No matter who you are
or what you do, you will have moments of inspiration – a time when your heart
will be open and your soul stirred.
No matter how stuck
you may be, a window of opportunity will open in your life. And what you do
at that moment will make all the difference.
But what happens when
a moment of inspiration is not realized?
This week’s essay –
a sequel to last week – discusses the power of inspiration and the profound
consequences of not acting on a call from above, and what we can do to mend
it – both in our personal and collective lives.
* * *
Last week’s article addressed
the great spiritual awakening that took place 40 years ago, in the summer
At the time the Rebbe
referred to the awakening as the onset of the “great shofar” call which resulted
from the miraculous Six-Day war victory. The call of the “great shofar” touched
a deep chord inside people, even those “lost in the land of Ashur”
– in the pleasures of life, and those “banished in the land of Mitzrayim”
– in the oppressive forces of life.
Forty years have passed
since the ’67 summer of awakening. Have things changed? And how! Everything
gained back then seems to be lost now. Indeed, it often appears as things
are worse today than they were prior to 1967.
During the past four decades several more wars have
been fought – with far less pride and success –
the Yom Kippur war in 1973, the Lebanese War in 1981, the
ongoing Intifidas. The only thing predictable in Israel
today is unpredictability. Today, 1967 seems like another
Terrorism is now the norm
in the Middle East. It began in Israel, but now it has spread to the entire
world – in all its hemispheres.
People in Israel and all
over the world are weary, resigned, confused by an unknown future. The political
systems are in shambles and the confidence in leaders is all but gone. The
mere fact that the country is running is in itself quite a miracle. What is
even more confusing – and miraculous – is that in this toxic climate Israel’s
economy is booming, with unprecedented prosperity.
Just last summer yet another
senseless war was fought in Lebanon – draining and humiliating Israel, leaving
everyone more resigned than ever.
Even more bizarre and
ironic is the fact that today’s Islamic terror campaign is driven by misplaced
faith. Faith – the power that was stirred in 1967 – now is regularly abused
by others to wreak destruction on innocent people…
How could things have
changed so drastically?
The argument can be made, that with the fundamental changes that have taken
place over the past 40 years, who really cares what happened
in 1967? Whatever happened then was then, but today, forty
years later, we live in a new world order, far more complex.
Instead of an awakening we have a major mess. Peace seems
farther than ever.
So what difference does
it make what transpired 40 years ago? How does that knowledge help us today?
But, the truth is that
the only real way to solve a problem is by looking at its roots; to deal with
the causes and not just the symptoms.
Thus, the only way to
address today’s challenges is to look back at the events of 40 years ago,
and trace today’s events to their earliest roots.
So let’s revisit 1967 and take a closer look at the events
that followed the Six-Day War. There was an undeniable awakening
at the time that electrified the world. But the big question,
of course, is what happened next?
What happened next is
perhaps the most important story of our modern times.
Initially, in the immediate aftermath of the Six-Day War,
everyone recognized and marveled at the hand of G-d, eliciting
a profound faith-inspiring euphoria. But just after a few
days, the wonder began to wane and people began to dismiss
the miracle by explaining the events away. They began to
take credit for the smashing victory – arguing that
it was due to the great training and discipline of the Israeli
This is the nature of
all success: After the initial appreciation, we usually gravitate to taking
it for granted and feeling that we are self-made successes. The same with
every inspiration: It dissipates unless it is kept alive.
Therein – the denial of
G-d’s miracles and hand in victory – lays the undoing of all great successes,
throughout history. Arrogance, the delusional sense of all-powerful invulnerability,
brought down many an empire and many a leader in centuries past.
The Torah warns us of this human tendency (Deuteronomy
8:17-18): [When you achieve success and prosperity
be careful that you not] say to yourself,
“It was my own strength and personal power that brought
me all this prosperity.” You must remember that it
is G-d who gives you the power to become prosperous. He
does this so as to keep the covenant that He made with an
oath to your fathers, even as [He is keeping it] today.
Why is it a problem to feel self made? If a child wants
to be foolish and convince himself that he is self made
– let him be; why should it matter what he thinks?
Does is it have any negative impact?
The answer is absolutely yes. Besides for the fact that
we shouldn’t be living in delusions, and we shouldn’t
be ungracious in acknowledging those that helped us achieve
success, there is a deeper issue at stake. By denying your
blessings and cutting G-d out of the picture, you end up
creating a self-defeating prophesy. Attributing success
solely to yourself basically renders you into a vulnerable
creature, with no strength but your own. Once you refuse
to recognize the “hand inside the glove,” even
the “Hand” itself cannot do anything to show
In psychological terms:
A mortal creature needs nurturing and love. In this cruel world, every one
of us must have an unwavering foundation that holds us up. Without it – our
conscious and unconscious never develop the strength and confidence necessary
to navigate life. Witness the profound effects that an unnurtured (or abused)
childhood has on a person’s self esteem and inner security. Without the fortitude
provided by a higher power, we are left to our own vulnerable schemes, with
the existential fears, insecurities loneliness of our psyches – left alone,
relying on our own, weak selves.
The humility of recognizing
the Divine blessing of your success opens up the channels to manifest and
contain these blessings. Which in turn give you the strength to face any challenge.
This is the both the great
gift – and power – of free will: We have the ability to open or close the
channels of blessings.
This is true anywhere,
anytime in every life experience, in every part of the world. How much more
so in the Promised Land, which is so much more dependent on the Divine covenant,
without which Jews would have no right or chance of survival, surrounded by
hundreds of millions of enemies.
Tragically, this is what
happened back in 1967. People began to feel that huge victory was due to their
own great power. Kochi v’otzem yodi – “It was my own strength and personal
power that brought me all this prosperity.”
Ironically, both left wing and right wing extremists assumed
the same position and cut G-d out of the picture: The secular
left, denying the Divine hand, by arrogantly taking credit
for their own successes. Some religious extremists argued
that the victory did not come from G-d but from the “other
side.” They felt that G-d would not work miracles
through the secular “Zionists” who defy G-d.
And this is the root of
all the problems: By denying the Divine hand and not actualizing the call
of the “great shofar,” we actually make it more difficult to manifest the
channels of blessing.
A strange Midrash illuminates
this point even further: The Talmud states that “the world is like a balcony
without the fourth, northern, wall” (Baba Batra 25b). Why? Explains the Midrash:
Should someone claim to be the Creator, he will be told to finish the northern
wall (Pirkei D’Rabbi Elozor ch. 3).
What is the meaning of
this cryptic statement? Who in their right mind would suggest that he is the
The Midrash is telling
us, that every person at times may be tempted to feel that he is a self-made
entity. In order to remind us all that as great as we may be, we must always
appreciate our blessings from above, the universe was created in a way that
there always remains one vulnerable corner – the northern border – which can
allow in problems, “out of the north the evil will break forth on all the
inhabitants of the land” (Jeremiah 1:14).
No matter how successful
a person may be, even if all “three sides” of you life are covered, we always
remain vulnerable creatures. Everyone should always be blessed, but we never
can know when or where a “curveball” may come. Never, ever forget that we
need every blessing we can get. If you ever feel self made, be careful, because
you may be them challenged: Ok, you think you’re an all powerful, self created
individual, let’s see what you can do with the vulnerable (“north”) areas
of life… Go ahead, show us how you can close up and protect that open border.
But if you recognize the
true Creator, then He will do what is necessary to protect us from the “north,”
he will finish and seal the vulnerable points.
In a most uncanny fashion,
this Midrash is literally being played out in Israel: Despite the great success
of the Six-Day war, which basically eliminated the enemy in the South (Egypt),
East (Jordan), Northeast (Syria) and West (the Mediterranean) – Israel’s northern
border (Lebanon) has always remained a vulnerable sore point.
Forty years have passed
since the ’67 war, people have argued that our strength is “self made,” and
till this day the “northern front” remains a source of festering misery –
as witnessed in the Lebanese War in 1982, and again last summer, with thousands
of missiles raining down on Israel in the years in between.
Indeed, the lack of healthy
faith in the Divine hand at work, has created a vacuum which has allowed for
a distorted faith to emerge – yet another ironic twist – the misplaced faith
of Muslim extremists, who in the name of faith, are wreaking havoc and murdering
Conversely, this also
teaches us what we need to do to achieve and maintain success: We need to
recognize the Divine hand affecting our lives, and ensure that we actualize
our Divine calling in our daily lives.
In the words of Isaiah:
Following the call of the “great shofar” comes the second half of the verse
and the challenge: Will the call lead us to “come and bow down to G-d on the
holy mountain in Jerusalem”? The victory 40 years ago sounded a “call” that
touched millions. But, as it is with every inspiration, the challenge is maintaining
the inspiration. As the inspiration dissipates we tend to take our miracles
and gifts for granted. Will we utilize this awakening to its fullest? Will
we act upon it and allow it to change our lives?
Recognizing the Divine
hand is also the secret to peace:
True peace between peoples
is only possible when there is a fundamental respect for the sanctity of every
life and every human being. Self-made people will compete for dominance and
superiority. When people feel that they are self made, it is not a far step
to abuse the rights of others. But when we accept that “all people were created
equal” and by virtue of our Divine souls each of us has unalienable rights,
than respect for each other is a given. In G-d we trust creates a firm foundation
that allows for coexistence, despite our differences.
Many ideas have been presented
suggested to bring peace to the Middle East. One way that has not been explored
is the path of faith – healthy faith.
While it is true that
we are witness to profound intolerance in the name of faith – both today and
over the centuries, yet a similar level of intolerance is practiced by those
without faith. Without respect for the sanctity of each and every life, ultimately
“self-made” men will follow the “survival of the fittest” dictum. When success
is seen as self-made, with mo need to humbly acknowledge a higher presence,
how can people ever treat each others as equals? Hence, there will never be
This suggests a third
path – neither the path of faithlessness not the path of fanatical faith.
Rather the path of a faith in G-d who created all life, thus a faith that
dictates the sanctity of every life, Jew, Christian or Muslim, black or white.
In essence, the lack of
humble recognition in the Divine miracles ultimately is the greatest cause
for the escalation of hostilities. Left on our own, without acknowledging
G-d’s gift of life, we will be at each others throats, either in the name
of (misplaced) faith or in the name of faithlessness.
Obviously, there are other
factors necessary to consider in order to achieve peace in Israel. I am not
naively suggesting that faith alone will solve all the deep distrust and animosities.
However, the question should be posed the other way: Can peace be achieved
without healthy faith? So, in addition to all the other political and diplomatic
means being employed, it would be a good idea to introduce the element of
Looking back at the events
of 1967 and seeing what transpired over the last four decades, perhaps we
now have the wisdom and experience to launch a new offensive – one built on
humility and appreciation of the miracles in our lives.
Now forty years later,
blessed with the insight 40 years bring, the lessons are relevant more than
ever as we have witnessed, in retrospect, the consequences of ignoring or
denying the Divine hand.
We now can appreciate
that we must do everything possible to reintroduce the Higher power behind
the script of world events, and especially those in the Middle East
It is never too late. With forty years of accumulative experience, we now
can reignite V’hoyo yitoka b’shofar gadol – the call
of the “great shofar,” which reaches those “lost in the
land of Ashur” and those “banished in the land of
Mitzrayim.” And above all – to ensure that this call
will cause them all to “come and bow down” not to themselves
and their self-made illusions, but “to G-d on the holy mountain
in Jerusalem”, and do so not once, but on a permanent basis.
This is the lesson for
the summer of 2007: Recognize the great hand of G-d in our lives, and allow
His blessings to take hold.
This in turn will open
up the channels of blessings, drawing them down into every aspect of our lives.
Leading, finally, to the
ultimate blessing: Peace in our lives, in our communities, in the Middle East
and in the world at large.