Friday, May 25, 2012

Shavuot and Teshuvah

The "time of the giving of our Torah" is near.  We count the days from Passover until Shavuot, connecting the physical freedom of the exodus from Egypt with the spiritual freedom of receiving the Torah: And it says (Exodus 32:16): "And the tablets are the work of G-d, and the writing is G-d's writing, engraved on the tablets"; read not "engraved" (charut) but "liberty" (chairut)---for there is no free individual, except for he who occupies himself with the study of Torah (Avot 6:2).  A couple of more days and we are there.

Time flies.  I'm over half a century old. and I've been a BT for over a quarter of a century.  At this age usually the hair is graying if not disappearing altogether.  The aging process is taking place before my very eyes.  The reality of death is much more tangible.  An inner voice cries, "Ribono Shel Olam, Al Tashlicheini Le'eit Zikna!"

On the other hand, with age comes the opportunity for retrospection.  I have the ability to look back at over three decades of adult life.  Many important and fateful decisions were made: what to learn in college, who to marry, to make aliyah, etc.  However the most difficult and most important decision that I ever made was the decision to do TeshuvahTo receive the Torah as is, unreformed, neither conserved nor reconstructed.

What was difficult about it?  Well, this was a radical idea, a move far away from my comfort zone.  For someone who grew up in suburbia, it meant giving up a lot of things that I was used to.   No, I will not list them!  It also meant being the object of ridicule and even pity to those that did not understand what I was going through.

Looking back, I had no idea of what I was getting into.  The Torah is so big! "Rabbi Chananya ben (son of) Akashya said: The Holy One, blessed be He, wanted to give Israel merit; therefore He gave them Torah and mitzvos (commandments) in abundance, as it is written: 'G-d wanted, for its [Israel's] righteousness, to make the Torah great and mighty' (Isaiah 42:21)." 

I was lacking Torah knowledge when I took upon myself the yoke of Heaven.  I must have known about as much as the average five year old here in Jerusalem.  However, what I was lacking in erudition I made up in instinct.  My soul sensed where it needed to go.  I had no idea of the depth of the spiritual treasures that awaited me.  After all of this time I have only scratched the surface!

We live in a time where moral clarity is lacking.  However, "... Thou dost light my lamp; the LORD my God doth lighten my darkness (Psalms 18:29)."  The Torah that we are about to receive is an everlasting light which guides us while others stumble and fall.  For instance, the whole controversy about gay marriage.  For us as Jews, the controversy does not really exist, for the Torah already had its say on the issue:
Lesbian relations are forbidden and it is among the “doings of Egypt” that we have been warned about as it is said, “After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do”. The sages said, “What did they do? A man marries a man, and a woman marries a woman, and a woman marries two men” (Maimonides, Laws of Forbidden Relations 21:8).
My forefathers left Egypt and I have no intention of going back!  Rather, I will rejoice in the Torah this Shavuot.  I am a truly free man, free from the lewdness of Egypt, free from being politically correct, free from those that have forgotten God.   Blessed is He, our God, who has separated us from those that go astray, and gave us the Torah of truth, and planted eternal life within us.

(Update: also posted on Beyond Teshuva)

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