Let us begin by blessing our study of Torah:
Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu laasok b’divrei Torah.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, who hallows us with mitzvot, commanding us to engage with words of Torah.
LET US BEGIN!
In order for us to engage in Torah study, we need to get moving a little bit, reconnect with our bodies and our surroundings. Get up and go on a little scavenger hunt with us. Use the timer below, you've got two minutes, try to see how many of the following items you can find. GOOD LUCK!
Found Object Scavenger Hunt:
You need to find a least two of the following
A writing implement (pencil, pen, marker, a quill, etc…)
A piece of scrap paper
A paper clip
A rubber band
Extra kavod if you can find them all, but you only need two.
Click the video below to start your timer. You have two minutes!
Now that you have gathered a few of the items from our list above, it is time to stretch our brains and be a little creative. I'm giving you full artistic license, you can use your found items in any way you want, and use as many or as few as you'd like. Please, with the objects from the scavenger hunt: MAKE A PERSON.
Now that you've created a person out of your found objects, explain your art.
- Is this a specific person or kind of person?
- What found objects were easy to use? What objects were harder to incorporate.
Lastly, we have to ask: How is this possible? People are not made out of buttons, paperclips, rubber bands, nor paper. In fact, when we think of art, we don't normally think of great artists sculpting out of buttons, rubber bands, and paperclips. Yet, here we are, you've made a person out of these very things. Why didn't you throw up your hands and give up? What has allowed you to succeed in creating a person from what, let's be honest, amounts to a pile of office junk?
Remember Legos? We, as humans, know that you can build almost anything if you are willing to start with the small building blocks, sort through them, find what you need, and creatively put it together. When you want to start a Lego project from scratch, the first step is to look through all the pieces, next to put them together, and with enough creativity and determination we know that you can build a whole Lego world. A WHOLE WORLD BUILT FROM BROKEN PIECES!
When we think of little pieces, broken pieces, there are perhaps no more famous broken pieces in our texts than the first tablets. These tablets were smashed by Moses as the Israelites danced before and bowed down to the Golden Calf. The broken pieces, according to the rabbis, guarded the Israelites as they went into battle and led them through their journeys in the desert.
But, why did Moses break the tablets?
And, perhaps more importantly, how did God feel about the move?
THAT YOU BROKE!
What is the tone at the end of our last text?
Is God admonishing Moses? Is God upset or perhaps, even worse, angry at Moses?
Could God be praising Moses? Offering congratulations?
As you mull it over, let's take a look at the Israeli show, The Jews are Coming, to see what might of happened in that fateful moment when the tablets were smashed.
OK, that was good for a laugh, but REALLY, why does Moses destroy the tablets and how does God feel about it?
In order to answer our question, let us look to Resh Lakish for wisdom.
בבלי, מנחות צט'
אמר ריש לקיש פעמים שביטולה של תורה זהו יסודה
דכתיב (שמות לד, א) אשר שברת אמר לו הקב"ה למשה יישר כחך ששברת
Bavli, Menahot 99
Resh Lakish said:
There are times when negating Torah establishes it.
It says - "that you broke" (Shemot 34:1) The holy, blessed One said to Moshe: You did good to break them...
YOU DID GOOD TO BREAK THEM?
WHAT?! Moses took the words of God, words that had been carved by God onto tablets hewn from stone by God, our most sacred teachings, and destroyed them, broke them to pieces, and God's view is that Moses did GOOD?
What good could there be in negating Torah? What good could there be in breaking?
What might this teach us about how we should approach this time when, for so many of us, our Torah and world is so broken?
We turn to the words of Reb Noson, to pray for the strength to break Torah in the holiest of ways. Just like our teacher, Moses.
וּבְכֵן בָּאתִי לְפָנֶיךָ לְבַקֵּשׁ רַחֲמִים מִלְּפָנֶיךָ יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהַי וֵאלֹהֵי אֲבוֹתַי, שֶׁתְּזַכֵּנִי וְתַדְרִיכֵנִי בְּדֶרֶךְ הַנָּכוֹן וְהָאֱמֶת, וְתַשְׁפִּיעַ עָלַי מִמְּעוֹן קְדֻשָּׁתְךָ חָכְמָה בִּינָה וָדַעַת וְתַעַזְרֵנִי שֶׁאֵדַע אֵיךְ לְהִתְנַהֵג בְּעִנְיָן זֶה, בְּעִנְיַן בִּטּוּלָהּ שֶׁל תּוֹרָה זֶהוּ קִיּוּמָהּ וְתַדְרִיכֵנִי וּתְלַמְּדֵנִי, בְּאֹפֶן שֶׁאֶזְכֶּה לְהִתְנַהֵג תָּמִיד כִּרְצוֹנְךָ הַטּוֹב, לַעֲשׂוֹת הַכֹּל יָפֶה בְּעִתּוֹ, לַעֲסֹק בְּתוֹרָה וּתְפִלָּה וּבְמַעֲשִׂים טוֹבִים לְשִׁמְךָ תָּמִיד יוֹמָם וָלַיְלָה בְּהַתְמָדָה גְּדוֹלָה וּבִזְרִיזוּת גְּדוֹלָה, וְאֶזְכֶּה לְהַרְבּוֹת בְּכָל יוֹם בַּעֲבוֹדַת יְהֹוָה בֶּאֱמֶת וּתְחָנֵּנִי לָדַעַת מָתַי אֲנִי מֻכְרָח לְבַטֵּל קְצָת, וְאֶזְכֶּה שֶׁלֹּא יִהְיֶה לִי שׁוּם בִּטּוּל כִּי אִם בְּעֵת הַהֶכְרֵחַ לְבַד וַאֲפִלּוּ בָּעֵת שֶׁאֲנִי מֻכְרָח לְהִתְבַּטֵּל קְצָת מִדִּבְרֵי תּוֹרָה, תַּעַזְרֵנִי וּתְזַכֵּנִי שֶׁלֹּא אֶתְבַּטֵּל, חַס וְשָׁלוֹם, לְגַמְרֵי מִכֹּל וָכֹל, רַק תְּחָנֵּנִי דֵּעָה בִּינָה וְהַשְׂכֵּל, וְתַשְׁפִּיעַ עָלַי שֵׂכֶל מֵאִתְּךָ, שֶׁאוּכַל לִהְיוֹת דָּבוּק בְּהֶעְלֵם אֶל הַשֵּׁם יִתְבָּרַךְ וְאֶל הַתּוֹרָה הַקְּדוֹשָׁה, אֲפִלּוּ בְּעֵת בִּטּוּלָהּ שֶׁל תּוֹרָה
וְיִהְיוּ מְאִירִין עֵינֵי שִׂכְלִי בְּעֵת הַבִּטּוּל עַל-יְדֵי הָרְשִׁימוּ שֶׁנִּשְׁאַר מֵאוֹר הַחָכְמָה שֶׁל הַתּוֹרָה הַקְּדוֹשָׁה שֶׁהָיִיתִי עוֹסֵק בָּהּ וְיִהְיוּ עֵינַי מְאִירוֹת כַּשֶּׁמֶשׁ וְכַיָּרֵחַ, לִפְעָמִים כַּשֶּׁמֶשׁ כְּשֶׁאָנוּ דְּבֵקִים בַּחָכְמָה הָעֶלְיוֹנָה בְּתוֹרָתְךָ הַקְּדוֹשָׁה, וְלִפְעָמִים כַּיָּרֵחַ כְּשֶׁאָנוּ מֻכְרָחִין לְהִתְבַּטֵּל מִן הַחָכְמָה וּמֵעֵסֶק הַתּוֹרָה, שֶׁאָז יָאִירוּ עֵינַי כְּיָרֵחַ יָקָר הוֹלֵךְ, בְּאֹפֶן שֶׁאֶזְכֶּה לְהִתְדַבֵּק בְּךָ תָּמִיד לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד:
וְתִהְיֶה בְּעֶזְרִי תָּמִיד, וְתוֹשִׁיעֵנִי לָשׁוּב אֵלֶיךָ בֶּאֱמֶת בִּתְשׁוּבָה שְׁלֵמָה לְפָנֶיךָ וְאֶזְכֶּה מֵעַתָּה לְהִתְדַבֵּק בְּךָ בֶּאֱמֶת כִּרְצוֹנְךָ הַטּוֹב וְאֶזְכֶּה לְבַלּוֹת כָּל יָמַי בְּתוֹרָה וּתְפִלָּה וּבְמַעֲשִׂים טוֹבִים, בִּקְדֻשָּׁה וּבְטָהֳרָה בֶּאֱמֶת וּבֶאֱמוּנָה וּבְיִרְאָה וּבְאַהֲבָה, בְּשִׂמְחָה וּבְטוּב לֵבָב מֵרֹב כֹּל עָזְרֵנִי בְּרַחֲמֶיךָ הָרַבִּים שֶׁלֹּא אֲאַבֵּד מֵעַתָּה שׁוּם שָׁעָה וְשׁוּם רֶגַע מִימֵי חַיַּי הַמֻּעָטִים בְּחִנָּם כִּי מְעַט יָמַי, וְאִם לֹא עַכְשָׁו אֵימָתַי כִּי הֲלֹא אַתָּה עָתִיד לְקַבֵּל דִּין וְחֶשְׁבּוֹן מֵאִתָּנוּ עַל כָּל שָׁעָה וָרֶגַע מִימֵי חַיֵּינוּ עָזְרֵנִי שֶׁאֲפִלּוּ בְּעֵת שֶׁאֲנִי מֻכְרָח לְהִתְבַּטֵּל מִדִּבְרֵי תּוֹרָה, שֶׁתַּזְמִין לִי אָז אֵיזֶה עֲסָקִים מֵעֲבוֹדָתְךָ וּרְצוֹנְךָ, שֶׁאוּכַל עַל יָדָם לְפַקֵּחַ אֶת דַּעְתִּי וְלָתֵת נַיְחָא לְמוֹחִי, וְאַף-עַל-פִּי- כֵן אֶעֱסֹק אָז בִּדְבָרִים קְדוֹשִׁים שֶׁהֵם רְצוֹנְךָ בֶּאֱמֶת חוּס וַחֲמֹל עָלַי וְעָזְרֵנִי מֵעַתָּה לִהְיוֹת כִּרְצוֹנְךָ הַטּוֹב תָּמִיד בֶּאֱמֶת:
Translation by Rabbi Ebn Leader
YHVH, my god, and the god of my ancestors, I come to seek your mercy.
May I merit that you guide me on the path of what is true and correct. Send me wisdom, understanding and knowledge from your holy abode, help me with discernment, so that I know how to apply “the negation of Torah establishes it”.
Guide me and teach me to do the right thing at the right time so that I may always follow Your good desire. May I merit to engage in Torah and good deeds at all times for Your sake, with great dedication, day and night, and may I merit to serve You more, with greater integrity, every day.
Grace me with knowledge to know when I must pull back a little, and may I merit to cancel my learning only when it is truly necessary. And even when it is necessary to retreat from words of Torah for a while, please help me that it not be a total withdrawal, Heaven forbid. Give me knowledge, understanding and discernment, grant me something of Your perspective, so that even at times of negating Torah, below the surface I remain connected to You and to the holy Torah.
The light of the holy Torah’s wisdom shines in the eyes of my mind when I engage in it. May my eyes shine with the remaining glow of that light even during the time of retreating from Torah.
May my eyes shine like the sun and like the moon. May they shine like the sun at those times that we connect to the supernal wisdom that is in Your holy Torah. And may they shine like the moon at those times when it is imperative that we retreat from engaging with Torah and wisdom. May my eyes shine during those times like the moon in its beauty, so that I am connected to You at all times, forever and ever.
May I be so privileged to spend my entire life engaged in Torah and prayer and good deeds. May I engage with holiness and purity, with truth and trust, with fear and love, in joy and good-heart and abundance.
In Your great compassion, help me not waste any time or moment of my short life, from now on.
If not now - when?
You are the one who will ultimately receive the accounting of all time and of every moment of our lives that we have wasted…
Please help me during those times that it is imperative for me to withdraw from words of Torah. Please make available to me engagements in which I can serve You and fulfill Your desire. May they open my mind and give it rest, and may I be engaged at that time in holy actions that reflect your true desire.
Have mercy and compassion on me. Help me, from now on, to truly and always be as is your good desire for me.
Let us be blessed that our breaking of Torah shall never be a waste. Rather, when we need to break, when we can no longer engage in Torah, let us Holy break, fully and divinely. Let our negation of Torah be our way to refuel and move again towards Torah and God.
Reb Noson offers us a vision where our moment of breaking is understood as necessary, as part of the good path that will bring us to Torah and God. In this time of worldwide breaking, let us find the holy in this break, let this time not be wasted, not be counted as negative, but rather be for us as a blessing.
Now, having made your way through the texts above, let your learning start to sink in an join me for some words of Torah below.