We do not hide the fact that there is a lot of garbage in Israel. There is garbage in the Prime Minister’s office. There is garbage in the Knesset. There is garbage in the Supreme Court, the Justice Department, and in the public educational system. There is garbage in the media. I am not ashamed of the garbage. I am proud of it. The fact that there is a lot of garbage means that there is also a tremendous amount of good.
The fact that there is a lot of garbage means that there is also a tremendous amount of good.
What is the function of garbage? To help us understand, let’s use the example of food. Garbage is the refuse that is left over from the edible food. For example, garbage is the peel of a banana, or the husk of an orange, or the shell of a pistachio nut. The fruit is eaten and the peel is discarded by throwing it into the trash. Until the banana is ripe, the peel serves to guard it. Though eventually the peel will turn into garbage, it plays a vital function is the development and growth of the fruit.
Just like the shell guards the nut.
In a language more eloquent than mine, Rabbi Kook explains that the garbage and evil husks that we see in our time come to guard the budding fruit of Redemption and allow it to develop and grow. On the one hand, the light of Redemption is so powerful, it cannot be revealed all at once. Just as a person cannot stare up at the sun in its zenith, the world would be blinded if G-d were to reveal Himself, in all of His splendor and glory, without any filter or screen.
In this sense, the husks of garbage in Israel, in the many forms they assume, serve to shield the world from the great growing light of Redemption within, until the proper vessels are built, so that we can become gradually used to the light. These vessels are things like prophecy, the Sanhedrin, the Beit HaMikdash, and the Kingship of David, for which we all dream. Precisely because people lack the vessels to contain the immense Divine light of Redemption, they can easily fall into spiritual rebellion and disbelief. Often these people have very big souls, but lacking the vessels to perceive the all-encompassing cosmic truth of the Torah, they reject it as something antithetical from the freedoms and universal truths that they long for. This accounts for the heresy and terrible chutzpah of our times.
Nonetheless, while the headlines are focused on the political corruption in Israel, on the Intifadas and the threats of war, quietly, beneath this husk of evil, dozens of new yeshivas are opened, cities and settlements are built, a new advanced satellite is developed, a new insect-free lettuce is produced, more of our scattered exiles are gathered, and more and more Jewish children are born. All of these are aspects of Mashiach and the holy vessels of nationhood that we need to build. “We don’t have to worry about the Israelis,” the United States Secretary of State assures the President. “Look at all the problems they have.” That’s true when you focus on the darkness of the husks and don’t see the great light within. But one day soon, the world will wake up and the developed State of Israel will be world superpower #1.
Granted, this is a difficult concept. After all, everything that the Almighty has created, He has created is to manifest His glory. This includes garbage. Since it is G-d’s will that the Jewish People worship Him and rebuild their Statehood on the foundations of the Torah, can it be that He has servants working in an opposite manner creating mountains of garbage which counteract everything the Master has decreed? How can He allow all of this trash?
To explain this paradox, the Zohar teaches, in the famous parable of the harlot, that the purpose of evil is to bring forth the will of G-d. While the king wants his son to live a moral life and not succumb to temptation, he secretly hires a harlot and instructs her to seduce his son, in order to test his obedience to his father’s teachings. To resist her wiles and charms, the prince has to summon all of his inner resources and strengths. When he succeeds, the king grants him the highest of prizes and honors. Now who caused all of this grandeur to come to the prince? The harlot! (Zohar, Shemot, 163A).
Just as each one of us is called upon to conquer our evil inclinations in our personal lives, we, as a nation, are also summoned to separate the holy from the garbage in our national lives as well. This is the process of “birur” or selection that the Jewish Nation is experiencing today.
It's our job to separate the peel from the fruit.
This estrangement from our own holy sources is but a passing illness. After two thousand years of exile among the nations of the world, we have returned to Eretz Yisrael to build our own unique Jewish State. But when we come back from our wanderings, our luggage is filled with both good things and bad. We have learned about socialism, and communism, capitalism, and democracy. In our school of hard knocks, we have learned how to be writers, scientists, statesmen, and soldiers. In the long school of galut, we have absorbed gentile concepts, corrupt dealings, and heretical teachings as well. It is our job to sift out the good from the bad and to re-establish our nation on the basis of Torah. The more garbage that there is, the harder each one of us has to work. The darker the husks, the more we have to strive to increase Torah in order to spread its light. Just as the dregs serve to preserve a fine wine, so does the existence of the wicked force the champions of spirituality and goodness to climb to greater heights, until they can reveal the glorious, universal, transcendental, Divine “ism” of Judaism, the paucity of which led to the spiritual rebellion and heresy of the past. In a nutshell, the more corruption, immorality, and evil, the holier we all have to be.
Rabbi Kook writes that although holiness, goodness, and faith will seem to suffer and weaken in the early stages of nation building, this is in reality the stimulus for the magnificent ascent that follows. “For after the decay of the refuse, the light of splendor and holiness will immediately begin to grow on healthy holy foundations” (Orot HaTechiya, 52).
But to bring about this world perfecting rectification, you have to be engaged in the battle. If you want to participate in the Redemption, you can’t sit on the sidelines, watching from thousands of miles away, afraid to get dirty.
Watching from the sidelines
You can't do the Divine work of selection by keeping away from the garbage. You have to buckle on your boots, grab your buckets and brooms, and climb onto the dump with the rest of us here. The garbage is waiting for you. And also an incredible, indescribable good. If you come with a willing heart and a firm trust in G-d, then you won’t even notice the smell on your shoes. I promise.