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Acharon shel Pesach 5778 — 04/07/2018

Acharon shel Pesach 5778 — 04/07/2018

As I mentioned last week, this Shabbat is the last day of Pesach outside of the Land of Israel. In the Land of Israel, where Pesach is celebrated only for the Biblically mandated 7 days, Friday is the last day of Pesach and this Shabbat will be Shabbat Shemini. We will be back in sync on May 12, as I mentioned last week.

For the first day of Pesach we discussed R. Sacks’ contention that the Egyptian exile seems to have been part of Gd’s plan for creation right from the beginning. We surmised that it is the nature of manifest, relative, bounded creation to be separate from Gd, who is unbounded, eternal, absolute, But since creation comes from Gd, Who is ultimately all that truly exists, this separation amounts to exile – exile from the Garden, where Adam and Eve could have lived a perfect life, exile from the Land of Israel, where the people of Israel can live their unique destiny.

The purpose of the Exodus, of course, is to end the state of exile and re-establish the initial connection with Gd. Unfortunately, this project was only partially successful. The Jewish people has had to endure many exiles, each more painful than the last it seems, and, although we have successfully re-established the State of Israel, it is still beset by enemies all around, and is riven by dissension within. Time and again we seem to fall short of the ideal.

I came across an interesting article by R. Zvi Grumet in the OU Journal Tradition, 34:3 (Fall 2000) entitled The Ideal and the Real (available in PDF). R. Grumet’s contention is that Tanach presents us with two versions of the world. One is an idealized version, more or less what Gd originally conceived that the world should be. The other is a version that is adapted to the real world of imperfect people. Thus, for example, we have the first tablets that Moshe brought down from Mt. Sinai, which were hewn out by Gd and inscribed, according to our Sages, with both the written Torah and the Oral Torah – a complete package, direct from Gd. However, the people couldn’t sustain that level of Revelation, and Moshe had to smash those tablets – they were too perfect to be of any use on earth. The second set of tablets was still written by Gd, but on stones hewn by Moshe. They contained only the Written Torah. The Oral Torah was taught to Moshe and was to be developed by the Rabbis here on earth. Having human input was perhaps not the ideal way for Torah to be developed, but it is the only way the Torah can remain flexible enough to remain applicable to changing conditions on the earthly plane.

R. Grumet concludes:
We need not be afraid of a world in which Gd’s plans can seemingly be foiled by Man and in which Man seems to be in control. That Gd’s plans don’t necessarily work in this world does not reflect a flaw in those plans,  but the unpredictable nature of Man and the inappropriate expectation that a human world will function flawlessly. That Man is endowed with the power to direct the course of events and given the freedom to make choices, regardless of the impact of those choices, is an integral component of the nature of the world Gd created and the nature of the relationship Gd established with Man. By giving us the blueprints for the world Gd assures us that our world will, eventually, asymptotically approximate those blueprints. Yet while we take comfort in knowing that our ultimate destination is fixed, the path through which we arrive at that destination is not. We have the ability, if not the responsibility, to chart the best possible course.

Gd made human beings in His image, and that means endowed with free will. We can use our free will to draw closer to Gd – that means, to expand our awareness of the underlying unity behind all forms and phenomena, so that our behavior will be nourishing and evolutionary for the whole cosmos. However, since we have freedom, we can also choose to go in the direction of exile, of estrangement from Gd and alienation from our fellow human beings. Unfortunately, the behavior that goes along with such narrow awareness is anything but nourishing. Ultimately, of course, the invincible force of Gd’s Will carries all before it, but the actual path it takes is up to us. As we reflect on this week in which we celebrate our freedom from human bondage, we should not forget that the very purpose of having free will is to learn to surrender our will to Gd’s Will.


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Pesach to Shavuot: Passover to Torah. Counting the Omer.

We count the Omer (sheaf of grain) to mark the days from the 2d night of Passover to Shavuot, the day on which we (our ancestors) received the Torah.

One reason we count the Omer is because Gd commanded us to do this: Leviticus 23:15-16.

The spiritual reason, given by Midrash Rabba Parashas Emor is that when we left Egypt/Mizraim/Restrictions Moses told us that in 49 days we would receive the Torah. This so thrilled us that, as children do, we counted the days until the Torah would be given.

Although every day is a day of spiritual evolution, every moment, the days between the 2d night of Passover and Shavuout, are considered by our sages to be special opportunities to raise our level of deservability, our level of perception, of appreciation.

Torah at one level is words in a book. At another, words recited with deep appreciation. At another, vibrations experienced within our consciousness. At the deepest level, Torah is the fundamental vibration of Gd, Gd as Stillness Vibrating and perpetually revealing and hiding all Values of Gd from the level of Gd as Wholeness, Totality, to the level of Gd as a very material value—a pebble, perhaps a grain of sand.

These days between Passover and Shavuout, 49 days with the receiving of Torah, the 50th, are traditionally special opportunities to perceive Gd and Torah fully, everywhere.

Our preparation can be through refining our daily routine, making it more healthy and joyous, and refining our ability to behave in all ways according to “Love the Lrd, thy Gd, with all thy heart and soul and might” and “Love thy neighbor as thy Self”

Wonderful opportunities!

Thank You, Gd!

Baruch HaShem