Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Some Folks Trust To Reason, Others Trust To Might ( Robert Hunter & Bob Weir & Mickey Hart- "Playing in the Band")

Now that it actually feels like spring, and our children realized that they have little more than six weeks of school remaining, they can see the finish line. With the end of school, our children know that summer camp is imminent. This year, they are all going to a new sleep away camp in Pennsylvania. For our 12 year old daughter, the idea of “sleep away camp” is something to which she looks forward. She has been to sleep away camp before and loved it. However the “new” or “different” sleep away camp has been an enormous source of anxiety.  “I don’t know anyone who goes there”, “none of my friends go there”, “what if I don’t make any friends” are just a few of her expressions of anxiety.  Sure we listen, validate her feelings, and point out the numerous examples in her life when she went somewhere new and didn’t know anyone: our move to San Diego and a new school, our move to Toronto and a new school,  and playing on the basketball team without knowing the older girls. She nods her head, digests our words, she even says that she understands, but when I look in her eyes, I know that deep down she thinks that this time is different. This time she won’t make friends.This time she won’t have a positive experience. Finally I look at her and remind her that all these previous experiences should have taught her to have faith: faith in herself because she can handle this, faith in her parents because we would never put her in a situation that we felt she could not handle, and some faith in Hashem that this will all work out for the best (whatever that may be!)
This week, we again read a double portion, Parsha Behar and Parsha Bechukotai. These are the last two Parshiot of Sefer Vayikrah (Book of Leviticus). Throughout the entire book, we have read how to elevate our lives with holiness. We elevate our lives by thanking God and atoning to God, through a variety of Korbonot. We elevate our lives by avoiding behavior that defiles us; we don’t marry our sisters. We elevate our lives in everyday physical behaviors; we only eat certain types of food. We elevate our lives by consciously setting aside holy times throughout the day, week, and season. In Parsha Behar we elevate our lives and our land with holiness by setting aside another type of sacred time, Shmita (the seventh year.) Just like the seventh day (Shabbat) is a day of rest. Shmita is a year of rest. Every seventh year, all outstanding debts are cancelled. The land lies fallow. Slaves and servants are set free. Agriculturally speaking, there is a benefit. Resting the soil for a year allows for replenishment of nutrients. Rabbinically speaking, less time devoted to agricultural concerns meant more time devoted to Torah study! Parsha Bechukotai, being the end of Leviticus, tells us the ramifications for behavior. “If you’ll keep the commandments… then I’ll send the rains in their time, the earth and trees will give forth their produce, you’ll settle securely in the land…I will multiply you…I will walk with you” (Lev. 25:3-10). If we don’t live up to these standards, if we neglect adding Kedushah (holiness) to our lives, if we “don’t perform these commandments, if we consider these decrees loathsome, if we reject these ordinances, if we annul the covenant, then I will do the same to you…. (Lev. 26:14-17) God will annul us. All blessing will become curses.
            While the Torah does not paint a very pleasant picture, both parshiot reflect the vital importance of Bitachon, trust in God. In Behar, we may consider this notion of Shmita to be quite nice. All debts are cancelled. On the other hand, if the land is to lie fallow, what would people eat? We are urged to trust God. “I will command my blessing upon the sixth year and it will bring forth (enough) produce for three years (Lev. 25:20-21).  The Chatam Sofer, (Rabbi Moshe Shreiber from Frankfort on the Main, Germany 1762-1839) explained the importance of reminding us that the Mitzvah of Shmita originated from Sinai just like the Mitzvah of gathering the Manna while Bnai Yisroel wandered and traveled to Eretz Yisroel.  God provided a double portion of Manna on Friday thereby guaranteeing enough food for Shabbat during their time of wandering; so too God will “guarantee” enough produce in the sixth year when they are living in the land. B’nai Yisroel won’t starve in the seventh (Shmita) year nor will they starve in the first year of the next cycle while they are waiting for that year’s harvest.
            So what does the Torah teach us? We learn that every rung climbed towards Kedusha, confirms our trust in God. We trust that God is Holy, otherwise we would have no need to be holy. We trust that everything pure and good is attributable to God. Otherwise, we would constantly defile ourselves. We trust that we are created in God’s image. Otherwise, there is no reason to treat people with kindness first. Trust in God, in a sense, is a spiritually individualized Mishkan. The Mishkan was built so that God would dwell among us. Similarly, if our purpose is to attain higher and higher levels of Kedusha, we trust that the end result is God’s dwelling within us. Leviticus teaches us that God is involved in our daily routine. Our struggle for Kedusha is our way of reminding ourselves of this fact. Failure to remind ourselves means we fall away from God and our faith diminishes.  Hopefully, everything will work out for our daughter this summer and she will realize that faith in herself, her parents and Hashem will go a long way in mitigating her anxieties about “new” situations.

Rav Yitz

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