The New Year 5781 will arrive in 18 more days… days of trepidation, yet days of renewed hope.
The Bratzlaver chassidim yearn for their trip to Ukraine and their month of prayers at the tomb of the 16th century pious leader at his grave in Uman where he died and was buried.
There are said to be more than two million followers of his movement, most of them located in Israel and in parts of the USA. It is reputed that 10,000 of them in Israel will make the flight to Ukraine if they will be permitted to enter the country’s borders, semi-closed to foreigners due to the coronavirus.
These chassidim believe that they can implore the soul of their long-dead rebbe to intervene on their behalf with the Holy of Holies, a God who has eyes but did not see, a God who has ears but did not hear the cries of His Chosen people as they were being burned and gassed.
If He was silent from 1939-1945, the years of the greatest holocaust in history, why should He awake and utilize His mystical and magical powers to save the suffering universe?
It was God’s intention that we, His creations, should be His partners in saving the world from destruction. But we have proven to be miserable partners. Most of us did not prevent the spread of hatred, racism, anti-semitism, and anti-humanity. Most waited too long until the foul disease brought on by mankind had spread beyond man’s powers and abilities to halt.
So instead of acting, the zealots among us merely go to the graves of long-dead saints to implore for mercy. Their words are buried with the dry bones in the graves of whom they worship. And they carry a great danger upon their return to Israel— the danger of contagion which can lead to thousands of more unnecessary deaths and suffering to bereaved families.!
In our Jewish religion we are taught firmly “Hashem Echad”. There is only One God. There is none else.
A deceased and great rabbi, teacher, scholar who inspired millions over centuries must be honored for past deeds and teachings but not one of them can be called the Messiah. It is quite frankly “avodah zara”, pagan worship, to bestow the messianic authority upon another, and to worship his memory.
That is for God to do and not for man.
We certainly can dream and wish in hope that dreams and wishes always come true. But our disappointment overwhelms us when they do not.
I am an observant Jew, a modern Jew, and am the great-great grandson of generations of Belzer chassidim since 1727. Their names and birth places are inscribed on a huge parchment scroll which was written in Lwow in 1927 to celebrate 200 years of my family’s pre-eminence as rabbinic scholars and men of renowned piety. The framed scroll hangs on a wall in my home, its length reaching from heaven to earth.
And while I take pride in their noble lives I do not, cannot and will not ever worship them. I am responsible only for my own deeds. God will bless me or punish me for who I am today, not for my family born 293 years ago.
Many many years ago a Chabad Chassidic rabbi whom I admired saw the parchment framed scroll and was astonished. He was amazed that anyone could possess a family tree written in letters of pure gold and he asked what would become of it after my death.
He continued to suggest that I Will it to Chabad in the event that none of my children would want something to which they had no attachment.
The only possible person in my family who might want it, though he has never made any mention, is my 21 year old chassidic grandson, whose only recent request is to have 40 volumes of my Babylonian and Steinsaltz editions of the Talmud.
For me, the Days of Awe are very fast approaching. Synagogues will be closed for the first time in our thousands of years of history due to the fear of contagion from the pandemic. Rabbis have sent messages to worshippers to pray in our homes. Their reasoning is that “Hashem hoshiya et amo ba-asher hem sham”… God will hear His people wherever they may be”.
So my home is in preparation for the mighty and powerful days soon to arrive.
Knowing that due to my advanced age this may be my last Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, I have prepared only two wishes to present to the Holy One , in the great hope that He in His mercy will hear and will reply favorably.
The first is that he will send a fine husband to my 53 year-old never-married orthodox daughter so that after my death she will not remain alone. I pray that Hashem will be a loving father when I am gone.
The second wish is that I may live long enough to hold a first great-grandchild in my arms.
That is all I wish for in this New Year 5781. Those are the wishes that I will recite on the days when I open my prayer-book to beg for God’s forgiveness and His Divine pardon for my many sins.
But prior to the arrival of those Holy days, I extend heartfelt and sincere wishes to my people everywhere.
L’shana tovah u’metooka, shnat briyut tovah, orech yomim, besorot tovot, hatzlacha, harbai nachat v’shalom.
A good year, a sweet year, a year of good health, length of days, good tidings, success, much joy and peace.