Heritage – 5

B”H

Shavuos commemorates Mattan Torah, the Giving of the Torah. A spectacular event, the Revelation at Sinai, when H’Shem gave B’nei Yisrael the Commandments. This was the culmination of the Exodus from Egypt. Being made a people unto H’Shem, our bond to Him was signified with the commandments, presented as a ketubah (marriage contract) to the Bride (K’lal Yisrael). Our sovereignty as a nation begins here; the declaration being made first, with Matan Torah, then, we were brought into the Land: a people first, then, we were given a country.

Today, the Torah should speak to our everyday lives; otherwise, Mattan Torah, becomes a glorious event, disconnected from our current times. When we learn Torah, we should feel compelled to incorporate these ideas into our lives; inasmuch that the Torah still has relevancy after so many generations. The Ten Commandments are a good place to start; perhaps, simply by naming them; then, reflecting on each one in relation to our lives. I could spend an entire week on the 1st Commandment, reflecting on whether I am imbued with the awareness that “H’Shem is the L-RD, our G-d.”

Although we may believe in G-d, the additional question to pose to ourselves is whether or not we have accepted His Sovereignty. In this sense, as mentioned in commentary (Baal Halachos Gedolos), the first commandment is a call to believe in the existence of G-d, and accept His authority as the source of the commandments. When we accept G-d’s Sovereignty, then the commandments become authoratative; otherwise, the commandments could be misconstrued as relative.

There is a difference between accepting the commandments for ourselves, because we recognise the inherent wisdom in them, in regard to the moral perspective that we uphold, versus accepting the commandments as the divine words of G-d, as an expression of His expectations of us. The Jewish people are bound to the commandments, regardless of whatever our perspective may be. Therefore, the primacy of the first commandment is that the authority of all of the other commandments are hinged upon the first, “I am the L-rd your G-d, who brought you out of the land of Egypt” (Exodus 20:2).

Steadfastness

B”H

yesod shebbe malchus

(foundation within sovereignty)

Photo by James Wheeler from Pexels

A strong foundational belief system is necessary in order to maintain a sense of autonomy. Without reference points, in regard to one’s identity, it would be too easy to be swayed by this, that or the other opinion, trend, or viewpoints of others. A tenacious adherence to a set of values, beliefs, or overall conception of oneself will be a fence around an individual’s autonomy.

Otherwise, we would be subject to drown in a sea of nihilism, where values do not matter, and life has no directive towards an ultimate purpose. G-d forbid. Therefore, to cling to the truth through deveykus is paramount not only to connect to G-d, but to also remain steadfast on the derech (path) of life.

Omer Day 48

Humble Mountain

B”H

hod shebbe malchus

(humility within sovereignty)

Humility is a necessary ingredient of character, inasmuch that any attempt to raise oneself above a modest estimation of one’s abilities should be placed in check by a fair analysis of oneself. Lowliness of spirit is a deterrent against pride. Showing deference to others helps to foster a sense of humility.

Ultimate deference must be shown to G-d through obeisance of His commandments, and an acknowledgment of His greater wisdom (Isaiah 55:8-9). The middah (character trait) of Hod is also reckoned as “splendor.” This type of splendor is the resultant state of humbling ourselves before G-d. “Before honor goeth humility” (Proverbs 15:33). When we bow to G-d in our heart, He will bestow his shefa (divine flow) upon us. 

B’nei Yisrael received the Torah at Sinai. Why was Mt. Sinai chosen from all of the other mountains? Because Sinai was not the highest of mountains; this teaches us the importance of humility. Only when we humble ourselves before G-d in full acknowledgment of our limitations, may we receive the Torah anew within the quietude of our hearts.

“The reward of humility is fear of the L-RD” (Proverbs 22:4, JPS 1917 Tanach). When we humble ourselves, we can begin to appreciate our relationship to H’Shem, acknowledging Him with awe, reverence and respect. His sovereignty over our lives becomes easier to accept, when we recognize that we are limited beings, without all of the answers in life.

Omer Day 47

Reaching Out

B”H

tiferes shebbe malchus
(harmony within sovereignty)

Tiferes represents harmony, beauty, and compassion. The polar opposites of chesed (kindness) and gevurah (severity) are balanced within tiferes. In relation to malchus (sovereignty), tiferes may be explored as the amount of felt compassion towards others, necessary, when honoring other’s autonomy, dignity, and self-worth. A healthy respect for the autonomy of others includes, an appreciation of who they are as a unique individual.

In order to appreciate the other, it may be necessary, to step out of the “egoic shell.” A preoccupation with self will not allow an individual to see the beauty in the lives of others. To be sovereign over oneself, to the extent that the door is closed to others, leaves an emptiness, devoid of the vicissitudes of life – the ever changing moments. In other words, self autonomy should not preclude vulnerability; no man is island.

Omer Day 45

Look Above

B”H

Malchus shebbe yesod

(sovereignty within foundation)

Despite whatever circumstances we may encounter in life, if we have a strong foundation we will be able to meet these challenges with dignity, a sense of self autonomy and a calm reserve, knowing that ultimately we are not in control of external events in any sphere of our lives, personal, communal, or global. Although this sounds counterintuitive, we may feel reassured that when we place our trust in G-d, acknowledging His sovereignty, we do not have to stand alone in the face of adversity.

Therefore, when we falter, because we fail to acknowledge that our own sovereignty is limited, we can rest in the knowledge that everything H’Shem (the L-RD) does is for the good. We can not control externals, however we may choose how to respond. “I will lift up mine eyes unto the mountains: From whence shall my help come? My help cometh from the L-RD, Who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2, JPS 1917 Tanach).

self revelation

B”H

Today is thirty five days, five weeks of the Omer.

The attributes of the day are malchut shebbe hod

(sovereignty within humility)

Malchut represents sovereignty, dignity, and autonomy. We can walk with humility, while still maintaining a sense of dignity. This is because being humble does not mean becoming a doormat for other people to step on with soiled shoes, figuratively speaking. Rather humility permits us to acknowledge our weaknesses without disregarding our strengths. By way of contrast, while pride is an overexaggerated sense of self importance, humility is a fair assessment of ourselves as limited, yet, sufficient human beings.

sovereignty of endurance

B”H

malchut shebbe netzach

sovereignty within endurance

Where within the quality of endurance, may autonomy be found? How does a sense of self, and personal motivation contribute to one’s endurance in the face of challenges? How much can we rely on our own autonomy, without seeking guidance from a Higher Authority? Ultimately, G-d would like us to be dependent upon Him, rather than see ourselves as completely independent. Yet, the more we depend upon Him, the less need there will be to depend upon others. Therefore, ironically, we become more self-sufficient in the eyes of others, who are not aware of the source of our strength. We endure, not only through our own efforts, but through our focus on G-d.

Ki Tisa – A Remedy Prepared

B”H

Shiur for parashas Ki Tisa 5780
17 Adar 5780 (March 13, 2020)

H’Shem plagued the people, because they made the calf. ” – Exodus 32:5, JPS 1917 Tanach

Moses was on Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights; during this time, H’Shem spoke with Moses – according to some commentators, Moses received the instruction for the Mishkan at this time. It is mentioned in the Talmud, that H’Shem creates the cure before the ailment. Here, the blueprints for the Mishkan served as the remedy to what had not yet occurred – the idolatry of the golden calf. H’Shem prepared the cure before the sickness.

What is the malaise of idolatry? To place anything in our lives above our commitment to H’Shem. This raises up the created above the Creator, G-d forbid. Everything is in the hands of Heaven, except for the fear of Heaven (Talmud). Therefore, our conscious effort to make G-d most important in our lives is up to us; in effect, we are called upon to crown Him as King – sovereign over every aspect of our lives.

In these challenging days, we also look for the remedy to the various ailments of our lives; yet, even when there seems to be no hope on the horizon, we must maintain a sense of bechirah (trust) in H’Shem, that He has already designated, the time, place, and remedy for each of us to continue on the derech (path) towards righteous.

Yet, the path is narrow, there are many distractions along the way. It was only when Moshe sought out the forgiveness of H’Shem, on behalf of B’nei Yisrael, that he was able to receive the second set of tablets. We are also given second chances in our lives; however, if we do not even realise the need to change our ways, we may be given a wake up call.

The Mishkan (portable tabernacle in the wilderness) permitted B’nei Yisrael to focus on worshipping H’Shem; we need to do the same, in a manner of speaking, and be ever mindful of H’Shem’s Presence. “I have set the L-RD always before me; surely He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved” (Psalms 16:8, JPS 1917 Tanach).

Darkness Crushed

B”H “And the L-RD said unto Moses: Go in unto Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might show these My signs in the midst of them.’” – Exodus 10:1, JPS 1917 Tanach According to the Zohar, when Moses entered Pharaohs inner chamber, considered to be the […]

parashas Bo 5780 — Inspired Torah