Rabbi Mendel Kessin. His topic was speaking on "Current Events as part of the Divine Agenda: What is Happening and Why." It's a topic that I gravitate toward anyway, but I had listened to Rabbi Kessin speak online a few times and I wanted to attend this shiur. The shiur was being offered by L'ayala, which is run by a friend from Baltimore, making it even more worthwhile to attend.
It was a gorgeous weather day. The weather is still changeable this time of year, but today felt like Spring. Starting with the bus ride, there were thrills. Some windows on the bus were open, allowing soft, temperate air to blow in. I glanced up from my seat in the back of a crowded bus and what I saw made me smile.
There was a nun, cassock, wimple, habit and all, carrying six bags filled with her groceries. Near her was an Arab woman wearing a khimar (head scarf), a chayelet (female Israeli soldier) in uniform, an Orthodox woman reciting Tehillim (Psalms), a secular woman reading a Russian text and a young guy with multiple piercings in a black goth t-shirt with a devil design. I know it sounds like Purim, but it was just an ordinary day in Jerusalem.
That made me happy.
I got to the shiur in plenty of time. In fact, I had a few extra minutes to deposit a couple of small checks at our bank nearby. Sounds like no big deal, but a few weeks ago, we learned that you can't cash a check made out to you at your own bank. You have to take it to the bank where it was drawn. But you can deposit it to your account.
Every day is a learning experience.
The shuir was rapid-fire, clear and fascinating. Rabbi Kessin taught that Gd wants to bestow good upon the Jewish people. Rather than give it as a free gift, He decided to make us earn it. In order to earn it, He made the world less than perfect. The task of the Jewish people is to perfect the world.
There are three ways to perfect the world: doing mitzvot (those Divinely assigned tasks that make up the life of a Torah Jew) OR doing teshuva (repenting for our misdeeds) OR through suffering. Mitzvot are superior, but for the most part, the Jewish people are achieving the goal of perfecting the world through suffering.
Not anyone can cause us to suffer. Eight nations were assigned to persecute the Jewish people and they were/are all superpowers in their time. As dreadful as it is to be persecuted, we at least have had the "privilege" to be persecuted by nations of significance - Egypt, Bavel (Babylonia), Persia, Greece, Rome (Christianity), Islam, Amalek and the Erev Rav.
When a Jewish person does a mitzvah, he or she brings down an element of kedusha (holiness). When a Jewish person sins, the kedusha power goes to the yetzer hara (a/k/a satan). It's a simple system. Either we get the benefit (kedusha) or the satan gets it. The satan needs kedusha to survive. Since the yetzer hara is dying as a result of the accumulated merits of the Jewish people over Jewish history, he has turned to the Muslim people as allies to feed his need for kedusha.
This exceedingly simplified explanation is why, according to Rabbi Kessin, the Muslims are in ascendancy in the world today. They are in a partnership with the yetzer hara.
As far as Israel is concerned, Muslims have been caretakers of the Land because, whatever flaws they have, they are monotheistic and not idol worshipers. Now that the Jews have returned Home after 2,000 years, the Muslims have outlived their usefulness here. But they do not want to leave. How to get them out so Israel can be a truly Jewish country?
Thus comes the change of power in Egypt. There's a war coming. The Muslim Brotherhood will take power in Egypt and use the large and powerful army of Egypt against Israel (though we will prevail). In the context of that war, the Arabs will flee and Israel will end up, after the war, a Jewish state at long last.
Will it happen just this way? Who knows?
But there is something magical about sitting in Jerusalem and listening to this kind of Torah. Forgive me for oversimplifying. I meant only to give you a taste of my day, not a learned discourse. Ironically, Rabbi Kessin was not at all the person I was picturing. In the end, he looked not one bit familiar. But Hashem clearly orchestrated events so I would get there to hear what he had to say. I'm good with that.
After the learning, I had lunch with an old, old friend. She agreed to drive me to my bus stop, but as we approached the stop, we saw the bus pull away. We raced to the second stop and, somehow, once again, Hashem was good to me. I jumped out of the car before it came to a full stop and, seconds later, boarded my bus home.
All in all, a good, satisfying way to spend Rosh Chodesh Adar in Jerusalem. Chodesh tov.