Torah Fax

Thursday, June 5, 2008 - 2 Sivan, 5768

Thursday is 46 days of the Omer

Torah Reading: Naso (Numbers  4:21 - 7:89)
Candle Lighting: 8:06 PM
Shabbat ends: 9:16 PM
Pirkei Avot: chapter 6

For the complete Shavuot schedule, clieck here

Once and Forever

The upcoming holiday of Shavuot marks the 3,320th anniversary of Mattan Torah-the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.
There is a paradoxical aspect to the giving of the Torah. On the one hand, history's most momentous event was a one time occurrence. It will never be repeated. On the other hand, our Sages tell us that the Sinai experience is constant and ongoing. This is reflected in the text of the blessing we recite every morning: "Blessed are you, G‑d, who gives us the Torah." If the giving of the Torah was a one time event, the text of the blessing should have read: "Who gave us the Torah."  The use of the present-tense "who gives us the Torah" suggests that it is an ongoing process.
How can we reconcile this apparent contradiction?
One answer to this question can be gleaned from the Haftarah, the prophetic reading of this Shabbat.
In the Hafatarah, from Judges 13, Samson's parents are visited by an angel who gives them instructions as to how they should raise Samson, their son to be. When Manoach, Samson's father, sees that the angel did not return after delivering his message, he was then convinced that it was indeed an angel.
The question is asked, how does the fact that the angel disappeared, never to return, prove that it was an angel?
One answer is based on the different dynamics of the power of good versus the power of evil.
When we are confronted by the forces of evil, we feel a relentless push in that direction. The temptation to do the wrong thing does not leave after its first attempt fails. It returns with even more vengeance until it succeeds in getting us to succumb or is totally defeated.
Conversely, when we are inspired to do good, the inspiration rarely returns the same way it came initially. If we do not seize upon the opportunity to translate the inspiration into action, it will most likely fizzle out.
The story of Joseph and how he resisted the attempts of Potiphar's wife to seduce him is cited to illustrate the point.
The Torah describes Potiphar's wife’s numerous attempts to entice Joseph.  Our Sages tell us that she argued that their relationship was ordained by G‑d and was therefore not sinful. She claimed that her intentions were "for the sake of Heaven." How did Joseph know that it was not a holy desire? His proof was the unrelenting manner in which she tried to get him. Joseph reasoned, if her attempts came from a holy source she would not have been so persistent.
One reason for this difference lies in the concept of free choice. For our choices to be meaningful there has to be a balance between good and evil. If the forces of good would be in our face and so enticing as evil it would not be much of a challenge for us to do good. And if evil was elusive, it would not be much of an accomplishment to negate it. Thus evil is in our face while good stays in the background, waiting for us to discover it, reveal it and claim it. And when we do indeed connect with the good, it is eminently ours.
The difference between good and evil can be summed up as follows: Evil seeks to embrace us, while good waits for us to embrace it. Evil requires very little thought and effort, while to do good demands much energy.
Our Sages summed up this distinction when they said: "One who comes to become purified will be assisted, one who comes to be contaminated; the trap doors will be opened for him." In other words, G‑d will certainly assist the person who seeks to take the initiative to do good; but it must be their initiative. Conversely, one who seeks to pursue evil needs no assistance; they just fall through the opening that leads them to evil. The doors are open and one need not exert himself to go in that direction.
This explains why Manoach knew that the message concerning their future son Samson came from an angel; a holy source. If the messenger was from an unholy source it would have returned many times; it would have been unrelenting in bringing its unholy message to them. Now that the angel did not return, he realized that it was G‑d's angel that was delivering the message, and it was up to him to implement it.
The above distinction between good and evil can also shed light on the paradoxical nature of the giving of the Torah at Sinai. Since it was the ultimate holy experience it only comes once and it is up to us to embrace the experience of Sinai. If we would witness the epiphany of Sinai repeatedly there would be no room for choosing anything but the Torah from Sinai.
However the abovementioned distinction between good and evil is only true when we view them on the surface. Good is elusive and sporadic while evil is ubiquitous and front-and-center.  But if we probe deeper into the inner dimension of the soul we will discover that, on the contrary, the forces of holiness are indeed pervasive in a slightly different way. The fact that evil can be seen as persistent whereas the forces of goodness are elusive at best is true only in the way good and evil present themselves overtly. Deep down the situation is truly reversed. Evil is a foreign substance that our souls naturally reject. For evil to get into our system it must come through the use of superficial gimmicks, enticements and repeated efforts until it ensnares us.
The forces of goodness and holiness, by contrast, strike a responsive chord within our souls and resonate within. Moreover, the generation of positive energy acts like a seed planted in fertile earth. It becomes an integral part of who we are, but it takes much cultivation for the seeds to sprout, blossom and bear fruit.
Thus, when the Torah was given at Sinai to all the souls of all the Jewish people from that time until eternity, our souls were permanently imprinted with the Divine message. We just have to listen to the stirrings of our souls and we will hear the voice of G‑d forever declaring to us and through us: "I am the G‑d your G‑d who has taken you out of the land of Egypt from the house of Bondage…"
Thus the paradox is explained. The experience of Sinai was overtly a one time event, even as its message resonates within each and every Jewish soul, especially during the Festival of Shavuot. During this most auspicious holiday, it becomes so much easier for us to hear the sound of Sinai from within, particularly when the Torah reading of the giving of the Torah at Sinai takes place.
But even then, our ability to hear and feel the Sinai experience that is embedded in our souls may be compromised because we are in exile, a period of concealment and obstruction. Exile forces seek to muffle any and all messages that emanate from the soul necessitating even more effort on our part to let the soul express itself.
This will all change soon, with the imminent arrival of Moshiach, who will usher in the age when all of what transpired at Sinai will gush forth from all of our souls, and the Sinai experience will then be an overt and permanent one. 

Moshiach Matters 

An essential component in bringing about the final Redemption is Simchah, joy. It is noteworthy that the root letters of simchah are Shin, Mem and Ches - the very same letters that make up the root of the word Moshiach. (The Rebbe, Hisvaduyos, 5748, pg. 627)
Moshiach - It’s a Jewish issue. For more info, visit 

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