Only last week an unpronounceable volcano in Iceland erupted, shutting down the airspace all over Europe, leaving thousands of people stranded all over the globe. The huge financial and emotional affects of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano will be felt for years to come.
As a Jew, specifically as a Jew waiting for the Geulah what can we learn from this? It’s easy to just say it’s a punishment, but is it true? Many fine, upstanding people lost a lot of money, yidden were prevented from attending Simchos, people from performing other Mitzvos, how would that make sense?
Famed radio-host Rush Limbaugh said, “The eruption of the Iceland volcano, might be G-d’s reply to the passage of health care reform bill.”
In ancient days people would pray out of terror and fear if a volcano erupted, today many people also prayed when the volcano affected their lives, some out of fear, but most out of frustration and anger. There were suddenly people who experienced the unusual feeling of not being able to get everything they wanted, the knowledge that something else, something higher, was controlling their lives.
From time to time G-d shows us a sign. He gives us an inspiration, a crack in the curtain of concealment, a quick wave to give us hope in this dark, difficult Golus.
Was the volcano a sign of G-d showing us his powers? Was the eruption to teach us a lesson and show us who the boss is? A sign comes in different ways to different people. Even if we were not directly affected by it, the mere knowledge of this worldwide event demands that we take an inspiration from it, and apply this lesson to our own lives and to bringing Moshiach.
Death by Devotion (Parsha, Question)
Our Parsha this week opens with the death of Aharon’s two sons as they entered the holiest place in the Temple.
There are many reasons given for their death, but most commentaries agree that these two men were exceptional tzaddkim. In fact there is one Midrash where Moses comforts his brother Aharon by telling him “Aharon. Your sons, Nadav and Avihu are greater than you and I! For neither of us were able to properly educate the Jewish people about the sanctity of the Temple, and show them how holy it really is, yet with their deaths, they have achieved what we could not.”
The Mystics explain that the various reasons given for their death all have one common thread: They all point to the fact that Nadav and Avihu were too devoted to G-d.
It’s a mitzvah to love and be devoted to G-d. How can you possibly be too devoted to something or too loving to someone? The more devoted the more Mitzvos you will do, the more you love G-d the more Torah you will study, and surely that can’t be bad?
How could Nadav and Avihu have been too devoted? Why were they punished and deserving to lose their lives?
A Spiritual Climax (Answer)
Nadav and Avihu were not punished by death. On the contrary, their deaths were able to sanctify the temple by showing an example to the Jewish nation that, just as G-d promised, one really can become connected to G-d through the Mishkan.
The two brothers died because they surpassed the spiritual climax of the human being. Their devotion to G-d was so powerful that their souls escaped the physical confines of their body and became so enraptured with spirituality that they would not return to this world. No other human being had achieved this spiritual height.
Yet their death was defined as a mistake and even a sin, because G-d created a physical world and gave us a specific mission to bring Moshiach, and an awareness of G-d, into this very world. Even if we all become extremely spiritual, study and pray all day, if we are not having an impact on the world then we must ask are we devoted to G-d or ourselves? Are we fulfilling G-d’s plan, or our own?
The Orchard (Explanation)
Many years later, in the times of the Talmud there were four great sages who attempted to navigate these same spiritual heights as Nadav and Avihu. However, three did not make it, and only one, the famed Rabbi Akiva, survived. For Rabbi Akiva had mastered his devotion to such an extent that it was completely focused not on his personal connection to G-d, but on bringing Moshiach. He saw this only as opportunity to fulfill G-d’s plan and bring Shalom to this world
If a person’s Judaism is rooted in self-fulfillment, if he is Jewish because it ‘feels good’, then as he becomes more devoted, he gets closer to G-d, but further removed from what G-d wants.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe once said “You become connected to a person by loving the things that they love”.
Our love and devotion to G-d should be seeking how to fulfill his desires. How we can help realize his dreams of a Dira Btachtonim, a world that publically lives and breathes G-d.
We have to do what G-d wants even if it means curbing our enthusiasm to remain in this world, and diminishing our devotion by remaining focused on our physical mission to bring Moshiach. We have to spend the time helping another Jew even if it means that our personal deep meditation and powerful connection with G-d will be affected.
The Correct Approach (Conclusion)
Nadav and Avihu became so enraptured with their incredible devotion that they forgot the mission they were given. They forgot to take their love for G-d, their energy and inspiration and apply it to the job at hand. They failed to use it to make the world a better place and bring Moshiach one step closer.
The Torah warns us ‘Do not enter’ like they did. Our job is to take our love for G-d, our inspiration for the Geulah and apply it to the very real world that we live in.
When we experience an inspiring moment in our lives, when we suddenly see a simple volcano cause the global awareness of a higher power, we cannot let this moment drift by, or worse feed a selfish devotion feeling smug that G-d is punishing ‘them’.
We can learn from Rabbi Akiva that the way to get the result of Shalom, peace in this world, is with the approach of Shalom.
If we are unselfishly focused on our mission, if we see ourselves as a tool, and approach the world as the place to bring Moshiach, then our devotion will not just have a practical effect and add to our Judaism, but our dedication and love for G-d will guarantee the result of Moshiach, and we will begin to see the immediate affect in our lives and the lives around us.
Can the Iceland volcano can bring the Geulah?
Yes. Any inspiring moment is a gift from G-d. Our job is to be inspired, and apply this inspiration to bring Moshiach.
(Adapted from LS #3 Acharei)
The Moshiach Campaign is a Division of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, and a Project of The Kinus Hashluchim.