Tuesday, May 22, 2012

This Week's Schedule

Today is Rosh Chodesh Sivan.  So what is coming up this week of importance?  Well, on this day 3324 years ago we arrived at Mount Sinai.  We got settle in – getting ready for the most exciting day in history – the receiving of the Torah.

When we were in Egypt and Moses told Pharaoh that he wanted to take the Israelites into the desert for three days, per Hashem's instructions.  Was Moses lying, trying to trick Pharaoh into letting his people go?  Not at all.  Hashem told Moses to take the Israelites into the desert where they will prepare for three days.  Even though Pharaoh misunderstood these three days of being in the desert, Moses was aware that they were not told which three days Hashem was referring to.  We became aware after arriving at Mount Sinai that Hashem was informing everyone that starting on the third of Sivan there would be three days of preparation leading up to the greatest event in history.  These were days of purification, praying, repentance, soul searching, meditation, asking forgiveness, etc, etc, etc.  We needed to become as spiritual as possible and find a way to suppress our physical presence.  After all, we were getting ready to experience our Creator and receive His Word.

So starting the day after tomorrow we should begin our preparation to receive the Torah (actually we can start right now or try to increase our preparation if we already prepare on a daily basis).  Wait a minute, didn't we already receive the Torah 3324 years ago and are only commemorating the anniversary on the sixth of Sivan, the holiday of Shavuot?  Shavuot has more significance than remembering, it is a time that we prepare to receive the Torah all over again, every year.  Our most important mission is learning Torah and living that which we have learned.  We are excited about the fact that we are entering another year of learning Torah.  In other words, the excitement of Shavuot is not just what happened in the past but what is about to happen.  We are psyching ourselves up to receive all the new Torah that we will learn in the coming year.

A very important thing happened before we received the Torah.  Collectively, we said as a nation "na'aseh v'nishma," "We will do and we will hear" (Exodus 24:8).  Hashem wanted to verify that we truly were the people to bring His message to the world.  The Torah was offered to other nations before the Jewish people.  One nation questioned "What is in this Torah?"  When told "don't steal," this people rejected the Torah stating that theft was necessary within their lives.  When another group was offered the Torah, they questioned "What is in this Torah?"  When told "don't kill," this people rejected the Torah stating that killing was needed for their survival (I am leaving out who these nations were on purpose – they still exist today).  Only the Jews accepted the Torah stating that they will do as Hashem commanded and then after they will question what these commandments mean and will study them.  In other words, with complete faith in Hashem as their Father in Heaven, we will obey and learn.  We are not without curiosity as to the deeper meaning of the mitzvot and Hashem wants us to satisfy our curiosity by looking at deeper meanings.  The results of studying are always to show love to Hashem by giving us more desire to serve Him and serve Him correctly.  Our intensions have always had high merit which is why Hashem chose us to be the bearer of His message.  

Another very important message that we conveyed to Hashem with "na'aseh v'nishma," is that we talk in the plural.  We did not say "I will do and I will hear."  I have mentioned many times that Hashem wants us to help each other and even be responsible for each other.  It is very easy as an individual to say "I'm in good shape – things are pretty good for me, let the other guy take care of himself."  It is not the Jewish way and not the lesson of Torah.  Even today if we don't help each other we are really sinning.  Yes, we are judged as individuals, measure-for-measure; but, a big part of our test on Earth which affords us a way to succeed in that test, is our desire to give rather than receive. 

As an American I used to take pride in the fact that I had rights.  Under the constitution I had the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  I had the right to sing the blues and the right to wear blue suede shoes (I'm sorry I don't remember all my wonderful rights).  When I became observant I realized that I was put on this Earth not with rights but with obligations.  There is a big difference between believing that I had the right to have my property protected versus I have the obligation to protect the property of others.  When everyone in a society believes the world owes them a living that society can't succeed.  America succeeded not because of rights but because of its Biblical foundation which did advocate people helping people.  We see a big decline in the world morality these days since greed has become the rule of the day and everyone for himself the psyche of the people.   The good news is this was meant to happen in the end of days.  When the Messiah takes over and everyone turns to Hashem for leadership, all will be as it should be according to His Torah.

One of the biggest changes that occurred in my life when I became observant was that I found that I was learning something new and exciting every day.   I got up every morning wondering: what will it be today?  What new Torah will I discover today that will change me, enlighten me, improve me and gladden me?  The most interesting thing about this new positive approach to starting my day is after 20 years, it continues and hasn't diminished.  It was not the excitement of being a new Ba'al Teshuvah (one who has returned to Hashem's ways), but was the start of something that only gets better every day.  I wake up about 2 to 3 AM every morning – not because I have to, but because I want to.  The amount of Torah to be learned, or should I say, that I want to cover would take 10 lifetimes just to scratch the surface.  Making every day count and even wanting the day to be longer by starting earlier is actually a joy to me not a burden.  Most people have no idea what true happiness can be.  I have to admit, if you told me 30 years ago that I would find happiness in getting up that early to discover something new and exciting about this world and this life, after I stopped laughing (you know the rest).  One of the most exciting things that happens every day to me is seeing what is occurring in the world and knowing that it is a message from Hashem and a further indication that the time of the redemption and the Messiah are upon us.  It doesn't get much more exciting than that.  One may say that my favourite hobby is comparing the Bible, Zohar, Talmud, Rabbinical commentary, etc to our world of today.  Hashem let us know in advance what to look for and I love finding it.

I know that this will be the most special Shavuot that we will ever experience since we were at Mount Sinai.  Enjoy and do your best preparation for the occasion ever – not as an individual but with others – you won't regret it.

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