Heralded as a major wake-up call, the recent Pew study on the state of the Jews in America really achieved nothing. Sure, it was an interesting snapshot, but nothing will change. Non-Orthodox Jews are not willing to take the leap of faith needed to make a commitment to a Judaism that is sustainable.
And the response of the Orthodox was predictable. ‘See, we told you so,’ was the typical attitude, if they even bothered reading it at all. After all, most of the Orthodox community confines itself to a few enclaves in New York and Israel, and does its best to keep insulated from the outside world.
The two most solemn days on the Jewish calendar are Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av (the 9th Av). The former is the Day of Atonement and the latter is the day of national mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Five activities are prohibited on these two days: eating, washing, anointing, wearing leather shoes, and marital relations.
The Beraisa teaches: [Despite the prohibition against washing] anyone who is obligated to immerse in the mikvah may immerse in the regular manner whether on 9th Av or on Yom Kippur. Rabbi Chanina the deputy High Priest exclaimed, “The House of G-d is worthy to have immersion missed for its sake once a year!”
When you immerse in the mikvah, you become purified and spiritually refreshed, returning to a level of completeness that was lacking prior to immersion. Imagine how you would feel walking out of the mikvah on the 9th Av on your spiritual high. You walk past everyone sitting on the ground in mourning, praying for redemption and you think to yourself, ‘I already feel redeemed!’
Such an attitude is totally inappropriate, says Rabbi Chanina. You cannot experience personal redemption while the nation as a whole is suffering. No point going to the mikvah and becoming cleansed when everyone else is still unredeemed.
Members of the Orthodox community who choose to shut themselves off from the rest of the Jewish people are like that person who goes to mikvah on Tisha B’Av. What’s the point? Who are you kidding? Have you no empathy for anyone else? Seriously, is it all just about you?
It’s time for Orthodox Jews to stop practicing a brand of Judaism that is ridiculous. Personal redemption is meaningless if the world is still unredeemed. You can’t rebuild the Temple by purifying yourself. Redemption is a national event. If you truly seek redemption, start looking outside the walls of the mikvah to see what’s going on with the nation as a whole.
Be part of the solution! Seek redemption for our nation, not just for yourself! And convince your friends to do the same. Each of us must do our part to awaken the nation as a whole to redemption!