Shavuot 2008 / 5768

A Shavuot Torah 2008 / 5768 Sarah Yehudit Schneider

based on Tsidkat HaTsadik 193, 182-184

According to Jewish tradition, the Torah’s revelation was the most profound manifestation of God that has ever transpired on the planet.  An estimated four million people experienced that historic event.1[1]  A searing revelation of Presence engraved the souls of an entire nation with the-truth-of-the-universe compressed into a single burst of light.  Its impact continues to impel their generations to be seekers and servants of God and is certain to do so until the end of time.

Here we are (readers of this communiqué) 3,388 years later, looking to this ancient wisdom for guidance about how to live our post-modern lives. A superglue binds the Jewish soul to its wise and holy Torah.  The Zohar goes so far as to assert that these two actually fuse into one.  In physics they speak about wormholes—where if you tunnel into a blackhole (in which there is a wormhole) you would instantaneously finds yourself in the corresponding whitehole of another universe altogether. And so it is with Israel and Torah.  If you would tunnel to the core of a Jewish soul you would suddenly pop out through a passage of the Torah. And if you started your excavations with a letter of the Torah and managed to reach its core, you would suddenly find yourself in the rarefied environs of a Jewish soul.

There are lost Jews, called crypto-Jews, who pretended to convert to Christianity during the Inquisitions and Expulsions of the Middle Ages. They secretly kept certain practices (often connected with Shabbat).  The first generations understood why they were lighting candles in their basement on Friday night. Subsequent generations only saw what was done and repeated the strange act with no awareness of why. They were totally ignorant of their Jewish roots. Social customs are notoriously mutable, especially when people switch countries and change their milieu. How odd that these “meaningless” traditions should cleave so fiercely to these people, that five hundred years (and twenty-five generations) later the practices carry on despite their lack of meaning and social reinforcement. What a glaring testimony to the deep and mysterious bond between the Jewish soul and its Torah.

Rav Tsadok approaches Torah-study as a spiritual practice.  He identifies three milestones that mark the path of integrating the Torah’s truths first into our head, then into our heart, and finally into the spaces of our being.

At first the Torah is far from us, and we relate to it as “God’s Torah,”[2] meaning that it reveals information that we do not already know. We must study, review and memorize its teachings hoping that they will stick to our bones.

The next step is to integrate its lights so deeply into our heart that it turns into “our Torah.” The sign that we have succeeded is when we discover a new insight that is truly our invention, a mini-revelation of authentic Torah-truth that has never been spoken before. It could be an original idea, or it could be a way of responding to a challenge—a unique configuration of elements that has never been and will never be again in the universe in quite that form. When we find the most God-serving way to respond to this challenge we reveal, through our action, an original implication of the Torah.

And the final step is when the Divine will that permeates the Torah becomes so deeply integrated that we each become a living Torah, which means that everything we do, and every conversation we have, even the most mundane interaction, is Divinely inspired. There is no activity, whether sacred or secular, where we are not doing God’s work. This, says R. Tsadok, is the ultimate internalization of Torah. And we are all going to get there in the course of our incarnations as HaShem declares through his prophet, Isaiah: “Your nation is comprised of all tsadikim…”[3]

Now one can only become what he or she really is already inside.[4] Based on R. Tsadok’s teachings one could trace the supernatural bond between the Jewish people and their Torah back to a generally unknown feature of their Sinaic revelation. While we usually imagine a booming voice emanating from the heavens proclaiming the Ten Commandments to the people gathered round, R. Tsadok paints a different picture. He claims that the Torah’s revelation actually welled up from within—that it arose from the spaces of their being, spread through their bones, filled their hearts and emanated from their voiceboxes. In R. Tsadok’s version the people were not passive onlookers but active participants.  Each experienced the revelation as if it was his or her very own and personal prophesy.

The Midrash asserts that every Jewish soul—past, present, and future, native-born or convert—experienced the revelation of the Torah at Sinai.[5] That means that our starting point is also our finish line—the fully internalized Torah-of-the-bones[6] where truth emanates from within and our instinctive way of moving through the world is always and only in accordance with spiritual law, God’s will, and Torah.

Let it be that on this 3,388th anniversary of the Torah’s revelation to the Jewish people, that we receive its lights, into our head, heart, bones and spaces so that we become, each and every one of us, the living Torah that is our truth and our destiny. Let us finally manifest on the outside the truth of our insides, the radiant Torah that is the crown jewel of our collective soul.

Shavuot Someakh…A Still Small Voice

 

[1] Targum Yonaton, Shmot 12:37.

[2] TB Avoda Zara 19a.

[3]  Isaiah 61:21.

[4] R. Tsadok HaKohen, Tsidkat HaTsadik 130 commenting on TB Brochot 39a, 48a.

[5] Devarim 29:14; Shmot Rabba 28:6, Pirkey D’Rebbe Eliezer 41; Leshem II, 146 (top/rt).

[6]Psalms 35:10.

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