Saturday, May 16, 2009

How the World Has Changed

The following are examples of events that are occurring daily:

1. Looking back in history, we see that Jews were continually oppressed, religiously and physically, in each country in which they lived. Recently we have seen, that all the original rules of exile have changed.

A startling example of this is Russia, where up to a third of the entire Jewish people lived, under one of the most oppressive governments in history.

Incredible resources were used to fight Judaism and eradicate it. The most sophisticated and brutal means of the time, and a tremendous amount of manpower and money were all geared to this one goal.

Suddenly, Russia changed from oppression to freedom and to even support of Judaism. These same resources are now being used to build Judaism. They are helping to rebuild Synagogues, build Yeshivas, help Jews go to Israel, etc.

We see that the world has changed tremendously, and become a hospitable place, were Judaism can flourish. Whereas previously, the world was against Judaism, the same world today is understanding, supportive and even respectful.
For the last two thousand years of Jewish existence, these events were totally unthinkable. The rules of exile are changing, things that once were thought impossible are now commonplace.

Yet some of us have not noticed this revolutionary change. We still have an exile mentality and are living in the past. We do not realize, that we have the ability and the responsibility, to guide the world in the proper path.

2. Notwithstanding the tremendous changes in the way non-Jews relate to Jews, we still see these same countries taking an unjust attitude pertaining to Israel. These attitudes seem to be contradictory with their attitudes to Jews.

The Rebbe explains that this is consistent with the prophesies of Moshiach. Some countries will resist the coming of Moshiach, and this will express itself in the animosity towards the right of Jews over Israel.

As it says in Psalms, “Why do they create this fanfare (over the land of Israel) which is futile?”

So, not only is this not in contradiction to the world changing, it is actually another sign of the closeness of the redemption.

3. This change in the world, the Rebbe said, can be confirmed by each and every one of us. Go to any Gentile that you have a relationship with, and explain to him the seven Noahide laws.

When you see what his reaction is, you will be shocked at the results. Not only will he not be upset, but he will express gratitude that you took an interest in his welfare. He will actually feel, that he owes you a favor for what you did for him.

You, of course, are not trying to convert him, you are just informing him, of what the Torah says regarding non-Jews; which is very important for him to be aware of, before Moshiach comes.

The only problem will be, with you overcoming your previous conception of the world, and hesitating out of embarrassment to approach a non-Jew about this.

This does not mean that they will change their lives overnight, only that they will be receptive.

Just as a child may be receptive to learning, yet it does not mean, that the first time you tell him something he will do it. It’s a process, like everything else.

When we say the world is receptive to Torah and Mitzvahs, it means, that now we must begin to utilize this receptivity, and make it flourish.

It is in a state of potentiality and has to be brought out into actuality. This takes hard work, but since we know that the potential is there, we know that we will be successful.

4. We see, that from the beginning of the creation, warfare has been a fact of life. Even in the beginning when there were only four people in the entire world, Cain was fighting with Abel. This has continued for thousands of years.

In previous times, warriors and generals were considered heroes and honored. Parades were made for returning conquering armies. The goals were to conquer nations and rule the world.

Today however, warfare is considered an evil, that everyone agrees we have to eliminate. How is it ,that the attitudes of the world have changed. Did everyone get smarter all of the sudden?

The answer is, that there has been a change in the nature of people. We are witnessing a redirection of their desires and goals.

The only place where we see such an astounding change predicted is in the Torah. This is found relating to the prophecies of redemption and Moshiach.

5. We also see that the ability to acquire the objects needed to do Mitzvahs has become much easier in recent time. For example, in previous generations it was difficult, if not impossible to acquire a lulav and esrog on Succos.

Even big towns had only a total of two or three sets. Today little children get a set every year. Once one pair of tziztis in a lifetime was common. Today people buy them whenever they want. Seforim were rare and had to be shared or borrowed.

Owning an entire set of Gemoras was unheard of. Now, almost anyone who gets married automatically gets a set from his in-laws. These things are now taken for granted.

We also now have the monetary means with which to purchase these items, whereas in previous times just having enough to eat was of major concern.

6. The ability to keep kosher in America was once very difficult. To get kosher milk you had to be near a farm. You had to go to the farm and watch the cow being milked yourself. Also getting kosher chickens or meat, meant you had to buy an animal, then find a Shochet to shecht it.

After this you yourself had to kasher it by taking out the blood, soaking it, salting, etc.. Nowadays, you simply go to the local store and buy what you need.

There are hundreds of other food products, that carry a logo signifying that the product is certified to have kosher ingredients in it. There are now many koshers organizations that provide this service.

As a matter of fact, millions of non-Jews eat products every day, that have this stamp on them, because of a few thousand Jews keeping kosher.

7. When Jews originally came to America from Europe they faced many problems in adjusting to the new life style of America. One of the hardest challenges they faced, was keeping Shabbos.

Then, in the fifties the law was changed, and all of the sudden everyone was not working on Shabbos. Now if a Jew is not hired or is fired because of religious reasons, he can sue his employer in non-Jewish courts.

8. Even after the law was changed, it still seemed that certain businesses had to be open on Shabbos, such as a pharmacy, a dry cleaning store, a grocery store, etc..

Gradually, as Jews started going into these businesses, (but closed on Shabbos), it was apparent, that the business not only did not fail, but did just as wel,l as other businesses that were open on Shabbos.

9. The learning of Torah has also become much easier. As time passed the number of commentaries explaining the Gemorah continually increased.

This has very recently reached the point, where there are new commentaries in English that simplify the Gemorah tremendously.

There are now translations into many different languages, of a number of Torah books. This is in addition to the seemingly endless number of books being written, on a multitude of Torah topics.

You can also now learn on cassette tape or on the telephone. To learn Torah you don’t have to have a teacher or be at home. In the middle of your workday, in your office, you can have a class in Torah.

With computers you can research the vastness of Gemorah and responsa in a very short time.

You also have much more time to learn Torah. Once, just to have food to eat took almost all day. In our times we work forty hours a week and that is sufficient.

10. This change also manifests itself on a bodily level. We have become aware, that physical, bodily desires, are not the primary aspect of a person. People are starting to realize, that physical excess is destructive.

There used to be a philosophy, that if you give the body all it desires, then you will be happy; and if not, you will be sad and repressed. In the 60’s and 70’s there was an idea, that negativism and anger, had led to problems on a world level, and was caused by people denying their desires.

In our generation we see, that any desire that one can imagine is readily available. You would think, that with all these delights people would be tremendously happy; we should be the happiest generation. In fact, people have never been more miserable.

Today we see, that the profession of psychology is doing very well. Everybody has problems, and they are getting new ones every day.

We have a standard of living that was previously undreamed of. The things that we take for granted, could not have been imagined by previous generations, in their wildest dreams.

You would think that we, who finally have it all, would be flying. We see that is definitely not the case. Not only are we not happy, we are not healthy.

If you look at the leading causes of death today, you will find the majority are due to overindulgence. As a result, we find millions of dollars being spent, to rid oneself of various addictions.

Common harmful addictions are smoking, being overweight, alcohol, drugs, etc.. People realize, that they are hurting themselves, and are trying to find ways to stop.

In previous times, we restrained ourselves from doing many things, because we realized that in this world it may be good, but in the next world it would not be good. We had to constantly remind ourselves of the next world. This is not the case today.

Now we can see with our own eyes, that what the Torah says is not good, has negative effects. It’s not only not good in the next world, it’s not good now in this world.

We also see, that anyone who did not indulge, felt good not bad. In other words, nature is now openly giving the same message, as the Torah gives.

11. Today, when you sit down with a parent, and list the pros and cons of Yeshiva, as opposed to a public school, you reach a startling conclusion. You will see, who will have a better life physically, not only spiritually.

If they send their children to Yeshiva in many cases, they will have children whom they will get along with. They will remain married to the same person for most of their lives. They will choose to have children. They will get along with these children. They will have grandchildren that go in the right path.

If you want a home that is free of drugs, free of all the horrors of the outside world, then send your child to Yeshiva. It pays to go to Yeshiva, just to have a normal life. This becomes obvious, without discussing spiritual issues or belief.

12. Today the talent it takes to change people’s, lives is possessed by every individual. But like any talent and potential it takes effort to realize. The greatest concert pianist in the world, has to continually practice and work hard, to reveal his hidden talents.

The potential energy of goodness is much greater today, than at any point in history. One just has to do, and he will see results, that are way beyond the energy he extended. We are not doing this on our own, and it’s not only dependent on our abilities. We just have to be a catalyst, and the rest will take care of itself.

We see that people in a relatively short period of time, change their lives around totally. Today you can have a person do one act, such as putting on Tefillin, and turn their lives around.

These miraculous changes are accomplished, by ordinary people who are persistent. Today, if you dedicate yourself fully to something, you will ultimately succeed. What is needed today is action. You cannot wait for understanding and feeling. The action itself, will lead to understanding and feeling.

In previous generations, spiritual activities and the soul, had to be emphasized; more learning, studying and prayer. But now, in the times before Moshiach, the reverse is true, the physical act takes precedence.

It is explained in Chassidus, that although now the body is sustained by the soul, in the future the soul will be sustained by the body.

This is due to the higher source of the body, that will be revealed in those times. Now, through action, we can elevate even the soul.
So we see, that this process of elevating the body through action, has already begun. The power today of a physical act, is much more powerful, than ever before.

Of course, it is still absolutely necessary, to learn Torah and to pray with intention.

Some people feel that G-dliness belongs in the Synagogue and in the home. But G-d created the entire world, and wants every aspect of it elevated.

Everything has potential G-dliness, and a means for revealing it. This is why we see billboards advertising Moshiach, ads on the radio about doing Mitzvahs, TV shows, etc..

We now see, how every technological advance and invention, can be utilized for this purpose. This is the reason why science has exploded ,at such a tremendous rate in recent times.

As we get closer to the redemption, these “discoveries“ are needed, in order to reach Mankind through modern communications, and prepare them for the redemption.

The advance in medicine, etc. is also a taste of the life we will have after the redemption, when sickness will be eliminated.
We are looking at not only the signs of redemption, but we are living through the process of redemption. As the world moves closer towards Moshiach, we are supposed to move step by step with it.

As for us, we just have to open our eyes.