Waking Up on Time
Sivan 7 5765/June 14, 2005
(Due to technical difficulties, this newsletter, which was written before the beginning of the Shavuoth festival, was not sent out to our subscribers until after the conclusion of the festival in Israel.)The holiday of Shavuot is intrinsically tied to the birth of the Jewish people as a nation, the nation of the Torah, at the Sinai revelation. There, at the foot of Mount Sinai, the Jewish people received the assignment to a "kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex. 19:6).
There is an ancient custom to stay awake the entire night of Shavuot, studying the Torah. After such a night of intense spiritual preparation, the morning service becomes like a reenactment of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Each individual in the community hears the portion of the Ten Commandments read from the Torah, and the vivid description of Israel's encounter with G-d at the Sinai Revelation, and – hopefully – internalizes the moment and enters into the covenant with renewed strength and commitment.
This custom of wakefulness on this night is also a tikkun, a rectification designed to fix a previous mistake. For our sages teach that when Israel camped at Mount Sinai, ready to receive the Torah, they somehow, incredibly, overslept the most important moment of their lives…and had to be wakened on Shavuot morning by the Holy One Himself. By staying up and studying Torah with enthusiasm, we clearly state that this time around, we want to be ready.
This Midrashic teaching may seem a bit whimsical, but it imparts a deep message. Sometimes one can be so close to fulfillment, as close as can be – even at the very foot of Mount Sinai – and yet loose the chance: waste it, squander the moment. In order to really be ready for G-d, you've got to make that extra effort.
Shavuot is also the outstanding holiday of Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel…the holiday of bringing the first fruits up to the Holy Temple. The first fruit offering in the Holy Temple is the ultimate expression of joy, the unique joy of the Land. This we find reflected in the recitation of the pilgrim in the Temple, after he has handed his basket of first fruits to the priest, and the latter has set it down before the altar: "And you shall rejoice in every good thing which the L-rd your G-d has given you…" (Deut. 26:11).
At the present moment, some find it somewhat of a challenge for us to joyously celebrate the blessings of the Land of Israel, while the Land of Israel is being denied her children. Last week, Israel's High Court of Justice rejected petitions that challenged the legality of the Sharon government's disengagement plan. The Court, long notorious for its secular stance that seemingly denigrates Jewish tradition and values, established that although the plans to expel the Jewish citizens of Gush Katif and Northern Samaria does in fact violate their human rights, it's all OK… since it is in the interest of peace and the State of Israel's security. With the exception of a minority opinion of one, the justices ruled that the Biblical areas of Judea, Samaria and Gaza are not part of the State of Israel.
Thus in one fell swoop, this leftist-dominated, rabidly anti-traditional court set back Israel's cause by decades. Every advancement that Israel was able to make in the world area vis-à-vis its claim to the country's Biblical heartland could now be in jeopardy because these men, who supposedly represent "justice" and "truth," issue proclamations that undermine Israel's most basic Biblical values; proclamations that merely echo and serve their own political agendas. "And moreover I saw under the sun in the place of judgment, that wickedness was there, and in the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there" (Ecc. 2:17).
But there is a Sanhedrin in Israel, slowly gaining momentum and acceptance, and presenting an alternative to the people of Israel in the spirit of the true righteousness of King David. Regarding this infamous, despicable decision rendered by the High Court, the newly-established Sanhedrin issued a statement including these words:
"This decision by the High Court of Justice regarding petitions brought against the disengagement, and the Evacuation-Compensation Law, according to which: "Judea and Samaria are not a part of the Jewish State," is in opposition to the laws of the State, the decisions of previous governments, and past decisions of the Knesset, and every precedent that has been established until this year. The High Court of Justice attacks the Torah of Israel, the people of Israel and the Land of Israel in a deliberate and calculated manner, by undermining proper conversion, by encouraging assimilation, by undermining Shabbat, the status of the individual, Kashruth, human rights of Jews…the present decision of the High Court separates the State from the Jewish people and its national purpose…the decision also re-emphasizes that the High Court, and the entire judicial system that stems from it, are not part of the judicial system of the Jewish people."
"…The Sanhedrin alone is the head of the judicial system for the Jewish people. The Sanhedrin calls upon all those who uphold the Torah, rabbis and Torah scholars, to receive semicha (authentic ordination) from the members of the Sanhedrin – according to the Sanhedrin's charter, and join the Sanhedrin; to take their proper place, and to establish "minor Sanhedriot" – rabbinical courts of 23 members – in all of Israel's cities, and of course, in Judea, Samaria, the Gaza strip and the Golan."
Let us recall that Shavuot, Festival of the giving of the Torah, festival of the Land of Israel, is also the birthday (as well as the anniversary of the death) of King David, the righteous leader of Israel and the herald of Messianic potential and redemption. May we merit to prepare ourselves properly for the greatest event of our lives, which takes place not only on Shavuot, but every day: renewing our covenant with the Al-mighty, and taking responsibility for our own actions, living for Divine purpose, bringing the light of the Torah into our own lives, into the Land of Israel, and into the whole world.
With Blessings from Jerusalem,
Rabbi Chaim Richman
THE TEMPLE INSTITUTE
PO Box 31876
Jerusalem, Israel 97500