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Investing in the Relationship

By: Rav Ari Shames

This week I would like to connect an underlying principle in our parsha to a family event. If you have been a part of our readership in the past you have already heard of the 3rd of Adar, celebrated by the Shames family. For those of you who have joined more recently I am copying what I have written in the past :

I would like to dedicate this shiur in gratitude to Hashem for a great miracle that He performed for my family two (now four) years ago. My wife and five of my children were involved in a very severe car accident that included the car they were in flipping over several times and some even being thrown from the car during the flipping. Through the direct intervention of God, all family members in the car walked away with only scratches and one broken arm. Road trips to the north of the country now include making a special bracha when we pass the spot of the accident, and we have adopted the 3rd of Adar as a family holiday from that point forward (the specific customs are still a work in progress). All of this is so that we do not take for granted the great gift that Hashem gave us.  

(For those interested in the question about what to do in such a case during a leap year, please see http://harova.org/torah/view.asp?id=1778.

This Shabbat we open what seems to be a new topic, the Mishkan. We read in great detail about each and every vessel and the structure of the entire compound. Each vessel serves its own purpose and each of its details point in a unique direction. However we need to try to view the entire forest and not just each individual tree. What is it all about? What is the ultimate purpose of it all?

In this case the investigation is not very complicated. The Torah says it quite clearly “you should make me a holy place and I will dwell amongst them”. The purpose of the Mishkan is so that God’s presence will be with us. The Ramban expands on the idea by explaining that the previous episode in our story, matan torah, is really not a separate incident at all. The revelation that we experienced at Har Sinai was the most obvious and tangible connection that anyone has ever had with God. The Mishkan is the way to perpetuate that connection. The structure and purpose of the Mishkan is to continue the Siniatic experience into the post Sinai existence.

Simply put, there is a need for man to connect with God and to make Him relevant to our everyday lives. We would otherwise be helplessly detached and lacking in a Godless world. I believe that this is also the underlying concept of a korban, which is poorly translated as a sacrifice. The term sacrifice assumes relinquishing something for the benefit of another. The word korban comes from karov to become close. The purpose of a korban is to strengthen one’s relationship with God. This includes voluntary offerings and those after one has sinned. In both cases one is attempting to enhance/repair their connection with God.

Teffila and Hallel-

In various places in Chovat Hatalmidim the Piaczena Rebbe writes about teffila. He posits that it is a terrible disgrace to describe teffila as an attempt to obtain things that we need, and had we been fortunate enough to have everything that we want we would not bother with teffila at all. Instead, in a very moving piece, he describes teffila as one pouring out one’s heart to God simply as an expression of our relationship with Him. In teaching in the Midrasha I usually compare the issue to talking to one’s mother on the phone as opposed to one’s father. (While this is a gross stereotype, it seems to get a wide range of nodding heads admitting to be included in the description…) The conversation with Dad is often need based while the conversation with Mom is often just that, a conversation with Mom! Teffila is a conversation with Mom. We use teffila as an open line of communication with God, and the multiple requests in teffila are nothing more than an excuse to approach God.

In a similar manner the Piaczena describes Hallel. At first glance it would seem that the recitation of Hallel after a miracle would simply be to thank God for the kindness that He has shown us (a two point system “miracle/appreciation”). Instead he understands Hallel to be a by-product our new and improved relationship with God. We sing to God because we feel close to Him, we feel close to Him because we have just experienced His kindness (a three point system “miracle/enhanced relationship/ communication”).

When viewed in this manner both teffila in times of crisis and the Hallel in times of joy serve the same purpose. Our goal is a close and intimate relationship with God and there are times that we experience this the hard way while in others we are able to dance with Him.

It is not hard to see how our teffila experience is a clear extension of the korban experience. Once again it all boils down to being close to God.

When an individual or group of people experience crisis they turn to God. Those who have battled long term disease or extended threats to their personal safety have felt God every step of the way. In my family’s case things were different. There was no obvious crisis - all was well, and within seconds it all changed. Life was not obvious; a real threat developed but within seconds it was over. There was no real time for prayer. By the time I personally found out about it, I was told that everyone is OK. The most significant event of our lives, the event in which God arranged each and every detail to protect us, was over in a matter of moments. It would be so simple to just let it become a fading family tale.

Here is why celebrating the event is so important each year. If the event was a fleeting moment, a wisp of the past, then we missed the opportunity. If we can build on it year after year (and in many ways during the year as well) then we can feel God in our lives. We can appreciate his presence and make the event a significant one for ever.

May we all find the ways to make the Sinai experience, the clear revelation of God, a part of our everyday lives. 

 

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