The sun was high in the sky, a soft breeze blew, slicing the heavy New England air, and cars whizzed by.  However, as my family exited shul early Shabbos afternoon two short weeks ago, following invigorating Tefillos, words of Torah, and a communal Kiddush, time seemed suspended.  We were heading home across the street for our own Shabbos afternoon Seudah.  Almost always when I leave a place, I can’t help looking back, and this time was no different; but not always is my heart so significantly stirred – or do tears and a slight, joyful spring of step begin to arise –  at what meets my eyes.

The rabbi and his family had gone in the opposite direction we did, curving and ascending uphill to their home, as we directed our steps down the path to our brick abode.  Parallel to us and also going downhill, across the quiet side street, a family friend shepherded his three girls towards their destination.  Right behind us, an older couple in our community slowly returned with their cousin to their apartment for their own Shabbos meal and rest.  My younger brother and cousin, always mischievous together, ran ahead.  In virtually every direction I spun, I saw my fellow Jews – all essentially one body and soul – dispersing towards their respective dwellings, imbuing the walkways with their presence.  Our Sages teach us that Shabbos Kodesh, the Holy Sabbath day, is a Me’ein Olam Haba – a microcosm of the World-to-Come.  With all my heart, I believe I witnessed on some level the prophecy of Zechariah (8:5) actualized:

…וּרְחֹב֚וֹת הָעִיר֙ יִמָּ֣לְא֔וּ

Urechovos Ha’ir Yimalu…

And the city streets shall fill…

Spoken in reference to Jerusalem with the coming of Moshiach, the prophet envisions our most precious city saturated with peace and harmony, and those crowned with hoary age resting as they watch young girls and boys play in the city’s sacred streets, filled… with life, with promise, with unity, with G-dliness.

Later that day, we were expecting a guest: The Rabbi’s son, whom my Bar-Mitzvah age brother befriended and was looking forward to spending a special Shabbos afternoon with.  As we saw him come down the hill and turn the corner onto our street, black hat resting firmly on his head and his tzitzis conspicuous, I sighed happily with gratitude to Hashem.  I marveled at our blessing and good fortune from the One Above, that we can confidently make our way in public without being ashamed of how we look, unafraid to reveal our Jewishness – even display it upfront with free-flying Tzitzis and a distinctive Jewish dress code.

Undeniably though, it hasn’t always been so for our ancestors.  Throughout the ages – and to take a poignant example, in Soviet Russia – disclosing your Jewish identity and even upholding Torah in private could immediately put your life on the line.  Both a thorn in our side and opportunity for transformation, persecution and anti-Semitism haven’t died –  they are more immanent in some places than others on the globe – and these forces will continue to fight us until Moshiach comes.  However, we can’t turn a blind eye to the fact that things are getting better, radically better…  Jewish pride is growing stronger, Jewish communities are growing in numbers, and an ever-increasing mass of Jews are discovering their Pintele Yid, their Jewish spark, and discovering their Torah heritage and inner selves.  It’s an exponential surge, “a fountain flowing stronger and stronger,” in the words of R’ Yochanan ben Zakkai.  It’s a true miracle.

Moshiach is practically on the threshold of our world; we need to just open the door.  We can’t stop him from coming, and leading us on a campaign seeking universal peace and the knowledge of G-d; however, we can hasten his arrival, each in our own way.  Take on a new mitzvah; learn some Torah that speaks to your heart; set aside time in your day to simply reconnect with your soul and talk to your Father in Heaven, Hashem; start a group in your community for study, prayer, or helping others.  Discover your corner of the world Divinely intended just for your to elevate and transform.  You never know the reach and impact of your one single deed.  You have the opportunity to spark even one more soul – one more light – and it will create a ripple-effect, drawing us together, inspiring us to do all in our power to pass the torch further, illuminating the world at large with the light of Redemption, tilting the universal scales in its direction.

“Urechovos Ha’ir Yimalu – And the city streets will fill…”

It has begun.