THE SET UP
In my copious spare time (ha!), I moderate a list called Geula Watch, in which list members share dvrei Torah, blog entries, links to shiurim and other Torah-based information on the subjects of Moshiach, geula and kibbutz galuyot (the Ingathering of the Exiles).
A few days ago, I shared a link to a shiur by Rabbi Pinchas Winston, who is making his mark in the Torah world by teaching about the significance of the time period of Jewish history in which we find ourselves. Rabbi Winston is a prolific speaker and writer and a great influence on my thinking about these matters.
In this shiur, given live in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel on Sunday night, March 22 and posted to the Internet within hours, Rabbi Winston basically makes the case that the purpose of the current financial crisis is to separate Jews from the Diaspora, because kibbutz galuyot is the final stage of Jewish history. Additionally, he hypothesizes that America may well recover from the financial crisis, but only after the Jews who will be part of the Redemption have left. He argues that, for the economy to recover and for American Jews to go back to "normal" life would only prolong the exile and would be counterproductive to the goals of Jewish history.
AND NOW, FOR SOMETHING ENTIRELY DIFFERENT...
Last night in Baltimore, the Vaad HaRabbonim Rabbinical Council of Greater Baltimore held a community gathering called, "Responding to the Economic Crisis: An Evening of Tefillah, Chizuk and Practical Initiatives."
In essence, the program last night communicated this theme, "Times are tough, but if we stick together and help each other, we can get through it and our local institutions, particularly our day schools, can be even stronger than they were before the global economic crisis hit."
There was an emphasis on practical ways to help - reallocating our tzedaka dollars so at least 51% of them stay in the Baltimore community, reporting all possible job openings to a central location, using existing community programs if one's family is in crisis, getting financial counseling if needed, etc.
Clearly, no one involved with the program has been listening to Rabbi Winston. There was absolutely no acknowledgment of the historical context of this financial crisis and what it might mean for Jews of the Diaspora specifically.
There were many good and well-meaning people involved in last night's program. Much chesed. However, there was not a single mention of the spiritual and historical significance of current events. The overriding conclusion attendees were meant to leave with, it seems to me, is that it's just a matter of buckling down until the economy improves around here and things go back to normal for the holy congregation of Baltimore.
I do have to say that, even with separate seating, the room was divided down the middle, instead of front-to-back, so I was able to be seated in a b'kavod manner and was able to see and hear everything. I don't take that for granted.