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.
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Last week’s article addressed the great spiritual awakening that took place 40 years ago, in the summer of 1967.
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 lifetime.
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 Army.
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 its strength.
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 Creator?!
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 innocent people.
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 permanent peace.
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 humble faith.
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.