“Israel is all messed up with their election…they ought to get their act together,” said President Trump in relation to the political uncertainty in this country going to the polls for a second time this year. He is right, but it’s just a symptom of the wider problem of the deeply fragmented Israeli society that lacks a common vision about its future, a state of division also existent within American Jewry, as well as between Israel and the Diaspora. The timing of Shavuot and all it represents could not be more relevant. The holiday symbolizes the reception of the guidebook for the spiritual correction of our people, the receiving of the Torah, or in other words, the way out of the mess.
What was actually given to us at Mount Sinai? The Torah is not a chronicle about past events. On the contrary, it describes the seminal moment when our future becomes decided, when a clear answer becomes required from all of us: Are we ready to accept mutual guarantee (Arvut) as the law of life? Exactly this is the Torah—instruction on how to correct our shattered relations and instead become guarantors for each other by loving our neighbors as ourselves.
This is precisely the goal for which the Torah was given to us. However, we must constantly renew our state of worthiness for reception of the Torah by scaling the “mountain of hatred” (Sinah), the roar of the storm raging inside us. To do this, we must unite, connect with each other, become “as one man with one heart” and stand at the foot of the mountain. In other words, we must fully comprehend that we are given very important and strict conditions under which we must work with all diligence and ever-increasing unity.
Shavuot, like all Jewish holidays, carries a call to action. The holiday is bright. It’s full of whiteness and light, but the call to action is quite complicated to carry out. We bump into each other; people are strangled by indifference, burned with anger toward those with different opinions than their own. We are in a desert of barren and soulless relationships. If we would suddenly recognize how egoism tears us to pieces, if we would try to connect into one integral body and face our seemingly insurmountable internal split, we would then clearly realize how desperately we need help.
This state of clarity we presently face is a unique opportunity for unity. Only by increasing our connection will we be able to climb the mountain ever higher, rising above our separation. To rise means to continually increase our connection above all problems, difficulties and disturbances that we encounter in order to help us overcome more and more and to create a vessel in which the light of the Torah will gradually be revealed.
In this moment of recognition coinciding with the Shavuot holiday, we have the opportunity to receive help and instruction, a unifying force that can increase our social health and let us live happily. This is the current moment of evolutionary development we find ourselves in: either we will grow up proactively and start using the Torah according to its purpose, for the sake of unity above all disagreements, or the hard knocks of life will force us to grow up.
The Torah, indeed, is the most powerful tool that we have yet to learn how to use. A person cannot use this tool alone. The problem, however, is that we still cannot work together to put it to use. The Torah will provide us with security and prosperity and will give peace to the world, but first we must get used to the fact that it works between us and not on the individual. Egoism, after all, is revealed in relation to other people.
Therefore, the Torah is meant to connect the person with the environment at any time and level of human development. It reveals to us the force of goodness and love that ties us together. We begin to sense how we must balance our egoism, the evil inclination, wherever it is revealed with the force of goodness, and we can then hold two forces like reins by which we can advance directly to unity and love, letting us lay a solid and bright foundation of our future.
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