Wednesday, May 19, 2010

And Israel Encamped There

"And Israel Encamped There Opposite the Mountain"  
(Exodus 19:2)
Sivan 5, 5770/May 18, 2010
49th day of the Omer

On the sixth day of the third month, (the month of Sivan), in the first year of the exodus from Egypt, an event took place unlike anything that has ever happened since or before. The Holy One, blessed be He, arranged a meeting between Himself and the children of Israel, between heaven and earth. Of course we are referring to the revelation at Mount Sinai where G-d brought His Torah to the Israelite nation. This union between G-d's will and the innate (G-d given) ability of man to perform G-d's will, forever changed the course of humanity.

Midrash teaches us that G-d first offered Torah to each of the nations, and each nation, one after the next, demurred, understandably so, as the extent of the commitment required to keep G-d's commandments is daunting, to say the least. Where did Israel gain its strength and the courage to accept and say, "All that the Lord has spoken we shall do!"? (ibid 19:8) Our sages point out that in the words, "And Israel encamped there opposite the mountain" (ibid 19:2) the Hebrew word for encamped, vayichan, is written in the singular, revealing to us that the nation arrived at Sinai united, as one. One heart, one purpose and one destiny. So united, the immediate positive response to G-d's "initiative" was inevitable, as so united, their ability to successfully take upon themselves the challenge of living life according to Torah.

Another Midrash describes a different and seemingly contradictory insight into Israel's Mount Sinai experience. We are told that when the heavens opened up over Sinai the children of Israel saw the numberless hosts of heavenly angels which populated the firmament descending to the Mount, and each angel was holding a flag. Israel was so taken by this vision that they requested of G-d flags of their own. What did Israel find so compelling about the flags? Wasn't the entire Torah quite enough for them? In fact, our sages also tell us that the angels sought to keep Torah for themselves, but alas, Torah, with all its "hands-on" commandments designed to fit the human condition, was not appropriate to the angels who possess neither substance nor free will. All in all, Israel should have been quite pleased with its new acquisition, and not pining for the flags, but nevertheless, it was the flags they longed for.

Every angel is unique from all the other angels, for every angel is created by G-d for the fulfilling of one single purpose. The "flag" that each one was clutching was their specific G-d given mission, and this is what the Israelites saw, and this is what they so longed to possess for themselves: to know who they were and what was their purpose in life. But if the Israelites drew their strength from their unity, ("And Israel encamped there..." ibid), then what motivated them to suddenly desire to fulfill their own individuality? Can they truly be one people and at the same time be unique personalities?

This is the great gift of Torah. By its strength the nation of Israel is united and only a unified Israel can ultimately attain the full potential of Torah. At the same time it is incumbent upon each and every follower of Torah to pursue his own individuality within Torah and to fulfill the role that G-d has given to him and to him alone. Through Torah we find our unity and strength as a people and through Torah we discover our unique purpose on this earth, our reason for being.

The flag that each one of us possesses, upon which is emblazoned our uniqueness is akin to the brightly colored ribbon each Israelite would tie around his first fruits, designating them to be brought to the Holy Temple for the Bikurim offering on Shavuot. That first fruit, brought to fruition with such diligence and effort is the perfection of our own self, "the better angels of our own nature."

Chag sameach - a joyful Shavuot holiday celebration to all. May we find our true selves as we all stand together at the foot of Mount Sinai and receive Torah anew!

Temple TalkTune in to this week's Temple Talk as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven talk about what it really means for each one of us to truly receive the Torah anew on this special holiday... this means you! Of course, the manner in which Shavuot, the Festival of the Giving of the Torah, is celebrated in the Holy Temple is completely different than what we are all accustomed to. What is the secret that connects the Torah itself to the first fruits of the Land of Israel? The answer is simple: It's the Torah of this world! Ruth the Moabite, King David and Mashiach, the harvest in the Land of Israel and the Sinai Revelation are all perfectly connected.

A Personal Invitation From Rabbi Chaim Richman To Join Him On His June 2010 American Speaking Tour: Please take two minutes to watch this video message from Rabbi Chaim Richman as he describes his upcoming USA speaking tour. Click here to view.

Rabbi Richman Tours AmericaRabbi Richman Tours America: The Battle for Jerusalem has Begun! "The prophecy of the word of the L-rd concerning Israel... Behold, I am making Jerusalem a cup of poison for all the peoples all around... it shall be on that day that I make Jerusalem for all the peoples a burdensome stone... and all the nations of the world will gather against it... " (Zech. Ch. 12)

Rabbi Richman brings an urgent message from Israel: These prophecies are coming to pass now, they are the secret of every headline, every negotiation... come to learn how the future of Jerusalem will effect the entire world!

High Priest BreastplateRabbi Richman will also be exhibiting the completed Breastplate for the High Priest, featuring the 12 stones of the tribes of Israel, ready to be worn by the Kohen Gadol in the rebuilt Holy Temple. The Breastplate is the instrument of prophetic enlightenment in the Holy Temple.

This coming month of June Rabbi Chaim Richman will be speaking to audiences across Texas, New Mexico and Minnesota. For more information on when and where, please click here.

Celebrating this WorldThis week features the new Light to the Nations teaching by Rabbi Chaim Richman, entitled, "Celebrating this World: Spending the day of Shavuot immersed in the study of Torah, as is our custom today, is but a distant remembrance of the way Shavuot was observed in the time of the Holy Temple when we immersed ourselves in the reality of Torah as it is manifested in the very land of Israel, via the first fruits - the Bikurim." Click here to view.

The Story of RuthIt is worth your while to prepare for this Shavuot by watching the Bat Melech video teaching classic with Rabbanit Rena Richman video teaching with Rabbanit Rena Richman, entitled, "The Story of Ruth: Ruth, the story of the Moabite princess who attached herself to the Jewish nation and the G-d of Israel, is traditionally read in synagogues on the upcoming festival of Shavuoth. Rena Richman reveals fascinating midrashic insights into the historical background of the story, focusing on the unique personalities of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz. These three individuals together create the foundations of the Davidic dynasty." Click to view this two part special: The Story of Ruth, part I - The Story of Ruth, part II

AFSIAFSI on the Temple Mount: Jerusalem Day, 2010: On Wednesday, May 12 2010, Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day), Rabbi Chaim Richman led a large contingent of Jews and Gentiles from Americans for a Safe Israel or AFSI as it is known. AFSI is an important, major political support group for Israel, which supports the right of Israelis, free from outside interference, to live, thrive and expand their communities in all of the Land of Israel. AFSI's head is Executive Director Helen Freedman, who participated in this event. The AFSI ascent to the Temple Mount with Rabbi Richman and Yitzchak Reuven has become an annual event in the itinerary of the group's missions to Israel.

The Temple Institute thanks AFSI for their uncompromising principled stand concerning Jewish inalienable rights in the land of Israel in general, and on the Temple Mount, in particular. We look forward to our next ascent together to the Temple Mount.

Shavuot in the Holy TempleLearn How Shavuot is Celebrated in the Holy Temple: The festival of Shavuot, although a one-day festival, really began with the conclusion of the first day of Passover, some fifty days earlier. On that second day of the Passover festival, the new barley crop was first harvested and offered in the Holy Temple. On Shavuot the wheat harvest was celebrated by the harvestng and bringing of the new wheat crop to the Holy Temple, where it was prepared and used in the baking of the two special Shavuot loaves. Likewise, pilgrims brought the firstfruits from their own fields and orchards, of the seven fruits of the land of Israel mentioned in Deuteronomy: Figs, grapes, dates, pomegranates, olives, wheat and barley. Despite being at the height of the growing season, when the physical demands upon farmers was great, the pilgrims joyfully gathered their firstfruit offerings, and set out for Jerusalem and the Holy Temple. Click here.

Parashat HashavuaThe case of the sotah - the woman accused by her husband of infidelity, has its parallel on the national level when Israels faithfulness has been tested by G-d. The historic exile of Israel which is coming to a close in our days, also embodies the ceremony conducted in the Holy Temple testing whether the covenant has been honored or whether it has been defiled. Click here to view Rabbi Richman's short teaching on parashat Naso (Numbers 4:21-7:89).  

Chag Sameach Shavuot from the holy city of Jerusalem,
  Yitzchak Reuven
  The Temple Institute

No comments: