Once upon a time our nation stood in unison at the foot of a mountain and heard the word of G-d. Today we stand before a wall in conflict and hear only ourselves.
By now, as you may or may not have heard, the Women of the Wall controversy which has reached its unholy zenith in an absolutely shameful clash at the Kotel this past Friday (Rosh Chodesh Sivan).
The way I see it, both those ideologically for and against (as apposed to those violently against. I will not dignify the actions of brutes and savages with discussion) are partially right and partially wrong. They each have, in my opinion, a valid point of contention, a kernel of truth. Yet, the integrity of the methods employed in attempt of obtaining their respective objectives remains in question.
This really isn’t about WoW, or any other specific controversy, as much as it’s about transcending controversy as a whole. When in (valid) difference of opinion how do we hear a voice outside our own? As Abraham Lincoln said: “my concern is not whether G-d is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on G-d’s side, for G-d is always right.” And G-d’s name is Shalom – Peace.
According to the Mystical tradition whenever we celebrate a Holiday or commemorate a bygone occurrence, in a certain spiritual way we are, in fact, actually reliving that event and drawing forth the Divine energies that were present at the moment.
So, every year on Shavuot (when we read the Ten Commandments from the Torah to be precise) we are reenacting our “wedding day”. Once again, it is affirmed that we are G-d’s treasured people worthy of G-d’s precious Torah, and we once again reaffirm our love and commitment to G‑d, to the Torah and its mitzvot.
There is much to say and learn about Shavuot — the Holiday commemorating the giving of the Torah at Sinai and the birth the Jewish Nation — but what interests us today is what happened before Shavuot.
Like any occasion worth remembering there is often a significant amount of time (weeks, sometimes even months) spent in preparation so that when the special day arrives all is in proper form. The giving of the Torah was no different. Seven weeks of anxious preparation, with each eagerly being counted, until the moment that would forever change the course of history. Finally, on the first day of the month of Sivan the Torah relates:
In the third month following the children of Israel’s exodus from the land of Egypt; that same day they came into the wilderness of Sinai… And there Israel camped opposite the mountain. (Exodus 19:1-2)
Rashi citing the Midrash (Mechilta) comments:
At all their other encampments, the verse says ‘vayachanu’ (“and they camped,” in the plural); here it says ‘vayichan’ (“and he camped,” in the singular). For all other encampments were in argument and dissent, whereas here they camped as one man, with one heart.
The Sages teach that G-d actually wished to give the Jewish Nation the Torah immediately upon their departure from Egypt, but due the ever-present strife in their camps they were not considered worthy. It was only at the foot of Sinai that they were deemed fit to receive this gift. (Yalkut)
Sinai: that ethereal wedding, that window to heaven. The power to unite Body and Soul, Physical and Spiritual, Man and G-d, Heaven and Earth.
That the Torah can only be given in state of harmony is only natural, as Maimonides (citing the Midrash) points out, the Torah was, in fact, only given to bring peace to the world. “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace (Proverbs 3:17).
Fast forward 3,325 years. The Wall isn’t Sinai, but perhaps they share some common themes. Since Sinai, the Wall is the location of the one place on earth where the Jewish people, for millennia, have come to stand before G-d. All Jews.
And like the Torah — which was give in the owner-less wasteland of the Sinai desert thus symbolizing that the Torah too is not the individual property of any particular individual or group — the Wall — the symbol of G-d’s eternal presence amongst the Jewish Nation even through the tragic story of Israel’s darkest nights – belongs to every Jew.
Yet the Wall is merely a relic of former glory, it is the last remaining piece of a fortification that surrounded the Holy Temple. A Temple which has long been destroyed because of, according to the Talmud, “wanton hatred” — the Jewish Nation’s inability to stop fighting with one another.
Ultimately, we eventually have to take a step back and ask ourselves: what it this really all about? What does G-d, the Torah, Judaism, and the Jewish people mean to me?
According to teachings of the Kaballah there are three loves which are inextricably intertwined, for at their core they are one: love of G-d, love of Torah and love of one’s fellow. One cannot differentiate between them, for they are of a single essence. And since they are of a single essence, each one embodies all three.
Sometimes in our religions zeal (our “love for G-d”) we compromise on the proper love due to our fellow brethren. Conversely, there are times when in our passion for social justice and humanistic fervor (our “love for humanity”) we compromise on the absolute love we owe G-d. Always, we use our “love for Torah” as the weapon with which we justify or objectives. This cannot be true love.
I don’t care if you have the blackest of black hats, or if your Tallit is every glorious color of the rainbow; if you see someone who claims to love G-d or love the Torah, yet that religious, zealous “love” does not translate into love of their fellow Jews you can be sure that it is not G-d or the Torah they love, but themselves.
Perhaps now, as we stand but a few hours before the Holiday of Shavuot, we take a step back from our fragmented presence at the wall and place ourselves, once again, in unison, at the foot of Sinai:
Like one man, with one heart.