The Anguish over the Delay of the Shechinah’s Appearance
By HaRav Tzvi Yisrael Tau, head of the Har HaMor Yeshiva in Jerusalem.
[This essay is a loose and edited translation of Rabbi Tau’s classes, which can be found, in the original Hebrew, in his book, “Ozar Yisrael B’Givorah.” It is a continuation of the essay “The Meaning of Israel’s War’s.” Any mistakes in the understandings are of the translator’s, Tzvi Fishman, and not those of HaRav Tau. In applying the messages of the essay to Israel memorial Day, we learn that excessive sadness and mourning should be avoided in their preventing the Shechinah from appearing over Am Yisrael in fullness. Excessive sadness also prevents our total cleaving to Hashem whose every deed is surely for our benefit and for the benefit of the holy soldier who sacrificed his life for the Nation, the highest level of closeness to Hashem that there is. Thus, excessive sadness over the death of a soldier should be tempered with an even greater yearning for the full appearance of the bereaving Shechinah, the completion of which leads Am Yisrael and the world to the highest joy. While these matters are often beyond our normal comprehension, we are called to rise up to a higher and more encompassing vision.]
Given the pain we feel when Israel is in the throes of war, at a time when many are killed in the holy war of rescuing Israel from the enemy, we must be very careful not to fall into depression. There is a very clear border between anguish and depression, even though from a shallow perspective they seem to very close, as Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Harlop explains regarding a letter of condolence which Rabbi Kook sent to him upon the death of Rabbi Harlop’s mother, warning him against excessive sadness. Rabbi Harlap writes:
“He (Rabbi Kook) can be greatly assured that his holy words had a profound condoling effect on me from my grief. Behold, it is assuredly so that the fact of her absence and departure shouldn’t bring about sorrow, Heaven forbid, for if this is what the Blessed One decreed, who are we to stride against His will, G-d forbid?”
Or, as stated in “Mesillat Yesharim” as we mentioned earlier, this is what the Sages meant when they said, “Everything that G-d does is for the best.”
Rabbi Harlop continues:
“However, regarding the mitzvah which is being lost, the pleasant and beloved mitzvah of honoring one’s parents, which constantly awakens in us and reminds us not to be ungrateful to our Creator, G-d forbid, and stemming from this, to bestow upon parents the same honor which we owe to Hashem, over the loss of this mitzvah, we surely must weep.
“A further matter, what awakens pain and weeping, is our sharing, so to speak, in the pain of the Shechinah, for at the time when Israel is immersed in sorrow, what does the Shechinah say? ‘My head is too heavy for me. My arm is too heavy for me.’”
The Shechinah reacts this way because the manifestation of Divine Goodness in the world comes only through the channel of Am Yisrael, and every delay in the physical and spiritual building of Israel, in whatever measure, this is a delay in the Sanctification of G-d in the world, preventing G-d’s Kingship from being established over the nations. Everything which interferes with Israel’s healthy being, everything that is missing in the wholeness of its life, in its holy traits and powers, in its national building, and in the life of each and every Jew, this causes a delay in the Shechinah’s appearance, what we refer to as the pain of the Divine Presence.
This is the meaning in the Shemonah Esrei prayer of the blessing and request over our private, individual health. We say, “Heal us, O L-rd, and we will be healed; save us and we shall be saved.” Why? “For You are our praise.”
This unique expression only appears in this blessing. Am Yisrael has the task of praising G-d in the world – “This Nation which I created, it shall declare My praise.” At a time when there is sickness and sorrow in Am Yisrael, then the praise which comes forth from its general life, which is an inseparable part of G-d’s manifestation in the world, for “Hashem and Yisrael are one,” this praise is delayed in appearing. Our historical role as the witness of G-d in the world, in our being His Nation, is blemished when there is illness and tribulation, since in our being troubled and weakened, G-d seems to be, in the eyes of the world, weakened as well. Therefore, we pray, “save us and we shall be saved ,” both Am Yisrael and G-d together.
“The matter of the pain of the Shechinah refers to a time when strict Divine Judgment is increased in the world. This means that because of His displeasure with mankind’s behavior, His attributes of bountiful goodness and kindness don’t appear in their normal channel of “Chesed of Chesed,” when Hashem’s loving-kindness is obvious to all.”
G-d desires to manifest His benevolence and management of the world to the highest degree of goodness. However, sometimes, for the sake of the refinement of mankind, and to strengthen its moral level, HaKodesh Baruch Hu manifests His kindness in the guise of strict judgment and punishment. However, this saddens Him, because He desires the ethical advancement of the world to the point where He won’t have to use this aspect of chesed, in its guise of judgment, but only pure chesed, “loving-kindness which is obvious to all.”
Rabbi Harlop continues:
“Therefore, even though these strict measures of refinement are manifestations of His might and His awesome power, at their root and essence, the qualities of strict judgment and punishment are also absolute kindness, ‘Chesed within Givorah.’ In any event, since this level of kindness comes in a hidden fashion, via the channel of strict justice (givorah), this causes pain to the Shechinah” – over the delay in the appearance of Hashem’s complete kindness and goodness – “in that we failed to refine ourselves to the extent where we could receive Hashem’s great light and bask in the splendor of the Shechinah directly. Rather, we create numerous curtains and barriers which block out and filter the light, and this is what happens when Divine Judgment is increased in the world.”
The deeper pain is, therefore, the pain which stems from the love of G-d and from the wish to see His full manifestation. This is what’s called the “pain of the Shechinah,” the existential pain of the universe over the delay in the revelation of G-d’s goodness in the world.
On the verse, “For the L-rd is good, His kindness if forever, and His faith is from generation to generation,” Rabbi Harlop writes:
“Since “the L-rd is good,” we should know and feel that “His kindness if forever,” that He always acts through His trait of kindness, and that everything which He does stems from His goodness.”
The trait of Divine goodness is the foundation of all existence. Therefore, when we encounter the L-rd’s kindness and beneficence, we must know that this kindness if forever, that this same goodness is the living, light-giving source and foundation of all of the workings of Divine Providence which constantly rule over life and guide the world, at every moment of time.
“However, not every man is privileged to recognize and enjoy the radiant light of chesed which is hidden in everything, because the measure of his awareness is according to the measure of the truth of the holiness of his faith, “His faith is from generation to generation.” According to the truth of one’s emunah, a person merits to understand and see with his eyes the Divine kindness which spreads over and encompasses the whole world.
“Similar, regarding our mourning over the destruction of our Beit HaMikdash, our glory and splendor, its main aspect should stem from the immeasurable grandeur of our love for, and attachment to, the Name of G-d. ‘How loved are Your dwelling places, O L-rd of Hosts! My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the L-rd’” (Tehillim, 84:2).
Our mourning over the Temple doesn’t derive from our feelings of personal loss, as Rabbi Kook explains in his book, Mussar Avicha: “Certainly, the meaning we should have in mind when reciting the Amidah blessing ‘Goel Yisrael’ is not only over our own personal tribulations and pains during our oppressive exile, for the blessing itself is witness to the fact that the yearning comes from Israel’s lofty elevation and holiness” (Mussar Avicha, Me’ein Hakdama 3, p.19).
Rav Harlop continues with his commentary: “It is precisely our abounding joy and delight that ever increases in yearning to cling to the living G-d, the G-d of Israel, which brings us to bitterness and tears” – over ever blemish and delay in the full manifestation of Israeli life, from out of which the rectification of the world will come.
However, it is important to emphasize that any delay merely seems that way on the surface. The essential, pre-determined desire of Hashem to bring about the Redemption; the unalterable fact of the eternity of Am Yisrael and our destined Salvation, these are certainties which cannot be curtailed. Whatever appears to be in our eyes a setback and a delay is, in the depths of truth, serving to assist the appearance of G-d’s wholeness in the world. Nonetheless, the ideal is that these things come to pass in front of everyone’s eyes, in a clearly beneficiary manner, so that it will no longer be necessary to receive G-d’s goodness in a complicated fashion which refines and cleanses through sufferings in order to advance us toward perfection.
“These pains (over the incompleteness of Am Yisrael and the Shechinah) and those deriving from them” – which don’t cause any weakness or spiritual breakdown – “when it comes from a broad and honest understanding from their inner source, and a clear and systematic learning of our finest Rabbinic texts, not only will they not result in any depression, weakness, or diminishment of valor, G-d forbid,” – for these are forbidden traits which we must distance ourselves from, as will be explained – “but it will add bravery and joy, strength and courage, to increase the power of pure and pristine Torah study and our service of G-d, illumined by the light of life. For that which causes us more pain and sorrow will awaken in us a greater yearning to take delight in Hashem.”
“I wrote all of this because I wanted to lift up, a small measure, the curtain that leads to the Holy of Holies (parochet), and to shed a sliver of light on the depth of the holy words of the holy genius, our revered teacher, Rabbi Kook, in the letter of comfort which he wrote me: ‘to sweeten the bitterness of the feeling of mourning in the light of the love of G-d, Blessed Be He, and the joy of His Salvation’ – mourning that is rightly felt over the loss of some mitzvah, or in sharing in G-d’s sorrow, which can only come about, precisely through ‘the light of the love of G-d,’ and the true joy in the joy of His Salvation, at the time when the splendor of the Blessed One is revealed in all of its strength and precious majesty.
“We must also remember that the Clal (overall Community of Israel) must always be infinitely elevated over the prat (individual), and that it is forbidden to divorce oneself from the Clal for the sake of the prat. On the contrary, the essential principle must be to elevate the individual and include him within the overall collective, as the Rambam writes in a letter: ‘A person should always look to well-being of the general community, and not look to his own private interests.’ Therefore, personal sorrow does not have the power to weaken, G-d forbid, or darken, even any small sliver of the great light of the Clal, which is the very bond which encompasses his being and unites him with the holy Jewish Nation and our love for it. This all-encompassing union and identity with the needs, desires, aspirations, and goals of Clal Yisrael, comes precisely from ‘the love of G-d, Blessed Be He, and the joy of His Salvation,’ as we say, ‘May the glory of the L-rd be forever; may the L-rd be joyous in His works,’ and ‘Israel is holy to the L-rd, the first of His harvest.’ Thusly, we find ingrained in the essence of the halacha that when the public needs the assistance of a person who is in mourning, the restrictions surrounding his mourning are lifted, because the needs of the general community (the Clal) take precedence over the individual (the prat).
“However when we consider the prat through the perspective of the Clal, meaning that we are aware that a person who is mourning is prevented from performing certain commandments, and we take part in the sorrow of G-d over this lack of completion, in the sense that the personal sorrow of an individual in the Israelite Nation causes a certain cessation of G-d’s abundance and of the revelation of His blessed light in the world, then it comes to pass that as we sweeten the bitterness of our mourning in this world, at the time we assuage the forces of Divine Judgment above. It is the light of our love for the Holy One Blessed Be He which shines and becomes revealed in our very mourning, such that the light of His Chesed (loving kindness) is once again revealed to all.
“This is expressed in the words of the Sages, of blessed memory: ‘The righteous are able to switch the Divine Attribute of Din (Judgment) to Rachamim (Mercy).’ As with the righteous, where their feelings of bitterness exist as a consequence of their great qualities of Mercy and Love, such is the case Above – Divine mercy is awakened and harsh Judgment is annulled.”
While we are dealing here with the exalted level of the exceedingly righteous, in a time of war, every individual is elevated to this lofty stature, high over their normal status. Thus, due to the loftiness of the hour, we are swept up (as if by a wind storm) to attain this transcendental stature.