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Through The Eyes of a Woman

The Three Weeks: From Galus to Mashiach

During the three weeks between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av, we mourn the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. Although the destruction and subsequent exile may seem to be a punishment, something intrinsically negative, Chassidus teaches us that there is a potential for good even in this.

The Rebbe quotes an analogy given by a famous chassid of the Mitteler Rebbe and the Tzemach Tzedek (the second and third Rebbes of Chabad) for this: A teacher, in the middle of teaching a shiur, has a sudden inspiration. A new insight into the concept he is talking about is suddenly revealed to him. In order to be able to absorb and understand the concept properly for himself, with the ultimate purpose of transmitting the new insight to his students, he stops for a moment, thinking. To the students, it seems that he has ceased to communicate. He no longer reveals his teaching. Of course, the ultimate purpose is to reveal something much deeper, but at this moment he has, in fact, ceased to communicate. The same is true of the destruction. Its ultimate purpose is so that the Third Beis HaMikdash can be built. The interruption is only temporary, and ultimately for our own benefit.

The King's Son

There are also other analogies which relate to the destruction and exile, for example the mashal (allegory, analogy) of the king's son. In many meshalim HaShem is referred to as the king and the Jewish People as the king's son. In this mashal the Jewish People are referred to as not only the king's son, but as the king's only son. The king had one son who he knew would be the heir to the throne. And because the king knew that his son would succeed him it was very important that the future king should learn all of those skills and traits necessary for a ruler, and really get ready for his role. The king, of course, hired the best teachers and exposed him to whatever knowledge he would need. However, there was a point when the king realized that, as long as the prince was living in the palace, cushioned from the reality of the outside world, there was a flaw in his plan. Because when a person is living in the lap of luxury and he has anything he wants, he doesn't have to bring out latent traits, because he doesn't need them. In the palace, you just have to snap your fingers, and you get whatever you want right away. You can't really know how a person will behave in a difficult situation if he's never been in a difficult situation. So the king realized that, in order for his son to be a better king someday, he had to send him away from the palace. That it wasn't good for him to only know what the life of a prince was. So the king sent his only son to a place very far away from the palace, a place where the conditions were very rough. Before the prince left, the king told him that he wanted him to find his way back to the palace. When the prince was deposited in that far-off province, at first he found the life very, very difficult. Of course he had never endured those kind of conditions. All of a sudden he had to fend for himself. He wasn't eating the food he was accustomed to and he was living among people that didn't appreciate royalty. And in every way, emotionally and physically, it was very, very difficult. The king realized that his son was having a hard time, but nevertheless, he felt very secure in the fact that this was the best way to get his son to develop those aspects of his personality which weren't being developed in the palace. And then, when the son would return to the palace, the king would know that now he was ready to rule.

The moral of the story is that the soul, the Neshamah, before it's born, is also like a prince in a palace. It learns the entire Torah. It's under HaShem's throne and is basking in HaShem's glory. It's a wonderful situation but it's too comfortable. You can't test yourself that way. So HaShem decides to send the Neshamah away, down onto this earth in a body. And all of a sudden the Neshamah experiences all kinds of things that are very unpleasant, very distasteful. But HaShem knows that while the Neshamah is living in a body and facing the trials and tribulations of a life, it has a lot of opportunity to bring out its devotion to Him. That if you don't have to test your devotion between the king and anybody else, then you don't know how devoted you are. But if you are in a place where there are numerous other things to become devoted to and you maintain your devotion to the king, then it's that much more true and special and exalted. So when HaShem sees that the Neshamah, despite all the distractions and difficulties of galus, still wants to cleave to HaShem and still chooses Yiddishkeit over all the other isms that exist in the world, and the Neshamah says, "I want to be Jewish; I don't want to be anything else," then its devotion has been proven.

This causes a lot of joy to HaShem, as well as making the soul itself stronger. This is another example of how the galus (the descent of the soul into this world), which may seem to be something difficult and negative, is nevertheless truly for the good of the Neshamah.

This applies on an individual level, and also as regards the entire nation: When HaShem destroyed the Beis HaMikdash and sent us into galus, although it was ostensibly only bad, in reality, it was precisely in galus, when the Jews were far away from Eretz Yisrael, that almost the entire Oral Torah was developed. When did the Mishnayos and the Gemara and the Shulchan Aruch and Chassidus develop? After the destruction of the Second Temple.

Oil through Toil

But why was the destruction necessary? The Rebbe points out that the condition of galus made it necessary to expound on the Torah. The Mishnah was written because of the difficulties of galus; people were starting to forget. So the Mishnah and Gemara were written. Why was the Shulchan Aruch codified? Because people were getting weaker. It was all a result of the trials and tribulations of galus that prompted these works. So we see that the situation of galus has a positive effect on the Jewish People as a whole. In America, where it's easy to learn Torah, do you see people making underground cheders? Many would be just as happy to leave Torah, G-d forbid.

The Rebbe compares this situation to an olive. As is well known, olive oil was used to kindle the Menorah, as well as in the sacrifices, etc. The only way you get the oil is by squeezing the olive. You give it a real hard squeeze and you get a drop of oil. And that is what the galus did to the Jewish People. Because they were squeezed and pressed and put in tight spots it made them give out their oil, their best. It came out in the galus, and that is the reason for the galus. HaShem is giving Bnei Yisrael opportunities to prove their fidelity, to prove their devotion. You couldn't prove it if everything was so easy to begin with. If a person grew up in a frum home and everything was so easy, handed to him on a platter, how does he prove that he loves HaShem? But if one got the wrong education and the wrong friends and then went out and sorted out one's life with tremendous, tremendous difficulty -- that makes it all the more great, all the more precious.

The Rebbe brings out a third point -- first we talked about the galus of the individual Jew; now we're talking about the galus collectively, applying to the entire nation, and the positive effect it had in developing the Torah and proving the Jewish people's allegiance to HaShem. The third point is that even in the galus of the Jewish people there are some Jews whom HaShem placed in a "galus within galus." In other words, even in galus there are levels. You might say that Yerushalayim is certainly not the worst place to be. After all, in Yerushalayim you have the Western Wall, the Kotel, and you have a wide range of classes available, and a huge number of shuls. You can get any kosher products you want, and so on. It's not such a hard place to be a Jew.

There are other places in this world where it's much more difficult to be a Jew than it is in Yerushalayim. And yet we find that HaShem didn't put all the Jews in the world in Yerushalayim. Some are in Yerushalayim, but some are in very far-away places. Some people are in monasteries, some people are in hick towns where they don't even have a shul or a kosher butcher or any of the Jewish necessities. Why is that? Because HaShem placed some Jews in a "galus within galus," because even in Yerushalayim we're in galus. Just because we have the Kotel doesn't mean it's not galus. Galus is a spiritual state where G-d's Presence -- the Shechinah -- is hidden. In the general state of galus that the whole entire nation is in, there are areas which the Rebbe calls a "galus within galus." For example, a person who is in a place where he's being laughed at for being Jewish -- that's a galus within a galus, because here you're trying to do what you know is right, and the people around you think you're crazy. They're being so destructive and they're making it so much harder for you. Similarly, if you're not within close range of a mashpia, a spiritual teacher. All these things make it a galus within galus.

Those Jews who are found in those places which fall into this category are there not to be punished, but because HaShem gives every Jew an opportunity at some point in his life to come out of the spiritual galus, and to actually influence people in that galus.

If all the religious Jews lived in Yerushalayim, and learned Torah, did mitzvos, and davened here, that would be wonderful. Utopia, from one point of view. But what about the non-religious Jews who live in Australia, or England, or South Africa? If all the influencers were congregated in Yerushalayim, who would bring the Jew in Australia back to Yiddishkeit? Who would help the Jews in Russia? Who would influence the Jews in Oregon? For this reason it is necessary for Jews to live in other parts of the world -- for the purpose of bringing Jews that live in that galus out of their spiritual galus because once a Jew opens his eyes and realizes what Yiddishkeit is all about, he's already on his way out of the galus within the galus.

There is another explanation of the concept of a galus within a galus -- that is, when a person is so deeply in galus that not only doesn't he know that he is in galus; he thinks that it is geulah! This is the worst possible kind of galus. It is for this reason that some people have to leave Yerushalayim and go out into galus -- in order to take people out of their galus within galus, by teaching Jews Torah and mitzvos wherever they are. This may be regarded, from a certain point of view, as the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash.

May we have the merit of participating in this building, wherever G-d happens to place us!

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