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New ✔️ Normal ❌

Friday, 24 July, 2020 - 4:10 am

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Yesterday, Avraham Dov, our (nearly) five-year-old grandson, complained to his mother (our daughter Mushka) that he didn’t approve of her dairy dinner menu and wanted to eat his usual chicken for dinner. 

(This week in observance of the laws of pre-Tisha B’av, we don’t eat meat/chicken or drink wine (besides on Shabbat)). 

His younger brother Levi responded, ‘if we build the Bet Hamikdash we will be able to eat meat’. 

They came to the joint conclusion that by doing mitzvahs they would be providing ‘bricks’ for the rebuilding the Bet Hamikdash (Temple). In their thinking, if not eating chicken is because there is no Bet Hamikdash, then all the need to do is rebuild the Bet Hamikdash. Problem solved. 

They are spot on! Once the rebuilding takes place, the 9th of Av will be overturned and transformed to become a HUGE FESTIVAL.

Kids… 

They are refreshingly futuristic and idealistic… to the point of actually believing they can get rid of the destruction. 

Hey, they have it right.

The Torah definition of standard Judaism is a complete belief in the coming of Mashiach. 

It is for this kind of belief that I want to stay a kid at heart. In order to trust with such simplicity that we CAN make this kind of a radical change without the inner voices of skepticism intruding disturbingly.

We don’t stay cherubic and cute for long. When we grow into adulthood we are exposed to the realities of life. The vast chasm that seems to divide between a utopian world of Messianic peace, and the harsh staccato of gunfire at too many flashpoints around the world. 

It becomes difficult to even dare to imagine that a different reality is possible. 

Let me try to provide a perspective that will not just allow you to dream, but even inspire you to act on your innate optimistic outlook.

It’s all about what you consider ‘normal’. 

The first time I heard the term ‘new normal’ was a few years ago when a family member, advancing in age, was trying to come to terms with their limited mobility. 

Psychologically it is important that an ageing person come to terms with the limitations of their body in its aged state. It is downright depressing when someone aims at running a marathon as if they were in their thirties when in reality, they are nearing one hundred and twenty and shuffling across the room takes herculean effort. 

‘New normal’ doesn’t mean ‘giving up’. ‘New normal’ means coming to terms with your new reality and realizing what the new parameters of your struggle should be. 

For example, if G-d forbid a professional athlete lost the use of their legs, they would be very wrong to feel a sense of failure for not being able to run the marathon. They would also be losing out so much if they did not try to work with the physiotherapist in trying to regain as much use of their limbs as possible. 

Either extreme would not be correct. Rather, the new situation requires a reassessment of the current possibilities and a galvanizing of the strength and determination necessary to achieve the most with the resources at hand.

The term ‘new normal’ is used a lot lately in conjunction with the current state of an errant microbe that is disrupting the world.

Coronavirus. 

Lockdown.

Economic woes.

Unemployment.

Social discontent.

Severely curtailed community events.

Etc.

New normal?

New! For sure. We never experienced anything nearly as disruptive as this.

Normal?

For sure NOT!!!

Should we get used to it? Accept it as normal? 

Not if we can find a way to curb and eradicate it.

Let us proclaim loudly and emphatically. Its not normal! Thank G-d, indeed the civilized world is not just sitting back and adapting. 

There are more than ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY vaccine projects underway. Several of the vaccines have made it to the final stage of trials. Initial results from those trials are expected in ninety days please G-d. (I pray that G-d send a healing to the world much sooner than that!!).

Obviously we all agree that when something is fixable, we should try our very hardest to rectify it. Adapting to limitations without even trying to change the situation is called resigning oneself prematurely and passively to one’s fate. 

G-d doesn’t want us to fail. G-d also doesn’t want us to succeed without effort. G-d wants us to put forth effort, and then to crown those efforts with success. A partnership between Heaven and Earth.

It is the human spirit that G-d has endowed us with, that causes people to not just lie down and die when faced with a threat. We get up and fight valiantly to defend ourselves and change outcomes.

G-d based morality teaches us which things we should consider significant. And for those things we should really put in an effort. Not just accept the status quo.

It is embedded within our human psyche that if a change is possible, even though it may look improbable, it should not be accepted as ‘normal’. 

If it is sickness, we should try to figure out a medial cure. If it is a social ill, we should advocate for better moral education and responsible governance. If it is unfairness in how society treats minorities, we should address the issue at its core to rectify it.

How much can be changed?

Famine, war, envy or competition

Can we get rid of those?

Good in abundance and all the delights freely available as dust.

Does this sound achievable?

‘Nation shall not lift a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore’

Hello? Is this hallucinatory thinking? No. these are quotes from the words our Prophets and Sages.

It gets better. Read the next line from the Rambam about what awaits us when Mashiach comes. 

The occupation of the entire world will be solely to know God.

Does all the above sound like that is an implementable vision or a pipe dream?

It does seem farfetched. I agree. But it is the endgame that Judaism has been aiming for since our Temple’s destruction nearly 2000 years ago.

This is spoken about in the Torah, in the Prophets and in all our subsequent holy books. It is at the core of the ‘thirteen principles of faith’ of Judaism. 

The skeptic may ask, hadn’t we better adapt our expectations to the reality?

In reality, our world is full of hunger, war, envy and competition.

Good is not in abundance. And the delights are not freely available as dust.

The sole of the occupation of the entire world is not about knowing G-d. Not even a negligible percentage of the world is involved in spiritual pursuits.

The believer replies. That is not the way it needs to be. Or it is going to remain. It’s not a ‘new normal’ for us to resign ourselves to.

Normal is a world of peace. With a G-dly revealed presence in the Bet Hamikdash in Jerusalem.

Submitting to the ‘reality’ of a non-Messianic world, is like telling all the medical research companies to stop searching for a vaccine.

I know this may sound radical, but it’s quite straightforward if you think about it. Its mainstream Judaism.

We need to keep aiming for it. Chipping away bit by bit at it. Doing one more good deed and one more good deed. 

The stakes are higher than anything else imaginable, as it means the beginning of a utopia that only gets better and better. That is why it is also the most challenging task to succeed in. We all know that the more valuable something is, the more perseverance we need. In this case we have been at it for nearly two thousand years and our generation is the grand finale. We are at the tipping point. A tiny push and Mashiach comes.

While the coming of Mashiach is always on our mind, we don’t always engage in actively mourning the loss of our Temple. 

But once a year we do just that. Our Sages instituted a three-week mourning period to remind ourselves that our situation is not tolerable. We need to find a solution. A cure. We need to usher in a utopian era.  

During the days leading up to the climatic reminder of the Bet Hamikdash’s destruction on Tisha B’av (9th of Av, corresponding this year to Thursday July 30th), we observe various levels of joy-reduction to be mindful of the intolerable state of being we find ourselves in.

Its two-thousand-year mind you.

Pretty mind-blowing that we still haven’t given up.

If G-d forbid this virus situation lasted a few years, do you think there would be 150 companies trying to make a vaccine? Or do you think there would be a headline in every newspaper in the world about the daily sickness and death count? 

We, the Jewish people still remember that our two-thousand-year detour is NOT NORMAL.

We need to fight against it. 

The fight is done by doing more mitzvahs. By learning more about what a G-dly inspired world would look like. By living life in a state of spiritual mindfulness and G-d consciousness. 

The Rebbe made it clear that it is our generation that has to put the finishing touches on the grand master plan of G-d to send Mashiach NOW.

Even little kids know that it is doable!

In some ways, its better to be a kid at heart….

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor





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