Humans spend a lot of time waiting. We wait in line. We wait for the traffic light to switch from red to green. We wait for the phone to ring or an email to come through. We wait for the baby to fall asleep, for dinner to be ready, for a promotion, for things to get better. With all of this practice, it is no wonder that we are experts at waiting for Mashiach.
Ever since its inception in the midbar 3335 years ago, Tisha B’Av has been a day of waiting. Rashi explains in the gemara Taanis daf 30b, that every year on the 8th of Av, those destined to die for the sin of the meraglim would dig themselves graves and sleep in them, wondering if this would be the year that they would die. In current times, Tisha B’Av has become the day when we restart the cycle of waiting for Mashiach. It is the day when we are forced to confront once again that this was not the year. While we await a more positive outcome than those in the midbar, our attitude is the same: we are passive participants in the inevitable.
But what if we are wrong? What if the reason Mashiach isn’t here is because we are not meant to be waiting for him? What if we are wrong in assuming that his delay is the fault of someone else? What if we are wrong to consider Tisha B’Av as a day to accept and mourn our losses? What if it is, instead, the day to confront the hard truth that maybe Mashiach isn’t here because of some continued failure on our part? Einstein famously defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. Are we insane?
The fifth mishna in the fourth perek of Sanhedrin states that every individual is required to say “The world was created for me.” The mishna goes on to explain that if we look at Adam HaRishon as the source of all humanity, we can comprehend the significance that one individual can carry. The mishna continues: since we all come from Adam, we all carry that same potential and our actions can be equally significant. I would like to suggest that the mishna is impressing upon us the necessity of acknowledging the weight that our actions can hold in the world. I matter, I make a difference, I can cause all of the change, even as a single individual.
Maybe all this time we’ve spent waiting could have been put to better use. Maybe we are meant to ask ourselves, “What can I be doing differently?”
The way I see it, there are three different ways to wait. There’s the “Pass the Time” attitude, the “Use this Time Wisely” approach, and finally, the “Speed this Up” method. To illustrate this, let’s take waiting in line at the grocery store as an example. Everyone waits at the checkout of the supermarket. Even if there is no line, once the cashier has begun processing your items, you still have to wait for her (or the occasional him) to bag them before moving on with your life.
Most people default to “Pass the Time” by scrolling on their phones, chatting with someone, or even impatiently tapping their feet. The “Use this Time Wisely” contingent may rearrange their groceries on the belt to ensure a more efficient unloading when they get home to try and make their time more productive. The “Speed this Up” faction fails to accept that waiting is necessary at all and will begin to pack the groceries themselves, once scanned.
With the first two approaches, the waiting time doesn’t change, but the experience certainly does. And while the last approach seems ideal in many ways, sometimes we’ve done all that we can do, and we just need to wait patiently. In this case, I would recommend that we refer back to method #2. We need to embrace the reality that there is a more productive way to spend waiting time. But how?
I think the first step is to ask ourselves what we are waiting for. Ask any person why they are not doing something that they know they should be doing, and they will tell you it is because they are waiting for something. They are waiting for the money, for the time, for things to stabilize. Ask Diaspora Jews why they don’t move to Israel and they’ll tell you, among the aforementioned excuses, that they are waiting for Mashiach. Then ask them which method of waiting they are employing.
I think that in my case, I could honestly say that I was aiming for “Use this Time Wisely.” I cannot say with certainty whether I was successful or not, but I do know that life changed drastically when I realized that I had the power to “Speed this Up,” and even if I practically did not affect the timeline, at the very least, this time I knew with certainty, that I was implementing “Use the Time Wisely” when I decided to make Aliyah.
It has been 3 years now, and I often wonder how we did it. How did we manage to leave almost everything behind and charter a new life in a completely different country. How are we making this work? As I vocalize these questions to Noki on our drive to the Golan, I find myself overwhelmed with feelings of love and attachment to the land I see outside my window, but I don’t understand them. What is it that I love so much or that I feel so connected to? As I explore this question, Noki points out the obvious. He explains how this land is responsive to us. We have the opportunity to interact with it. I hear his point, but I counter with, “But I’m not a farmer. I don’t have a garden. I’m not even protecting the land.” I stop and reflect on the zechut that those who do interact with the land in this way have, and how some of them are even zoche to die Al Kiddush Hashem. I contemplate this for a moment and consider that there is no greater thing than dying Al Kiddush Hashem. At this point, Noki interrupts me to correct me. “No, no, no! There is something greater than dying Al Kiddush Hashem, and that is living Al Kiddush Hashem! By living in this land and actively building a home on Torah values, we are positively interacting with this land in a very special way.”
I think about his words and the tiyul we are taking. We are headed to Nimrod’s Fortress, near the Hermon, and to Tel Dan where Avraham Avinu ended his chase of the 4 kings. I use the time of the drive to talk about the four different names of the Hermon that we just learned about in last week’s parsha. Arnie chimes in with Sion- but with a Sin! We talk about perek 133 in Tehillim which mentions the Hermon and how it is the highest mountain in Israel. We explore why Avraham ended his chase at Dan and the future golden calf that Yeravum ben Nevat would later establish there. Coby points out that there was another calf placed in Beit El. Gamliel mentions the magnets that Gheichazi used to make them levitate. We talk about the bracha that Avraham received from Hashem that his children would be like stars, and the bracha that Moshe Rabbenu just gave Bnai Yisrael in Devarim to increase by a thousand times. Tsophie asks me to raise my voice so that she can hear from the back seat. We reconcile what this bracha could mean when we already had a bracha to be numerous when Hashem told Avraham Avinu that we would be like the stars. We make our history and our land come alive, and in this way, among others, it is exactly as Noki says, we are interacting with it.
I think about these special opportunities we have and I feel incredibly lucky and grateful. I also think about how hard it is to make Aliyah work, and how it seems that there will always be some sort of struggle. This leads me to think about all those who haven’t made it over yet, because frankly, it feels impossible, and I understand that. But I also understand that it is something that needs to be done, and that if we do it for the right reasons, and we look to Hashem, we don’t have to worry quite as much. For He, just like the land, is responsive to us and our choices.
I don’t know if my making Aliyah has made a cosmic shift in the world that will be another step closer to Mashiach, but I am fairly sure that if nothing else, by being here already, I am using my time wisely in a real way. I’m several steps closer to practicing what life will be like when Mashiach comes. I will have at least one year of Shmita under my belt. I will have practice being Oleh Regel. I will be better at communicating in Hebrew. I will have more experience uniting with Jews from all over the world with a shared love of Torah, Eretz Yisrael, and the Jewish people. I will have already established my own connection with this wondrous land. I will be raising children with these values. I will hopefully be living Al Kiddush Hashem. Wait. Maybe there really is no difference between the “Use this Time Wisely” and the “Speed this Up” methods. Maybe if we could all ask ourselves how we can be using this time wisely, we can create enough of a shift that will ultimately speed things up. But before we can ask ourselves that, we need to ask, “What are we waiting for?”, and the follow up, “Why wait?”
May we not have to wait any longer.