Dear B’nai Shalom members, families, and friends:
Before I attempt to say anything of value or of substance in this article, I first express to you the most genuine and most obvious feeling and thoughts that enter my mind in addressing my shul family:
I miss you!!
With the ongoing COVID19 virus epidemic continuing to result in restrictions regarding social gatherings and normal interactions and meetings, it is difficult to accept that not only can we not enter and utilize our beloved shul for all of its worthy and important functions, but the mere act of getting together continues to be beyond that which has been deemed safe and secure because of fears of spreading the virus.
The shul is to be lauded and commended for the continuous and impressive array of Torah learning opportunities in which and by which, shul members have participated in presenting and leading Torah lessons of all sorts. The study of Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of Our Sages has been one such area of learning that has taken place each evening consistently, taught by volunteer members of the shul.
In spite of the fact that we cannot physically enter the shul building and we are prohibited from meeting and greeting one another in person, B’nai Shalom has NOT been stymied in its desire and burning need to continue to teach, learn, and live Torah. What a highly worthy and admirable endeavor in which to engage ourselves, and what a praiseworthy way to fulfill the words of the Ahavah Rabbah prayer, recited just before Shema Yisrael each morning during the Shacharit service: “L’havin, ul’haskil, lishmoah, lilmode, ul’lamed, lishmor, v’laasot, ul’kayem et kol divrei Talmud Torahtecha b’ahavah.” “…to understand and to enlighten, to adhere to, to learn and to teach, to observe and to accomplish, and to fulfill all the words of the teachings of Your Torah, in a loving manner.”
In SPITE OF the COVID-19 virus, shutting down so many avenues and aspects of our normal, everyday lives, we join Jews all over the world, at a time of Jewish history in which we are MAKING history. In SPITE OF the COVID-19 virus restrictions and prohibitions, never before has there been the ongoing richness and proliferation of Torah learning that we see all around us: There continue to be more shiurim, (classes) Yeshivot, Koll’lim (institutions for Torah learning), synagogues, outreach organizations, and a myriad of opportunities for learning, than ever before on the face of the earth in the history of Jews in this world.
Our history teaches us that we, as Jews, do marvelously well when we are in exile, particularly when we are in trouble. We never fail to reach out to the Ribono Shel Olam, Almighty G-d, in the most sincere, genuine fashion when we truly need heavenly intervention, when we need’s G-d help and saving hand. The current worldwide pandemic may qualify as just one example.
However, we also see that when we are doing well, living freely and with acceptance by the people, empires or governments in which we find ourselves living – we tend to forget or take for granted our Creator, our Heavenly Father, and we tend to move towards assimilation and melting into the culture in which we find ourselves.
Take note of our history during the period of our Shoftim: the period of the Judges. The very basis of Judaism: monotheism, is shattered to pieces over and over again with our moving towards the ways of our neighbors and often enemies: the nations of Moav, Amon, and the P’lishtim, the Philistines. We abandon our commitment and loyalty to Torah, mitzvot, and our devotion to HaKadosh Baruch Hu, Almighty G-d.
This happens, and has happened over and over again in the annals of our history repeatedly, without our learning our lesson.
When one goes to look for a job, we often see advertisements for potential employers either in the category of “full time’ or “half time.” When it comes to being a Jew, this choice really is the problem. There is no such thing as a “half time” Jew, being a Jew when it is good for us, when it is convenient for us, when we feel like it, when our Judaism doesn’t get in the way.
We are supposed to act Jewishly when we eat, sleep, work, play, interact with others, with our family members, with strangers, with relatives, neighbors, and anyone we encounter. There is no such thing as a vacation or break from Torah rules or values. Whether we are in a bowling alley, busy at home balancing our checkbooks, trying to sell something, or hard at work at our place of employment, we are bound to act as committed, loyal Jews.
When Hashem gave us the original Luchot HaBrit, the Tablets of the Covenant, they were, according to tradition, written by the “finger of G-d” and miraculously engraved through and through in the stone on which they were engraved, all the way through, however, they could be read – again miraculously, from both sides. According to our tradition, there was no “second side.” There was only Torah and no other interpretation or second story, or any other reason to believe that Torah then or EVER, had, or has some kind of second story: only the words of G-d and the value of G-d’s Torah, as taught to us by HaKadosh Baruch Hu.
Unlike a coin which has a second side, with a second, separate depiction; a different picture, a different image, the Luchot HaBrit were meant to teach us that there is no such thing as moving away, turning away from Torah, there is no such thing as a vacation or break from Torah rules or values.
We will soon encounter the summertime “Three Weeks,” the period of time on the Jewish calendar between the fast day of Shiva Asar B’Tammuz (the 17th of Tammuz) and Tisha B’av, (the 9th of Av). The Three Weeks remind us that, whether — when it’s “good for the Jews” or chas v’shalom, G-d forbid, not so good for us, we are to adhere to the code of Torah which we hold precious to us. And that preciousness is not to be put on hold. We are expected to cling to Torah, protect it, adhere to its commandments, and teach others, so that they too, can benefit in the heightened, enhanced way of life that Torah observance brings with it.
Perhaps in the future, B’ezrat Hashem, G-d willing, we will NOT need the lesson of the Three Weeks, but for now, let us continue to do what we can to eliminate the need and the reason behind the Three Weeks, continuing to “to learn and to teach, to observe and to accomplish…” so much Torah and Torah values.
A continued “Yishar Koach” to the shul members and participants for presenting and leading the ongoing Torah lessons, setting the desired example that HaKadosh Baruch Hu expects of us.
I can’t prove it but I suspect up there in shamayim, (in heaven), G-d is looking down towards Buffalo Grove and B’nai Shalom, and is smiling with pleasure at the way His people here in this north suburb have worked devotedly to spread the love and beauty of Torah.
With Torah blessings, respect, appreciation, and admiration,
Rabbi Dr. Yaacov Dvorin