May, 2011 Archives

29
May

Beeps, pwets and pons

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Portion of the Week

I quickly fell asleep on the first morning of Shavuot. I was exhausted and exhilarated. I only wanted a few hours of sleep, but a constant and rhythmic “eep,” wouldn’t let me sleep. I first hazily thought it was an insect playing its nightly mating song, the same song I usually hear when going to sleep. I was going to sleep in the morning, so it had to be a bird, but no, it wasn’t that either. It was more of an electronic sound. The constant “eep” was driving me crazy. It wasn’t the smoke alarm signaling a low battery. It was my cell phone. I piled some pillows and blankets over it, but it seemed to increase in volume. The pillows toppled over and knocked the phone (land line) of the hook and soon the horrible ‘eep’ was in stereo. I feel asleep counting ‘eeps’ not sheep. It’s the sound of the microwave when the food is cooked. It’s the note struck by the bar code scanner as it empties your bank account. My fax machine, computer, and, even my car, all speak ‘eep.’ It’s the TSA wand reacting to all the metal in my back. Even my blood pressure seems to be measured by ‘eep!’

The short sound is so ubiquitous that I searched for the Rosseta Stone program for “eep.” They insisted that although their DVDs ‘eep,’ they do not have a special program for ‘eep.’ “We assure you, sir, that there is no language called, ‘eep!’ Are you sure you do not mean ‘Beep?’’” Fools!

I did find a book by Michele Slung, “Hear! Here! and learned that the Chinese don’t say ‘eep,’ or ‘beep,’ but ‘doo.’ It’s ‘boo’ in Japanese, ‘pon’ in Hindi, ‘moc’ in Spanish, ‘dute’ in Danish, and, ‘pwet,’ in French. This is one time I will favor the French: I am now searching for a way to program all the electronics in the house to ‘pwet’ rather than beep.

How can a sound so familiar be so effective at catching my attention and disturbing my sleep? Dissonance. I hear it because the sound is unexpected. That is a terrible shame. I have worked so hard to block out unnecessary noises that I often do not hear what I should.

I spend a good part of my day listening to questions. I wonder if I am missing their beeps, ‘pwets’, and ‘dutes.’ The most important part of a question is usually not in the words, but in the subtle beeps that ‘doo’ just under the surface. A sigh ignored may be an important ‘pon.’ A second’s hesitation can often serve as a warning ‘boo.’

There I was learning a lesson about listening to beeps after spending an entire night of intense Torah learning. Why?

Moshe would listen in to God speaking to Himself. You may think it was a soft sound, but no, it was the same powerful voice used at Sinai. (Rashi, Numbers 7:89) The first part of Rashi seems to describe a whisper, “God speaking to Himself.” Then Rashi says it was the same powerful voice God used at Sinai.

Perhaps it was a beep, a whisper. Once Moshe paid as much attention to the whispers and beeps as he did to The Voice, it was no longer a whisper. The volume increased according to the attention paid by the listener.

Yes, I, thank God, had a night of intense Torah study. The ‘eeps’ taught me that in order to maintain that intensity, I will have to practice listening to the whispers of Torah; its subtle messages. Only when I learn to listen for the beeps, will I hear the Voice of Torah.

beep. pwet. pon. moc.

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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29
May

The Forbidden Slippers

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

The architect Adolf Loos, wrote a story in 1900 entitled, “The Story of A Poor Rich Man.” In it, a wealthy man calls on a famous architect, telling him, “Bring art into my home, regardless of the expense.”

The architect hastens to renovate the apartment of his client. The colors of each room are carefully calculated. Each object has a rigorously determined place. The doorbells chime in tune to musical themes from Wagner and Beethoven. The client is initially thrilled: whether turning a knob, reclining in an armchair, or treading on a rug, he is living in Art.

One day, the architect visits the master of the house and chides him for wearing inappropriate slippers. The host reminds his visitor that the embroidered slippers were custom-made according to the architect’s own design.

“I know that!” thunders the architect. “But they are for the bedroom!”

The client soon commits new blunders by accepting gifts. “You no longer need anything,” the architect sternly tells the poor rich man. “You are complete!”

The poor rich man was reduced to being a spectator of his own clotted and shriveled life.

This week’s portion, Nasso, describes a similar “Poor Rich Man,” the Nazir. At first glance, his vow to become a Nazirite seems holy. He is consumed with a desire to live in sanctity. However, he must bring a sin offering when his vow ends. He chose to wear only the perfect slippers in their proper place. He, too, desired to be complete, and to focus only on the perfection of his world.

This world is our home, and it is filled with the most magnificent art. The Art in our home is not limited to externals; the real Art is in the living and how we use the Art all around us. The complete person lives the Art of Life, he does not live in Art. The complete person honors the Architect of life by vibrantly living in every room, every aspect of life. He finds his completeness in making choices, in sometimes wearing the wrong slippers of clashing colors.

A “Shaleim,” or complete person, is never a spectator, but the most important aspect in each area of his life. It is he, who chooses the colors, design and style. The Nazir chose to be a spectator. It is for that reason that he must bring a sin offering.

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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25
May

Words of Life

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays

I was disturbed by the fantastical words of a guest at a recent business meeting held over a restaurant meal. Our guest began by ordering chicken a′ la king. What had a king to do with that speckled dish upon our table? Did he think of himself as royalty? As for the merry lilting: “a′ la,” what on earth could that be? He then mentioned that he had gone to the theater and sat in a “box” with his wife. What kind of man buys expensive tickets to a show and then chooses to sit in a box? He then ordered Lady Fingers as dessert. Do I really want to do business with a man who eats the fingers of ladies? I wanted to disappear. “Disappear” you say; he may not have been the only one with fantasies!

It soon became clear that I too used strange expressions: As he continued to speak of his remarkable achievements my eyes became saucers. Saucers? Yes, saucers, not the flying kind from outer space, but similar to the ones holding our coffee cups. Then, as we were preparing to sign a contract my heart began to hammer. Yes, hammer! I guess that Wallace Stevens was right when he said, “The words of the world are the life of the world.” We use words to connect our life experiences, one to the other.

“S’u et rosh,” (Numbers 1:2) translated as “Take a census,” is literally translated as “lift up the head,” which in turn, can be read as a positive, as in to be uplifted, or as “Off with his head,” as happened to Pharaoh’s baker. I can picture some of the people reacting to the PA announcement that, “Everyone please gather at the Tent of Meeting, where Moses and Aaron will lift up your head!” Some people understood it as it was meant, an opportunity to be uplifted.” But, surely there were people there as confused as I was at that dinner, who wondered, “What did I do wrong? Why am I to be executed?”

Perhaps the double entendre was intentional: Moses and Aaron could begin their process of Pekida, individual development, by evaluating how each person understood the announcement. Those who heard “uplifted” were ready for growth, excited for the future. The one’s who heard, “Off with his head,” would demand extra work and attention.

We are days away from reliving the Revelation at Sinai. There too, the people were tested by how they heard. Those who pulled back, intimidated by God’s voice, were unable to meet the challenge offered by Sinai.

This was the first test of their promise, “V’nishma,” and we will hear: How do you hear? The same test we face each time we open the Torah and listen to her holy words.

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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25
May

The Catastrophic Jew

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week, Reflections & Observations

I am still shaken by the Rebuke in last week’s portion. (Leviticus, Chapter 26) What does it take for us to face our Jewishness?

In 1940 Simone Weil wrote to the French Minister of Education about the Vichy government’s legislation prohibiting the employment of Jews in government schools:

“I don’t know the definition of the word Jew, this subject has never been part of my program of studies. Does this word designate a religion? I have never entered a synagogue and I have never witnessed a Jewish religious ceremony. Does this word designate a race? I have no reason to suppose that I have any part of tie, either through my father or my mother, with the people who lived in Palestine two thousand years ago. Having pretty much learned to read through French writers of the seventeenth century, such as Racine, and Pascal, if there is a religious tradition that I consider as my patrimony, it is the Catholic tradition. The Christian, French, Hellenistic tradition is mine; the Hebrew tradition is foreign to me. If nonetheless the law demands that I regard the term “Jew,” whose meaning I do not know, as an epithet applicable to my person, I am disposed to submit to it as to any other law.”

What is most disturbing about this darkly ironic passage is that it does not protest a racist decree that will deprive hundreds of thousands of Weil’s people of employment; it solely vents her anger at being defined as a Jew. The French scholar and Auschwitz survivor, Jean Amery, refers to Weil’s Judaism as “Catastrophe Judaism,” people who will only identify themselves as Jews in the face of evil on the magnitude of Naziism.

Why do so many of us hide from our Jewishness until forced by such horrifying evil? Why are so many embarrassed by Israel’s struggle for survival in a hostile world? Why are so many blind to Israel’s incredible commitment to morality even in the face of war?

We can find a hint of Weil’s struggle in a letter she wrote to a Free French official from New York:

“I beseech you to obtain for me the measure of hardship and danger that alone can save me from being wasted by grief. The suffering all over the world obsesses me and overwhelms me to the point of annihilating me, and the only way I can …release myself from this obsession is to take on a large share of danger and hardship myself.”

Even de Gaulle is said to have responded with the phrase, “Mais elle est folle!” (“But she is mad!”)

We have too have been “wasted by grief.” Many cannot bear to think of our suffering over the ages. People are convinced that our suffering must sensitize us to all suffering, even that of people who have sworn to annihilate us. We castigate ourselves for our imperfections, and we are as unforgiving of our mistakes as we are forgiving of our enemies’ intentions.

And yet, even as we were so fresh from the horrors of war and slavery in Egypt, even as we were building our community in the desert, we prepared ourselves for war. We camped as soldiers. We were constantly reminded that we were once strangers in Egypt. We were urged to be compassionate and caring, but always ready to stand up for ourselves and fight.

“There is no country in the history of warfare that has shown more compassion and care for their enemies even in the heat of battle than the State of Israel,” testified a British Major before the UN. No one in the audience cared or even paid attention. His comments were ignored by the media and politicians.

Some of us heard and are determined to do all we can to protect us from becoming, God Forbid, Catastrophe Jews.

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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24
May

What’s Inside?

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

In Honor of Rabbi Moshe Stepansky and his comment to “The Futurist“: The Tanchumah (Bamidbar 2) teaches: This can be compared to a ruler who entered a province, and when its citizens saw him they fled. He entered a second province and the citizens ran away. He then went into a remote town, and when the citizens saw him, they began praising him. The ruler said, “This is the best city in the province. I will build my house here and I will live here too.” So too, when the Holy One, Blessed is He, came to the sea, it ran away from Him, as it is stated, “The sea saw and fled.” (Psalms 114:3) He appeared on Mount Sinai and they fled, as it is stated, “The mountains skipped like rams.” (Verse 4) He came to a remote wilderness, they, Yisrael, received Him and praised Him, as it is stated, “The wilderness and its cities will raise their voices in song.” (Isaiah 42:11) The Holy One, Blessed is He, descended into it, as it is stated, “The wilderness and the wasteland will rejoice over them, the wilderness will be glad and blossom like a lily.” (Isaiah 35:1)

This is an astounding Midrash, however we will attempt to explain it: Behold, all the miracles that God performed were in order that all should recognize and know that He is the Creator of all, and guides all that exists in both the upper and lower worlds, to do with them according to His Will. God implanted this belief in their hearts, and this, was the purpose of all the miracles.

This awareness was not temporary, for, although it did not actively function in them after time, it exists in their hearts as a “Zechair,” a living memory, as the verse says, “He made a memorial for His wonders.” (Psalms 11:4)

However, the Torah that God gave us, can be used to conceive His Divinity and Unity, and how He exercises Providence over all that exists.

This is the explanation of the verse, “The Tablets were God’s handiwork, and the writing was the writing of God.” (Exodus 32:16) God is “written into the Torah,” so to speak, and a person is able to conceive God’s actions through toil in Torah.

This is the meaning of the Midrash when it says that the sea fled, or “Barach,” which can also mean to expand into the future. The effect of the miracle expanded far into the future. The desert in the Midrash, refers to Torah (See the Zohar) The Holy One, Blessed is He, said, “Here I will build My home,” meaning that God lives within the Torah, and through Torah a person can find Him and His actions.

This is at any time and any moment. All the miracles live in the Torah, and a person can conceive the workings of all the miracles by studying Torah as if he actually experienced the miracles. This is why the Torah is described by the Midrash as the Home of God. “G-d’s essence hovers in the Torah and it is within the Torah that Man can try to understand how G-d operates. And that is what is meant as ‘G-d’s dwelling place’.” (Kol Simcha, Bamidbar)

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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24
May

Where Everything is Moral

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

What a strange place to build a community! The theme of the fourth book of the Torah is found in its name, Bamidbar, “In The Desert.” Why the desert? Why is the desert so fundamental to all the stories and laws that develop through this book? Were they really considered to be in the desert? Was their environment not perfectly safe, with clouds of protection, Manna, and fresh water gushing from Miriam’s well? That sure does not sound like a desert experience to me! I picture the desert almost as a different planet, empty and yet teeming with life forms, many of which are dangerous. I think of snakes and scorpions. I imagine thirst and heat. I picture lions and vultures. I think of the desert and I think of death. Yet, it was specifically in the desert that the Children of Israel began a new stage in the development of their life as a nation. Why?

There are some environments so separated from the rest of the world that they seem to exist in a different dimension:

“Fabro told me, ‘I don’t know exactly what has happened. I am the same person, yet I am no longer the same. Under the sea everything is-” he paused to be sure of what he wanted to say. “Under the sea everything is moral.”’ (Jacques-Yves Cousteau – The Living Sea 1963)

How interesting that in an environment so hostile to a human being, so filled with violence of creatures, many monstrous, devouring each other, swimming in this explosion of life, color and creativity, that Fabro would see a world where everything is moral! Things were as they were supposed to be. Even the violence is part of the sea’s natural state. Everything is exactly as it should be. That is the morality that Fabro sensed, and that was the morality that changed him.

The Sinai desert was for us what the sea was for Fabro and Cousteau; it was a place where we would see the nature of life as moral. Yes, there was danger. There was violence, but it is a place where all is exactly as it should be. It was the place where we learned the morality of nature, and learned that it is we, human beings, who disturb the basic morality of the world. We had to build our first community with the awareness of the way we can disturb the basic morality of God’s creation, and to commit ourselves to constructing that community to mirror the morality of the desert.

Why not the sea?

To be continued…

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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24
May

The Trough in Central Park by Prof Gerald August

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Reflections & Observations

As you enter Central Park from Sixth Avenue, there is a water trough made of stone. It is three feet long by one foot wide by 14 inches high, and has a pipe that supplies water for the horses that pull the carriages. The trough was donated by Mrs. Henry C. Russell

The other day I was sitting on a bench about 20 feet from the trough. Over the course of an hour, at least 10 horses stopped to get a drink. I multiplied the total daily drinks by 365, a yearly total of 21,600. Think about it. Over 21,000 acts of kindness from one gift.

But here is the punchline. This trough was donated in… 1908. Over the last 102 years, Mrs. Russell’s gift resulted in two million, three hundred three thousand acts of kindness.

Even one kind act makes the world a better place. Mrs. Russell teaches us to also think about the bigger picture. What can we do with small funds to make an ongoing and ultimately huge impact? Look around you. What are you using on a continuing basis that someone provided for you? Is it the 100 year old seder plate your grandmother bought when she was a young bride? Is it the shawl your mother knitted that your wife now uses when she is cold ? Is it the water fountain in the community center you attend?

We can do numerous acts of kindness long after the initial act.

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23
May

Instinct

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays

Our dog, Pip, is a sheep dog, and he has a natural herding instinct. Whether he is playing with dogs, children, or sheep, he instinctively begins to run round and round to gather them into a group. Pip was born on a sheep farm, and occasionally visits his breeder, sees her sheep and immediately gets to work.

There was a “Pointer” playing with Pip. He never went hunting in his life, but, even while running and playing, if he sees a squirrel, he runs close, lifts his tail straight up in the air, and raises one paw to point to the animal. It’s his instinct. When a Retriever sees the Pointer pointing, he runs to the Pointer, and waits for one of the silly humans to kill the animal pointed to by the Pointer so that he can retrieve it.

Instinct is powerful. We chuckle over a dog’s powerful instincts, but we often forget to observe our own. I constantly notice the remarkable difference between a mother’s and a father’s instinctual responses to a child falling or crying. We all have powerful instincts but we do not always pay attention.

“He took the Book of the Covenant and read it in earshot of the people, and they said, “Everything that God has spoken, we will do and we will hear!” (Exodus 24:7) Moshe read the stories of Bereishit to the people, and they finally understood that God did not want them to say, “We will do,” but “We will do and we will relate!”

God wanted the people to understand that their response to Sinai was instinctive; it was part of their essence ever since the time of the Patriarchs. God wanted Israel to appreciate that Torah speaks to our deep seeded instincts, it nurtures them, it heightens them, it empowers them to the point that whatever we “do,” can instinctively be transformed into, “We will relate.”

They stood at Sinai to acknowledge their natural instincts, just as we do each Shavuot.

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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23
May

Strangers in The World

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week, Reflections & Observations, Relationships, Spiritual Growth

As long as they were slaves, the Children of Israel could complain, “I, a stranger and afraid in a world I never made,” to quote Housman, a common complaint of children, and a frequent lament of many who feel displaced in the community. Perhaps as they approached Sinai, no matter how protected and supported by God, they continued to feel powerless in building their own world. When they would eventually enter the Land of Israel they would have to first conquer a world not their own, and then plant fields and build a land in which many of the factors were imposed, not their own. It is almost impossible to imagine being able to feel that all of my reality is my own. Except…

for the Children of Israel in the desert; Bamidbar. God provided a perfect physical environment and challenged them with the opportunity to create their own community free of any determining factors save their own desires and goals.

Each person stood before Moses and Aaron who would point out to him the purpose of his existence, his strengths, challenges, and potential. Each was empowered with a powerful sense of self as he became part of a community.

Lest we wonder whether such strong individuals could form a cohesive community, as we learn of Rabbi Akiva’s students who died because of their inability to connect to each other as the great people they were, each was assigned his place and specific role in the community; the famous flags in this week’s portion. This was a perfect opportunity for them to develop a reality all their own. They were free of the Egyptians, danger, and economic fluctuations. They were strong and independent. They were focused on a common goal. Their world would be just that, their world.

Imagine being able to educate our children with such a powerful sense of purpose and individuality! Imagine nurturing our children, not as “part of a community,” but as having an essential and unique role in the community! Society would not impose itself on the child, but rather, allow the child to use the world to help him find his own special place.

“Well and good,” you say, “but we don’t live in a desert or in a perfect environment free of the world around us!” How much independence can we nurture when we expend the majority of our effort on protecting what we already have from the world in which our community is, “a world I never made?” Can we really afford to focus on independence and self-expression when our community is under constant assault by a world whose values are so antithetical to our own?

The Jewish community was devastated by the Holocaust, and our great leaders decided that we had to focus our efforts on rebuilding communities. We witness the wisdom and success of their approach. We have thousands of schools, Yeshivot, communities, and institutions that protect and guide us. Is there really any place for the lesson of the desert encampment and its flags in our world and times?

The process in the desert did not begin with the community, but with Moses, Aaron, and the Princes of the Tribes. The Desert Flags are an instruction to our leaders, not the community or the people at large. The Flags demand that the communal leaders “Pakod,” or “appoint/assign” each individual: Each student, each child, must be taught how to become himself with a sense of unique purpose in order to become part of the community. The leaders may not count the numbers, as in, “We have more people studying in Yeshiva than ever before,” if they did not begin each child’s instruction with a sense of Pekida.

We will still have to battle to protect our community. We will remain “strangers in the world,” but we will not remain strangers to ourselves, “afraid in a world I never made.”

(See Chesed in Malchut)

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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23
May

Repentance & Conversion

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays

They arrived at Sinai in a state of repentance. (Rashi, Exodus 19:2) The Sages teach us that the Children of Israel went through a conversion process at Sinai: Acceptance of Mitzvot, Purification, etc. This mass of newly freed slaves had to repent for their constant testing of God, and they had to convert into a “Kingdom of Priests and a holy nation.” Why both? Why did they need to do Teshuva before converting?

A convert brings a sin-offering for not having converted earlier! (Yevamot 47b) A convert is responding to a deep spiritual need, one that is deep in his or her soul and heart, a drive that is almost instinctual. (Instincts) An important step in the conversion process is the realization that his conversion is a “natural” step for him. It is not, and cannot be an external. The conversion must be an expression of a powerful self-realization.

The people could not convert at Sinai, in fact, they could not receive the promise of becoming a, “Kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” until they understood that their process had to begin internally. They first had to realize that their failings mattered to God. The Children of Israel, now that they had learned that God loved them and cared for them, sensed something they knew all along deep inside their hearts. They first acknowledged that what they were currently experiencing was part of them, a powerful natural drive. Their Teshuva entailed connecting with themselves as they had always been but did not realize. Only then, were they ready to convert and become “A Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation.”

We have to go through the same process as we prepare for Shavuot: We must first reconnect with our deep inner drive to attach to God. We must pay attention to God’s care and love. Once we connect, we will realize that we damaged God’s world, His expression of love and care, when we did not pay attention to that connection, or to His constant messages of care and concern. Only then, will we be prepared to rise and become a “Kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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