Wednesday, June 12, 2019
(Sivan 9, 5779) – fourth day of the week
After the Sinai Experience – 2
On my way to services, this past Shabbos, a pick-up truck drove by with a large yellow flag propped up in the back; depicted on the flag was a giant smiley face. Usually, while walking to services, I like to focus on my kavannah (intention), a sort of preparation of the soul, before entering the synagogue to pray. Yet, I had to laugh at this unavoidable sight, despite my intent to remain seriously focused on safeguarding myself from distractions on my way to prayer. Moreover, I realized that even this brief occurrence, despite my initial reluctance, could be categorized as one of those mercies of G-d that are renewed every morning. A sort of tiny blessing bestowed for the distinct purpose of lightening up my mood. I truly believe that even something that could seem so trivial is actually not a coincidence. Rather, when we open our eyes towards the immediacy of life, we may find many small blessings throughout the day.
The next day, on my way to services for the first day of Shavuot, I took the same route, and was granted safe passage without any interruptions. Maintaining my sense of kavannah, during services is actually challenging, sometimes more so than others. Yet, the greater the effort, the more benefit from my participation in prayer, within the silence of my heart. While others are singing loudly, I prefer to review the personal meaning of the words, quietly, in my mind. During the Amidah – standing prayer – when everyone silently prays on an individual basis, there is even more opportunity for reflection. After services, I can always be found reading psalms, while everyone else is engaged in conversation, before we sit down for a festive meal. During the meal, I am usually preoccupied, reviewing what I might say, if I have an opportunity to speak a little bit about the weekly Torah reading.
On the second day of Shavuot, I studied Torah at a table after lunch. One other congregant remained after everyone else left; so, at some point we decided to study together. In discussing the receiving of the commandments at Sinai, it was brought up that contrary to the main emphasis on B’nei Yisrael’s acceptance of the commandments (na’aseh v’nishmah – we will do and we will understand), less than forty days later, when it seemed that Moses was delayed, while conversing with H’Shem on Mount Sinai, the people, thinking that he would not return, built a golden calf to replace him as a leader. A short-lived commitment to the commandments, denoting a direct violation of the second commandment, not to commit idolatry. Yet, we choose to encapsulate Sinai within the framework of it’s positive message, excluding the reality of the event that followed, the tragic resort to idolatry, which resulted in Moses taking it upon himself to shatter the two tablets with the writing of the ten commandments, before the very eyes of the people. The take home message, inclusive of this event, would proffer the need to recognize that following the commandments may be easier said than done. Therefore, perhaps, it is better to be realistic, rather than overly idealistic, in regard to Matan Torah – the giving of the Torah. Accepting the commandments at Sinai, carries with it the burden of responsibility to actually follow the commandments. May our commitment stand strong in the face of any adverse conditions that we may personally encounter in this life “on our way to Sinai.”