Thursday, May 21, 2015

Highs and Lows- A message to a bar mitzvah boy and all of us

Dear Caleb,

Although I don’t know you, I know your dad and rather than give a plain-old Mazal Tov, I want to share some thoughts with you as you approach your big day.

It seems so appropriate that you are celebrating your Bar Mitzvah in Israel, right by Shavuos, and as we begin Sefer Bamidbar. I’d like to suggest a connection between the three.

Perhaps the most famous words from Mattan Torah are the words Na’aseh V’Nishmah. There are many questions that can be asked on these words, but I will just ask one. Why do we need two words to say we accept the Torah and mitzvot? I’d like to share a beautiful idea I saw in the Nesivos Shalom. He points out that for everyone, not just the regular people, but the greatest tzaddikim as well, there are times we feel close to HaShem and times we feel distant. During the times of closeness, it is easy to attach to HaShem. When everything feels great, it’s easy to daven. When tefillin are new, it’s easy to be excited to put them on. Those moments are the “Nishmah” part of life. The part of life when we get it. There are also “Naaseh” moments. Moments of sadness and difficulty when we feel distant from HaShem. There too, we commit to attach to HaShem, even though it’s hard. The Slonimer Rebbe is sharing something important. The high moments are great, but for all of us, they are followed by lows. We can attach to HaShem during both.

This very much connects to Megillas Rus. A student at my shiur last night, pointed out that the term Davak, to attach, is used multiple times in Rus, highlighting this point of attaching to God during the good and bad times. Perhaps that is why we read this megillah on Shavuos.

We also see this in Sefer Bamidbar. The first half of the Sefer reads like a plan. Here’s how we get to Israel. All details. No worries about what might go wrong. Then real life happens and... kablooey!!! Everything falls apart, and all of a sudden there is a 40 year detour. Again, it’s easy to feel close to God when everything goes as planned. Bnei Yisrael had to stay in the Midbar to learn to trust and stay close to HaShem, even when things are dark.

Which brings us to Israel. There are so many wonderful things going on there. I told your father how jealous I am of you for having your bar mitzvah there. So much better than any party you could have in the US. Israel however has lots of challenges too. Even in the holiest place in the world, the good and the bad, the easy and the hard, the light and the dark mix. There, we have the greatest opportunity to stay close to HaShem through it all.

As I said, I don’t know you, but I know your dad. I know that I am not the only one inspired by his passion for Torah, and the efforts he makes to stay close to God through all of life’s challenges. You couldn’t ask for a better role model.

Mazal tov and enjoy!

Pesach Sommer

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