routine, take a moment each day to reflect on one of them, to truly feel the pain of galus and to transmit that feeling to your family, on their own level. And then, hopefully, you won’t even need to get to the end of the list because Mashiach will be here already.
Disconnection: It’s become cliché already, but it bears repeating anyway. In today’s world of hyper connectedness, we are becoming more and more disconnected. And I will split disconnection into three distinct categories:
Disconnection from Each Other: It’s never been harder to maintain a meaningful relationship. You can blame it on our hectic lives and parnassah difficulties. You can blame it on technology or gaavah or any of the other valid concerns that lead to the tragic demise of wholesome relationships, but the bottom line is that we are growing further apart from each other, from family and friends, spouses and mentors. Relationships are dying, and those that are still intact are growing more superficial. We’ve been blessed with a proliferation of professionals to address our relationship aches and pains, but the more there are, the more we need. And while there is plenty of work to do in the here and now to rebuild and reconnect, we need Mashiach so badly to keep our homes, our families and our friendships close, deep and real.
Disconnection from Ourselves: We are in constant existential crisis, and that is if we are one of those who actually think of these things. We don’t know who we are, where we belong in the grand scheme of things and where we are heading. And if we start contemplating these questions, there is enough noise out there that drowns out the uncomfortable thoughts so that we can continue living in complete disconnect from ourselves. We need Mashiach to come and open our hearts and our minds to discovering the truth about ourselves.
Disconnection from Hashem: The frum communities we live in are growing by leaps and bounds. It’s a beautiful thing. But sometimes it seems that in tandem with this growth comes an increasing disconnect from Hashem. We’re living frum lives on a technical level, but is Hashem really in it? Again, there are many factors we can blame this on, but the bottom line is that going through the motions of Yiddeshkeit by rote, without connecting with Hashem on the deepest level we are able to, is nothing short of a tragedy. We need Mashiach to usher in a time of complete and total d’veikus baHashem.
Loneliness: All of this disconnect leads to another painful epidemic rampant in our times: loneliness. It was decades ago that the legendary MBD sang of lonely people. “It’s so sad when you see lonely people.” And we thought we knew what lonely people looked like: people who had no one, people who lost someone special, or never had someone special. It’s not the case anymore though, and perhaps it never was. There are so many people today who suffer from unbearable loneliness. They can be lively, seemingly happy people, surrounded by friends and family, and yet they are so lonely deep inside. That loneliness that you feel when you are surrounded by people is one of the most painful kinds of loneliness. So many of us live parallel lives to each other, passing by but not quite touching, knowing but not quite feeling. You can do your part by reaching out to others, embracing them and being there for them, but you can also daven for Mashiach to come and make us all feel embraced again. And if you are feeling alone today, take that pain and turn it upward, begging Hashem to bring an end to your loneliness, to all of our loneliness, once and for all.
Tears: There are so, so many of them. We’ve cried rivers of tears already that show no sign of abating. In moments of shared sorrow, we lower our heads and murmur the words, “umachah Hashem dimah me’al kol panim.” It’s a promise and a plea, a hope and a prayer, that Hashem erase the tears from every face. It’s a comforting thought that such a day will arrive, but we have to remember that it will only happen when Mashiach comes. For as long as we are in galus, we will keep on crying. So shed some tears today for all of the tears in klal Yisroel, and daven through your sobs that these should be the very last tears that we shed.
Anti-Semitism: It accompanied us through every stage and step of galus and today is no exception. Cushy as we may have it, anti-Semitism is real, and it is growing. Whether it is in the form of horrific violence and slaughter against Jews, or hateful rhetoric online and tossed out of car windows by our own neighbors, the hate is there and it’s very, very scary. It’s in Europe and Eretz Yisroel, it’s in America and it’s wherever Jews are found. We can do our part by being good neighbors and citizens and galus Yidden, but true anti-Semitism, the kind that is deeply rooted and carefully cultivated only has one antidote: Mashiach.
Sinas Chinam: As if we don’t have enough hatred surrounding us, we’ve managed to bring it within us as well. It’s what caused this endless galus to begin with and, as Abie Rottenberg sings, it still lives on in our hearts. There is so much fighting, so much disdain, so much disrespect from brother to brother, sister to sister. You can’t daven in my shul, you can’t play with my children and you can’t feel welcome in my neighborhood. There is so much more that unites us than divides us, and yet we continue to let those superficial differences drive the deepest of wedges. It’s a catch-22 because we need Mashiach to come so we can all get along again, but we need to eradicate the hate from our hearts in order for him to come. So when you are up to this one, don’t just daven for Mashiach to come and unite us, but also identify concrete steps you can take to make it happen by increasing your ahavas Yisroel.
Loss: Especially if you are an adult reading this, chances are you’ve lost someone you love. Hopefully, you’ve been blessed and it’s been an elderly grandparent or great-uncle. Even so, and especially if it’s been those younger, closer, or otherwise more tragic to you, you feel their absence. Often, there is an ache that is so deep and so raw, you feel you will never stop grieving. Hashem’s healing mechanism of time has its way with the gaping wounds, but you never stop missing them. There is only one thing that can provide the ultimate comfort, and that is when we are hopefully reunited with our loved ones with the coming of Mashiach. Think about the people we’ve lost, and the people still here who we are so desperate not to lose, and beg Hashem to bring Mashiach now.
Illness: The amount of seriously ill people in klal Yisroel is heartbreaking. We all know someone who is sick, and the diagnoses keep getting closer and closer to home. Our Tehillim lists are getting longer, and organizations like Chai Lifeline, Chai4Ever, Misameach and RCCS are unfortunately thriving. When we hear about another choleh and then another, we turn our eyes heavenward and beg Hashem, “Tatte, ad massai??” But we know the answer to that question. The sicknesses won’t end until the day when we are all miraculously healed to serve Hashem in full capacity.
Mental and Emotional illness: For all those struggling with disease, there are just as many suffering in silence from illnesses no less painful but much less obvious. They are our brothers and sisters crushed under the burden of depression and anxiety, bipolar disorder and OCD. Their lives are darkened by their mental and emotional pain; sometimes it is so deep and dark that they cannot live among regular society and their families cry from afar as they inhabit worlds of their own. Other times they are just like me and you, but with additional mountains that they climb with herculean efforts. There is no medal awaiting them at the peak, though. They are often stigmatized, ostracized and misunderstood when they need to be cherished, embraced and cared for. We need to storm the heavens on their behalf to bring about the day that all of the ill will be restored to full health, not only in body but also in spirit and mind.
Tragedy: If personal struggles aren’t enough, we are all too often besieged by heartbreaking global tragedies. These are stories that tug at the heartstrings and make us crumble a little inside, because they are so heartbreaking and devastating, even when we don’t know the people involved personally. We get overwhelmed by the level of pain that exists in the world, and, again, we plead, “Ad masai?” But until Mashiach comes, the tragedies will chas v’shalom keep coming and we are left holding our breath and davening that it be turned around for good before it hits hard. There is only one way to get them to stop crushing us, and that is by davening for Mashiach.
Chutzpah: Chazal say that in the time before Mashiach chutzpah will be rampant, and we see it now more than ever. We are losing respect for our elders, our mentors, our guides. It’s all about what is young and new and hip. Brazenness takes over reverence and our elders stand helpless in the wake of this brazenness. If this isn’t a sign both of the fact that Mashiach’s arrival is imminent, and that we need it so very badly, I don’t know what is.
Skewed Priorities: We are fortunate to live in a place, and to a broader degree, an era, where Torah and ruchniyus are growing and growing. Shuls and schools and kollelim are being built and then quickly outgrown, communities flourish and thrive. But something else is flourishing too, and that is the gashmiyus that surrounds us. Gashmiyus on its own, when it comes to good food, nice clothing, extravagant vacations and the like, isn’t such a terrible thing. But what happens when our pursuit of gashmiyus outruns our pursuit of ruchniyus, when the time, money and energy we put into gashmiyus far outweighs the time, effort and money we put into our ruchniyus? What are we choosing to focus on day to day? Do we eat to live or live to eat? These are hard questions, because in today’s materialistic atmosphere, most of are not happy with our answers, if we answer truthfully. We need Mashiach so badly so we can go back to remembering what is really important and to living a life of kedushah and spirituality.
Lack of Clarity: Even if we do want to live our lives according to ratzon Hashem, we often don’t even know what the right way is. Life is so confusing; there are decisions to make and we are befuddled. We want to do what Hashem wants from us, but we don’t know what He wants. Are we meant to live a life of Yissoschor or of Zevulun? To be a leader of lesser people or a follower of greater people? Live in a town where we have what to teach or where we have what to learn? What is our tafkid? We don’t know. One of the things we daven for when we ask for Mashiach is, “V’sen chelkeinu b’sorasechah.” And it seems strange because we don’t need Mashiach to have a chelek in Torah; we can have that now! But the key is chelkeinu. Our chelek. Only when Mashiach comes will we have that clarity to know what our path in Torah is, what our tafkid is. Until then, we are groping in the dark. We need Mashiach to come and turn that light on.
Assimilation: For all of our growth as a nation, we are hemorrhaging neshamos. Every day, another person intermarries, assimilates or goes off the derech. Every soul that is lost to us is a churban. Even more tragic are the ones we could have prevented, the ones that left because of our own actions. Ever since Rav Noach Weinberg, zt”l, issued his battle cry to fight assimilation, kiruv efforts have proliferated. But it’s still not enough. We are losing neshamos and we need to plead for Mashiach to come so that they will all come back home.
Hunger and Thirst: Behold, days are coming that I will send a hunger in the land, not a hunger for bread and not a thirst for water, but for the word of Hashem (Amos 8:11). That day has arrived. We have plenty of food and plenty of water, but still we are a parched and starving people. We are empty and desperate for inspiration, for direction, and for a life lived by the word of Hashem. We beg for the day when our tanks will be filled, when the word of Hashem will flow in a never-ending stream of lifegiving water and we will bask in the holiness of His word.
Immorality: Sin was always present in the world, but never has it been more celebrated and revered than it is today. Sin flows through our streets masked as righteousness, and the lines are terrifyingly blurred. Immorality is held up on a pedestal and we are forced to build our own teivos in a tidal wave of corruption. We can keep fighting the tide, but we are small and weak. We need Mashiach so we can raise our children in a world of holiness and purity without the temptations and distractions of the great big flood out there.
Poverty: While we have rarely as a nation lived in wealthier times, the sad reality is that so many among us struggle to provide for our families. Life is expensive, and we face foreclosure and eviction, expulsion and termination. Money may seem like a mundane problem compared to so many others on this list, but for those who’ve known poverty, the pain is real. We need Mashiach so that we can all live a life free of worry of parnassah, blessed with enough bounty to procure our needs.
Broken Families: The Shechinah cries when a family is torn apart, and she must therefore be weeping constantly. We need to bring an end to the deep pain and loneliness resting in the hearts of our brothers and sisters who have suffered through the fault lines in their most important asset: their family. We need to reunite children with their parents and make families whole again. And for that, we need Mashiach.
Olam Hafuch: In this topsy-turvy world we live in, truth is elusive. We respect those who are evil and shun the righteous among us. We think we know our right from left and right from wrong, but we are so mixed up. We need Mashiach to usher in a world where the glorious is glorified, the villains are vilified, and the truth reigns supreme, with all of us bowing our heads in deference to it.
Shechinah in Galus: For all of our pain in galus, Hashem is right there with us. He is wandering with us, bereft of His home, the Bais Hamikdash. When we weep, He, kivayachol, weeps with us. We need Mashiach to come so that Hashem’s shechinah can once again settle in the Bais Hamikdash and cast its aura all over the world in a revealed glory like we’ve never known.
Reprinted with permission from the Lakewood Shopper Family Room.