September 22, 2018

#MeToo and Mashiach

Women’s Bureau 1920, Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

I did not expect to hear a Torah teaching about the #MeToo movement in a Chasidic synagogue. Rabbi Reuven Wolf, however, is not your typical Chasidic rabbi.

On a recent Shabbat, he expounded some verses from one of the lesser-known books of the Bible, Habakkuk:

He shall speak of the end, and it shall not fail; though it tarry, wait for it, for it shall surely come, it shall not delay.

The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the water fills the sea … and

… a stone shall cry out from the wall.

In this prophetic description, the Age of Mashiach, i.e., the messianic age, will not be accompanied only by peace and goodness — the lion lying down with the lamb, etc. —  but also with knowledge of God, God’s plan and the true meaning of the elements in that plan. We will thus finally understand the spiritual purpose of everything, and everyone, in our physical environment.

At that time, even the rocks will testify whether we walked over them for a wholesome purpose or a selfish purpose. In other words, did we employ our resources to make God’s creation a place of greater holiness or less? A place of greater justice or less? A place of greater kindness or less?

If so for the rocks, Rabbi Wolf said, how much for the people in our lives? We will be called to account for the ways we treated everyone we met, and particularly those closest to us. Did we help them realize their true purpose in the creation, or did we exploit them for our own selfish ends?

It is a fact of biology that the human male gives the seed of life and the female receives it. Each provides half the DNA, but the female egg is vast compared with the tiny sperm, and it is the woman alone who nurtures the new embryo for the next nine months. So you would think that the male would be a humble, nurturing partner in the relationship.

Sadly, this has not been the case. Throughout the history of humanity, many men have exploited their size, strength and patriarchal role as giver of the seed to get what they want from women. The sexual relationship should be the holiest interaction on earth, one that enables both partners to join with God in the creation of new life, but men have often hijacked it to give themselves pleasure at the expense of women’s dignity. This is a grave sin — one that harms the woman, the man and the whole of creation.

The fact that we have now crossed a line, that people will no longer tolerate such an established pattern of behavior, is beyond momentous. In the annals of humankind, it is a change akin to the advents of consciousness, fire, language, agriculture, cities and democracy.

According to Rabbi Wolf, the #MeToo movement is not only a world changer, but evidence that the Shabbat of history is at our doorstep.

In the Hebrew calendar, the year is 5778. We are 222 years from Y6K, the dawn of the seventh millennium — a time that will be holy like the seventh day. Our Sages often liken the Age of Mashiach to Shabbat. And just as Shabbat begins before night actually falls, the messianic age is now settling in around us like dusk.

Jewish tradition, like Habakkuk, holds that the end “shall surely come,” and it will not come later than its appointed time. It may, however, come earlier.

We can hasten the redemption by earning it. If the human world grows in kindness and righteousness, Mashiach will come sooner and without pain. If we cannot achieve such growth, Mashiach will come with a sharp birth pang, more commonly known as the apocalyptic battle of Gog and Magog.

Such a battle is not hard to imagine on the current world stage, and its consequences would be horrific.

Let’s avoid that fate. Let’s buy in to Rabbi Wolf’s vision of an Age of Mashiach that we usher in by increasing peace, justice, lovingkindness and dignity in the world.

Let’s make sure the #MeToo movement succeeds in protecting women from exploitation and enables them to realize their true purpose as equal partners in the creation.

It’s a good bet. Even if Rabbi Wolf is mistaken, what have we lost? And if he’s right …


Salvador Litvak shares his love of Judaism with a million followers every day at accidentaltalmudist.org.

LimmudLA camper-style

LimmudLA Fest, a somewhat scaled-back version of the annual Jewish learning weekend, will be held for the first time this year from Aug. 16 to 18 at the Brandeis-Bardin Campus in Simi Valley. Presenters will offer sessions on a wide variety of topics, staying true to LimmudLA’s promise to provide “a place for everty Jew under the sun.” They include: Yaffa Epstein of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, teaching on Talmud and Jewish law; Rabbi Andrew Hahn, “the Kirtan Rabbi,” whose worship transforms traditional Jewish phrases into a call-and-response chant; Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles David Siegel; Jewish Chicks Rock and Jewish Kids Rock founder Naomi Less; Rabbi Ed Feinstein of Valley Beth Shalom; Rabbi Zvi Block, senior rabbi of Toras HaShem/Young Israel of Valley Village; and Rabbi Reuven Wolf, co-founder of Maayon Yisroel and teacher of Chasidic Judaism.

LimmudLA is a branch of the volunteer-led Limmud International, which has inspired Limmud programs in 26 countries. Limmud was founded in the United Kingdom in 1980 and was introduced to North America in 2004. 

The upcoming Limmud d eLA Fest will include campfires, outdoor programming, and efforts to make the event more environmentally friendly, to help participants fully experience the natural beauty of Brandeis-Bardin. Visitors to LimmudLA Fest can stay in cabins or tents. Prices for a bed in a shared cabin range from $50 to $300, and camping prices range from $50 to $250. Registration for Sunday events only is $75. Childcare will be available, and the event is glatt kosher. For more information or to register, visit limmudla.org.