Parsha Haazinu & Sukkot — Eilecha — My soul longs for you
This week’s reading is the bridge from Yom Kippur to Sukkot.
On Sukkot, we read Kohelet, in which King Solomon ponders the meaning of life, the purpose, and the connection to body and soul.
The Parsha starts by praising God. He is perfect in all his ways while we men are evil.
הַצּוּר֙ תָּמִ֣ים פׇּֽעֳל֔וֹ כִּ֥י כׇל־דְּרָכָ֖יו מִשְׁפָּ֑ט אֵ֤ל אֱמוּנָה֙ וְאֵ֣ין עָ֔וֶל צַדִּ֥יק וְיָשָׁ֖ר הֽוּא׃
The Rock! — whose deeds are perfect,
Yea, all God’s ways are just;
A faithful God, never false,
True and upright indeed.
שִׁחֵ֥ת ל֛וֹ לֹ֖א בָּנָ֣יו מוּמָ֑ם דּ֥וֹר עִקֵּ֖שׁ וּפְתַלְתֹּֽל׃
Unworthy children —
That crooked, perverse generation —
Their baseness has played God false.
As Rabbi Steinsaltz so eloquently writes:
“Atrocities occur in this world not because God performs evil, but because his children are a crooked and twisted generation. They distort reality to justify their crookedness. “
I want to share this post or rant by Reb Yaakov Klein, who is now a shaliach of God in London and heads up Eilecha. I am not sure who chose the name Eilecha. Reb Shlomo Carlebach has a song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=famCeq6T8yk and Reb Yaakov who was inspired by Reb Shlomo embodies the spirit of Eleicha which can be translated as follows: To you, God, I call, and to God, I will plead. Hear, O God, and have mercy on me, be a help to me.
Eleicha — my soul longs for you
“Ribbono Shel Olam, with all the holy confidence filling my post Yom Kippur heart, I must allow the rush of brokenness and grief to burst forth like a torrent before You. How can it be? How can it be that such a thing can transpire in Your world, that a man can enter a daycare center in Thailand and murder 25 children as they lay napping at lunchtime? How? How is such madness possible? How can our ears hear such news without our entire universe immediately darkening to a nauseating and suffocating degree of thick, paralyzing, hopeless blackness?
How are we to carry on?
Hashem, you know that I can’t fix the world. I can’t protect every child. I can’t heal the wounds of humanity. But please, Father in Heaven, grant me the strength to fix the world I carry within, to protect my inner child, to heal the wounds of my own heart. As I leave Yom Kippur with clarity and strength, please allow me to hold on to hope. Please help me find some way to continue believing in humanity, to continue carrying my conviction that soul by soul, wick by wick, the great flame of Your Presence is spreading, and that the agony of the birth pangs we are experiencing in our generation will soon culminate in the birth of a new dawn for creation.
May Hashem wipe the tears from upon all faces.”
I will admit, I was not even aware of this tragedy. No coverage in the online Israel Newspapers that I follow.
So, here we have good vs evil. Man vs God.
God brought us back to Israel for a purpose. We have the ritual, the formal religion. After the spiritual cleansing of Yom Kippur, are we ready to be a force of goodness? Helping others or are we too immersed in the particulars of the halacha and self-interest?
We have just read in our prayers — who dies in their time, or who before their time.
Just before Rosh Hashana a good friend of ours got run over by a bus at the age of 61. What the F..? Such randomness. Such a tragedy? What was God thinking? A few seconds before or after, and a different outcome. Was this her reward for a life of dedication to her family, her community, and others?
Another tragedy this last year was the death of my wife’s cousin after a series of terrible illnesses at the age of 58. He was a Baal Teshuva and had lived in a spiritual, hippie Breslov — Carlebach-inspired community in Pardess Chana. At his funeral on the secular kibbutz in Emek Yisrael (where many South African Zionists and pioneers are members), his religious brothers came to eulogize him and sang some songs.
The funeral and singing went on for a while, and we went to sit on the benches in the shade to comfort his mother, my wife’s last remaining aunt.
We sat next to a group of bareheaded men about my age. They were Eyal’s buddies from the Army. They had fought as paratroopers in the 1982 Lebanon war. And as I write these words, we mourn and remember the fallen of the Yom Kippur War. While we go hunting for our perfect Etrog, are we sensitive to the sacrifice of our young, our soldiers whose dedication to purpose allows us to live a life of security and keep the mitzvot?
Back to Eyal. Eyal was a paratrooper. I never knew. I never got to know him or his story. I was too self-immersed in my life.
My first encounter with Eyal was when he practiced natural healing, and Chinese medicine after spending quite a lot of time in India embracing Indian spirituality. He was a gentle and soft soul. A spiritual seeker. We did not seem to have much in common. At this time, I was a “religious” Jew immersed in the journey of capitalistic Israel. My next encounter with him was after he returned to Judaism, and became religious was at his wedding. Quite a turnaround, especially for his anti-religious mother- my wife’s cousin. (who now is lot more mellowed and tolerant)
Eyal like so many soldiers suffered trauma in the army and went on a journey of soul searching.
Hashem challenged him with illnesses in his last few years. He died before his time. Where is the justice here? We do not know. And never will.
So, yesterday on the way to visit my wife’s Aunt, my wife tells me this.
Those bareheaded soldier’s who most likely did not fast on Yom Kippur or keep Shabbat got together and decided to financially support Eyal and his family when Eyal got sick and could not work. And, now for the punchline are continuing to support his widow and children.
So, I have one question which I will not attempt to answer. Who is more religious? Those who fasted on Yom Kippur or those supporting the widow and the orphans?
Let’s not be so quick to judge others. Let’s all not praise our self-righteousness.
At this time, let us all remember we are in the same world, the same boat, and recognize the calling to make this world a kinder and fairer place.
As we enter the frailty of our Sukkot, let’s reflect on the frailty of life and sing songs of gratitude for the blessing and challenges in life. I know that I am on a path of hopefully becoming a better person through life experiences — good and bad. And let us all be worthy of being inscribed in the book of a Lechaim Tovim — a good life.