Issue 19 – June 29th, 2006
Thoughts on Ancient Times & Current Events by Ashirah Yosefah
FINDING LIGHT AMIDST THE CLOUDS
The sun breaks through a foreboding bank of dark clouds over
Noqedim in Eastern Gush Etsion. (© Ashirah Yosefah Photo)
past decade, a massive spiritual quickening has been occurring among the
nations of the world. It began quietly
and slowly, very much “one from city and two from a clan” to borrow a phrase
from the Prophet Jeremiah. At first, it
seemed that this stirring was primarily in North America, then in
The Prophet Zechariah spoke of a time when “ten men from every nation, tribe and tongue shall take hold of the corner of the garment of a Jew and say, ‘Let us go with you for we have heard that Hashem is with you.’” This prophecy is clearly beginning to unfold in our present day. Each and every non-Jew who has embarked on this journey of discovery has encountered challenges, dilemmas, choices and personal sacrifices.
Truth is priceless and its pursuit can be costly. Paradoxically, the closer a person comes in their quest for the Eternal Truth of Hashem; the louder become the voices of the dissenters, decrying the authenticity of Torah, of Judaism, of the history of the Jewish people, and diminishing the authority of and respect due to the Rabbis and Sages of Israel. Many try to refute the existence and validity of the Seven Universal Laws. As a result, it is very easy for the mind to reach the point of total confusion.
To quote from of the shiur I gave for Noahide Nations this week, the Book of Exodus, tells us that the Torah was revealed to the Children of Israel in the midst of bleak and barren desert. We are told by the Torah that the Children of Israel “encamped in the desert”. Midrash Mechilta, Ch. 20, states:
Torah was given in an ownerless place, for if it had been given in the
This is a very telling passage and one that has been the focus of much rabbinical contemplation and discussion. For me, it immediately brings to mind a prophetic passage written by Hoshea:
“Therefore, behold, I will seduce
her [the Congregation of
The above passage suggests that, in the Latter Days, when the Children
of Israel return to Torah and to their Land, they will encounter a desert
experience. Remember that a desert (midbar in Hebrew) can be both a physical location and a
spiritual or emotional state of being. The
Children of Israel were brought out of
If we contemplate Hoshea’s words quoted above, it would seen to suggest that G-d will lure the scattered and dispersed souls of the descendents of Israel out of their places of captivity and exile (even if the exile has been as cushy and comfy as the assimilation into Western cultures) and bring them into places of difficulty, of troubling, the Valley of Achor. These could be spiritual difficulties or material hardships, or both. The purpose of these hardships is that wandering hearts and minds among the Children of Israel will be influenced to recognize the authority of Hashem’s Torah and repent. The personal stories contained in the many emails Shuvoo receives indicate that this pattern is also evident amongst non-Jews who have been quickened by Hashem to heed His Laws and acknowledge His Unity.
Changing one’s beliefs, leaving a formerly cherished faith or even simply the religious culture in which one has grown up, can be very much like going through a divorce. The symptoms are similar: Feelings of disbelief, fear, betrayal, grief, anger, depression, lowered self-esteem, and social isolation. Such pioneering souls may well be shunned by family members and spouses. Many have seen their marriages end in divorce as a result of changing their religious beliefs. All of this causes anxiety and stress. The whole process is painful and confusing at first, even though it can also bring feelings of tremendous freedom, but there is much to be learned in the “desert experience” and ultimately a profound spiritual maturity can be gained, together with a truly satisfying sense of a genuine Torah-grounded spiritual identity.
Last year, Shuvoo’s co-director, Pinchas David, had opportunity to dialogue with someone who was going through the spiritual transformation from a lifetime of previously Christian beliefs to becoming a Ben Noach. The man felt overwhelmed by all he was discovering and very much wanted to be certain he was receiving truth and would be able to make proper choices. In the process of their dialogue, Pinchas offered the man the following advice:
"A huge part of the process of purifying your mind, and allowing yourself to achieve clarity in these matters, is not so much adding to your knowledge, but more often just freeing your mind from so many conflicting ideas. The darkness is so deep, and the thirst for Hashem so great, that we are like spiritual junkies constantly looking for a fix. An endless quest, filled with doubt lurking in the background, makes everything we achieve either not enough or seem fruitless. But we must constantly remind ourselves it all pays off, that is Hashem's promise to us. In the meantime, while we struggle with our egos and the multitude of demons that we encounter on the way, the only thing that we can truly own of eternal value is that through our struggles we become righteous and crave righteousness ... a righteousness that soothes our doubts about being right with our Creator, and that we purify our hearts enough to receive the clarity to distinguish between what is good, and what may be disguised as good but is, in reality, evil. This is what Hashem desires most of his creation."
... Pinchas David, Co-Director, Shuvoo
We are privileged to be living in momentous times. Much in our world is confused and chaotic and spiritual darkness is rampant. Still, as the last Rebbe of Lubavitch was so wont to say, “It only takes a little light to dispel at great deal of darkness.” If we have been ‘in the dark’ and suddenly a light comes on, at first we are startled. Depending on the source of light, we may even feel temporarily blinded. This is a time of returning to ‘the basics’, the ‘ancient paths’ of Torah that set forth the manner in which G-d desires for Israel and the nations to approach. Most important the sources to which we turn for instruction in “the basics” must be credible and authoritative.
In this week’s audio class for Noahide Nations (posted on this website as well), I quoted an informative comparison by Rabbis Chaim Clorfene and Yaakov Rogalsky that they make in their book, The Path of the Righteous Gentile, in which they address the seeming ‘disparity’ between the number of commandments for Israel vs. the number of commandments for the nations of the world.
According to Rabbis Clorfene and Rogalsky, it is incorrect to think that since the Children of Israel have 613 Commandments and the Children of Noach have seven Commandments, the ratio of spiritual worth is proportionally equivalent. The truth is that the Seven Universal Laws are general commandments, each containing many parts and details, whereas the 613 Commandments of Torah are specific, each relating to one basic detail of the Divine Law. Therefore, the numerical disparity in no way reflects the relative spiritual worth of the two systems of commandments. The Rabbis explain that there is a mutually complementary difference between a Jew’s service of G-d and a Noahite’s. Through observance of the Seven Universal Laws, Bnei Noach refine the world. Through observance of the 613 Commandments, Jews reveal G-d’s Presence in the world. Reciprocally, refining the world, the role of Bnei Noach, reveals its inherent G-dliness, which revealing G-d’s Presence in the world automatically refines it.
May Hashem grant it that we are entering into a time when we shall merit an increase in the Revelation of His Light into this world through the G-dly service of both Jew and non-Jew, and may He grant us the vision to perceive His Light amidst the gathering clouds.