The Final Famine

August 16, 2012 - 5:00 am

“‘The days are coming,’ declares the Sovereign Lord, ‘when I will send a famine through the land — not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.’” — Amos 8:11

According to the Sages, there are ten global famines in the history of mankind. The first was in the time of Adam, the second was in the time of Lamech, and the third was in the time of Abraham. There are seven more famines to go, but the last one, say the Sages, will be the harshest. It will be unlike anything else that the world has ever experienced.

The tenth famine is described by the prophet Amos as “not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.” The final famine that the world will experience has nothing to do with a lack of physical sustenance and everything to do with spiritual survival. There will be a dearth of substantial spirituality. Tradition teaches that the last famine will occur just before the coming of the Messiah.

What makes that so bad? Why do the Sages call this famine the worst of them all?

The rabbis explain that when people are suffering from extreme hunger and they are given a scrap of bread, it becomes a feast for them. When people are dying of thirst and someone gives them a canteen of water, their thirst seems to be completely quenched. The problem is that sporadic meals do not nourish the body. Such people are still in great danger and put their lives at risk.

The problem of being satisfied with too little is only compounded when the famine is spiritual. If we fail to take care of our bodies, it is sad. But if we fail to nourish our spirit – which is eternal – it’s tragic. The rabbis explain that this last famine is the worst because it doesn’t threaten our physical bodies. It threatens our very soul.

Today there are plenty of sweet and sugary opportunities out there to get our spirituality fix. A good book here, a nice lecture there, maybe even devotion once in a while. But where are your meat and potatoes? There is no substitute for daily Bible study. Nothing can take the place of consistent and meaningful prayer. Our bodies need constant nourishment and daily care. Our souls need the same.

We should be satisfied with nothing less.


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