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A CONNECTION TO G-D
One of the amazing things that happened to me in Miami was a conversation I had on the way to the airport with the Uber driver, an African American.
“Are you a Rabbi?” I try to be. I try to help people get closer to their Creator, through words of Torah. “You can call me Rabbi.” “Can I ask you a question?” “Sure.”
“Did G-d give the whole Five Books of Moses to Moses at Mt. Sinai? Or did G-d give just the Ten Commandments? I keep the commandments, because that is what G-d gave the whole world. Not just the Jews. So, I keep that. The rest of the Five Books, was that also given to Moses at Mt. Sinai?”
I replied that it is not clear what extent of detail Moses received at Mt. Sinai and what he accepted in the Tabernacle, in the Tent of Meeting (See Sotah 37b). But, one thing for sure is that the Ten Commandments were not given to the Gentiles. They were given to the Jews, as the beginning words start off saying, I am Hashem your G-d, Who took you out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. Gentiles never went through Egyptian slavery. All the gentiles need to keep, according to Judaism, are the 7 Noachide laws.
“What? How do you say that? You call yourself a Rabbi? You discriminate? Don’t you think that G-d wants the gentiles to live a life of morality with an ethical code?” I never had someone so angry with me in my entire life! He would have thrown me out of the car, if he could have. But, I tried to gently explain that we have 613 laws that we connect to G-d with, and he has only the 7 Noachide laws that he can connect with. He would not accept that. I tried to explain that we are to be G-d’s Knights, bringing G-dliness to the world, to be a light unto the nations. Nothing doing. He would not accept that G-d would let the gentiles alone without ever speaking to them, never telling them how to behave, bar the 7 Noachide laws.
This was right before Purim, when I was thinking of the words of the Vilna Gaon, explaining the words of the Megilla. לַיְּהוּדִ֕ים הָֽיְתָ֥ה אוֹרָ֖ה וְשִׂמְחָ֑ה וְשָׂשֹׂ֖ן וִיקָֽר For the Jews, there was light,… The Talmud says that the light that the Jews merited was Torah. )Megillah 16b)The Vilna Gaon explains this to mean that on Purim, the Jews realized that Torah is the light of their lives. This gentile wanted to feel that he had some light in the darkness, some ethical code, in an immoral world. Torah means: a light guiding you, showing you how to live. I never realized how lucky we are to have a connection to G-d, to have direction in life, until I met that Uber Driver in Miami.
Shavuot is not a holiday meant to just celebrate our accepting the Torah, our standing at Mt. Sinai. Shavuot is to celebrate the beginning of a relationship. Every day we accept the Torah, and every day G-d gives it to us, as we say in the blessing, נותן התורה. The One who gives Torah. Not נתן התורה, the One who gave us Torah 3000 years ago. Every day, every word of Torah we learn, G-d is giving us that Torah. Every generation has its leaders, and the leaders of each generation are as great as Moshe and Aharon (Rosh Hashana 25b). For in each generation, G-d is giving the Torah, and it is the duty of each generation to look to their Torah leaders to direct the people, guiding them how to live, according to what G-d is teaching that generation, keeping to the Jewish Code of Law.
What does a person need to do, to feel closeness to G-d, and to see how the Torah is the light of his life? How does a person connect in a way that G-d is talking to him, now, in the present?
First and foremost, in order to connect, Torah needs to be sweet to you. Ever notice the uniqueness of the Birkot Hatorah in Birkot Hashachar? It is the only blessing of a Mitzvah that we pray for it to be sweet, והערב נא . This is because the sweetness of Torah is fundamental for connecting to G-d and knowing what He wants from us. How does Torah become sweet? By taking each word and thinking about it. By chewing it, slowly. No matter how expensive the steak you are eating, if you swallow it all at once, you will not taste its quality. You need to savor each bite.
There is a Midrash that gives us the secret code to connecting, and the prerequisite for savoring the sweetness of Torah. The Torah is compared to water, fire, and desert. הוי כל צמא לכו למים ; כי נר מצווה ותורה אור ; וידבר ה’ אל משה במדבר סיני באוהל מועד (Bamidbar Rabbah 1; 17) Why these three?
Water- Uniqueness of water is that it flows only to a lower place. Torah will go only to one who becomes humble. Only a humble person is not bashful to ask what he does not know. אין הבישן למד.)Avot 2;5) Only a humble person is willing to review again, and again and again, and….And only a humble person will listen when wise people speak.
Why not compare Torah to a sweeter, tastier, drink? Why is Torah not compared to orange juice? Why water? The Chafetz Chaim would explain that this is because there is a uniqueness in water, that it is a drink that we do not make a blessing on unless we are thirsty. Unlike orange juice, you can enjoy water only when you are thirsty (See Sh”A- OH 204;7). Torah is sweet only if you realize how much your survival is dependent on it (See Midrash Shir Hashirim 1;3).
Fire – Uniqueness of fire is that it lights up darkness. If you want Torah to speak to you, you need to look at the world around you as darkness, a world of fantasy, delusion, imaginings. Only Torah is reality. Only Torah can shed light on what is right and what is wrong )See Or Hachaim Behukotay 26;27).
Desert – Uniqueness of desert is that the place you are in is not the destination. And the more possessions that you have with you, the more difficult it is for you to get out of the desert, to move around, to enjoy your journey. The lighter the better. For you to realize what G-d is saying to you, for you to connect to the Torah He is giving you, you need to travel light. Not to look for more than you have, not to let your eyes search the world around you for more material possessions than you already have, but to keep going in the direction of your destination. From the person’s first day in this world, he is walking towards death, toward Olam Haba. Life is a journey. And only when you accept that, can you taste the sweetness of Torah and really connect.
So, here are the Selfie Steps. The self-help steps to Sweetness of Torah.
Water – Humility, Thirst. Fire – Recognizing that the Torah we learn is our flashlight, a beacon of clarity in a confusing world. Desert – Not taking this world seriously. But taking the destination seriously.