The Times are Changing
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| Published: April 26, 2021
It’s that time of year again. We are in the midst of the annual seven week period, “Sefirat ha’omer,” when we are challenged to think a little deeper and a little broader in order to prepare to receive the Torah anew. Of course, I am speaking about getting ready for Shavuot, the day when once again, Am Yisrael is given the new opportunity and blessing to receive The Holy Torah. Why do we need to receive the Torah anew? Was there,” chas v’shalom,” something missing in the old Torah which we were chosen receive on Mount Sinai 3300 years ago? Of course it is not that there is anything wrong with the old beautiful Holy Torah, but we have changed. The world has changed. My life has changed and I need to see the Holy Torah with new eyes. I need to be ready to receive the Torah as the B’nai Yisrael did in Shushan during the story of Purim, willingly and with joy. I need to learn how to apply it to my life, every single day of the year
Let’s look at the circumstances that are present each year when we arrive to this new stage in our lives. We are living between Pesach and Shavout. The Bobover Rebbe, among others, viewed this as one long holiday. How is that possible? Simple! Pesach, the commemoration of the exodus from “Mitzraim,” is incomplete until we receive the Torah and for that matter actualize it by entering into the Land of Israel. It is clearly written in the Torah.” V’lakachti etchem li l’am,” and I will take you as my nation ( Sh’mot 6.7).This statement is directly related to the verse immediately prior to Hashem’s giving us His Holy Torah. “You saw what I did to “Mitzraim;” and I carried you on eagles wings (the wings of Shechinah) and I brought you to me. And now if you will listen to My voice and uphold My covenant then you will be a chosen nation to me from all nations, as all of The Land is mine.” ( Sh’mot 19.4-5). This then is the completion of the holiday of Pesach both then and now.
I find it very interesting and beyond coincidence that each year during this seven week spiritually cleansing preparation period of time we read the Torah portions of “Acharei Mot and Kedoshim.” The messages in these portions are so clear. We learn about Yom Kippurim, The Shabbat of all Shabbatot, the holiest day of the year. We are schooled about human interaction and respect. We are taught about what it means to be holy. This is the time, the Torah teaches, to assess your relationship with God, historically based, nationally presented and with individual commitment. I need to clean up my act. I need to take my daily live, which involves relationships, family, interaction with the world outside of me and my personal introspection and commitment, and dedicate myself to a desire to act holy, able cling to Hashem. Parallel to these teachings, the Slonimer Rebbe points out the we have another 50 day period in our calendar year, that being 29 days of Elul through the 21st day of “Tishrei,” the final day of “Sukkot.” Then too we are busy cleaning up our act, steeped in the process of returning to Hashem though awe and reverence, “t’shuvah m’yirah.”
In today’s world many people think that science and political power or self-determination are the most important factors in running the world. This is a world where people think that they have the right to put us down in the name of doing what they think is best for you. Nonsense! It is overridden with ego trips and power struggles where we the people are the ones who are expected to obey or face punishment from this human strong armed body. As a result, for example, many of the clearly delineated edicts against sexual revolution, that are clearly stated in our Holy Torah, are simply ignored today with the response often being, “no one can tell me how to respond to my personal feelings. I am in charge of my life and will do as I see fit.” There is no sense of “yirat Hashem.” In this new world order there seems to be no concept that Hashem is the overriding decider in our world. Frankly all too often, there seems to be no space made for Him at all. I guess they have a sense that they are the Godly rulers of our world.
Thank God there are so many of us who believe that the world is clearly ruled over by God. And so, as Rebbe Levi Yitzchak explains, we pray to humble ourselves in order that we may reach for this high human level of being connected to our Creator.”K’doshim t’hyu,” you should be holy ( Vayikra 19.2). I clearly understand that I as a human being can never be on the level of holiness that God is, but I can work daily to humble myself and act in spiritually pure ways so that I can feel fit to reach out to Hashem and yearn to be connected to Him. “ rabot machshavot b’lev ish, va’atzat Hashem hee takum,” There are many thoughts in a person’s heart, but the counsel of Hashem is established and upstanding ( Proverbs 19.21).
We have three plus more weeks to work on ourselves as individuals, to understand where we came from and as such, strengthen and recognize our necessary commitment to the “klal,” and to God. Fortunately one of the ways among the many, that the Torah immediately instructs us on how to be holy is by “keeping the Shabbat” ( Vayikra 19.3). Shabbat the day which in and of itself is called holy, “Shabbat Kodesh.” The Slonimner Rebbe points out then when the B’nai Yisrael were instructed to “keep “the Holy Shabbat they were told this command by Moshe Rabenu in the presence of the entire congregation of Israel ( Sh’mot 35.1). They needed the strength and support of the entire nation to fulfill this level of holiness. Bottom line, in order to be holy, we need each other; we need to connect and elevate with the holiness of Shabbat.
May we all be blessed to do exactly that which each of us needs to do to get ready to receive the Torah with new eyes and a very open heart.