Shavuot is almost almost.
Together with wondering if your heart will ever
Or will your hope
Remain just hope and get lost somewhere
Like an odd message that you don't want
And you want to save it and etch it inward
So much for poetry. I think that I am still under the influence of the New Yorker magazine that I read cover to cover on the plane. Sophistication and civilization are so easy to confuse. Decency, tolerance and self-indulgent license disguised as tolerance is even harder. The wit and eloquence of the writers are easy to confuse with joy and truth. If nothing else, reading such a well put together paper makes me enjoy Shavuot far more than ever.
The best part of Shavuot for me is the walk to the Old City after Neve. The silence of the night is broken with the sound of people walking east, heading towards the Kotel. When you get to Jaffa Gate the trickle of people turns into a stream. When I go to Sara Rigler's house to teach, her living room is so full of women that virtually every space is occupied. The women range from Marianna, who is my eldest student. She is 92, still goes to shiurim, she travels by two buses, comes on time, asks great questions, and most of all gives us all a glimpse into another era, one that was more refined and civilized then the one we all home. On the other end there are nineteen-year-old FFB Sem girls who are there as part of their Israel Experience.
The women are there until about 4:45. Then the dam breaks, and the stream turns into a torrential flow of people. The narrow streets are suddenly transformed. The heavens invisibly open and the flow of wakefulness and consciousness pours downward. A significant percentage of the people densely packed into the Kotel plaza couldn't possibly explain exactly why they are there. For them it is authentic "naaseh vinishma" -- we will do the mitzvos and only then reach a place where understanding is possible.
It is one of today's greatest tragedies that the gap between yearning for connection and knowing what to do in your search for connection are so far apart. On one hand, I am fully aware of what a mixed bag I am seeing when I observe the Women of the Wall stage their media event, wearing talis, tzizis, and furtively looking around to see what the response will be. The TV crews will be there, and the nineteen-year-old soldier girls (who are not all that different from the nineteen-year-old FFBs at the shiur) will be there to insure that they will Make News. It is so easy to be dismissive and disdainful.
The Talmud quotes Rabbi Akiva as saying, "Happy are you Israel; ....Who purifies you? Your Father in heaven". There are times that you relate to Hashem as a child does to a parent, and other times when you relate to Hashem the way a servant does to his master. How do they play out?
Think of the person you respect more than any other person alive. Give yourself time to think. When you are focused, ask yourself how you would like to be chosen among hundreds of others to help him/her with an important assignment. Your golden moment would be hearing, "I can't believe how well you did that. I couldn't have accomplished this without your help". That is what relating to Hashem as a servant is about.
Relating as a child is different. Imagine being the parent of the worst child ever. Rebellious. Arrogent. Dishonest. Self-destructive. The works. Even if things get so bad that there is no option but to ask him to leave your home, the moment that you yearn for is that one day there will be a knock on the door, and he will be there, and he'll say, "Now things will be different".
In the case of the servant, the bond is made through the deed he does, while in the case of a child, the bond is inherent. The Talmud questions what our essential bond to G-d is really about. Rabbi Akiva apparently went with the opinion of his student, Rabbi Meir, who said it means, "Either way, they are My children".
Only Hashem knows what is really going on in someone's deepest heart. There may be many, many layers of external nonsense. Pride, selfishness, ignorance, self-esteem issues. They all act as barriers to the inside. The barriers can be so opaque that even an angel can't penetrate to the core level of connection that is always there. That is why, Nesivos Shalom tells us, G-d went out Himself to deliver the Jews from Egypt and (to quote the text of the Hagadah) "In ways that I, and no angel, I and no seraph, I alone did".
Once you even briefly feel what is really going on inside you, it is time to ask yourself the following: "If I am His child, then what does He tell me? How does He open the door?" If you are fortunate enough to be in Yerushalayim, look up and let your inner eye see the heavens open. If you are anywhere else, do the same! It may be harder, and the sky may seem less a part of the spiritual world, and more easily identified as the Friendly Skies of United. It doesn't matter.
Just go for it.