Years ago I told my fifth-graders we were having a social studies test tomorrow. I gave them a page of practice questions and we went through them together in class. "If you study this, I guarantee you will do well on the test," I told them.
The next day I handed them the test, and some of their faces immediately broke into glowing smiles. The questions were exactly the same. It was the easiest test of their lives.
Some of the students had a different reaction. "It isn't fair," they complained, as they often did. "You didn't tell us it would be the same." As if I was supposed to.
Naturally, I laughed this off. I'd given them a cheat sheet and guaranteed it would work. Who does that? Anyone who managed to fail this test (and there were many) had only themselves to blame.
That was the real lesson.
We're living in extraordinary times. In absence of reliable leadership (which is part of what makes these times extraordinary) we have to figure things out for ourselves. Although it might seem like the test is fixed against us, just the opposite is true. Our teachers already gave us the answers.
Without further ado, your cheat sheet for passing this test with flying colors:
1. There is a strong temptation for people to dwell on esoteric spiritual matters. We know there's a lot going on in heaven and we can't help but be curious; it's exotic and intriguing. If we cut open the bad guys, will we find an alligator inside? Is there a special combination of prayers at just the right time that will force the coming of Moshiach?
A small number of people have true knowledge in these areas. Their avoda is to be attuned to these matters and take the appropriate spiritual actions. If you are actually reading this, you're not one of them. (No offense; neither am I.) Whoever these people are, they are generally hidden tzaddikim, and they keep a tight lid on it.
We do not need to concern ourselves with heavenly secrets. Dwelling on that which is hidden is likely to distract us, frustrate us, or lead us astray. The more we worry about their business, the less we are taking care of our own.
2. On that note, don't try to predict when Moshiach will come. It's a foolish pursuit. Historically such predictions served only to inflate people's hopes in times of trouble, then destroyed their faith when the predictions were proven false. Why perpetuate this mistake?
Many people are playing this game today. They predict Moshiach will be here by every significant date on the calendar. When the date comes and goes uneventfully, do they admit they were wrong and repent for misleading people? Of course not. Either they quietly fade away, or they claim the opportunity was lost – in other words, it's your fault their prediction didn't come true, not theirs. Then they kick the can down the road and revise the date for sometime in the future.
They are toying with people's faith.
In general, there are particularly opportune times for Moshiach to come (I wrote about this in Go Up Like a Wall) and these opportunities can be seized or lost. There is a certain deadline by which he must come, though even that is unclear, as there are questions about the official calendar year. Predicting that Moshiach will come at a certain earlier time presupposes that the deadline has been moved up. Who can claim God informed him of this?
Of course, we also know that Moshiach can come at any time if the Jews do teshuva. So those who claim Moshiach will come right before Pesach, or Rosh Hashana, or in five years, are essentially reducing the motivation for Jews to do teshuva. Instead of inspiring us to do teshuva so that Moshiach can come today, they are telling us to just hang on for a few more months or years. They think they are giving people hope, but they are really distancing people from Hashem.
I believe Moshiach is coming very soon. I believe he can come even today. I hope to expedite that process in my own way, and strengthen myself if we are forced to keep waiting. That is the proper way.
3. So we don't know what's going on in heaven, we don't have reliable leadership, and we don't know when Moshiach will come already. What are we supposed to do?
Keep it simple and stick to the basics.
The monsters in power are issuing evil decree after evil decree against us. Everyone knows from the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur machzor that teshuva, tefilla, and tzedaka (repentance, prayer, and charity) remove evil decrees. Nu, so why are we pretending it's more complicated than that?
This is both an individual and a collective process. Not only must we work on our personal mistakes and shortcomings, local communities should look in the mirror and repair spiritual breaches. Different communities are lax in different areas, and should make a group effort to improve.
Righteous communities in Europe used to have a mussar vaad, where groups would gather to study and work on specific areas. This is an excellent idea. Collective efforts such as these provide inspiration and support, while removing the stigma from giving mussar (rebuke). We're all in it together.
4. The same is true of prayer. Each of us must nurture our personal connection with Hashem, but there is no substitute for group prayer. In the olden days, during times of crisis, Jewish communities would not only examine their ways publicly, they would gather for emergency prayers.
There is a special power to praying together in large groups, the larger the better (Mishlei 14:28). Public prayer is not rejected, even if the individuals in the group are not entirely sincere (Taanis 8A, based on Tehillim 78). We don't need to seek exotic solutions for the troubles we face. Even though mass prayer alone is not enough, Hashem will not reject it. That is a guarantee.
It is no coincidence that the evil forces are targeting the very things that are guaranteed to work, public prayer and religious gatherings chief among them.
5. When the Jewish people are unified, they are untouchable – even if they are otherwise unworthy! One of the most powerful sources for this is from Nidda 34A, where Chazal derive from Hosheia 4:17 and 10:2 that even if the Jews are a bunch of idolaters, but they live with unity and harmony, Hashem will show them grace. When their hearts split from one another, then they will be punished.
Once again, it is no coincidence that the evil forces are doing everything they can to sow discord. They know.
Obviously, discrimination in shuls and schools based on health papers must be abolished immediately. Those who seek to turn friends and neighbors against one another must be recognized as traitors and banished from our midst. Media outlets that spread vicious propaganda should be boycotted.
Families and neighbors should resolve their individual disputes, and communities should work collectively to increase harmony. Rabbinic leaders should convene panels to mediate disputes. Grudges and petty grievances should be forgiven. Let it go.
If we increase our unity and harmony, we do not need to fear Iran's nuclear weapons, bioweapons, pandemics, or tyranny. They will fall faster than antibodies from the last booster shot.
6. We must increase our Torah study and acts of kindness. Whatever level you are on, there are tremendous resources available to learn more. Whether you are rich or poor, you can help others. Chazal teach us that engaging in Torah and acts of kindness save one from the birthpangs of Moshiach (Sanhedrin 98B).
Not prepping. Not running away to a homestead. Not lawsuits. Not trying to stay one step ahead of every tyrannical decree and every new way they invent to kill you. Torah and acts of kindness.
Mind you, the various other material ways of resisting the tyranny all have their place. However, at the core, every problem is spiritual in nature, and requires a spiritual response. Otherwise, the material efforts demonstrate lack of faith in Hashem, and exaggerated faith in oneself, and are doomed.
7. The world continues to exist only in the merit of the breath of Jewish schoolchildren (Shabbos 119B). Nothing against the prayers and Torah study of adults, of course, but there is nothing more pure than the prayers and Torah study of children, who are free of sin.
Yet again, it is no coincidence that the monstrous pedophiles in power are waging war on children most of all. They seek to shut down yeshivos, or corrupt their curriculum. They discouraged children from attending shul on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. They bombard children with poisonous messages from all directions. They force children to wear masks for hours on end that suffocate them, injure them, and traumatize them. They drive a wedge between children and their parents at every opportunity. If all that isn't enough, they are determined to inject children with bioweapons, no matter what.
Of course, these are the same people who malign parents for having “too many children”, who celebrate the notion of murdering children before they are born, or even shortly after, who believe in murdering children with physical or mental disabilities “to end their suffering”. These are the same people who supposedly care so much about our children's health that they want to turn schools into crapcine centers, and demand we entrust our children to them for everything.
Any society that murders children before they are born will find no shortage of reasons to murder people at any time after they are born.
Do you want to save the world? Save the children. Free them from the clutches of the monsters. Let them breathe, let them pray and study with joy, showing their beautiful faces and smiles to all. Let them live!
At the end of his life, Moshe showed the Jews two paths, the path of blessing and life, and the path of curses and death. The path of blessing and life was to listen to Hashem, keep His laws, and follow His ways. Moshe guaranteed that this would be successful, and urged the people to choose this path. He was the teacher giving his students the ultimate cheat sheet. (See Devarim 11:26-28, 30:15-20.)
It would be convenient to have towering rabbis and prophets giving us specific instructions, but that is not Hashem's will at the present time. He wants us to keep it simple, get back to basics, and do the work ourselves. If we follow the above prescription, we are guaranteed to pass with flying colors.