(Torah Portion Bamidbar/Shavuos) Higher!
The upcoming Holiday of Shavuos commemorates the one-time awesome event where G-d communicated and proclaimed the Ten Commandments to the entire Jewish Nation at Mount Sinai. To become worthy of this exalted level of Revelation, the nation had to gradually prepare and spiritually elevate themselves for the fifty days that passed from the time they were freed from Egypt.
In the days immediately preceding the Revelation, G-d gave Moshe various instructions for the Jewish nation including the following mandate and charge, “You will be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation to Me.”
G-d then instructed the nation to prepare themselves by refraining from certain activities so that they become elevated and capable of the Revelation experience. The question arises; is the Torah’s view of holiness that we separate from all the mundane and enjoyments of life?
The answer is certainly not. Indeed, G-d through the mandate of the Torah wants us to enjoy life, however, it must be within the balance and boundaries that He prescribes. For example, G-d commanded husbands and wives to separate from intimacy three days prior to the Revelation for reasons of purity. However, immediately after the Revelation, G-d commanded them to resume relations.
The Torah’s commands are our instruction book how to balance, integrate and infuse the holy into the regular and mundane. Mount Sinai was a regular mountain, yet during the Revelation it was sanctified and all those standing around the mountain were sanctified as well. The Hebrew word for mountain is Har, which is spelled with a Hey and Raish. It is fascinating, that the four Hebrew letters that precede and follow the Hey and the Raish – spell out Kadosh – holiness, demonstrating, that surrounding the Har – mountain – was a spirit and aura of holiness.
I was trying to think of a way to paint an image of how we can approach and experience levels of holiness. I came up with the following:
During our daily prayers, after we conclude the Amidah – silent devotion of the 18 benedictions, the Chazan – leader of the prayers, repeats the prayers aloud and we have the opportunity to sanctify G-d’s name – just as the angels do in Heaven, by reciting the Kidusha prayer.
Our custom is to raise ourselves by lifting the heels of our feet each time we says the word Kadosh – holy. In essence, we are displaying that holiness is synonymous with uplifting.
When we uplift ourselves we see things differently since we see from a different point of view.
Years ago, before the advent of waze and GPS, I read a beautiful analogy of what it means to be in an elevated state.
Suppose you are driving through the downtown of a major city, with directions for the most direct route to your destination. Unfortunately, you meet up with a major traffic jam. Just then, your friend who works on the 75th floor of a nearby skyscraper calls your cell phone and you mention that you are stuck in traffic. Looking down from his office window with a bird’s eye view of where traffic is flowing, he instructs you to go on a route which seems to be totally out of your way. However, he assures you that by following his instruction you’ll get to your destination within your desired time.
The parallel to this story is that if we map our own spiritual direction on this world, it is like navigating from street level with limited perception of the correct direction to our destination.
However, we have been given the Torah, which is the greatest gift, for it contains the rights and wrongs from G-d’s perspective, which guides us through the haze of life. Each time we follow His instructions we become elevated, and as we continually observe, pray and study, we elevate ourselves higher, and with time we are able to see the course of life and our responsibilities with a clearer view.
Often when people are faced with a dilemma; they will seek the advice of a Torah scholar, who is referred to by the title of Godol – a giant. This is because from their highly elevated spiritual perspective, the view is clearer and broader, thus there is accuracy in their advice, direction and guidance.
We now stand three days before the holiday of Shavuos. These three days are spiritually energized to advance our preparedness for the holiday so that we can progressively lift ourselves higher and appreciate our mandate of being holy Jews!
Wishing you and most enjoyable Shabbbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks