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Sunday, 25 October 2015

How to see Creation Light

Daf Yomi Nazir 63

We just concluded another fabulous Shabbos Project.  The Shabbos Project is the brainchild of Rabbi Warren and Rebbetzin Gina Goldstein, Chief Rabbi of South Africa.  It has been particularly successful in communities with high concentrations of ex-pat South Africans; and Edmonton boasts the second highest number of ex-pats in Canada, after Toronto.   We’re very blessed to have experienced our South African influx as they have really bolstered the Orthodox community in our city.

The Shabbos Project encourages people who wouldn’t normally observe to just give it a try; and for those who already do, it’s an opportunity to celebrate that good fortune.  It’s a wonderful idea.  The only question I have is: What took so long?  Why didn’t anyone come up with the idea sooner?

Mishnah: Concerning a nazir who cuts his hair in celebration of the conclusion of his term of abstinence but then finds out that he had previously come into contact with impurity, the following law applies: If it was a well-known source of impurity, he forfeits his term of nazirism and must start over.  But if it was an impurity of the deep, he does not forfeit.
Gemara: What is impurity of the deep?  Any matter that an individual on the other end of the world would not recognize.  If, however, an individual on the other end of the world would recognize it, it is not considered impurity of the deep.

The nazir would be penalized for coming into contact with impurity that he should have been aware of.  So let’s say, for example, he’s walking along texting on his smartphone, oblivious to his surroundings, and he walks through a cemetery.  He should have realized that and so he forfeits his term of nazirism.   In contrast, he is not penalized for coming into contact with impurity that he could not have known about.  For example, ten years earlier, there had been an avalanche near where he worked and someone was killed and buried there. 

But, says the Gemara, the catch is that not only must he be unaware of the impurity; nobody can no know of it.  To the extent that if someone on the other end of the world is aware that there’s a body there beneath the rubble, that’s not considered too deep to avoid the penalty.  And yet, how can we tell if someone on the other side of the world would know?

The truth is, back in the time of the Gemara, there was no way of really knowing.  It was a bit of guesswork.  Just think for a moment how different it is in the twenty-first century!  Today, if you had to find out whether there was knowledge about an impurity of the deep on the other side of the world, you would simply send out an SMS to the Impurity of the Deep WhatsApp group!  In seconds, you could find out!

We live in an incredibly interconnected world.  They used to ask: If Moshiach came today, how would we find out about it on the other side of the world?  Well, radio certainly helped the situation, but you still needed the radio station to know somehow.  Telephones were also helpful, but you would have to be part of the call chain.  Internet is a game-changer.  In a matter of minutes, it could be posted to the major news sites around the world, it would be shared by billions on Facebook and Twitter, and in no time at all, everyone in the world would know of his arrival!   We are living in the age that the Prophet Habakuk foresaw when he declared, “The world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the sea!”

The Shabbos Project is the result of this pre-Messianic age.  It was only possible in our era of Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube.  Sure, the Goldsteins or someone else might have thought of the idea twenty years ago; but not until now could they have been so successful at broadcasting it via social media! 

The Torah says light was created on the first day.  But the sun and moon were only created on day four!  Our Sages explain that the original light wasn’t a tangible physical phenomenon.  It was too bright for the day-to-day running of the world and was simply used by G-d to kick-start creation.  But it was reserved for the righteous in the future to see from one end of the world to the other.

The future is now.  You have the ability to see and spread the Divine light to the other end of the world.  When you teach Torah online – either by the creation of new material or by sharing a good D’var Torah via email or Facebook – you are spreading that light across the globe!  Can you begin to imagine your reach?  In one fell swoop, you have the wherewithal to spread Torah to all the continents of the world!

We are living in miraculous times.  The Divine light from the first day of creation is there for the taking.  May you merit infusing your life and the lives of people at the other end of the world with the light of the beginning!  

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