How do we climb out of 49 levels of darkness and then stand tall in the strongest of light?
The journey from Pesach to Shavuos is not simply the traveling diary of our nation; this is our personal journey until today.
In Judaism we know truth if it is written in the Torah. My mother, a”h, would teach incredible life lessons based on this wisdom. “How do you say ‘history’ in lashon kodesh?” my mother would ask. “You don’t!” She’d exclaim. “There is no word for history in the Torah. Modern day Hebrew gives us ‘historiyah.’ It’s a made up word. It’s not lashon kodesh, Hashem’s language. Because we have no history! We have our story, our ‘sippur.’ As we say, ‘Kol HaMarbeh LeSaper B’Yetzius Mitzrayim. The word history is never mentioned Seder night.”
These days of ‘sifirah’ we tell our ‘sippur.’ We work on ourselves. We write our story as we exit the marror of Egypt and enter the life of ‘Am Segulah,’ Hashem’s treasured nation. It is not about counting days. It’s about making each day count.
As our nation stood at Sinai, so too do we stand today.
Every soul was there. Each of us heard “kollos uberakim”, the thunderbolts and flashes of lightening. All the forces of nature resounded as the air filled with the great sound of the shofar. Mountains quaked. “VaYisyatzvu “– from the entire world, we alone stood upright. Vayecherad – and we trembled.”
Torah was given amidst smoke and fire to teach us that forever we must keep the passion, the flame burning within alive. It is easy to lose enthusiasm. We fall into the pattern of our daily lives. Brachos said while walking, or mumbled without thought. We mindlessly think about all we need to do while davening. We rush into Shabbos, forgetting that these are the moments we can pierce shamayim.
And what about our children?
We can only raise inspired children if we are inspired ourselves.
What do we sweat for? What gets us going?
Our children watch the way we wake up in the morning, converse at the Shabbos table, treat family and strangers and open our heart to those in need. It’s how we walk, how we talk, how we eat and how we dress. Our homes are our greatest classrooms. It’s not about speeches. To kindle a child’s soul we must draw upon our own inner fire.
I’d like to share with you an incident that occurred shortly before Covid-19 hit.
Concluding a talk on Jewish pride to high school students in a prominent day school, I invited questions. A hand shot up in front.
“You speak about our heritage, what it means to be a Jew. So many around us are clueless when it comes to Judaism. How can we share with other Jews?”
Another hand shot up. The young boy stood up and said loudly. “To think that you have what to teach the world about your Judaism means that you think you’re better than everyone. That’s racist!”
A wave of tension swept through the room. I had just a few moments to respond before my time with these teens was up. Here sat the future fathers, mothers and leaders of our nation. Those who would bear the torch, stand strong to the world and cry out for our land and Jerusalem. How tragic!
I explained in those few moments that sharing our legacy of Torah’s wisdom and beauty is not about being racist. It is about being “Mamlechet Kohanim Vegoi Kadosh,” ambassadors of light and holiness. “Veheye Brachah.” We are here to ‘be a blessing,’ the spiritual compass of the world. Light Shabbos candles, banish the darkness. We are charged with a sacred mission.
Another hand shot up.
“Why do you think most kids my age find Judaism to be irrelevant?”
I threw the question back. I was curious. “Why do you think they do?”
“Because,” he responded flippantly. “It is.”
It is difficult for me to describe the sadness I felt.
“I am sorry for you,” I responded. “I am sorry because that’s not my Torah or the Torah of my children. My Torah is my oxygen. My Judaism carries me through day and night.”
I was grateful for the opportunity that opened up a most needed conversation.
We parents, grandparents, educators and all who have the ability to touch children in our lives must pay attention to this painful discussion. There is a connection that has gone missing. A passion for our people, our land and our G-d. Love grows when we sacrifice and are invested.
I remember marching as a child in the cold, for Russian Jewry. I recall being in shul when the Yom Kippur War broke out. The anguish, the tears, the worry of every Jew. It had nothing to do with being religious or not. We were a family of Jews, united. “K’eish echad b’lev echad.”
What do our children see? Mesirus nefesh opens the heart to all that is important in life.
As we approach Shavuos let’s rediscover the thunder, the lightning, the passion of Har Sinai. Let’s reignite the spark that burns within. The next generation is counting on us.