Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Humble Mountain. Shvuos.

The Midrash relates that when G-d wanted to reveal His holy Torah to the Jewish people, every mountain came before G-d and boasted of its perfection and beauty, yet it was precisely Mount Sinai - a small and unassuming mountain that refused to boast - that G-d chose to give the Torah on.

Neither the mountains' impressive height, prime location or other physical characteristics were taken into consideration. Not only did these features not convince G-d, as it were, to choose them, but their boasting had the opposite effect. For the Torah could only be given on a place where side issues were irrelevant; the Torah was revealed purely for its own sake.

The giving of the Torah on humble Mount Sinai contains a lesson for all of us in how we are to observe G-d's commandments. Personal considerations, motivations and/or rewards are not the real reason we perform mitzvot. Rather, a Jew fulfills the Torah's commandments solely because such is the will of G-d.

Observing mitzvot brings delight to the spirit, refines our character attributes, and purifies the soul, but the desire to obtain these personal benefits is not the Jew's genuine motivation.

Our motivation and intent in heeding G-d's word must be unadulterated by thoughts of personal gain or advantage. We serve Him solely for the sake of serving Him.

In fact, even if had G-d commanded us to perform actions which would not be rewarded, we would carry out His will with the same joy and vitality with which we observe the Torah commandments, solely because He wants us to!

"Cut the Challah, no blood will be lost!"

In Ethics of our Fathers, chapter 4 it says:  Ben Azzai used to say: “Do not regard anyone with contempt, and do not reject anything; for there is no man who does not have his hour, and nothing which does not have its place.” (Avot 4:3)

One late Friday afternoon a poor man, who had not eaten in days, stood in the doorway of the home of Rabbi Yitzchak of Kalush. Smelling the freshly baked bread he held out his hand for something to eat. . .
The cook, wanting to save the freshly baked challot for shabbat looked around for an old, stale piece of bread, the kind that is usually given to beggars, but she found none.

“Slice up a loaf of the fresh bread” a man’s voice said, “no blood will be lost because of it.
And so she cut into the, soft fresh challah, and gave the poor man a thick slice to eat, which he ate greedily. As he left, a man with kind eyes nodded to him. He was the one who had told the cook to cut the bread. The poor man knew that this man had saved his life.

Time passed. The poor man was not a very successful beggar. He did better as a thief. In time, he became the leader of highway robbers. They would rob highway travelers and as often as not, they would then kill their victims.

One day, they stopped a certain Jew. With rough shouts they tied him up, and took his money. Then suddenly, the chief took a second look. Instead of seeing the usual terror in his victim’s eyes, there was a glance of absolute calm, and in his eyes was a look of a profound kindness.
Suddenly the chief realized he had seen that look before. “Take this!” he said, throwing the money back into the Jew's lap. “Unbind him and let him go! he commanded to his men. “I owe this man a debt!”
“Do you remember?” he said to the Jew. “Once a poor beggar came to your door just before your holy day. ‘Give him some bread,’ you said. ‘No blood will be lost because of it.
“I bet you never dreamed that the blood not lost would be your own! Go in peace, Rabbi Yitzchak of Kalush!”

Be Inspired! - STAY Inspired! - Sefira

When the Jews left Egypt they were embarking on a spiritual journey that was to end with their receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai.This journey involved ascending the ladder of holiness rung by rung.
The deliverance from Egypt and their witnessing G-d’s power in its full glory allowed them a degree of inspiration. And their next job now was to lift themselves to that level of inspiration on their own, through their own work and endeavors.
The seven week period that we are now in,  between Pesach and Shavuot is that period for effort and growth that will show that we are sufficiently inspired to be able to accept the Torah.
The task that lay before the Jewish people as they left Egypt is the task we face throughout our lives.We all have moments when we feel inspired - It could be a class or a speech that we hear or even a specific event in our lives that make us reconsider the path that we are taking. But as we all know this inspiration that we receive soon evaporates within our usual day-to-day existence.But we really ought to use those moments of inspiration as a catalyst for incredible growth and improvements in our service of G-d.

The key is to take that impulse and then work to sustain those sparks of enthusiasm to enthuse us every day to ensure that the initial ember never dies but keeps carrying us forward.Those flashes of inspiration are a gift from G-d and our job now is to create the inspiration ourselves.
This may not be easy and may take intense work on our part to keep stoking the fire, but if we do this we will be living a life inspired.