Sunday, June 08, 2008

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Criticism

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

The Zohar describes this as the WORST of all possible worlds...in which there is still hope.

Our prayers from Yom Kippur state that the Men of the Great Assembly deliberated on whether the challenges of this world are worth it, and declared "Better than man have not been created."

It's somewhat of a Jewish tradition to criticize ourselves. There has always been the grumblers in the back of shul (synagogue), who know with absolute certainy that they could have done it better, given the rav's speech better, built the shul better, installed better chairs, etc. In this day and age, with semi-anonymity of the 'net, all those grumblers and more have opened up blogs where they can pick at every little thing within the religious Jewish community.

Lets face it, the religious Jewish community is suffering SERIOUS growing pains right now. Yeshiva's are crowded yet insufficiently resourced. Imbued lifestyles of learning are conflicting with real world need for family and community income. Modern technologies are breaking down traditional forms of community moral protection. Israeli rabbonim are spreading their influence (or rather, the Jewish center of learning has moved from the US to Israel), sometimes bringing Israeli community standards in conflict with US / UK / Australian standards. Growing communities are finding themselves with responsibilities they haven't prepared for (political, community operations, etc).

There's a lot to criticize, there's a lot that could be done better (yep, I'm sure if I was in charge it would be a lot better). But, lets not make the mistake of believing the weight of the bad, or believing this situation is unique...

During yitzias mitzrayim (the exodus), at the Red Sea the people took 4 different approaches, sure that theirs was right (sound familiar?) All were wrong, the approach of Nachshon ben Amidav and Moshe Rabbaynu, those were the only right ones (the 5th choice). During the time in the desert, the grumblers came and demanded meat, the current choice not being right for them (sound familiar?)

Yet, somehow, when they came to Har Sinai, they stood together - am echad v'lev echad, one nation, one heart. And they all, together, as one, received the Torah. Not one man hearing the truth and telling his best friends, not a dream, not a charismatic preacher convincing the crowds of his vision, but millions of people standing together. All the Jewish people receiving the word of G-d from G-d.

When it was over, they still argued, vied for leadership and power, rushed forward when they shouldn't have, and paid for mistakes. Because they were people, they were human, with conflicting desires, different good goals, different negative goals, having a yetzer hara, and trying to get by in the world.

That's the Torah in THIS WORLD. Not in heaven, down here, where different circumstances and desires, where the complex interaction of all the hashgacha pratit (divine providence) of this world bounces us off one another. That's what makes Torah a challenge, and worthy of a reward.

It couldn't be any harder and there still be a chance for success, and are greatest sages acknowledge that it isn't easy. This is where emunah steps in, to believe it's worth it.

Chag Shavuos Samayach, Happy Shavuos, Chag Matan Torasaynu Samayach, we celebrate the giving of the Torah tonight...

On Hoshana Rabba, the tikkun (prayers) atone, we stay up all night and say a special series of prayers to sweeten the din (negative judgments). On Shavuos, the staying up atones, we stay up all night and say a special series of Torah learning to atone for the error at Har Sinai of going to sleep. So, prepare oneself and stay up all night with the Torah tonight. Even if one can't learn through the Tikun L'el Shavous, just stay up and learn something from the Torah. And G-d willing, this year the attonement will be complete forever, and we'll merit Moshiach Tzidkaynu and the Geulah, mamosh, now!

To all our readers, Chag Samayach!

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