Beautiful Spiritual Art by Michelle Katz

This week’s music Diaspora Yeshiva Band “הפכת” “We All Get Another Chance”

Chag Sameach! Today, the 14th of Iyar is “Pesach Sheni, the holiday of a second chance.” We have arrived at a new crossroads in our lifetime. We are leaving the quarantine and the solitude of our homes to return to “the big world” out there. We have a choice, a second chance if you will. Which road will I choose to walk on this time? Lots of good out there to choose from. Lots of good to bring out there with me. Plenty of stuff from the world before corona that I definitely need to stay away from.

This past Shabbat our neighbor Reb Chananya Schwartz, the Holy Dancer, gave over a beautiful Torah based on the Holy Zohar (Zohar, 2 page 95), which is so right on to our current life situation.” The “sitra achra,” other side, starts out by connecting to us and ends up leaving us fractionalized.” When I simply jump in and attach myself to the outside world, because “that’s what we do,” than in essence, I am detaching from my inner self. I haven’t gained a true sense of who I am and where I am going to. I must build relationships that are not purely selfish, but rather seek out ones for the sake of true friendship and the sake of the “klal.” Is what I am doing now good for my friend or associate? Is this going to be something everlasting and positive for my family and people? This might feel good today, but will it be of value tomorrow?

The evil inclination also meets up with us outside. He enters our social and business circles with a mask on. I can’t really identify him all of the time, but he’s there. All of a sudden I am connected to him. By the time I have made that strong connection he leaves me. I can’t rely on his support. I am lost. That’s how he operates. I am not suggesting that I should separate from society, but rather to invest in it for the sake of everyone. “Asei l’cha rav u’knei l’cha chaver…” Chose a teacher and invest in a friendship… we are taught in Ethics of Our Fathers (Avot 1.6). Thank God we do see many beautiful friendships built in our Holy Land over the past 72 years, which have been based on common goals and interests of our nation. Those are built from within and then spread out, as opposed to starting from emptiness, frivolity, greed and selfishness.

On the other hand, the Zohar continues, “the Holy side starts a bit dispersed but stays with us as a unifying force.” If I can first invest the time and energy to know myself, building a truthful and humble basis for life, then when I go out I do so with a greater sense of security and purity, with less of a chance to fall prey to negative influences and forces around me.

When The Slonimer Rebbe is teaching about Sefirat Ha’omer, the counting of the 49 days, 7 full weeks from the beginning of Pesach until the holiday of Shavout, the time we receive the Holy Torah, he brings a beautiful thought from the great Reb Chaim Vital. When I am counting the 49 days from Pesach to Shavout, I need to take in account daily that which I personally need to fix. The number 49 is equal to the numerical value of the words, “lev tov,” a good heart. I need to work daily to fix all of my relationships with other people, “bein adam l’chvero.” Simultaneously I also need to fix with my Creator. One of God’s 72 names is, ”el chai,” the living God .These two words also have a numerical which equals 49. I need to take down all of these barriers between us in order to spiritually purify myself for 49 days. In that way, at the end of the seven weeks, I can be fitting to once again receive The Holy Torah on the holiday of Shavout. This is the ultimate completion of the process of exodus from Mitzraim which began on the first day of Pesach.

I don’t need to expect to do it all in one day. “…and the B’nai Yisrael went out to “Mitzraim, chamushim” (Sh’mot 13.18). We were only at the beginning of our climb from slavery on the 49th level of spiritual impurity to rise to the high pure level of being fit to receive the Holy Torah. We could fix our character and commitment one fiftieth at a time. Each day I can peel off another barrier that stands between myself and my Creator. Each day I can be fixing my relationships with my family, my friends, at work and with every person that I meet.

This period in our lives demands action. It is sweet to dream about a good future, a nice thought in a video which I have seen which shares the beautiful potential of a clean world. Now that I have seen that great potential, my bottom line is that the fixing of the world is up to me. Am I ready to lead the way by investing in fixing myself which will certainly bring true meaningful goodness to our broken world? If so, I need to asses in a new way what “success” means to me. Does it mean that I am successful and therefore you can’t be as successful as I am? Do I have to be “number one?” Additionally, what is the achievement of wisdom about? Have I truly learned to apply the wisdom which I have been blessed to acquire and act accordingly or is it simply another intellectual advancement on my part?

We are approaching Pesach Sheni today. Everyone of us has a new chance. It is a new page in our lives. Yes indeed we all have another chance. We learned in the Torah that if someone was spiritually impure and thus unable to bring the Paschal sacrifice on the 14 of Nisan, they would go to Moshe Rabenu and ask for a second chance. Hashem granted them another opportunity to bring the “karban Pesach,” on the 14th of Iyar, Pesach Sheni (Bamidbar 9.6-12).

So today, more than 3,000 years later, when sadly enough we still do not have the Holy Temple built in Jerusalem, we do have a full life of opportunities and a full list of things that we have done or said would wish we could take back. Hashem says to us, you have another chance. Not to think that, “chas v’shalom” if I said something not nice to my wife, acted harshly towards my children, or thought something bad about a friend I can simply take it back and rewrite history. No, but I do need to be totally ready and willing to go out and act in ways that only fix my character and behavior. I need to balance the scales. I do this in conjunction with the secure feeling that Hashem is ready to give me another chance.

So here we are with this great gift from God to finally once again after two months time, go out of our homes, to live together, with all that entails. This is “davka” happening during the period of counting the “omer,” the period of seven weeks between the first day of Pesach and 50 days later, the holiday of Shavout and the receiving of the Torah anew. I need to seek out a new more complete me. As The Holy Maharal of Prague taught us, I need to be complete with my Creator, my friends and myself in order to reach that level of completion.

We need to be fully aware of where we came from before the corona plague, what was our life like during our quarantine months, and how to go out and connect to our newfound freedom. Personally I don’t want to go back to what was. I hope to go out with a sense of true security. I need to suppress my ego, live without stress which basically I either manufacture for myself or allow other to do so, and be blessed to go everywhere with “simchah” and a positive attitude. It is there that I hope to be connected to my Creator. Friends, there is much hope for us all. With God’s help we will choose the proper path of fixing ourselves and ultimately being a part of fixing the entire world. With much blessing that we will all be successful in doing so.

Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom,
Yehudah