Escaping The Times Through Torah

Painstaking translate every word. Now rearrange the order like a syntactic puzzle. Not read it, learn it, understand it. Absorb it. Sit entranced in that midrash class, halacha class, chassidus class. Get sucked into Torah like light to a black hole. It’s been so long since I sat down like this, and the spark of Jewish soul inside me yearns to flame. I could do this for hours. I could finally crack open that Duolingo Hebrew class, that Hebrew-English dictionary with its richly detailed grammar rules and crack the linguistic code to life’s answers. I could stay up all night cracking the codes to Judaism’s questions.

But I can’t, because the news keeps calling for me.

I can’t stop looking at my phone. Compulsion, obsession, anxiety. There’s always more stories, more unsolved dilemmas. Children not yet returned to parents. They cry out to me, demanding I take to the street. Now! Stop sitting here reading Torah! Torah is pleasure, Torah is hedonism! Torah is your ego longing for an intellectual past time while children are caged and drugged. Torah is you pretending to feel ahavas yisroel with the person across from you, as you carefully avoid asking the fearsome “political” question; do you support what’s happening right now? Are we on the same side of morality? Or are just we just pretending for tonight, a little fantasy of social harmony we hold when we study the halachot of kashrut together?

The tranquility of Torah leaves, the comfort ripped away like a baby from its mother’s arms. I can’t sit here learning, there’s no time for that! Why aren’t I out there protesting, fighting, phoning Congressman? Blocking ICE detention centers? Why am I still here?

A calm, authoritative teacher’s voice returns my mind to the beis midrash. Learn about Rus now. Learn about the chesed-loving convert. She who came from a people of cruelty, lit the spark of chesed from which Moshiach will come. Rus will bring me back, bring us all together in our shared love of midrashim. Rus uplifts and inspires, Rus will hold back my ache to escape, to run out of the room and join the Resistance tonight.

Or will she? Ruth who’s story begins with Elimelech. Elimelech the judge, who left the Jewish people in their time of physical and spiritual starvation. How they needed him, and how he left them for better pastures, easier pastures. A journey empty of chesed, his weak flock left behind in Israel. A journey for which Hashem took his life. “Woe to the generation that judges its judges”, says the midrash. Woe to the generation in which the judges need to be judged. Woe to the generation in which our judges are so lacking that we cannot take their rebukes or Torah guidance seriously. Woe to a generation in which the judges would leave us, and Jewish leadership is dead or dying, and we are left alone to fight evil, to seek good, to be paltry imitations of the tzadikim our solitary, spiritually decayed times need. Woe, Woe, Woe.

Click one more article. Google search one more ICE protest. Sign one more petition. Do something, *anything*, to swallow down the bile of my helplessness.

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