Beautiful Spiritual Art by Michelle Katz

This week’s music: Reva L’sheva One Love
I usually don’t ask, but the words to this week’s music, written by Chamutal ben Zev, are so meaningful for our times, please take a moment to listen

The name “Leibele” in Yiddish refers to one with a sweet, kind heart. The word “label” in English has a totally different connotation. A label is a tag for a product, person or group. For 80 years our society has been labeling things to no end. That was the beginning of TV commercials to bring products to the people. Since then everything and everybody has been branded. We have all become product labeled. Every item, every person, every organization and every political group has a label, a brand. We brand it, sell it, buy it, critique it or trash it.

Why are we labeling everything? For that matter, why are so many of us afraid of being labeled? Somehow it gives us a sense of false security if we can put everyone into a nice box. Then I can size you up, I can know who has the upper hand in our relationship, learn how to protect myself and basically be sure that I, and all of my needs, come first. So I don’t really need to know who you are, I just need to put you in a neat little package. There you will stay until you are allowed out.

Suddenly we are living in a new reality. The labels have become seemingly irrelevant, with the exception of those whose egos won’t even allow them to feel humbled by this plague which has been sent down into our world. As I wrote two weeks ago, so many scholars and self-proclaimed visionaries are ready to speculate on the reason that this has been put upon us all. In truth, no one can really know why Hashem has chosen to shake us to the core like this. So I prefer to ask myself the question, “what will I do as I try to go further. No way I am giving up. “Ain yi’ush baolam,” there is no place in the world for giving up. God did not create “yi’ush.” Yi’ush is a product of man. God doesn’t give up on us. Therefore, I must seek out my alternative to this new seemingly fearful reality. I need to find the hope. The first thing I need to do from now on is to commit to being real. Real caring, real sharing, real loving, and real honest with myself. So many of us are feeling vulnerable and small, so perhaps now we can be ready to put our egos aside and trust. Trust ourselves, trust each other and trust Hashem to the point we we will never want to go back to where we were.

This week’s Torah portion, the new book of “va’yikra” opens with just that word, “and he called to Moshe” (Vayikra 1.1). Reb Simchah Bunim of P’shischa and The Admor Reb Meir Yechiel of Ostroptza noted that the word “Vayikra” is written with a small letter “alef.” Alef is the symbol for God’s oneness; “aluf,” the master of all.. There was no need for The Torah to read, Vayikra Hashem el Moshe, and God called to Moshe. It was so clear to Moshe who was calling him. From Moshe’s brilliant and humble perspective, all wisdom emanates from God. Moshe clearly saw himself as small in comparison. What an example of leadership Moshe was setting for “B’nai Yisrael” as they began the journey from Mount Sinai to the entrance to The Land, Eretz Yisrael.

How sad that I can’t look to our “leaders” and spokespeople as examples. Quite the opposite. Although, they too certainly have a part of themselves that wants to do good for us all and are convinced that they are right in their actions and words, they have been incapable of letting their egos down and continue to attack each other and those who they unfortunately not only themselves disdain, but whom they want us to hate as well. We too have taken to their example and all too often use our social media platforms to share their words of hatred and attack all those who don’t agree with our personal opinions.

Friends, we can’t wait until we are out of this situation to find and build the proper new path to walk on, but rather, each one of us must undertake to be a little leader and start right now to be on a true path of “Ahavat Chinam.” As we have been taught over and over again, Ahavat Chinam is the path for healing and a true Peace.

I look around at my current situation and of course, though there have been and will continue to be many close and special moments of appreciation and caring for our loved ones, I don’t want to be locked up for the rest of my life. However, the freedom that I am now yearning for is one of total humility, total caring, total honesty and thus, servitude and thanks to Hashem for everything He has given us. Now that we are in a sense in lockdown with our loved ones, may we be blessed this Shabbat, as we sit around the beautifully set Shabbat table, to bring to life the pasuk in Tehilim which teaches, “may you see your wife as a flourishing vine in the innermost parts of your home and your children like olive shoots around your table” (Tehilim 128.3).

Today we have entered into the month of Nissan, the month which is first of all months. Nissan, the head of our year, The Slonimer Rebbe teaches, where I, more than any other time of the year, can invest in becoming a new person. The month where everything is beautiful. Where I put my past aside and desire to actualize the loving father child relationship that I have with my Creator.

How to do it? First and foremost, I need to “want” to do it. For many decades now ב״ה I have requested three times a day from Hashem in the “Amidah” Prayer, the blessing which begs “please redeem us with a complete redemption speedily, for the sake of your name….” Do the math, for many of us that’s got to be no less than 50,000 times of asking Hashem for the “geulah,” redemption to come. Yet, why should I be embarrassed if someone wants to label me as a member of the “mishichim,” those who want the “geulah” to happen now?

Understandably, the concept of “geulah “being a reality in my lifetime can be very scary. What will it look like? Who will I be there? Will everyone I know be there with me? On the other hand, if I and thousands upon thousands of others have been praying for this day, don’t I finally really want it to be? Ok I need a little time to get it right, but the time to seriously start is right now.

I need to actualize my prayer that my “ratzon,” will, should be Hashem’s “ratzon.” I need to mamash direct all of my actions to that lofty goal. Hashem has given us a beautiful Torah which details so many ways to access that relationship. He has simply told us, “walk in my edicts, my ways.” (Tehilim 128.1,Vayikra 26.3-6) He has told us in no uncertain terms, you are the ones that must make Peace between yourselves in order for there to be peace in the world. Perhaps above all he has made it clear right now that our number one task is to want it to happen so that we can be humbly proud of who we are instead of needing to knock off everyone else to prove that I am the best and only I can know what is really right for us all.

“Hachodesh hazeh LACHEM!” This month is for you. It is for us all to raise our hope for a beautiful future. Finally I want to humbly suggest that we lower our daily worrying quotient. As David Hamelech taught, “it is in vain that you rise up early and stay up late, therefore you eat the bread of your troubles, it is He that gives His loved ones sleep” (Tehilim 127.2). The Metzudat Tzion clarifies that working too hard, worrying and investing too much time to try to figure out the answers to all of our problems and needs only brings on more worries and troubles. If we can find the strength to give it over to Hashem we will all be blessed to sleep much calmer and deeper.

May Hashem bless us to see the strength of renewal and love that He is sending us to pick up the mantle of challenge and want only goodness for everyone as we honestly walk along the path which He has set out for us to bring true Peace for us all. “Yachel Yisrael el Adonai me’ata v’ad olam,” Let Israel puts our hope and faith in The Lord from now and forever (Tehilim 131.3).

Shabbat Shalom V’chodesh Tov,
Yehudah