*An excerpt from a Bible lecture given at Makuya World Holy Convocation at Lake Biwa in August, 2018

Rabbi Benjamin Lau
Israel

My Beloved Had Gone

And the last time it happened was almost a century ago. During World War I, Balfour declared that the people of Israel could return home. When Balfour told the people of Israel to return home, only a few listened to the sound, "My beloved is knocking." Millions of Jews were in Europe, good people, believing people, but they did not hear the voice, "My beloved one is knocking."

I'll tell you a little story of my grandfather, whom I invited here. My grandfather, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Lau, was a rabbi of Poland for many years, after many generations of rabbis. When Balfour announced his appeal, my grandfather was a young man of thirty. I have a letter that my grandfather wrote after the Balfour declaration, which says that the people of Israel must immigrate to Israel.

My grandfather later became an important rabbi in Poland. He worked a lot in educating children. All his thoughts were about Jews in Poland. In 1942, in November, Germans sent all my grandfather’s city to a death camp in Treblinka. And my father was a 16-year-old youth. He worked in a German factory, so they did not send him to the camp. He had a little brother of five, named Israel. My grandfather told my father, Naftali the night before they sent him to Treblinka, "Naftali, you see this house here in Poland, it's not your house. All the years you have thought it was your home, but it's a mistake. You have another house. Your house is called Eretz Israel (land of Israel). I ask you to keep the little boy, Israel, and if you manage to get out of the war, go home to Israel."

My Beloved Heard the Prayer

My grandfather was killed in Treblinka along with the whole family. His picture is with me. When I open the Song of Songs, Chapter 5, I look at what happened when "My beloved one's voice knocks"(Verse 2). Sometimes we open the door a minute too late. It is written in the Song of Songs: "I opened for my beloved, and my beloved has deserted. I searched him and did not find him. I called him and he did not answer me" (Verse 6). This is the most painful verse in the Bible. "I called him and he did not answer to me."

And then, "I was found by the guardians who were walking around in the city. They attacked me and I was wounded." (5:7) What do we do in the moment of "I called him but he did not answer me"? Where are we going? Suddenly, "I swear to you, daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my beloved, what will you say to him? That I am sick of love" (Verse 8).

I see all the people in the world who are in difficult times, who are in the valley of the shadow of death, and who pray but the LORD does not answer. They do not lose faith. They tell your friends, "Daughters of Jerusalem, help me to find him. And if you find him, what will you tell him? Tell him that I love him."

I think of my grandfather standing next to gas chambers, and saying, "If you find him, tell him I'm sick of love." When there is faith, hope can be aroused. There are prayers filled with light, but there are deep prayers that come out of darkness. This song "Hishbaati etchem, benot yerushalim (I swear to you, daughters of Jerusalem)," is the greatest song of faith in the Bible. It is a prayer that we ask for in the very difficult days, and even in the days we call him and he does not answer us, and we will continue to pray. Maybe let us now pray, "Hishbaati etchem."

My father Naftali managed to take his little brother in his hands, and moved through camps in Germany until they were liberated in 1945. Fifty years later I stood with my father and his little brother near the Western Wall. It was the day when the State of Israel chose the little brother, Israel to be the Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel. I stood with my father and saw a small tear drop in his eye. Then my father said to me, "You see, the beloved one heard the prayer."

Four years ago we put my father in the soil of Jerusalem. We stood there with the President of the State of Israel, thousands of thousands came to bid farewell to him. We stood and said one word,"Thank You. Thanks to the LORD who saved us. Thanks to the LORD that after the harsh exile we are privileged to see the State of Israel with our eyes." We feel that we live within the redemption.

Makuya, the Alarm Clock of Israel

Many times people in Israel do not notice how good it is at home. We always need someone to come from outside and tell us, "Look, what a beautiful house you have built!" Someone needs to open our eyes in Israel so we do not fall asleep again. We must not fall asleep again like we did before. You, the people of Makuya, are the alarm clock of the people of Israel. You do not let us fall asleep. As you walk along the sidewalk of Jerusalem with Israeli flags and singing Hebrew songs, the entire State of Israel awakens.

Your role in history is huge. Together we must pray a great prayer for peace. Peace always begins at home. We do not start with global peace all over the world. Prayer of peace always precedes everything, between man and woman, between parents and children. Those who do not know how to make peace at home will never make peace in the world.

In order for peace to exist between us, we have to pray that we have a pure heart. Our heart is a gift from God. Our spirit is God's Spirit. When we are in a quarrel and a dispute, the struggle does not come from outside but from inside. We have to pray all the time that the heart shall be pure and that the Spirit of God shall be new within us.

In the morning prayer of the Jews, every day, every morning, we pray the verse from Psalm 51, "Create me a pure heart, God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." I want to tell you that we have been here for almost a week, and we have been filled up a great deal with a new spirit and a pure heart from you. So we can pray together, "Lev tahor bera li elohim (Create me a pure heart, God)."

(End)

Click here to read "Prayer Yearning for the Beloved (1)"
Click here to read "Prayer Yearning for the Beloved (2)"