Shavuot / Shabbos Nasso 5780
A couple of years after my Aliyah, I remember asking my brothers a simple, yet very complex questions. “Do You Remember Me”? I am not sure if they really heard my question. Looking back I think it could have been taken many different ways. But on the inside of the inside I was asking them if they remembered the essence of who I am, the essence of our relationship. At the core of my question was a desire to really be seen, to be understood, to feel close even with a lifetime full of good times, and bad times, ups and downs, distance and disagreements. I wanted my brothers to remember that our relationship was not about what had or had not happened – but that it was something so much deeper.
Shabbos is a special time for us and HaShem, and there are really two fundamental things that as Jews HaShem asked of us – Shamor and zachor. Shamor, to guard and zachor to remember.
Rav Malamed and many others speak about Shamor as the mitzvot lo’ta’asay – the do not do mitzvot. Without going too far into this – by keeping these mitzvot and “guarding” shabbos we are able to create space, an empty space of potential that is not cluttered with distractions and “other” obligations. For now I really want to speak about zachor.
There are two primary things that we remember “Zachor” on shabbos – they are: that HaShem created the world and that he brought us out of Mitzrayim. Which in some ways seems a little strange because we really remember those things every day in our tefillot. And additionally, does HaShem really think that we are going to forget weekly that He created the world and that He brought us out of Mitzrayim?
Please open your hearts, when we look at what those things, creation and redemption from Mitzrayim have in common, it is an element of HaShem’s desire to have relationship and closeness to us. HaShem created the world to bestow His goodness upon His people and that they would serve Him and He brought us out of Mitzrayim so that we could serve Him. This service is about closeness not slavery – a relationship, ki v’yachol, of mutual benefit.
So what is it that HaShem is really asking us every Shabbos – I think that He is begging us, as if, and saying Shamor – please create space for me, create space for our relationship. And then like the question I asked my brothers – He is saying Zachor, remember me, remember that through everything all of the ups and downs, all of the good times and hard times remember me – see me. Remember that the essence of everything is that “I” desire closeness with my people.
The loneliest place in the world is in a crowded room, a room full of people who are doing their thing, laughing, enjoying each other, maybe singing, maybe learning, maybe praying – but not seeing you. What if HaShem is asking us to remember Him? What if HaShem is lonely in a crowded room? What if HaShem is lonely in a crowded shul… What if HaShem is crying out for us to SEE him – to remember Him. To remember the essence and purpose of our relationship.
Rav Avhraham Yehoshua Heschel, the great grandson of the Apter Rebbe said: “When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion – its message becomes meaningless.”
As we come to Shavuot once again, as HaShem is giving us one more opportunity to say that we are here, that we are with You, that we see You and that we also want more than anything to be in relationship with You and to, as it where, make You feel seen in this world, to give You a place in this world. Maybe we can sit quietly, alone with HaShem with a heart wide open and say – HaShem, I remember you – I remember us – I am here now and I don’t want YOU to feel lonely.
I bless each one of us with the courage to face ourselves honestly and to step up, with hearts open and eyes focused to lovingly accept something new that we have never had before with HaShem.
Shimon Aaron HaMesharet