The Sheltering Presence

dvar for Sukkot 5782

“Speak unto the children of Israel, saying: On the fifteenth day of this seventh month is the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the L-RD.” – Leviticus 23:34, JPS 1917 Tanach

We are commanded to dwell in sukkoth (booths) for a seven-day period, as a commemoration of our dwelling in sukkoth –temporary structures –while wandering in the desert for forty years. During this time spent travelling from one place to another, the Children of Israel were protected by the Clouds of Glory that sheltered them from the heat of the day; the Pillar of Fire at night provided illumination for B’nei Yisrael, as well as warmth.

The sukkoth [booths] that we build at this time of year are meant to remind us of the temporary structures in the wilderness wherein our ancestors dwelt. According to some commentators, these structures built between Yom Kippur and Sukkot, wherein we either dwell in, or, at least, have meals within, symbolize the Clouds of Glory that served as a shelter from the elements. Thus, it is the schach – the thatched roof – in particular, that reminds us, that in actuality, it was G-d’s presence, manifested as the Clouds of Glory that protected us, above and beyond what these structures could provide.

When we dwell in sukkot for seven days, we are demonstrating our trust in H’Shem. These fragile dwellings serve not only to remind us of our past journeys in the desert; rather, also, as a personal reminder to seek G-d as our refuge. When we are troubled by the nisyanos (challenges) of Olam HaZeh (This World), we may find relief in H’Shem’s offer of protection for those who seek Him.

“For He concealeth me in His pavilion [sukkah] in the day of evil; He hideth me in the covert of His tent; He lifteth me upon a rock.” – Psalm 27:5, JPS 1917 Tanach

The Tenth Plague

B”H
erev 11 Nissan 5780
Motzei Shabbos Shiur

The redemption of B’nei Yisrael (the Children of Israel) began on Shabbos, specifically, the tenth of Nissan. That Shabbos became known as Shabbat HaGadol. What was so special about the Tenth of Nissan? That day was when the Children of Israel were commanded to bring a lamb into each and every one of their homes. “Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying: In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household” (Exodus 12:3, JPS 1917 Tanach).

Why was this the beginning of the Redemption for B’nei Yisrael (the Children of Israel)? Because the lamb was to be the first national offering, made by each and every family, for the sake of using the blood of the lamb as a sign, placed upon the doorposts and lintels of their homes. The blood would serve as a sign, whereby, “the L-RD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side-posts, the L-RD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you” (Exodus 12:23).

And, so, the tenth plague, the slaying of the first born, was not enacted upon the Children of Israel. They were spared, because of their emunah (faith) in H’Shem, that compelled them to carry out the commandment, regarding the Pesach lamb. They had been further commanded, “none of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning” (Exodus 12:23).

“Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, And shut thy doors about thee; Hide thyself for a little moment, Until the indignation be overpast.”

– Isaiah 26:20, JPS 1917 Tanach

daily meditation: Refuge

B”H

March 20, 2020

(24 Adar 5780)

“Closing time, every new beginning comes from some other begining’s end.”

– Closing Time, by Semisonic

As we close the doors behind us, and shut ourselves in for the duration of this plague, let us recall the night before our first redemption, when the Angel of Death passed over the homes of B’nei Yisrael.

We who placed our trust in H’Shem, by obeying His commandment to place the blood of the Pesach lamb on our doorposts and lintels, while sheltering behind those doors. The prophet makes reference to this event, while speaking of another day.

“Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee; hide thyself for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.”

– Isaiah 26:20, JPS 1917 Tanach

The sages liken the final redemption to the first redemption. As Egypt was inflicted by ten plagues, so will the world be subject to an even greater set of plagues. Those of us who trust in H’Shem may seek refuge in Him, within the confinement of our homes at this particular time in history.

By turning our hearts towards Him, we prepare ourselves for the redemption that is at hand. Although this may only be a forerunner of the ensuing judgment upon the inhabitants of the earth, we shelter in expectation of our freedom, when Moshiach will reign.

Additionally, while our hunkering down during this time period, may also only be a prelude to a greater need to seek refuge in H’Shem down the prophetic timeline, we trust that He will safeguard us.

“He concealeth me in His pavilion [sukkah] in the day of evil; He hideth me in the covert of His tent; He lifteth me up upon a rock.”

– Psalm 27:5, JPS 1917 Tanach

Coronavirus Musings

B”H

March 11, 2020

Coronavirus Musings

I am beginning to feel a little bit claustrophobic. This is a surprising statement for myself to make, inasmuch that I am an introvert, recluse, and contemplative, not necessarily in that order. Yet, upon reading the news updates on the Coronavirus every day, I unexpectedly had a visceral sensation of claustrophobia, while sitting at my desk in my apartment.

Thank G-d that I am not on quarantine; however, I empathise with those who are. In particular, I am thinking of the New Rochelle community. Also, my heart goes out to New Yorkers, specifically those living in NYC, including members of my family.

If not now when? We can ask this in regard to the potential appearance of this plague in areas where there has been no outbreak. We may also ask this of ourselves, regarding our response to Coronavirus. As Fauci said, “It will get worse.” We need to be practical, realistic, and active.

Apparently, many if not all U.S. states are stepping up the response; this is a necessary stance to an invisible, yet formidable foe. There is no need to fear or panic; yet, it is important to recognize the scope of this threat, and act accordingly. I welcome these measures that are being taken across the country, in every state. It is as if up until now, after the WHO has declared a pandemic, I had not seen the type of aggressive rhetoric, concerning containment recommendations, including social distancing.

On another note, I am beginning to worry about things like, Will I continue to have a steady supply of bananas, purchased from the local health food store, or will banana shipments somehow be curtailed? A relatively small concern, compared to what most people might worry about, as well as compared to what I should be concerned about; for example, basics, like nonperishable food items and water.

Yet, my diet mostly consists of bulk food items; so, I am already prepared. Even so, man can not subsist only on oats, rice, and beans. I prefer to add apples, bananas, and roumaine lettuce to my list of basic food items. Nor, do I think that I could do without green tea or spring water.

It is no longer a question of What is the situation going to look like, two to three weeks from now; rather, it is a question of what changes in the response levels will occur in 2-3 days from now? Indeed, every day brings an increase in case positives, and immediate responses.

I would encourage everyone to be smart about preventative measures on an individual basis. I had already stopped shaking hands with others, about a week ago, despite not having seen others restrict themselves. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Therefore, think globally, prepare locally.

“I will say of the L-RD, who is my refuge and my fortress, my G-d, in whom I trust, that He will deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.”

– Psalm 91:2-3, JPS 1917 Tanach