Monday, February 1, 2016


Rabbi Jeremy Kagan: 

It says in Parshas Noach: 
 וַתִּשָּׁחֵת הָאָרֶץ, לִפְנֵי ה


וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים אֶת-הָאָרֶץ, וְהִנֵּה נִשְׁחָתָה:  כִּי-הִשְׁחִית כָּל-בָּשָׂר אֶת-דַּרְכּוֹ, עַל-הָאָרֶץ


וְהִנְנִי מַשְׁחִיתָם, אֶת-הָאָרֶץ

"The world was destroyed before Hashem"; "Hashem saw the earth, and it was destroyed, for all flesh destroyed His ways on earth." Then Hashem says, "And behold, I shall destroy them with the earth." 

Rabbi Kagan continued, "Any good seminary girl will say,"—at which point he squeaked in a feminine falsetto—"'The world was destroyed spiritually!' But it is more than that."

The sins of that generation were theft, immoral relationships, and idol worship. What all these three sins have in common (he didn't have time to explain how idol worship works into it, but it does tie up) is "What is mine is mine, and what is yours is mine." Which means the world was without boundaries. 

Hashem then said, "You want to live a life without boundaries? So to the world will be without boundaries!" And water was released from its bonds, flooding the earth.

I heard a similar concept from Rabbi Daniel Glatstein. The Churban wasn't a punishment, it was a consequence (in general, there is no schar v'onesh in this world, by the way). We were goofing off on the avodah. We weren't respecting it. Hashem says, "Look, if you don't want to serve Me, don't do Me any favors! You think I need your service? Don't bother!" And so destroyed the Bais HaMikdosh.

I think we forget to what extent we shape our reality. We can create those consequences that we find so bewildering. Like I previously posted

. . . one Shabbos in shul, my brain activity went into hyperdrive. 

It is a repetitive message of Rabbi Yisroel Reisman that "Bishvi li nivra haolam": "For my sake, this world was created." Meaning, even if one has been shoved into a seemingly "unfair" position, one has to analyze her own behavior. 

For instance, it is a constant aggravation of mine that shul attendees tow along underage children who are incapable of maintaining the necessary silence to permit others meaningful prayer. Usually I would be mentally cursing out the parents as they halfheartedly shush the high-pitched squeaks and squeals of their young. 

But then, that fateful day, I recalled Rabbi Reisman's point. If I did not choose to discipline myself sufficiently to devote true kavana to my davening, why would Hashem provide me with ideal praying surroundings? I have idly daydreamed through many a shacharis; am I deserving of a shriek-free environment?

Do we self-sabotage by not giving our all in the first place?   

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