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These are the times…

 At the low point of American fortunes in the Revolutionary War against England, the American army wintered at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. It was one of the most bitter winters in recorded history, not only weather-wise, but in all other respects for the ragged army of George Washington. He was down to about 3,000 troops. The British had 10,000 troops in New Jersey plus 6,000 mercenaries, Hessians from Germany, that were across the river in Trenton, and it seemed that they would die of starvation, isolation and disease.

It was at this low point in the story of the American Revolution, which is a turning point in all human history, that a man by the name of Thomas Payne, who was a great propagandist, wrote an immortal essay. His essay began, "These are the times that try men’s souls." And he said that this was no time for the sunshine patriot or for the summer soldier.
It was a call to arms, a call to renew the fervor which had existed in 1776, a few years earlier, that began the revolution and declared the new country independent. It was an attempt to somehow revitalize the spirit of the Calvinists who were opposing England and have them carry on. Now we all know that it is bayonets and rifles that win wars, but words have a great effect as well. And without words and thoughts and inspiration, the bayonets and rifles alone are insufficient.
All human history has recorded for us many instances where the few have overcome the many and the allegedly weak have overcome the mighty and the strong. And this is because words, ideas and commitments have a great effect, not just psychologically but physically and nationally.
Therefore, Thomas Paine, who never picked up a rifle to shoot at a British soldier, was nevertheless one of the great heroes of the American Revolution. Without him, that terrible winter would have crushed American spirits. And who knows how the world would have looked after that.
I use all of this as a preamble to the fact that we are living through a time that try men's souls. Our time also is not a time for the sunshine patriots or the summer soldier. Whatever outcome will emerge from the scourge that we are now undergoing, it should be clear to all that it will be a different world than the one we entered a few short months ago.
When people come to a new situation and they are completely unprepared, many times they despair.  It is in our nature, always to remember the good old days. But the good old days were not always so good even if they were old. But we are creatures of habit. We are accustomed to what we are accustomed to and it is difficult to adjust to radically new situations.
So, it will be a time that will try men's souls. It will be a time that we will have to readjust. It will be a time not to repeat past errors and not to be afraid to try new directions. The Jewish people are blessed with a tremendous power of resilience from within that will stand them in good stead and will enable them to adjust to new situations and to the new world in which we will be living.
The prophet Isaiah said that there will be a time when there will be a new heaven and a new earth that will control us. I do not quite know what he meant by that, but it appears to be a reference to messianic times, to the supernatural and not to the natural world. But a glimmer of understanding can be gained from our current situation. It will be a new heaven. Not that the morals or basic rules of heaven will have changed, but we will view heaven differently. We will recognize its power. We will appreciate the fact that it alone determines our lives and that we are not the masters of our fate in the manner that we thought we once were. It will be a new earth because whatever happens here, we are not going back to what was just a few short months ago. And this idea will challenge us, it will cause discomfort, but it also will bring about great change, all for the better, I hope.
I feel that we will be like Noah who, when he took the cover off the ark, looked at a world that was completely changed from the world he entered just a few months earlier. That will be us as well.  The Torah tells us that Noah, so to speak, lost his chance. He planted vineyards when he should have established a yeshiva.
But we will always have the choice of what we will do with our world and the new world that is coming. We will have plenty of challenges, and plenty of opportunities for greatness and accomplishment. So, we need not fear the world that will emerge. The Lord has not forsaken us, and we will not forsake Him, but together we will build the new heaven and the new earth that will be able to inspire the generations to come. We will look back upon a rebuilt society and say, "What a wonderful accomplishment that generation achieved."
Shabbat Shalom.
Berel Wein

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