Chaim Ingram
Chaim Ingram

Darkest Hour – Just Before The Dawn

Even before we call to you, please answer us as it is written:  “Before they call, I shall answer; while they yet speak,  I shall hear!”  (Isaiah 65:24) (Aneinu prayer for fast days).

 G-D does not smite [the nation of] Israel  without having created a cure for them (Megila13b)

 It is always darkest just before the Day dawneth (Thomas Fuller, 1650)

The Jewish year is peppered with happy and sad periods. There is none sadder than the three weeks commencing with the Fast of Tammuz and culminating with Tisha b’Av, anniversary of the destruction of both Temples and so many other tragedies.

Chasidut often finds a positive where there appears to be none.  The seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, R’ Menachem Mendel Schneersohn ztl (1902-1994) was particularly renowned for shunning negative thoughts or expressions.

In discussing the tragic event for which 17th Tamuz is most well-known, namely the breach in the wall surrounding Jerusalem by the Roman Army close on 2,000 years ago, the Rebbe offers a breathtaking perspective. He compares the cracks that appeared in the wall to the cracks in the windows that king Solomon depicts in the celebrated verse from Song of Songs (2:9)  “…..Behold He stands behind our wall, looking in through the windows, peering in through the lattices”

Says the Rebbe: the cracks may have appeared in the wall but it is through those very cracks that G-D prepares His healing balm. Even before the cataclysmic destruction of the Temple, even before the smiting of the collective Jewish body and spirit, G-D creates the remedy. He sends His anointed saviour – Mashiakh – as His emissary to stand guard behind our cracked and crumbling wall to peer through the lattices and prepare to reveal himself as soon as the world is ready.

It has been a long and oppressive night. Gazing at the sky of the late sixth millennium, there are parts where the first cracks of dawn are seeming to appear.  The free world has never been more aware of the need for social justice and equity or for “nation to not lift up sword against nation, nor learn war any more”.  (Isaiah 2:4)

But there are other parts of the sixth-millenium sky which appear darker than ever.   A certain queer moral and spiritual decadence and depravity pervades free societies like never before, while elsewhere other societies are shorn up by pseudo-religious fanaticism and political terror. Never as much has the world needed the prayerful words of that hopeful English theologian Thomas Fuller to be true.

On the words from Isaiah cited above “while they yet speak, I shall hear!”, Abarbanel (1437-1508),declares that even prior to actual prayer when people speak of the need to importune G-D to act – G-D will respond.

I believe G-D responded big time in 1948. He responded even bigger time in 1967. He is responding now! How long before we have ears to hear? His anointed one is “peering in through the lattices”.  How long before we have eyes to see?

About the Author
Rabbi Chaim Ingram is the author of four books on Judaism and honorary rabbi of Sydney Jewish Centre on Ageing.