“We used to be Israelis,” she added. “Now we are Jewish.”
Dorit Rabinyan, Israeli novelist. – New York Times – 12/26/2023

“And you shall make for Me a Sanctuary, and I will dwell among them”.
G-d. – Torah Portion for this week, Terumah – Timeless.

G-d’s deepest desire is to have a home (to “dwell”) with us, among us, inside of us. It’s what defines us Jews.

In the innermost, most intimate space of the Sanctuary, was the Ark of the Covenant, containing within it the Ten Commandments – the basis of the six hundred and thirteen commandments – six hundred and thirteen points of connection – G-d’s marching orders to the Jewish people, to be His Ambassadors of light and transformation to the world, and to ourselves.

On Top of the Ark were the Cherubim – the faces of a young male and female facing each other, with extended wings in loving embrace. The Cherubim were a symbolic representation of G-d and the Jewish people, connected to each other in a deeply loving, unconditional and unbreakable bond.

The Cherubim sat atop the Ark, indicative of the fact that this bond is so essential that it transcends all else, even that which was housed inside the Ark – the tablets. In other words G-d’s relationship with us stands unconditionally on its own, above even the fulfillment of the commandments inside the Ark, such that it is not the conditional fulfillment of the Mitzvah that makes the Jew Jewish.

What the Mitzvah does do, is give tangible expression to that which we innately are. The Mitzvah enables our relationship with G-d to not only be essential and sentimental but experiential. While the Cherubim were perched on top of the Ark, they were also attached to it, because the soul craves to have a viscerally connected and experiential relationship with G-d, as G-d craves to have with us. The Mitzvahs are G-d’s way of sharing with us what He values, what He desires, and therefore what He needs from us to have a vibrant relationship together.

Every year at the Seder we pour the Cup of Elijah, open the door and welcome him to our home. Elijah the Prophet is the messenger of redemption for the world. But how would we know if his coming is getting any closer?

The prophet Malachi gives us the tell-tale signs:

“I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord….that he may turn the heart of the fathers back through the children, and the heart of the children back through their fathers.

-Malachi 3: 34,24-

What Malachi is describing, is that we will begin to witness an unprecedented renaissance of faith, wherein children will turn the hearts of parents “back”.  Back from an innate – sentimental “cherubim only” Judaism to expressed “ark Judaism” aka Mitzvah observance.

Parents who dreamed the American dream for their children – professional success, assimilation and integration into the great melting pot of America, will have their hearts turned back by their children to the Jewish dream of living a life that is aligned with who I am and why I am here, and in the process transforming the world to a home for G-d – a mandate for which every Jew is a chosen ambassador.

From the prophet Malachi to the prophetic words of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, who wrote:

“A day will come, when the younger generation will cry out to us, and especially to Jewish leaders and educational institutions: why didn’t you guide us? Why didn’t you tell us the truth – the whole truth of G-d’s Torah? Why didn’t you instruct us how to conduct our daily lives as Jews? How to pray every morning before the King of kings Blessed Be He? How to study His Torah and be in awe of it? How to fulfill Mitzvahs joyfully?

And what justification will we have on that day?

We must all engage in educating our youth not just to be able to pursue professional careers, but how to fully engage in Jewish life and practice, body (through performing Mitzvahs), soul (through prayer) and mind (through Torah study). And all that behold the Jew will see the intimate connection between G-d, the Torah and the Jew – three links that are inextricably bound to one another”.

-Adapted from a letter from the Previous Rebbe- Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, circa late 1940’s.

The 60’s and 70’s was the first wave of the children (of the 50’s) rebelling against the American dream looking for something deeper, more spiritual, more meaningful, more personal. It gave rise to what came to be known as the “baal teshuvah” movement – the movement of return.

My wife Ahuva grew up in Berkeley, California  in the 70’s, where my parents in law, Rabbi Chaim and Leah Drizin served as the Rebbe’s emissaries/Shluchim. Thousands of searching souls found their way to their Chabad House. It was a spiritual homecoming for hungry and thirsty souls, who found the nutrition and hydration their souls were looking for in Torah study, prayer and Mitzvah observance.

The second wave is happening now. October 7 – Simchas Torah 5784, has spurned a new awakening, a new homecoming for hungry and thirsty souls. A new realization that the core of this war is spiritual and to win it, we must realign ourselves with our spiritual core.

But don’t just take it from me. In a speech this past week to the Knesset’s Education, Culture and Sports Committee, MK Galit Distel Atbarian shared this:

“The education system, the state education system, robbed me of my identity. And not only did she rob me of my identity – what is happening now is a thousand times worse. If I left after 12 years of study completely ignorant about who I am, where I came from, where I’m going, what the collective is, why I’m here at all, completely ignorant, today the situation is a thousand times worse.

“I read the data according to which a vast majority of teachers in Israel claim that there is not enough study or Jewish identity in schools and a vast majority of parents in Israel claim the same thing. I sit here and say with deep pain: only at a late age did I learn that Judaism is dynamite. She is metaphysical dynamite. Spiritual. Logical.

“In South Korea, they introduced the study of the Talmud. The Talmud is a gym for logic, why was it denied to me? Why didn’t I know until I was late that Judaism tells me that we are not physical beings going through a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings who are currently going through a physical experience here. There is philosophy in it, there is spirituality in it, there is science in it. What does man know about his Judaism? That the world was created in six days. Judaism preceded science, today science advances Judaism until the perception of the atomic particle.

“This is a treasure of embodied knowledge, a diamond. And you know why we have to cover this diamond? Because people don’t know what’s there, generation after generation grew up here, ignorant. And this has a meaning not only mental and not only spiritual.

“This identity. Pay attention to what is read in Gaza, what is read in Hamas, they are proud of their death, they are proud of their poverty, because they have ‘Allah’. We have the roots pulled out from under our feet, sitting here and telling me that the study of Judaism is what? Israeliness and Judaism together? Israeli Hebrew cinema compared to the Melbim, the Ramchal, the Holy Ari.

“Do you know what worlds are there? I graduated from 7 years of philosophy. I was so thirsty for knowledge, after 12 years of barren studies that I went to university and studied for 7 years. It is dust compared to the diamond we sit on and bury. And our children do not know what it is to be Jewish, they have no idea.

“I am studying today and I say, if only I had known this at a younger age. It’s resilience, it’s identity, it’s roots, it’s the strength to fight, I see our “secular” soldiers today with the Tzitzit …with Torah scrolls, secular. With the kippahs and tefillin, secular.

“I see it and I see how their souls thirst for it, how much they yearn for it, I want to say that Israel needs to make a new start to the education system. Judaism is not the other, it is me or the progressive approach to the Mishnah and the Bible. Judaism is a victorious truth.

“We are sitting on a diamond. And the time has come for us to access this diamond, this knowledge, this spirituality that has humanity in it, which has the basis of universal morality today, we brought it. And people don’t know. Israelis grow up here who think that their identity is that they like pizza!” Friends, having been in Israel shortly after October 7th, I have witnessed the “second wave spiritual revolution” first hand. Soldiers and citizens eager to put on tefillin, to pray, to put on Tzitzit, to light Shabbat candles to connect experientially to Torah and Mitzvot. They are fighting to defend the only country in the world universally recognized as the “Holy Land”. To defend the Holy Land you need holy armor in addition to the conventional armor.”

This awakening has happened organically. According to a recent poll conducted by The Jerusalem Post, over 33% of Israelis report that they have experienced an increase of faith and observance since October 7th.

“Behold, days are coming, says the Lord G-d, and I will send famine into the land, not a famine for bread nor a thirst for water, but to hear the word of the Lord.” – Amos 8:11. Happening now in Israel and all over the world.

Friends, we are not on the sidelines of this battle, we are in it. It is ultimately a battle for the soul of the Land and the soul of its people – the Jewish people. Let us all be mobilized – mitzvah mobilized! Let us all take on one more Mitzvah, to light Shabbat candles or to encourage someone else to, if we do already, to study a little Torah – never been easier than now with technology. Let’s watch five minutes less of news and plug in to five minutes of Torah, it’s what our souls are thirsting for.

We are seeing the words of our prophets unfold before our very eyes. May we soon see the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “…and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift the sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Ruvi New
Chabad of East Boca