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Home » B'Har, Events in the News, Military, Politics, Shavuot, The Jewish Faith

Behar: When Bin Laden Was Gone

Submitted by on May 8, 2011 – 2:43 amNo Comment | 4,581 views

Good Things Are Worth Waiting For

One of CNN’s first articles the morning after Osama Bin Laden’s assassination featured reaction from people on the streets of America. One reaction that drew my attention was, “I never thought this day would come; I had given up hope.”

To me this highlighted the short term focus and reduced attention span spawned by the twenty-four hour news cycle. The war on terror is not even ten years old and during this decade much has been accomplished, yet the average person thought Bin Laden wouldn’t be caught simply because he hadn’t been captured in the first few weeks of war.

Time used to be measured in decades if not centuries. The war between England and France wasn’t determined by individual battles or even month long campaigns. It took a full century  before that conflict was resolved. Those who lived through the first few decades of that war knew it would  be resolved one day; that it hadn’t in the first few decades was no reason to give up hope.

Historians measure time by a long yard stick. They realize that events put into place in the beginning of a century can play large roles at the end of the century even if they go relatively unnoticed for the first eighty years. (1)

Yet in the contemporary age, what doesn’t happen right away is dismissed as impossible or at least implausible. If it didn’t already occur, we simply assume it won’t. Yes, on some intellectual level we knew that intelligence agencies world wide were working to systematically track down Bin Laden, bin laden is gone - innerstreamnevertheless we abandoned hope of success simply. Sadam Hussein was found and imprisoned in a matter of weeks; if Bin Laden hadn’t been located in years, we assumed he likely never would be.

From Time Immemorial

They tell a story about a man who climbed a mountain top and called across the vast void, “Dear G-d, is it true that for You, a thousand years is but moment?” As the call of his question reverberated across the hills a thunderous echo roared its response in the affirmative. The man then asked, “Is it true that for You, a million dollars is like a mere penny?” To which the distant roar replied again affirmatively. A stillness descended over the valley as the man humbly asked, “Dear G-d can You spare me a penny?” To which G-d replied, “Of course, but in a moment…”

As a rabbi I often talk about the uplifting prophecies that outline the promise of the coming Moshiach. Yet, despite the intricate detail to which our prophets went and the explicit faith with which our sages believed, I encounter a great deal of skepticism on this subject.

I believe this skepticism is a product of our times. So much time has elapsed since this prophecies were delivered that many have simply lost hope. If it was going to happen, they muse, it would have already occurred. Since it didn’t happen, I am content to wait until it does, if it ever will. But don’t ask me to believe it. I will believe it when I see it.

I agree fully with the sentiment that it has been far too long. Our current exile is nearly two-thousand years old. It is high time for Moshiach to come and if you ask me he should have been here already. We cannot afford to wait, but we can much less afford to give up faith. Yes, it has been two-thousand years, but, as the Psalmist wrote, to G-d that is merely two days.

Stations On The Road

The second reaction that caught my attention was that of people saying,“This is a great victory, the war is finally over.” How absurd! There are scores of detached terror cells across the world that must each be confronted and defeated before this war will be won.

Here, once again, we see the fallout of the twenty-four hour news cycle. We are simply not built for long term goals. If we can’t have it now, we cannot imagine it being real. To us, in this moment, the death of Bin Laden is real, the continued war on terror is elusive. We want a story now. We want a victory now. We cannot imagine looking beyond today to a goal that justifies the additional time.

Yet no truly worthwhile goal can be achieved in a day and the goal of the Moshiach is no different.

The Goal Of History

G-d charged Adam and Eve with bringing G-dliness into the physical world. They went about their work with rigor. They had a fall-back or two, but for the most part succeeded in organizing a chaotic world into one that accepted its creator.

The world took a step back with the onset of idolatry and lawlessness, which led G-d to bring the flood. But shortly thereafter, Abraham picked up where Adam had left off and began to nurture a new breed; one that was familiar with G-d and faithful to His precepts. One that lived a moral life and was a force for good in the world. It only took 1,948 years till Abraham was born, but G-d never gave up hope.

Even so, if you had asked anyone in Abraham’s day if he would succeed in changing the world they would meet your suggestion with incredulity. Abraham was only one man up against all of civilization. How could he possibly succeed? Yet, only four centuries later three million Jews received the Torah at Mount Sinai.

In our framework four centuries is a long time – forever – but in retrospect four hundred years was a very short span in which to succeed the way Abraham did.

Receiving the Torah was by no means the end of Abraham’s work; it was only the beginning. Every generation since, helped to build another layer of golden bricks in the Divine edifice that this world will become in the era of Moshiach. Each generation, brings one more layer of order to an otherwise chaotic world. With the passage of time we have gone from one man, who believed in a single G-d, to billions. We have gone from a world that devalued life and ridiculed education to a world that embraces life and lives by ethical values. We have gone from a world in which debauchery was the norm to one in which it is reviled.

There is no question that we would like to accelerate the work and complete it much more quickly, but this is the pace G-d set so this is the pace under which we labor. Every day we grow inexorably closer to that amazing day. It is a work in progress; long in the making, but no longer so long in coming. That it has yet to arrive, does not mean it will not come. It only means that when it finally does, and it is certainly on hand, our rejoicing will be all the happier and our gratitude so much the greater.


  1. The idea that eighty years is a long time is not entirely unjustified. The Torah describes fifty years (the period between Jubilees) as forever. Yet even that is longer than the ten years we gave ourselves for Bin Ladden’s capture and demise.

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