Beautiful Spiritual Art by Michelle Katz

This week’s music Reva L’sheva “Jumpin’ In The Red Sea

Let’s start by all of us giving to each other with prayer and caring, especially for those suffering with the virus of the plague which has befallen the world. May our unity of love and caring force the end of this suffering now!

I want to suggest that thinking back on the 7th day of Pesach is a good way to start our connection to each other. In his holy book, “Pri Tzadik,” Reb Tzadok Hakohen of Lublin, teaches us about the beauty of the gifts that we have been blessed to receive from God. “Hashem yilachem lachem, v’atem tacharishun,” God will fight on your behalf and you will remain silent (Shmot 14.14).

There are three gifts that Hashem gave to B’nai Yisrael during this period of our history. The first was the exodus from Mitzraim. This he did totally from a place of His own awakening. We needed Him to take us out. Our “Mitzri” identity, idol worship and ultimately the physical slavery as well, prevented us from being able to raise our spiritual identity to high places. Instead we sunk down to the 49th level of spiritual impurity. However, we had one attribute that we continue to cling to. We continued to believe in Hashem. It was from this place that we were able to receive the gift that Hashem was now bestowing upon us. The exodus from Egypt. As a result of our commitment to leave, we were taken to our next two stops. The miraculous splitting of the red sea, the place where we all sang together to increase our joy and honor, and on to the foot of Mount Sinai, culminating with the gift of our receiving The Holy Torah.

All of these events brought us to the third gift, the gift of Shabbat. The day by which we can totally connect our souls back to its home and source.

One difference between these gifts. The first one, leaving Mitzraim, was totally totally out of the love that Hashem has for us, his children. We didn’t need to invest in any action to get out. We simply had to agree to receive and leave.

The gift of the Torah and that of The Shabbat, however, carries with it an extra requirement. One one hand, “Mattan Torah” happened. We have the Holy Torah based on our being B’nai Yisrael, the Children of Israel, children of Yaakov Avinu. Hashem gave him, the man of “emet,” the man of truth, this precious gift of Torah, the way of life.

The gift was in the offing and all we needed to do was say yes. “na’aseh v’nishmah, we will do and we will listen. (Shmot 19 .8 and Shmot 24.7)

Similarly, Shabbat happens every week. It is present in our world no matter how we relate to it. Shabbat is with us. Yet in order to spiritually actualize the depth of these two gifts of Torah and Shabbat, we need to find ways to connect. The more I invest the stronger my connection becomes. I want to get closer, so I place myself in a life of Torah and into the spirt of the gift of Shabbat. In this way, as the B’nai Yisrael did at The splitting of the Sea, I am searching for ways to strengthen my connection to my Creator.

So in order to move up I need to find my ways to connect to my Creator and heighten my spiritual level of being.

How can I begin the process of raising myself to this level of spirituality and being? First I must give it a significant place in my thoughts. I need the desire to be emulating the will of God. Then I must say it. Perhaps there is a connection to the teaching of the Rambam on “Teshuvah,” that in order to return to Hashem I need to first “admit” that I did something wrong. Here to, in the positive realm, I must say out loud that I want to do the right thing. Then the real test arrives. I need to put my thoughts and words into action. If I think it, if I say it, I am preparing myself to view my situation from “above.” Literally lifting myself up ‘”L’shem Shamayim,” in the name of the Heavens. I need to believe! To quote Reb Shlomo from his Pesach Hagaddah commentary,” We need to believe in Oneness. What does it mean to believe? Rebbe Nachman explains: There are two kinds of knowledge in the world – they’re so different they’re almost like two worlds. There is emes, truth, and then there is Emunah, believing. It’s not that things we believe in aren’t the truth: it is that belief is so much deeper than just truth. When everything looks wrong to us; when the house is falling apart; when the house has already collapsed; when someone just died – what do we do then? We get up and yell “Yitgadal, y’ysihkadash shmeih rabba! [God’s name is great; everything is still good.”] You know, my sweet friends, we can really say that, because in the deepest, most inside part of us, we know that Hashem is taking care of the world. And even if we don’t know what’s going on just now, we believe it is for the good, and we believe it will be good in the end; and believing is so much more than knowing.”

Equally as important in the purification process is my relationship with everyone around me. Rebbe Nachman has a beautiful way of understanding the “midrash” which describes the picture of B’nai Yisrael crossing the Red Sea. B’nai Yisrael did not cross the sea in one orderly file. They crossed over in 12 separate lanes. One lane for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. In between each tribe there was a wall of water, a window of glass if you will, which allowed them to see how beautifully their brothers and sisters on each side of them were following Hashem’s desire to cross over. They were commenting on how beautifully everyone was appreciating the gift of freedom. This caused them to want to sing together when they arrived safely on the other side.

Friends, we have really had more than our share of “din,” judgment in our lifetime. Never more has it been so obvious. Friends and family are dying from this illness plague. Something good must come out of it. I believe that we need to show Hashem, that we are absolutely ready for change. “Hahsem tzilcha al yad yeminecha,” God shadows you on your right side (Tehilim 121). The Ba’al Shem tov teaches that this verse teaches us that God’s actions clearly reflect the way we behave in this world. If we are so busy judging each other what more can we expect than, chas v;’hslom, similar judgment from above. No more “DIN!” It is time to stop judging each other! We need to put our strong opinions on the side for the sake of us all.

A wonderful friend, who he himself has suffered from the corona disease, told me on erev chag that the only way he can see an end to this plague is for us to immediately show Hashem that we desperately want to replace this “avelut,” mourning, with loving mercy. “We must continue to sing together,” he added. This way we will have no place for criticism and hatred. We will always be in harmony with one another.

The time has come for us to all rise up and see the world from a higher place. That is a place where things that we now consider important will pale in comparison to the big picture of us all wanting a true peace, a true freedom, the “geulah shleimah” and commit to doing whatever it takes to be honestly open to receiving this new gift. When it comes to spiritual gifts we are welcomed to reach for the heavens, to desire a Oneness with Ein Sof. We can never say, “Dayenu,” we have enough. We need to reach for the heavens. We can never go back to the kind of spiritual slavery which we accepted in our lives prior to this corona plague. We need to free ourselves from the shackles of modern day Mitzraim. We need to be proud as B’nai Yisrael of the gifts we have received from God and be ready to share that light with the whole world. Hashem is calling out to us loud and clear.

Friends, let’s put an end to slavery. Slave to a job, captive to the culture, serving my ego, or God forbid, slaves to people. No more serving greed, pride and hatred. Let’s end the plague now! Let us be blessed to think positive, say it loud to ourselves and each other and act in accordance with the deep desire for true Peace in our lifetime.

Shabbat Shalom,
Yehudah