Heritage – 2

B”H

Matan Torah

“And all the people perceived the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the voice of the horn [shofar], and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled, and stood afar off.”

– Exodus 20:15, JPS 1917 Tanach

When B’nei Yisrael encamped at Sinai as one people, they saw the thunder, as well as the lightening atop Sinai; in other words, their experience brought them to a heightened sense of awareness, beyond the confines of our usual senses. According to the Talmud, when G-d spoke at Sinai, there was no echo of His voice; rather, His words permeated all of creation. The world was saturated with His wisdom, and all creatures were silent at the time of the revelation on Mt. Sinai. The words of Torah were imbued into every soul at the mountain, where G-d chose to reveal His commandments. His wisdom continues to infuse us with the means to govern our lives in a holy manner.

At Sinai, the Children of Israel were instilled with yiras H’Shem (fear of the L-RD), compelling in them a sense of awe, reverence, and respect towards H’Shem. While this essential principal of Judaism has been diminished over the ages, we can still reconnect with the vision at Sinai. Initially, the experience of B’nei Yisrael at Sinai was so intense, that “they trembled, and stood afar off.” Perhaps, the same is true to some extent for us today; something in our lives, may have caused some of us to stand farther away from Sinai than our ancestors did. We may still sense the presence of H’Shem; yet, we may be less inclined to let His words imbue us with a wisdom above and beyond what this world can provide. By standing too far away from Sinai, over the generations, we may not be as impressed with Matan Torah (literally, “the giving of the Instruction”) as our ancestors. Yet, through the ways that we experience, celebrate, and honor our Judaism, we absorb the essence of Sinai in a way more acceptable for us. Even so, we are called every year at Shavuot, to renew our commitment to our heritage.

Heritage

B”H

There is a rich heritage, sparking an inspirational message across the ages, that a Jew has a place, a home, and a refuge within the belief, practice, and traditions found in the realm of yiddishkeit. There is a Jewishness about everything from potato latkes to the peyos (side curls) of an Orthodox Jew. The entire gamut of a Jewish way of life, in all of its kaleidescopic color, consists of a seamless unity from one generation to another. Despite assimilation, some semblance of the original focus (deveykus) and lifestyle of our ancestors, may still be found amongst all of us, from one end of the spectrum to the other. No matter how a Jew is defined, the pintle yid – the essential Jewishness – may always be found in one form or another.

Because the door is always open to explore the various facets of Judaism, from many different angles, opportunity prevails upon us to enter into a world that is replete with sights, sounds and experiences, that may have the effect of rekindling the glowing embers in our heart. With the help of H’Shem, these flames may be fanned into a fire of longing for a closeness to G-d, that will compel us to take that first step through the doorway. Once taken, we are in the hands of H’Shem, who will lead us along the way of our unique path on the road home to Him.

“Turn us unto Thee, O L-rd, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old.”

– Lamentations 5:21, JPS 1917 Tanach

The Second Passover

B”H

Pesach Sheini 5780

Thursday night begins Pesach Sheini – the second Passover, for those who were impure, according to the definition of Torah, or were on a distant journey. Pesach Sheini connotes the idea of second chances. The Israelites who were not able to observe Pesach were given a second chance, one month later, in order to do so. Today, the concept may be applicable to the personal instances of our lives, when we were given a second chance of some nature. Traditionally, matzoh is eaten on Pesach Sheini, a one day holiday that will end Friday night as Shabbos begins.

Reflection: Renewal

B”H

26 Nissan 5780

April 20, 2020

“And I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.”

– Ezekiel 36:25, JPS 1917 Tanach

The B’nei Yisrael (Children of Israel) had sunk to the 49th level of impurity in Egypt. Had we descended to the 50th level of impurity, according to chazal, we would have been indistinguishable from the Egyptians. From this perspective, we were not brought out of Egypt, based upon our own merit. This is akin to what is mentioned later in Torah, “Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thy heart” (Deuteronomy 9:5).

Thus, we were taken out of Egypt by way of what is called itaruta dil’eyla, an “awakening from above,” wherein H’Shem brings about an effect from Shomayim. From out of the influence of an idolatrous society, B’nei Yisrael was freed from slavery, in order to serve H’Shem.

The 49 day counting of the Omer, between Pesach and Shavuos is a gradual ascent to the 49th level purity. A time to effect a gradual transition to a positive set of character traits, through an itaruta dil’tata, an awakening from below, i.e., from our own efforts. As B’nei Yisrael spent forty nine days on a journey from Egypt towards Mount Sinai, where the Torah was given, so opportunity given the opportunity to prepare ourselves to receive the Torah anew on Shavuot.

Thirst Quenched

B”H February 8, 2020 “O G-d, Thou art my G-d, earnestly will I seek Thee; my soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee, in a dry and weary land, where no water is.” Psalm 63:2, JPS 1917 Tanach G-d is still my G-d, that is in season or out of season. In other […]

Thirst Quenched — Clear Horizons

Passages

B”H

B’nei Yisrael (the Children of Israel) were slaves in Egypt for 216 years; yet, they were not forgotten by G-d, who eventually heard their cries. Didn’t G-d hear their cries all of those years of bondage in Egypt? Of course, He did; however, all of the circumstances for their deliverance did not fall into place until that time.

Moreover, it is written, as revealed to Abraham when he enacted the covenant of the parts, that B’nei Yisrael would not be brought into Eretz Canaan, until the iniquity of the Amorite was full (see Genesis 15:16). In other words, G-d could not reasonably displace a people until the full measure of their immorality was brought to light by their sinful conduct. Only then could G-d permit the Israelites to enter the land, that was previously occupied by an iniquitous nation.

“Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thy heart, dost thou go in to possess their land; but for the wickedness of these nations the L-RD thy G-d doth drive them out from before thee, and that He may establish the word which the L-RD swore unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”

  • Deuteronomy 9:5, JPS 1917 Tanach

Regarding the circumstances of our lives, when we pray for something that will make a major impact for us, we need to fully place out trust in G-d, knowing that through His wisdom, the timing and manner of actualization of our prayers is best placed in His hands, and not our own. Otherwise, we may even run the risk of thwarting His plans for us. This was the case of the Ephraimites, who attempted to leave Egypt thirty years prior to the Exodus. They were defeated in battle by the Philistines.

So, when we look to G-d to provide safe passage for us, as He did for the Israelites at the Sea of Reeds, into some place of renewal in our lives, let’s acknowledge that this is only possible through complete emunah (faith) in Him, despite whatever the circumstances are in our lives – His timing is perfect. He can even change a negative situation into a positive one, like He did when B’nei Yisrael appeared to be trapped at the Sea of Reeds, when Pharaoh’s army approached.

Seasons Change

According to environmental science, the natural world tends towards entropy, so I have heard, from a certain source. Yet, upon challenging this assumption, perhaps, it could be said as well, with equal weight, and regard for the laws of nature, that the world tends towards rebirth. Isn’t this premise evident, as seen within the cycles […]

Seasons Change — Clear Horizons

Light Will Prevail

B”H

erev 2 Teves 5780

– eighth night of Chanukah

Light will transcend the darkness in our lives when we cast our gaze towards the flame of truth, the eish tamid (eternal light) that is symbolized by Chanukah. The light of the Menorah in the temple, lit by the small cruze of oil found amidst the debris in the Temple, is the light of hope and renewal.

A little known midrash connects that small cruze of oil to the renewal of mankind, creation, and the earth itself, after the Mavul (Flood). When the dove brought back an olive branch in it’s mouth, according to the midrash, Noah pressed enough olive oil to place inside a small container. This cruze of oil was passed down to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When Jacob returned to Beth El, he anointed the foundation stone with this oil. Then, according to the midrash, he hid the small cruze of precious olive oil.

This Place (HaMakom) was none other than Mt. Moriah, where the Temple was eventually established. Yes; because of the miracle of light that lasted for eight days from this precious oil, we celebrate Chanukah today. Midrash is not always meant to be taken literally; therefore, a symbolic viewpoint may be rendered from this particular midrash. The message of hope will be like a small flame illuminating the darkness, despite whatever circumstances may cast a shadow over our lives.

Yehi ratzon. May it be His will that the light of hope and renewal throughout the ages will always prevail over darkness. Amein.