Friday, August 20, 2010

The Cure Precedes the Sickness

Something big is on the horizon. At some point in the near future, someone with moral courage (presumably Israel or the United States) will have to do something. It might happen tomorrow or two years from now, but with every day that passes it becomes even more inevitable. A brutal, hostile and apocalyptically-led country is on the precipice of attaining a nuclear weapon. Iran has made it abundantly clear that they plan to attack Israel first, and then go after America and the rest of the world. While we should obviously support all those who are sincerely trying to stop Iran, there is another issue with which to concern ourselves.

In a prophetic but unclear message from our Sages, the Talmud (Yoma 10a) states that there will be a confrontation between Persia and Rome/Edom, which is understood in modern times as Iran and the West. There is disagreement as to how this confrontation will play out, but that is not what I want to focus on. The most striking thing about this prediction is that it is stated directly opposite Yoma 9b - where the Sages articulate that God allowed the Beit Hamikdash to be destroyed because of sinat chinam (for further analysis, click here). In my opinion, these two passages are connected, just like the pages on which they are written.

Iran's development of a nuclear bomb is an existential threat to Israel and the Jewish people. Similarly, sinat chinam has proven to be an existential threat to Israel and the Jewish people. From the end of the Temple era until this very day, intramural hatred has proven to be a problem so serious that it rivals even the destructiveness of anti-Semitic regimes.

Just as we have to pursue every possible means through which to stop Iran's nuclear threat, we also have to pursue every possible means through which to stop fellow Jews from engaging in unnecessary hatred and division. And just as we are taught that Iran will become a worldwide problem at the End of Days, so too will the Beit Hamikdash be rebuilt at the End of Days. (Just for clarification, this term does not mean the world is going to end; it simply means the world will enter a period of goodness, peace and knowledge of God.)

Perhaps if we correct our age-old problem of sinat chinam, God will take care of Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons Himself. In other words, if we go out of our way to be good to one another, God will go out of His way to be good to us. In this instance, He could very well eliminate the Iranian nuclear plants via an earthquake or some other seemingly natural occurrence. In any event, what becomes clear is that God desires His children to act decently toward one another. In a strange but beautiful way, a situation seems to be developing in which we can only turn to God and each other. Take everything else away, and this is all we have left.

As the rabbinic dictum goes, the cure always precedes the sickness. However, it's up to us to discover the cure. In this case, I believe the problem is alluded to on Yoma 10a and the answer is alluded to on Yoma 9b. Of course, this is just a theory, but it appears to be a call to our generation: Take care of problems that are within your control (i.e. treat all fellow Jews decently) and God will take care of problems that are beyond your control (i.e. destroy all evil on earth).

If this is indeed the cure, it's time to implement it.

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