Sometimes, when we anticipate something for so long and then it quickly comes and goes, we are left with a feeling of emptiness. Purim can be like that. For weeks, so many of us have been thinking about Purim, anticipating Purim, and planning many aspects of this amazing, packed day. Suddenly, Purim came, it was amazing, but then it went, it’s over, and now what?
As everyone knows, Purim is thirty days before the Yom Tov of Pesach. That is why, every year after Purim, my mind transports me back to the Shaarei Chessed neighborhood of Yerushalayim.
It was back in 1987 and it feels like it was yesterday. I was learning in a yeshiva in Shaarei Chessed. Every morning, I had the privilege of davening Shacharis together with such luminaries as the posek hador of that era, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, and his son, Rav Shmuel. Rav Shlomo Zalman would gladly answer our questions as he was putting away his tefillin. Every question, no matter how foolish, was answered with his trademark, 1,000-watt smile. Rav Shalom Schwadron, the great maggid (and masmid, as whenever you passed his house, you could see him through the open-curtained window totally immersed in learning), lived right next door and we went to his shmuessen every Motzoei Shabbos in his house.
There were many other old, lesser-known Yerushalmi tzaddikim who lived in that neighborhood at the time. Already then, the neighborhood was changing, with wealthy Americans and Europeans buying the old, sometimes dilapidated houses, yet it still retained that special flavor of Yerushalayim of old.
Bentching Rosh Chodesh Nissan in Shaarei Chessed
One of the lesser-known tzaddikim who lived there was a Yid named Rav Moshe Mordechai Lichtenstein. He was an amazing chossid and oveid Hashem. I remember watching him daven and being inspired by his dveikus. I merited eating at his house occasionally on Shabbos and Yom Tov. One could feel the elevated atmosphere. When one is exposed to real kedusha, it is almost tangible. That is the way a Shabbos seudah in his house felt.
Reb Moshe Mordechai, as we called him, was great in many areas of avodas Hashem. He was a gadol baTorah, his davening was remarkable, and he was an expert baal kriah, but if there was one expression that I would use to describe him, it would be that he was a profound mitzapeh l’yeshuah. He talked about Moshiach and the geulah sheleimah all the time. He lived it and breathed it, and you could see that it was always on his mind. I have never seen a greater mitzapeh l’yeshuah than him.
That is why I can never forget his Birkas Hachodesh, his Rosh Chodesh bentching, for Chodesh Nissan in 1987. He was the official chazzan at the Khal Chassidim Shul in Shaarei Chessed, and I happened to daven there the Shabbos morning preceding Rosh Chodesh Nissan. (For all those young people wondering what I was doing in Eretz Yisroel during bein hazemanim, I spent Pesach in Eretz Yisroel because I had come after Sukkos, and in those days it was not common to come home after only being in Eretz Yisroel for six months.)
When Rav Moshe Mordechai said the words of Rosh Chodesh bentching, “Hu yigal osanu bekarov – May He redeem us soon and gather our dispersed from the four corners of the world,” I thought that if I turned around and looked at the door, I would see Moshiach coming in. His face was aflame, the veins on his forehead popping out in a way that I had never seen. He said those words with such power and longing that I simply can’t properly describe the burning yearning that totally encompassed him. Every year, when we bentch Rosh Chodesh Nissan, that vision of Rav Moshe Mordechai, face aflame, begging Hashem for Moshiach, is at the forefront of my mind.
That is why when Purim ends, I begin to think of Rosh Chodesh Nissan and Rav Moshe Mordechai’s deepest tefillos for Moshiach and the arrival of the geulah.
Why Did He Want Moshiach So Badly?
Thinking back, however, I wonder: Why did he want Moshiach so badly? What was wrong with the way things were? He spent his days al haTorah v’al ha’avodah, learning and davening all day. By then, he had married off his children. His rebbetzin was an extraordinary tzadeikes (and served as one of the cooks at Rav Shmuel Auerbach’s yeshiva). He had such a beautiful spiritual life. What was missing?
The answer, of course, is that it takes one who is close to Hashem to realize how far he is without Moshiach and without the Bais Hamikdosh. Someone who has attained real dveikus can better understand how much dveikus in Hashem he is still missing because Hashem is in golus, the Shechinah is in golus, and we don’t have that closest of connections that we once had.
You see, when it comes to longing for Moshiach, many of us have a very childish understanding of why we so want him and need him. Of course, believing in Moshiach is one of the thirteen principles of our emunah, but I mean something deeper. Very often, one could think that people want Moshiach in the same way that children need their mother to make their boo-boo better.
He is going to sooth us and take away all of our boo-boos. He will beat the coronavirus and he will make sure Sanders doesn’t win. He will make sure that there is no such thing as a school rejecting a child or an older girl who can’t find a shidduch. And the list goes on…
Is it All About Healing Boo-Boos?
While hopefully that is true, it is really missing the point. We can only understand why we need him if we understand what we lost when we went into golus. The greatest churban of the golus is the fact that we are distanced from Hashem. The very fact that so many think that Moshiach is in essence a “boo-boo kisser” is itself a product of the distance from Hashem that the golus has caused.
Our generation is amazing. We are so knowledgeable. We learn so much Torah and know so much halacha. I don’t know if any generation since the onset of the golus can compare.
At the same time, with all of that knowledge, we are so far away from Hashem. We are so connected to the entire world. We talk in real time to people who are thousands of miles away. We know what happens on the other end of the world in a minute. The political machinations going on in the streets of Yerushalayim or in the boardrooms of yeshivos and organizations are flying around and are topics of public conversation almost immediately after they transpire. This constant flood of information is so distracting that it makes us forget about our connection and our need for connection to Hashem.
What this tzaddik, Rav Moshe Mordechai Lichtenstein, was so longing for when he begged Hashem to take us out of golus and gather us all from the four corners of the world was just that: a connection to Him. Of course, when Moshiach comes, there will be so many side benefits, as Chazal teach us. Yes, many boo-boos will be fixed and made better, but the ultimate boo-boo is the one in our souls. The great black hole of spiritual filth that has stuffed our proverbial “connection pipes” with spiritual sewage and has so distanced us from Hashem will disappear.
When that happens, we will realize how much we were missing and how far we are now, and we will feel so happy and fortunate.
So yes, Purim is over, but there is so much to look forward to and to daven for. Rosh Chodesh Nissan is around the corner. B’Nissan nigalu uv’Nissan asidin lehegoel. In Nissan we were redeemed and in Nissan we will once again be redeemed. May it be this year!