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“Let us make a name for ourselves,” was the motto of the building campaign for the tower of Babel. It was several hundred years after the great biblical flood had laid waste to humanity and the people wanted something grandiose to celebrate. The ten survivors that had emerged from the …

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Home » Events in the News, Tragedy, Tzav

Tzav: Until Morning

Submitted by on April 3, 2020 – 6:35 pmNo Comment | 581 views

Until morning is a phrase of promise and hope. The night is dark and desolate, but it won’t last forever. We might be anxious and fearful, perhaps disappointed and bitter, but it won’t last forever. Until morning. When the morning dawns, the fog will lift, the sun will shine, and life will smile upon us again.

A Jew is told to utilize each moment in life for personal and spiritual growth. If a moment passes us by and we don’t utilize it for growth, it is wasted. If I remain in this moment as I was in the previous moment, what purpose did this moment serve? But when we are in the dark, in the grip of the night, surrounded by danger and fear, filled with anxiety and worry, how can we grow?

The answer comes to us in a Torah passage that we read this week. The Torah instructs our ancestors to ensure that the flames on the altar burn through the night. Although offerings could only be brought during the day, the Torah required that the altar should never be without a flame. You can’t turn off G-d’s altar. Each moment in life is an altar for G-d and G-d’s altar is never without a flame. It might be dark, and in the moment, difficult if not impossible to bring an offering, but the fires must burn on. The logs must crackle, the wood must combust, the flames must dance merrily on the bright altar of G-d.

And how can we muster a fire on the altar of the night? How can we be merry and bright, cheerful and upbeat, when we are beset by troubles and surrounded by darkness? Comes the Torah and tells us, “kal halaylah ad haboker,” all night long until morning. Until morning is the key. Don’t be crestfallen, don’t despair, don’t abandon hope. The night is long and dark. kal halaylah—all night long. But it will end at some point. It only lasts until morning. Rest assured that it won’t be dark forever. The morning will dawn.

We are currently in the grip of a terrible night called Covid–19. Every day the news is filled with frightening statistics. So many confirmed cases, so many deaths, so many hospital shortages, so many restrictions. We can’t walk the streets without fear. We stay sheltered at home hoping to ride out the virus. Yet, news trickles in about people we know who are in hospital. This friend is in critical care. This neighbor passed away. Someone I know lost his father. The train of bad news is unending. It feels like this virus has our measure and we can’t beat it.

Comes the Torah and declares, Fear not! This won’t last forever. Healing will come. We will overcome. We are in the night, but not for long. Only until morning. There are countries that have already experienced their dawn. There are neighborhoods that have already passed through their terrible night. Our morning will come too. The night might be long, kal halaylah, but ad haboker, only until morning.

Friday Morning
By the Torah’s count, we are 780’th year of the sixth millennium. The Psalmist wrote that G-d’s day lasts a thousand years. If G-d’s day lasts a millennium, the sixth millennium—our millennium, is G-d’s Friday. Since we are so close to the end of the millennium, only 220 years to the end, we are well into Friday afternoon on G-d’s time.

In the Jewish calendar, the day begins at nightfall—the first half of the 24-hour cycle is the night and the second half is the day. This means that the year 5000 was the beginning of Thursday night on G-d’s time, and the year 5500, the midpoint of the sixth millennium, was the dawn of Friday morning.

At around the midpoint of the sixth millennium, Rabbi Chaim Ibn Atar (1696–1743) wrote Or Hachayim, a commentary on the Torah. Though we don’t know precisely when he wrote it, considering that 5500 was 1740 in the Gregorian calendar, he likely wrote his commentary near or at the midpoint of the millennium.

When he reached this passage in the Torah, he pointed out that the Torah’s promise until morning was fast approaching. As they stood at the midpoint of the millennium, it was Friday morning on G-d’s time. The exile has lasted at that point for nearly 1700 years. The proverbial night had run very long, kal halaylah, but, he declared, the morning had finally arrived. It is morning in the word, he told the Jewish people and the exile will not last much longer.

Friday Midday
Suffice it to say that the morning has since passed, and we are now well past noon on Friday. If the year 5000 was Friday morning, midday was 250 years later, 5750 in the Jewish calendar, or 1990 in the Gregorian Calendar. It was in 1990, that the Lubavitcher Rebbe of blessed memory began to announce that the time for Mashiach had arrived and we must prepare for His arrival. He declared emphatically that we must each do all that we can do to ensure Mashiach’s coming. The Rebbe did not say this as a prayer, he declared it as a fact.

He explained that preparing for Mashiach entails familiarizing ourselves with the prophecies and teachings related to Mashiach so we would know what to expect when he comes. To strengthen our faith in his coming and our anticipation of his imminent arrival, and to increase in acts of goodness and kindness with an eye toward refining the world around us in anticipation.

In Jewish law, preparations for Shabbat begin in earnest after midday on Friday. If we are headed into G-d’s Shabbat, the time for Mashiach, the preparations for that time begin in earnest on Friday after midday. The Rebbe never associated his call to prepare for Mashiach with the timing on Friday noon, but in retrospect, it is not difficult to look back and make this link. At the midday point of G-d’s Friday afternoon, the Rebbe called for us to prepare in earnest for the coming of Mashiach.

Those who knew the Rebbe, knew that he did not engage in fanciful thinking. He was as pragmatic as he was holy, as practical as he was scholarly, as real as he was mystical. I was there personally and recall the intensity with which he spoke and the surety with which he proclaimed these truths. There was no doubt in my mind that to the Rebbe, this was real. And he wanted it to be real for us too.

At the time we assumed that Mashiach would come right at that time. Thirty years have since passed, it is now 45 minutes into the first hour of the afternoon, and it is clear that we needed more preparation. Looking about at the world around us, we see fear and anxiety, we see mounting death and illness, we see encroaching darkness and despair. It does not seem like the morning has dawned and it certainly does not seem like the midday sun is shining. It feels like we are in the grip of a terrifying night.

But the Torah assured us that the night will not last. Until morning comes. Morning is a euphemism for Mashiach. Thirty years after midday, it is high time for his arrival. The world has encountered an illness for which it has no answer. As we turn to G-d for comfort and security, let us ask Him not only for healing from Covid–19, but for the ultimate healing, the coming of Mashiach finally in our times, Amen.[1]

[1] This essay is based on Or Hachayim Leviticus 6:2.

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