“I thought wars were out of fashion!” my daughter told me the other day. “Like, something from the history books, not something that is happening anymore.”
“I thought so, too,” I replied grimly.
We are in the 21st century, you know? This was supposed to be the century of flying cars and colonizing Mars; instead, we are dealing with plagues and wars as if we were still living in the medieval era!
The moral of the story is that the world is still very much a work in progress.
Don’t get me wrong. Not all is bleak. From a historical point of view, our world is a much better place than it used to be. Consider how little appetite for war exists — almost all nations do their best to resolve all conflicts through negotiations.
Nonetheless, we are far from where we should be.
And we are too tolerant of that.
Our internal Chabad WhatsApp groups looked like war rooms in the past few days.
“We are organizing a convoy that evocates hundreds of people, please pray that everything goes well!”
“The situation is getting worse. Bombs are now landing in residential areas.”
“We have 73 beds in our Chabad house for refugees from Ukraine… they will be treated like royalty, please call my cell at….”
“Any refugees who make their way to Israel, please contact… we have apartments ready and our Chabad volunteers can’t wait to welcome them!”
This week, I watched my colleagues in Ukraine in awe. Their selfless commitment to their community, insisting on staying until the last minute to help every Jew, was nothing less than heroic.
Then the Chabad rabbis in Europe and Israel showed their own selflessness by jumping into action to welcome the tens of thousands of refugees with a warm bed, a welcoming smile, and an open heart.
For me, they are a living example of the rebbe’s vision. That was what the rebbe of righteous memory had in mind when he asked to establish Chabad houses around the world. He wanted to be there for all Jews, physically and spiritually. He wanted every Jew to feel cared for, and it’s beautiful to see how this vision is implemented.
But before we celebrate this great achievement, another part of the lifelong dream of the rebbe is yet to be realized.
The coming of Moshiach, that is.
People often think of the coming of Moshiach in fantastic terms, when money grows on trees and some great miracles occur.
For the rebbe, Moshiach was about finally reaching our goal.
We are so used to living in a world filled with pain and conflict that it is difficult for us to imagine a world without it.
It is not supposed to stay that way.
When God created our imperfect world, he asked (and tasked!) us to do something about it. He gave us the tools, energy and wisdom to slowly but surely move it in the right direction.
Think about it this way:
The world was created dark and our role is to illuminate it. Every time we do a mitzvah, big or small, we bring more light into the world.
Brought a smile on someone’s face? You have added more light. Did you wrap tefillin today? Thanks to you, we have more light. Lit the Shabbat candles? Well, with this mitzvah it is easy to see how the world is becoming brighter, literally. The list goes on and on.
The rebbe was passionate about adding more light, while keeping his eyes on the prize promised to us in the Torah: the moments when the world will finally be darkness-free. It was about finding solutions to individual problems, while always striving for the ultimate cure.
This war is another reminder that we are not yet there, and we should not be okay with it. The world’s status is still unacceptable. We must keep at it, keep adding light, keep doing good, while praying to God:
Please, God, enough is enough. Yes, the world is in a much better place than it once was. Still, the remnants of darkness are too much for us to handle. It’s time for you to shine your light and bring us home.
Rabbi Mendy Kaminker and his wife, Shterna, direct Chabad of Hackensack. He welcomes your comments at rabbi@ChabadHackensack.com