Sunday, August 30, 2009

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Coming Before G-d

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Imagine that the Temple is standing, and you and your family are getting ready to come up to Jerusalem for one of the holidays.

We were commanded to come to the Temple to celebrate the holidays of Pesach (Passover), Shavuot, and Succot. In order to celebrate these holidays properly, certain items had to be prepared. For instance, we needed the all-important sacrifices that were to be offered, as well as matzah and extra wine for Pesach, the luluv and esrog (four species) to be waved on Succot, and any special tithe monies that could only be spent in Jerusalem. Obviously, before we left to Jerusalem, we would be extremely careful to have each and every item on our list.

All of these objects were essential in order to fulfill the commandments, but beside the physical items, was there anything spiritual that we had to do? Was there a spiritual experience at the Temple that we had to prepare for, too?

The Torah tells us to come to the Temple, “to appear before Hashem.”[i] This means that “just as they came to appear before Hashem, so did they come to see the splendor of His holiness.”[ii] (To be seen and to see) How did Jews prepare for this? Even more importantly, how can we prepare to possibly have such an experience today?

It seems easy to prepare for the “appearing” (to be seen) element of this commandment. We get a haircut. We put on new clothes. We go to the mikvah (emersion). Maybe we even smile more? In other words, we try to look as nice as possible.

But surely, G-d is going to look at more than just our exterior garments. “Appearing before Hashem” (being seen) must mean that He is going to look at our deeds, too.

Before we go up to the Temple, we better take a closer look at what we have been doing with ours lives. Getting a haircut is easy, but it is not so easy to make sure that we have not passed over the opportunity to do a mitzvah? Even the mitzvahs that we did, did we do them properly?

Then, there is the “to see” element of our visit to the Temple. How can we prepare “to see” to the greatest extent possible? How can we increase our capacity to see, so that we will be able to see more of His glorious Revelation, and not be pushed back by Its awesome brightness? In other words, how do we come before the King?

Learn from when Israel (Yaakov) sent his sons to the ruler of Egypt, and also when he sent messengers to his threatening brother, Esau. To ensure positive meetings, he sent gifts.[iii] We should do this, too.

But there is a major problem giving a gift to G-d.[iv] Everything already belongs to Him! The heavens and the earth are His. So, what can we possibly give to Him?

Ah, I know. We will do a mitzvah, and we will give that mitzvah to G-d. But, wait a minute, G-d commanded us to do the mitzvahs. So, when we do a mitzvah that is not a gift at all. It is simply obedience.

I know. We will give some charity. The money in our pockets is ours, and G-d loves charity. We will give some of our money to a poor person, and that will be our gift to G-d. But wait a minute. G-d gave us the blessing to earn the money. So, the money also comes from Him.

What can we give to G-d? We do not want to return something that He has given to us. We want to give Him something that is entirely ours.

Ah, I know! It says that there is only one thing in the entire world that does not belong to G-d. “Everything is in the hand of Heaven except for the fear of Heaven.”[v]

That’s it! I am going to bring upon myself the fear of Heaven, and that is going to be my gift to G-d. But, I already have the fear of Heaven. I learned that way back when I started following the Torah. I want to give Him something new. I can’t give Him something that I already gave Him.

You know what? Look in the entire world. Pick up every stone. Look around every corner, and there is only one thing anywhere in all of creation that G-d does not have, and that we can give to Him.

Find a Jew who does not yet know the love and awe of G-d, a Jew who does not yet know the joy of keeping the Torah and mitzvahs, and lovingly bring him to these things. This will be our wonderful gift to G-d. There is nothing else in the entire creation that is not already His.

This is how we should prepare to come before G-d. There is no better way.

Today, we do not have the Temple to go up “to be seen and to see.” But we do have the month of Elul, which is right now. In Elul we prepare to come before the King. And we do have Rosh Hashanah when we actually do come before Him.

[i] Exodus 23:15, Deuteronomy 31:11
[ii] Chagigah 1:1 Kahati
[iii] Genesis 43:11, 32:6
[iv] See “How Can I Give Anything To G-d” above.
[v] Gemora Berachos 33b

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