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A Villain’s Gradual Demise

Thursday, 5 May, 2011 - 12:00 am

In the end he was hiding in plain sight. No caves and no mountains. No legions of guards and apparently unarmed.

Justice was served this week to one of history’s most heinous criminals. Terror leader Osama Bin Laden was assassinated by the US military in a suburban Pakistan compound where he had apparently been living for quite some time.

The operation was dramatic and marvelous. US Special Forces landed in helicopters and finished their job in less than 40 minutes. Their courage, skill and efforts are to be lauded.

But really it was not simply several minutes or hours of bravery that sealed Bin Laden’s fate. Nor was it a sudden leak of valuable information. Rather, it has now been revealed, his detection was due to the gradual flow of critical intelligence. A trail was followed – piece by piece – that ultimately led to him.

In this age of instant-gratification we have little patience for such lengthy undertakings. We expect immediate results.  It’s no surprise then that most of us were shocked to hear the news. In fact, interviews have shown that many Americans had simply given up hope of ever finding Osama Bin Laden.

***

In this week’s Parsha of Emor we read about the mitzvah of Counting the Omer. We count seven weeks from Pesach to Shavuot – in large part to prepare for the receiving of the Torah.

Each night we recite a blessing and count off the day. “Today is one day to the Omer… Today is two days to the Omer…” – until we’ve reached 49 days. Jewish law mandates that in order to recite the blessing on the counting we must have counted the previous day. So if one misses day 3 for example, he or she can no longer count day four with a blessing. (One still resumes counting, but without invoking G-d’s name via a blessing). The rationale is pretty simple. I cannot profess to have counted 4 days if I’ve missed one day. To reach ‘day four’ I must first have a ‘day three’.

To me the Omer teaches us a powerful lesson of progress. Yes, we want to be at Shavuot – reliving the Sinai experience – immediately after Passover. But the Torah enjoins us to work diligently toward that goal. We must add one day onto another in order to truly be prepared for reaccepting the Torah.

Each day that we mark brings us one step closer – not farther – from our goal.

***

As a Rabbi I encounter a great deal of skepticism about the coming of Moshiach.  One common refrain is: “If he hasn’t come in all these years, I’m not too sure he’s showing up today.” In other words, we suffer from the same mentality of giving up hope of finding Osama. If we haven’t found him yet, we probably never will.

The uncomfortable truth is that we were slowly inching closer and closer every day.

I fully agree with the sentiment that it took too long, almost a decade too long. While we could ill afford to wait so long, we could much less afford to give up.

And it’s also taken too long for Moshiach to arrive. Way too long. Almost two millennia too long.

Yet I’m not about to give up faith when we are this close to our goal.

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