Keeping the Flame Alive
→ [You can download the entire Parasha Sheet by clicking here] ←
The world is constantly progressing. Our small globe is filled with novelties; at every possible moment new innovations are being discovered. What was considered yesterday a novelty, is today regarded an antique. Everything around us is developing; the potential is being actualized at a dizzying pace, and in the center of it all is none other than man himself.
Behind every innovation could be found a number of scientists who toiled months on end to bring it to fruition. Refined materials, advanced medications and more efficient technology appear out of nowhere, being the result of the many stages of a living process of creation. The human population is constantly in motion. Just taking a look out the window for a moment will portray a picture bustling with motion – people moving about non-stop. This one is running, that one is walking, one person is conversing with his mouth and the other is signaling with his hands. The one thing they all have in common is that something is beating inside them.
Enthusiasm is the driving force behind everything
If something is in motion then there must be something causing it to move. A boat gliding upon the ocean waters bears testimony to a wind blowing through its sails, an illuminated light bulb attests to electricity flowing through its wire and if you find a person vigorously active and energetic then there is no doubt something excites him. People do all sorts of things, they build and destroy, they dream and contemplate, they create and invent. Behind all of these stands one thing – Hislahavus (enthusiasm/liveliness).
Both man and the world itself are rooted in the element of earth and were it not for the life force of enthusiasm that was placed inside man, he would seem like nothing more than a mound of earth protruding from the ground. This world is heavy, it is not easy to get things moving, and in order to give a life-like form to a clump of dirt, one needs much hislahavus.
If this hislahavus is fundamental to mankind so too, it must be regarding the world at large. The world was formed with the Ten Sayings of Creation (asarah maamaros) and it is also through them that it continues to exist. The holy Torah preceded the world and with it, Hashem created the world. The world revolves constantly around an axis, developing and progressing, and the wind that blows in its sails is – the Torah.
Man in his physical essence is nothing but the dust of the earth and at certain times he returns to this definition. When Hashem sent the soul into partnership with the body he prepared for it much work to be done.
The world is filled with challenges – good and evil are found in every corner and it is imperative to be awake and alert. The Torah does not only provide us with clear definitions of good and evil, it also bestows upon us the strength and ability to stand up to the challenge of free will (bechirah).
The Giving of the Torah – the strength to choose good over evil.
Not long ago – so the calendar claims, was the Chag of the giving of the Torah and seemingly we received something. Yes, we received the Torah, a completely new Torah, the likes of which has never before appeared. During the coming yearly cycle that stands before us, we will find ourselves upon many battlefields in which both good and evil will be found, and we will need to always choose the good. The Torah that we now have in our hands contains all the strength required by the soul in order to pass through the coming cycle peacefully.
Within the words of the Torah is contained an incredible energy – all the strengths and abilities in existence draw their life-force from the letters of the Torah. Every Jew has a part in the Torah and this part is meant to be the driving force of his 248 limbs and 365 sinews, to instill in them the ability to properly navigate his way amidst the 248 positive and 365 negative commandments.
All of us, all the good Jews who have been living on the face of the earth in the last two weeks, were all at Har Sinai. We stood at the foot of the mountain as Moshe brought the Torah down from the heavens; we received it ready packed and all, set to take home. The days after Shavuos flew by and we are still wandering around somewhere on the pathways that leave Har Sinai, stepping from one day to the next, from Shacharis to Minchah to Maariv, and in our hands remains a sealed package.
The precious package that we received on the sixth of Sivan is held close to our hearts. We clasp it tightly with both hands, careful not to lose it, G-d forbid. The Torah accompanies us wherever we go and sometimes we even take a small peek at it through a narrow crack, nod our heads and continue along our way.
Let’s be honest, we’re not new at this. Every year we travel this path always arriving in the vicinity of Har Sinai somewhere around the beginning of Sivan, always receiving the Torah in some way. So what? This is nothing new. Our family always spoke about this, our friends are well accustomed to this luxury, we have the Torah in our hands, we don’t need to arrange for quality-control testing. We would never suspect that Moshe would hand us an empty package – we trust him…
Hashem does something very unusual every year. He opens the most top-secret vault there is in existence, where the plans on which the entire creation was created and formed, are hidden. Those G-dly codes which Hashem used as the blueprint for the world contain within them the driving force for all that took place in the past and all that will occur in the future. From that G-dly framework which is called – the Torah, emerge all the innovations that Hashem creates in His world spiritually and physically at every moment.
Every year on the sixth of Sivan Hashem withdraws the G-dly plans for all that will transpire in the coming year. It is this code that He sends down into the world and bestows upon each and every one of us his part in the plan.
When the thundering sounds were silenced and the lightening ceased, we took our three steps back, bowed with awe in the direction of the mountain and began our journey home. Shavuos moved into yesterday and we continued towards tomorrow. We move forward, yet a watchful eye follows us from behind. He, who gave us that which we have in our hands, knows that the moment we open the package we will begin to move with dance-like steps.
A person makes his way along the trails of life and upon his path are heaps of tests, difficulties and obstacles. He huffs and puffs with exertion thinking to himself: ‘how difficult could they possibly make it for a person. Isn’t there some mistake here – this is a trail for professional hikers, not for me…’. Not only is the terrain extremely strenuous, but the package from Har Sinai is adding to the unbearable burden. Then perhaps the time has come to open the package, to simply begin to make use of what it holds inside.
The Torah is meant to ignite us; this is exactly why we received it. The heart experiences the world as it is. It is the heart which feels all that happens around us and it is there that the true ability to cope must be found. Above, at the top of the spinal cord, is the mind. It functions exactly like a power station; G-dly life-force enters the brain and sets the cogs of thought in motion. When holy thoughts fill the mind then it generates heat; chochmah (wisdom) is something warm and filled with vitality. This warmth descends to the heart and ignites it. A warm and enthusiastic heart skips easily over the pitfalls of life. When the mind is filled with sanctity the vision of life that the eye perceives is far less frightening.
The Rebbe speaks about this in Likutey Moharan lesson 21, explaining that the power of the Torah is hidden within its words – when one enunciates them vocally, they take effect. Since the kedusha is already found within the words, one doesn’t have to do much, as everything is hidden inside that which we already have in our hands. All we need to do is open it and begin to make use of what’s inside.
The Kedusha of the shivah neiros (seven candles)
Every Jew desires to run through the course of life without becoming stuck at confusing and unclear crossroads. When the engine is warm the wheels manage easily on every terrain, uphill just like downhill, a sharp turn just like a straight road. Anyone who has ever come into contact with the Torah knows this. When one sinks for a few hours into the reservoir of life within the letters, then when one emerges everything looks different. The problem is that something else needs to be taken into account.
There are seven orifices in the heads: Two for the sense of sight, another two for hearing, two more for scent and another one for speech. These seven openings connect us with our surroundings; they absorb and also transmit information. These seven orifices are like the seven branches of the Menorah and when they are complete they enable the flame to burn strongly. The world is filled with winds that threaten to extinguish the candles; sometimes such a wind blows in one’s ears or one’s eyes and the candle of holy intellect that burns inside flickers in a desperate attempt to stay alight.
When we guard our senses whereby candles are lit at the entrance to these seven openings, then the evil outside is burnt and destroyed in an instant. But when the wind extinguishes these candles then things start becoming complicated.
We have a Torah, it is already in our hands, we need only to remove the cover and begin to read aloud. The words will light the wicks on fire and if we allow the holy words to rest on our lips, it will happen on its own.
Not every wind needs to visit our ears, our eyes, our nose and our mouth … all that remains for us to do is to pay some attention …