Heritage – 5

B”H

Shavuos commemorates Mattan Torah, the Giving of the Torah. A spectacular event, the Revelation at Sinai, when H’Shem gave B’nei Yisrael the Commandments. This was the culmination of the Exodus from Egypt. Being made a people unto H’Shem, our bond to Him was signified with the commandments, presented as a ketubah (marriage contract) to the Bride (K’lal Yisrael). Our sovereignty as a nation begins here; the declaration being made first, with Matan Torah, then, we were brought into the Land: a people first, then, we were given a country.

Today, the Torah should speak to our everyday lives; otherwise, Mattan Torah, becomes a glorious event, disconnected from our current times. When we learn Torah, we should feel compelled to incorporate these ideas into our lives; inasmuch that the Torah still has relevancy after so many generations. The Ten Commandments are a good place to start; perhaps, simply by naming them; then, reflecting on each one in relation to our lives. I could spend an entire week on the 1st Commandment, reflecting on whether I am imbued with the awareness that “H’Shem is the L-RD, our G-d.”

Although we may believe in G-d, the additional question to pose to ourselves is whether or not we have accepted His Sovereignty. In this sense, as mentioned in commentary (Baal Halachos Gedolos), the first commandment is a call to believe in the existence of G-d, and accept His authority as the source of the commandments. When we accept G-d’s Sovereignty, then the commandments become authoratative; otherwise, the commandments could be misconstrued as relative.

There is a difference between accepting the commandments for ourselves, because we recognise the inherent wisdom in them, in regard to the moral perspective that we uphold, versus accepting the commandments as the divine words of G-d, as an expression of His expectations of us. The Jewish people are bound to the commandments, regardless of whatever our perspective may be. Therefore, the primacy of the first commandment is that the authority of all of the other commandments are hinged upon the first, “I am the L-rd your G-d, who brought you out of the land of Egypt” (Exodus 20:2).

daily reflection: Groundwork

B”H

March 1, 2020

Below the ground, a structure is rooted in the earth, whereby its stability is secured. The same is true with a more common, natural example, trees, whose roots provide nourishment as well as a secure attachment to the ground. In both cases, what we do not readily see, is the groundwork.

By analogy, the truths of a religious belief and practice are not visible to the eye that does not attempt to see more than what is on the surface. To perceive the underpinnings of belief and practice, the mind must inquire into the groundwork; otherwise, only a superficial understanding is gained.

Dependency on a religious structure, without personal inquiry, study, and observance will not suffice for an understanding that goes beyond the superficial. Only by delving into the details, by connecting to G-d on a daily basis, and inquiring into His ways, can a person be completely, nourished by the roots of religion.

daily contemplation: Searching

B”H

February 26,2020

“Seek ye the L-RD while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near.”

– Isaiah 55:6, JPS 1917 Tanach

In my life, sometimes there is a lull of excitement – six days each week, excluding the Sabbath. Perhaps, excitement is not the correct word. There is actually nothing in my life that other people would consider exciting; after all, I am an introvert. And, I am content with the pace, quality, and level of exhilaration of my life.

Yet, at times, there is an undercurrent of ennui that may surface. These are the times to reflect even more, than my usual nature requires. These are the moments, times, and seasons to reach out to G-d. Judaism teaches that He is both immanent and transcendent (within and without). So, sometimes, reaching out towards G-d, begins with a quiet meditation on the inner stirrings of my soul.

daily contemplation: Feeding the Soul

B”H

February 24, 2020

Closer to the truth than yesterday. A little more knowledgeable than the day before. Yet, what is acquired may lose significance over time unless maintained. Life lessons should lead to character improvement. For the soul is not nurtured by information in and of itself; rather, we are shaped by our life experience, as well as our response to life.

In the evening of my life, it will not be about the acquisition of knowledge as facts, information, or trivia. Most of what is absorbed on the internet on a daily basis, whether in the political, entertainment, news realm, passes by like the pixels that are constantly rearranging on the screen. Yet, there is a source of everlasting knowledge:

“Teach me good discernment and knowledge; for I have believed in Thy commandments.” – Psalm 119:66

“The fear of the L-RD is the beginning of knowledge”

– Proverbs 1:7, JPS 1917 Tanach

A reappraisal of the above mentioned verse yields greater understanding, when considering the Hebrew word, yiras, translated above as “fear.” Perhaps, a more helpful rendering would include the words, awe, reverance, and respect.

It is yiras H’Shem (fear of the L-RD) that may bring the soul into alignment with G-d’s wisdom, and His ratzon (will) for each individual. For, our lives belong to Him. “In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:10).

Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to detach ourselves from the myriad of pixels that form our opinions, influence our speech (parroting), and (dis)color our world, if we seek a true expression of the soul, in all its potential, unbound by the influx of ideas that permeate the Internet and our minds.

daily contemplation: Chasing Shadows

“Surely His salvation is nigh them that fear Him.”

– Psalm 85:9, JPS 1917 Tanach

Looking forward in time, I have a vision for the near future. Yet, there is a certain derech (path), for me to arrive at the destination. There is a specific manner, that outlines how to get there. The road whereon I may accomplish my goals, step by step, in an incremental manner, is fraught with hazards. Even so, this has been provided for, that I may reach the heights of spiritual growth in my life in due time.

Only when I begin to consider sheker (falsity) as real, do I compromise the effort being made: chasing the shadows of my past, instead of following the dreams of my future, I may falter on the way. Wherein lies the reconciliation of my previous footsteps, along the road to freedom with my present-day life? Shall I let the sands of time drift, and cover over my footsteps? Or shall I retrace my steps, in order to analyze, learn, and grow through my introspection?

The ever-present risk is the potential to get sidetracked; yet, I can not move forward without knowing where I came from. If I do not recover my past, in a manner that gives me a foundation for the future, then the future that I envision for myself will crumble. My heritage, family roots, and future of my people, all play a role, that forms a necessary part of the overall equation. With G-d at the helm of the ship, so to speak, keeping everything on course, shall I falter?

Inner Calling

B”H February 9, 2020 “How long, O L-RD, wilt Thou forget me for ever? How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me?” Psalm 13:2, JPS 1917 Tanach The concept of hester panim (G-d’s hiding his face) from man, speaks of the need to find Him within the circumstances of our lives, despite His apparent […]

Inner Calling — Clear Horizons