Hearing the Voice of HaShem

| |

The season of receiving the Torah is upon us. Now, time for cheesecake.

Joking. For many, though, it’s the milchiks holiday and not much else. But we have a unique opportunity before us.

As I’ve addressed previously, in the name of Rav Berkovitz, there’s an energy to each Chodesh and Yontif. The essence that was established doesn’t simply replicate itself, but it is actually part of the shoresh. The root forces behind this day are accessible on this day every year. That’s why Rosh Hashanah is about Malchus, Yom Kippur about teshuvah, Chanukah about inner light, Pesach about redemption and freedom, and Shavuos about kabbalos HaTorah and deveikus to HaShem.

I’ve been reading a lot about Shavuos these past few days, as well as attending shiurim. Normatively, there always seems to be a “theme,” per se. It’s unique since my sources are often varied and the seforim I read on it aren’t always recently published. So it’s totally a HaShem thing to give a clear theme.

Let’s peruse some of the highlights:

  • Rebbe Benzion Twerski, shlit”a, discussed mesiras nefesh in our time and the mistranslation it’s often known as. It’s really meant to be small incremental changes toward ruchniyus and always being an eved HaShem by always being at war with the yetzer hara. Never a dull moment, never a day off. 
  • Rebbe Michel Twerski, shlit”a, discussed feeling close to HaShem and that we need to turn off the logic component, the “science,” that the yetzer hara uses to drag us down. Stop being dictated by the past and regret and start reminding yourself that you are a child of Ribono Shel Olam and that He wants relationship with you.
  • Bilvavi brings the purpose of Shavuos from the source. On the first Shavuos, klal yisroel were redeemed from Adam HaRishon’s cheit and they were supposed to hear HaShem’s voice directly. However, they failed this test because they were afraid to die, feeling their neshamos cling to HaShem and leave their physical casings. 

All of this goes together.

We were all at Har Sinai. We all failed to hear HaShem’s voice directly. That’s why Bilvavi asserts that our avodah on this day is to make a tikkun for this and be willing to die to hear HaShem’s voice. To desire a relationship so close to him, deveikus shleymas, that we want nothing more than to hear His voice. For Bilvavi, this is mesiras nefesh. For many, it takes work to get to this point, but I believe this is the point we ought to get to.

We need to be “all-in” when it comes to serving HaShem. That’s our sole purpose in life – to be a servant of HaShem. To have a relationship with Ribono Shel Olam. To be davuk to the Eibishter. And we can’t do it halfway.

So it’s time to clear the air on some things.

I’ve seen and heard a lot in the Yiddishe welt as of late that we need to make a course-correction on.

A true relationship with G-d requires us to give it our all. Sometimes the changes are incremental and sometimes they are massive. But we have to constantly toil at this. It’s our mesiras nefesh. It’s our avodah. Every day.

A benefit of contemporary society is that it’s very easy to identify where we have to grow: just look to the tzaddikim, the Gedolim, for inspiration on where to grow. Not just on obtaining personal aitza from a Ruv or Rebbe, but also on how we need to (re)model our lives.

I’ve never come across a Gadol that…

  • identifies as Modern Orthodox.
  • watches TV (even if it’s just sports).
  • listens to secular music.
  • permits questionable heterim in the name of kiruv.
  • places bitachon in science over HaShem.
  • waters down the strength of Torah.
  • tries to blend into goyish culture (short/no beard, dressing in shorts and micro-kippot, etc.).
  • tries to avoid a mitzvah or bentching because “it’s too much,” too hard, or inconvenient.
  • would l’chatchila keep cholov akum or pas palter.
  • would turn down hachnasses orchim.

Just sayin’.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not trying to “hate on” anyone. But I think it’s high time we do a real evaluation on the heterim we’ve created for ourselves and make sure that it’s legit. We aren’t in a position to judge others negatively, which includes ourselves. But we are in a position, with ourselves, to work on doing better and being better than before. What was okay yesterday might need to be not okay today, and unacceptable tomorrow. My list is simply an example of how we all have areas we can work on that we may be blind to.

We all have room to grow, and this is a season to grow and take on something. We need to be scrupulous in our observance of mitzvos and stop believing in the cultural lie that we can be mediocre (or “parve,” or “modern orthodox”). We need to invest so much into our relationship with HaShem that we look forward to dying when we hear His voice. Because Har Sinai is coming again with Moshiach, and if we aren’t willing to now, we won’t be willing to then either.

Will you grow with me? I’ve got a lot to work on, but it’s one step at a time, one day at a time. As long as we don’t take a day off from growth and fight the yetzer hara every day, then we’re an eved Elokim. And that’s what we’re created to be. Anything else than that is missing the point and wasting one’s life away.

This Shavuos, take the time to talk to G-d, and give Him the relationship to talk to you and change you and your life for the better.