“Velo Tonu Ish Et Amito” – You Shall Not Deceive Your Fellow (Vayikra 25:17)
You Shall Not Deceive Yourself – R’ Simcha Bunim of Pshischa
Many of us, FFB’s and Ba’alei Tshuvah, live under a certain assumption. The assumption sounds something like this: We don’t have to make a decision and ‘choose’ to give ourselves over to Hashem, because by leading an observant lifestyle, we more or less already live that decision. It’s a pretty wild deception.
Today we learned of a passionate plea, emerging from the diary of the Piasetzner Rebbe, better known as the Aish Kodesh. While making a conscious decision, at the age of forty-something, the Rebbe asks G-d for compassion while consciously choosing to give himself over to Hashem. The Rebbe was not someone who decided to take on the world of Torah at a later age. He was born into it, coming from a long line of an illustrious Chasidic lineage. And yet he opened his heart to the idea that he still needed to make this a daily choice and he needed Hashem’s help to do it.
What stops us from making this decision today? What prevents us from being open to the notion that perhaps we never actually made a conscious choice to do what we do on a daily basis? What would happen this coming Friday afternoon, if we all decided to consciously say the words “I am choosing to keep Shabbos, just as Hashem commanded me, because I believe this is the secret to the soul’s rest.”? Shabbos may look different. Not halachically different, but experientially different. AND THAT’S OKAY… IT’S SO OKAY.
“Tshuvah Kadma La’olam” (Tanchuma Nasso). Our sages tell us that Tshuvah is one of the things which was created before the world was created, meaning to say that it preceded the concept of time. How are we to understand this? When one invites Tshuvah into their heart, and is vulnerable enough to own the fact that there are many areas in our lives which we never consciously ‘chose’ to own, something powerful happens. I begin to live a life which is not enslaved by the confines of time, expectations and fear. It is the most freeing emotion in the world. I let go of what I think I may already conceptually ‘own’, and now I ‘choose’ to claim it. What ends up happening afterwards is quite interesting.
On one hand, each of us needs to choose to commit ourselves to this process. On the other, when I do commit myself, what opens to me is the understanding that countless generations have walked this path before me- they have already realized these revelations and opened these spiritual gates. In that moment, each one of us can connect to the collective timeless energy that is Tshuvah.
In that moment there is no past, present or future, there is only NOW.
During this very confusing and painful time of the current Pandemic, a wonderful and beautiful opportunity is being presented before us. Us as individuals and us as communities. Despite all the Torah we have learned and all the mitzvahs we have done until now, it could very well be that it is time to start from scratch. It is time to utter those two monumental words of commitment once again. Na’ase Venishma. But this time, we have to breathe in those two words until it reaches our core. We are with you Hashem, we are committed to discovering what we were already sure we understood.
We are committed to finding out what it means to be close to you by:
Thinking of you for just two seconds before performing a mitzvah or saying a blessing.
Delving into your Torah, while trying our best to attain a state of awareness that we are learning your will.
Looking for you in the eyes of every human being we meet.
Taking my time before settling into my space of tefila (prayer) so that I can not only make sure that I am present in a shul (synagogue), but that the words I utter become present in me.
Exercising self compassion when my shortcomings begin to cripple me.
Talking to you outside the siddur in my own language, and at my own pace. With zero expectations.
We ask you Hashem for an extra dose of patience. Patience for ourselves and for others while we attempt to meet you for the first time. While we are at it, we may as well meet ourselves too.
I know it sounds scary, but it’s really not.
We got this.
Let’s take advantage of this opportunity and show up.
With love and blessings, Shlomo