The American army was never meant to stay in Afghanistan long term. They were always there to train the local Afghan army and eventually withdraw. Our army, the mightiest and most powerful in the world, poured trillions of dollars into the effort. Twenty years, countless hours and resources, sophisticated weapons and strategies, so that when it counted, they would be able to defend themselves.
And after 20 years, America finally pulled out. Would all the effort pay off? Would the training work?
There may have been some doubt, but absolutely nobody predicted that things would backslide so miserably and so very, very quickly.
The world watched in horror as the Taliban overpowered the Afghan army in less than a week. All that effort, all that training, gone.
The Baal Shem Tov teaches that there is a lesson for us in everything we observe. And I see a strong parallel to our lives from what’s going on in Afghanistan.
You see, each of us faces a similar moment of truth. We’re here to make the world a better place, to refine our surroundings, and combat the negative opposing forces. On top of that, each soul is sent down into this world for a specific mission. A pivotal moment. Something only we can accomplish.
And G-d, the supreme King of Kings, the One Who is truly in control, gives us His best, most powerful weapon—the G-dly soul. He spends years training us. Before we come into this world, our souls bask in Divine radiance, recognizing the truth and true pleasure, so that when it descends into this murky world, it will be able to recognize and pursue truth and G-dliness.
He equips us with everything we need to succeed in battle. All the tools, training, and knowledge for our journey. And eventually, at some point in time, we will all face that moment of truth. Our battle. The time it counts the most.
We don’t know what or when it will be. Will we be asked to tolerate someone else’s opinion? Give a friend a ride even though it’s inconvenient? Will we be asked to give away our hard earned money to a good cause? Have unconditional love for those who challenge us the most?
Will we be challenged to light Shabbat candles and put away our devices for 25 hours even though an important deal is in the works? To forgo a non-kosher meal with someone who may not be as understanding as we would like?
And when that day comes, in whichever form we are challenged, what will we do? Will we utilize the tremendous arsenal of tools G-d has given us? Will we fight the battle until we overcome it? Or will we crumble and fade away?
We may question how much our personal battle counts in the greater scheme of things. But Maimonides tells us that we should view the world as a scale, at all times potentially hanging in equal balance between good and evil, mitzvot and aveirot. Our next deed could be the one that makes all the difference, and tips the scale, cosmically pushing the entire world over the edge to a better place. We are individuals, yes, but our actions affect the entire world.
With the High Holidays just around the corner, this is more important than ever. As we gear up to reunite with G-d, and recrown Him as our Eternal Monarch, we look to do teshuvah, and double down on our battle against lethargy, temptation, and evil. It’s time to dust off that toolbox He’s equipped us with, and get to work, so that when it most counts, we rise to the challenge and win the war.
Rabbi Uriel Vigler