Preparation for Sinai
Oh no, we have less than a week until Shavuot! I need to get my grocery list ready for major shopping. What kind of dairy course should I serve? I absolutely must find a new outfit... WAIT!! Rabbi Arush explains that the REAL preparation is in the heart. Also read about Rabbi Palagi's segula for Erev Shavuot.
Have You Bought Watermelon Yet?
Do you have a recipe for cheesecake? Have you ordered flowers to decorate the house for Shavuot? What kind of meat have you bought, and which kind of wine is going to grace the table on the holiday? Better hurry up, so that you will be ready on time…
Have you ever thought about how much we invest in the external preparations, the stage set, as it were, the clothes? How important it is for us that everything should be pleasant and taste good; that it should also look good and that there should be plenty of everything.
But what about the real preparations? What about the heart? What about the essence? Rabbi Natan of Breslev once said before Pesach: “Matzahs and wine for the Four Cups will be there. We will work everything out – but where does one get the Pesach itself?” in other words, how can we make sure to be ready to face the essential kedusha of the holidays? What should we do to merit the light of the holiday, which is the main thing?
This is especially pertinent regarding the holiday of the Receiving of the Torah. We can manage all the material preparations, but where does one get the Matan Torah itself?
As Important as the Air We Breathe
We can feel the approaching Receiving of the Torah, and I’m not talking about the smell of cheesecake wafting through the house.
What’s wafting through the air is the belief that Shavuot is not just a celebration; it is not just another day off from work, a day of eating and drinking; it is not even in memory of a historical event. No, no. Shavuot is Zman Matan Torateinu – the time of the giving of our Torah. It is the time when Hashem showers us with Torah every year anew.
The truth is that Hashem gives the Torah every day anew, and that is why we make the blessing “Noten HaTorah” – the Giver of the Torah – every single day. but the holiday of Shavuot is the beginning, the primal Giving of the Torah, from which we get all the little gifts of Torah every day. The day of the Giving of the Torah is the Day of Judgment for Torah study for the whole year. It is a very fateful day. All our spirituality is at stake. It is much more fateful than Rosh Hashanah.
No metaphor or simile can describe the desire of Jewish souls for the holy Torah. It is not like looking forward to being released from a lifetime sentence; it is not like a groom waiting for his wedding. It is much, much deeper than anything we can describe. For a Jew, the Torah is life. Torah is the oxygen, the air we breathe. Torah is the light one sees. Torah is everything.
And without Torah, there is nothing. There is no point to life, there is no meaning to our existence.
You Prepared Yourself? Now You Are Ready To Receive
And now that Hashem opens His hand and showers the light of the Torah on us, the Jewish heart awakens. The thirst deep in our souls calls out to us from inside and says: Dear Jew, this is the time. You have reached the fountain of life. This is the time to quench your thirst and draw water for the whole year.
How upsetting it is to reach a well without having a water jug in hand, without having the proper vessel. You can drink and quench your thirst, but you go home empty-handed. Soon the thirst strikes you again. But when you come with a jug, and even more so when you arrive with a water tanker, you can load up water for the hard times and also quench the thirst of many others.
The Creator, may He be blessed, gives us seven weeks to prepare vessels. For seven weeks we build vessels and wait for the great day. The great day is not the day of the receiving of the Torah, but the day of the giving of the Torah. This is the day when Hashem opens up His treasury and showers us with the most valuable jewels, and every person receives some – but only what fits into the vessels he prepared. You prepared yourself? Then you are ready to receive.
All Jews Are Princes
What is the preparation? The preparation is the character traits – middot. Tikkun hamiddot. During every week of Sefirat HaOmer another midda is corrected. But the culmination of all the middot, the midda that encompasses them all, is the midda of malchut – royalty. The last midda in every week of the seven is the midda of Malchut. You begin with correcting the midda of chessed and go from day to day. And when you reach malchut shebachessed – the royalty within lovingkindness – you have competed the correction of the midda, and you go on to the next midda: gevura.
The last week of the Sefira is devoted entirely to the tikkun of the midda of malchut, and it climaxes with the royalty within the royalty. That is the week that is beginning now. This is exactly the time to increase your yearning and prayers and prepare yourself for the big day.
And even if until now you did not make good use of every day of the Sefira, it is never too late. You can start afresh and get hold of the main and most wonderful vessel, one that will bring you a truly enlightening Shavuot, enabling you to illuminate your soul with the light of Torah and to live the life of a Jew.
I want to learn a bit with you about the meaning of the correction of malchut, so that we will be able to focus our thoughts and our hearts on the special wavelength of that midda, as well as make it part of our lives and discover it in every realm of life.
The holy Zohar describes the midda of malchut thus: “It has nothing of itself”. The midda of malchut symbolizes the complete faith that everything is from Hashem and that everything belongs to Hashem. And if everything belongs to Hashem, I myself have nothing.
The midda of malchut symbolizes prayer, because he who lives a reality in which he has nothing, only he can stand like a beggar at the door and ask for anything from Hashem, be it material or spiritual. But if he already has something for himself – wealth, ability, powers and talents – he doesn’t have to ask Hashem for anything, chalila. He can manage on his own…
During the coming week we will look at everything through spectacles of faith, the spectacles of malchut – I myself have nothing.
On the first day, chessed shebemalchut, we will notice that every act of loving kindness that we perform, anything good, any help we give to others, any giving at all – is not ours. It is only Hashem’s; He is the One Who gave us the strength to do these good things. The money that we give is also not ours; it is given to us only so that we can do the will of He Who gave it to us. Even the willingness to give to others is not ours.
By ourselves, we have nothing. We elevate the entire midda of chessed to the complete faith that everything belongs to Hashem.
You, Hashem, Have The Kingship
So too on the second day, the gevura shebemalchut – the control within the royalty. A person makes an effort and fights and overcomes an infinite number of stumbling blocks, inhibiting factors, evil inclinations and bad middot; he also battles life’s travails – and it is natural to feel some satisfaction when he overcomes all this. It is a good feeling when one acts, overcomes, has battled and has won.
But on the second day we elevate the midda of gevura to the level of complete faith, that in every case of overcoming our desires, if Hashem hadn’t helped us, we wouldn’t have been able to stand up to the temptation. That is the complete faith that all gevura, all self-control, is Hashem’s. “Let not the gibbor (strong man) glorify himself with his gevura” – not even his spiritual gevura.
And so, we will correct trait after trait and connect it to the full faith that everything is from Hashem. And the highest point will be on this coming Thursday night, when we will reach malchut shebemalchut, and then we will clarify these matters to ourselves and pray to Hashem from the depths of our hearts – that he should place within our hearts the complete faith that we receive our faith, too, from Hashem. Even the malchut itself does not belong to us – but to Him.
Only You give faith, only You open our lips to pray to you, because royalty is yours!
The very fact that we know that all the middot are from Hashem, that, too, is a gift.
That too is not ours.
The belief that malchut is the heart of the Torah, the deep illumination of the Torah, and that it is also the vessel for receiving the Torah.
Developing one’s faith and strengthening the full faith are the best and, indeed, perfect vessels to prepare for the light and the inner content of Zman Matan Torateinu – the Time of the Giving of the Torah.