The season which begins with a cleansing period involving literal and spiritual removal of leavening from the heart and home prior to Pesach (Passover)… was revelatory for this author. I felt so “in” control. Pesach was wonderful, memorable, filling… the Seder night with the children and the sounds, the scents, the echoes of ancient times which reverberated into glimpses of eternity were wondrous. The interim days of Chag ha’Matzot were rife with family and friends…relaxion and connection. The days of counting up toward the next of the three Regalim ( a word whose root is regel in Hebrew…meaning feet, to denote walking…walking to Jerusalem to the appointed place- the Holy Temple in Yerushalayim to worship Hashem and bring Him gifts from the heart) …Shavuot. Counting the Omer from Pesach to Shavuot began with every good intention. The direction of my heart was steady. I printed out several journals, hole punched and bound… ready to fill out. Ready so that not only would every single day be remembered and counted but so that I could inscribe the thoughts of my heart and be provoked to thinking meaning every single day until Shavuot. Then after counting not only the days but weeks I’d find myself at this very day… 49 days of the omer and on the cusp of Shavuot (Pentecost) as a more enlightened more perfected, completed person.
That was the plan. To spare you the gory details, while attempting to be candid and honest with you, I seemingly unwittingly have in the past month stepped up over the ledge of a platform and plunked down onto a roller coaster of emotions, falls, binges, losses (literally of life), losses of faith (bombs dropped by close loved ones regarding their rejections and adoptions of faith/or lack there-of), contact with death and near death, connection to those I love who have undergone surgery, recovery, stroke, cancer, children’s coming into teenage-dom, two-dom, and new realms of independence simultaneously…anti-Semitism, war in Israel and strides to stand with her… and what can I say about it? Here I am, realizing and aware that Shavout means so very much and I am not really sure who I am today.
But, I want to know.
Who am I facing Shavout? God has been with me, strengthening me, inspiring me, calling me back, convicting me, showing me where to go, what to do, what to say, what NOT to say… I have not lost faith, I have not cursed Him, I have not even been critical, I have been repentant but yet… I have lost sight of who I am. I look back on this month and wonder, how could I have gone from that lady with the binder and pen in hand to this?
I got a picture today as I prepared for Shabbat and turned my heart Shavout-ward, a thought in my mind… what WAS it like?
What was it like then? For the Israelites leaving Egypt, a place which represents everything that holds us back and holds us down and keeps us from serving Hashem entirely. A place and a mindset which will stop at nothing to stop us from journeying from the bondage of this flesh and this life and this world and arriving at Sinai. Egypt, a word which in Hebrew means a place of Pressing, binding, NARROWNESS… this narrow-mindedness, narrow heartedness, narrow spiritedness will stop at nothing to keep us from receiving the Gift of the giving of the Torah.
Who am I facing Shavout?
I’d like to attempt to share with you what occurred to me today while I asked myself and asked Hashem this question. I will try and do this by using certain people types as examples. There are a vast array of shades and levels and personalities and complexities in between, but THIS is the way my mind was attempting to grasp it.
What kind of people were leaving Egypt heading for Mt. Sinai and Torah- the ultimate purpose for their freedom, for our freedom? Who were they? What feelings did they struggle with along the way? What did they have to contend with en route? Perhaps there were some who had shades of the following categorizations. Perhaps not, my prayer is that this journeying will somehow help me (and ideally) someone else to better reach up for that Gift, the memorial of the Matan Torah at Sinai and Shavuot…
(While I use the terms “I am certain…” remember I wax artistic in these entries at times and felt that term worked better for this piece. In reality… the more I think I know the less I realize that I do… there are things I am certain of and know, but I look forward to a lifetime of learning and growing, not so much knowing. There is only one thing I am certain of. Hashem and His Word.)
The “Angelic” Human Being Who is Always ON.
(An overstatement of course…but this is a person who is constantly striving for closeness with Hashem. Who says their prayers all the time with intention and purpose and sincerity. This is a person who is deeply and healthily obsessively occupied in the Word of Hashem, reading their bible and driving at the purpose of the Author and the words used. This is a person who lives patience and kindness in their homes, at their jobs, with their each and every interaction in everyday life. This person forgives first and condemns last. This person never stops doing what Hashem has asked of them. Whatever life throws at this person he or she will weather it with grace, passion and compassion… come what may, always enlisting the help of Hashem in every moment.
I have met people like this. At first you might think that they aren’t for real, but when you strike up a relationship with them you come to find…they most surely are. They always have the right thing to say, always are pointing you toward hope and inspiration. These are people God has crafted to be like unto guardian angels here on earth.
I am certain there were Israelites such as these walking toward Sinai. Those who never once lost hope that Hashem would take them out of bondage, who trusted and believed His Torah (a word which in Hebrew means teaching and instruction, which can be scripturally proven to have existed from far earlier than Matan Torah-the Gifting of the Torah at Sinai) and followed everything they possibly could even while in exile. These people were leaders and the glue which held the masses of hopeless, helpless, sometimes wayward people together. What makes these people as wonderful as they are is that they themselves will be the first to point out that no one is perfect, only One.
I think this kind of person would have felt as though they had flown as if by eagles wings to the foot of Sinai, gracefully falling into the ordinances expected of them, and with a huge and open heart… fully embraced the experience. They would have received the Holy Spirit and have been readily prepared for it!
The Zealous One
Possibly overzealous often with the very best of intentions. This person can be the most incredibly devoted partner, friend, confidant… one could ever ask for. This is the person (when you see eye to eye) you can talk with about important and meaningful matters for days if allotted. The person who will set you aright with good counsel, the person who has an educated answer and will help you evade much wasted time and confusion. This person, in their zeal, can also be (unwittingly of course) a shade arrogant. As “righteous” as this over-confidence could be, it still can push people away. This person wants so much to share all that they have come to know and love…this person wants so deeply to translate the passion he or she has for life he or she can sometimes lose sight of the forest for the trees. Sometimes forsake those closest to them for the lofty goals they lovingly and completely pursue. When these things are done in the name of Hashem they seem to this zealous one as completely worthy. Perhaps they are.
I have known people like this. They are inspiring. They do much and ask little. They give all that they have to what they believe. They truly desire the other in their lives to long for the truth the way that they pursue it. I am certain there were people like this leaving Mitsrayim heading toward Sinai. I believe these people were leading, in exile… speaking out for Hashem’s name, being bold in the face of their oppressors, motivating those who had no will to live to continue to fight! I believe these people would have desired to take with them on this journey every single person they could try to scrounge together to accompany them, I believe they would feel more worthy… the more they could save. I wonder… if in their lofty reachings (and holy reaching in some, perhaps most, cases) they would have overlooked someone who was still standing at the border. Someone unsure. Someone seemingly ‘smaller’. Or quieter. Nevertheless, I believe these people made it Matan Torah, with exuberance and pomp. Stirring excitement among their brethren, sure of themselves and their purpose. Sure of their God and received the Torah with delight, the Holy spirit in its fullness.
This person is readily hunkering down through the bad, and keeps moving when its time to get it done. He or she is inspired but also grounded in practicality. A planner and a performer. No matter what happens this person has what is required and needed. He or she is often willing to share and lend a helping hand but in the end would keep moving forward in order to survive, even if …God forbid it meant leaving someone else behind to fend for themselves. Sometimes just making due, someone like this can lose the proclivity for really connecting with those around them. Sometimes it is possible to survive without seeking ‘the other’s needs’ but still making it happen in your own life. This person can possibly find themselves doing good for the sake of good…rather than for the sake of connection.
I have had relationships with people like this. They are wonderfully “together”. They set goals and reach for them with intensity and purpose. They are organized and readied. They have the tools needed to rise to any occasion. I am certain there were people like this at the Exodus from Mistrayim. They packed everything far in advance, they thought of possible trials and obstacles along the way. They ensured all the needs of their family members and even friends were attended to. When it was time to leave Mistrayim, they were prepared. These Israelites kept going and made sure to carry everything that they would have need for but perhaps, because of their drive to survive, they didn’t take the time to stop to help anyone else along the way. Perhaps they were so focused on the road ahead they didn’t even look back. People like this were very consumed with missions and overarching outreach, sometimes without attention to detail. I believe these people walked a straight line toward Sinai. When they got there they had everything they needed and enough to share. These survivors glorified God for His provision even in exile, throughout exile, the split sea, wilderness journey and when they arrived at the foot of the mountain they were readied to receive the Living Word of Hashem and His Spirit.
The Wanderer – Who
Happened to Get Lost
This is a person who knows right from wrong, who has toed the line through difficult temptations and challenges. This is a person who is very high when reaching the heights and very low when he or she happens to get off track. This person was once on the derek (a word in hebrew which means the “way” or the “direction”), he or she knew where she was going and where he or she wanted to go, knew (at least believed in) where Hashem wanted to take him or her. Life happened. Pain happened. Confusion happened. Doubt happened. Distraction happened. Addiction happened. Self pity happened. Excuses happened. Something took he or she off the directive and that passion for the walking became wayward, wandering. He or she got lost from the path and it can be difficult to find the way back… however this person has not lost sight of his or her mission. This person is merely meandering in an unproductive, even at times, unGodly direction. Getting back on track can be done, however it is harder to find the way “home” the father away from Hashem you get.
I think there may be more than a few people like this. I am certain there were some Israelites like this leaving Mistrayim. These people were unable to handle their emotions, mourning all the real losses around them. These people were traumatized by their circumstances and used took the opportunity to wander of the path. This person believed in leaving Egypt, believed in Hashem, trusted in the blood of the lamb but all the while carried with him or her the horrible images which were born in bondage. These people didn’t lose their faith in Hashem’s promises but, somewhere…for some reason (perhaps a very “valid” excuse)… turned off the direction the rest of their family members and friends were taking. This person needed, or thought that they needed a little time to rest or escape, perhaps this person ‘deserved’ it after all they had been through… but everyone else was still moving forward . Everyone else was walking forward while they wandered away. What happened to this person?
This Sabbath we read about the tribe of Dan (a word which means in Hebrew comes from Din which means Judge). This is the Tribe who traveled LAST in the order of encampment/travel laid out by the Torah. This doesn’t mean the tribe was last in importance or responsibility. In fact, perhaps they had the very most important task of all. It is taught that they were in charge of gathering up and encouraging those who had fallen behind. The collected the lost who had perhaps wandered off course. Perhaps these Israelites were depressed, perhaps suicidal (too many accounts of those who survived the Holocaust were in some way driven to commit suicide post war), perhaps traumatized, perhaps addicted (abusing drugs and alcohol were as big if not an even larger issue in ancient times). Whatever the reason for wandering off course, Dan was there to gather them up. To ensure that the other tribes they had trickled off from, who had in a way…left them behind… would again find them, acknowledge and help them be a part of the “family” once more. Dan, whose name means judgment… too often I have found believers judging in a completely un-biblical manner. The standard set out in the bible is one of proofs (what is the back story on the one being judged); contributing factors (is the one who is judging motivating inclination to restore this person to an original/or new and greater height); witnesses (their lives tell the story of what we have been through and if the judge is willing always to first compassionate with the wanderer and accused, he will promote the healing versus condemnation of these lives in struggle and pain).
So it is the judge is the very most compassionate. Where tribal or family members, community members and friends can be the most critical of this wanderer, sadly too often writing them off for ever going that way to begin with (especially when they do not have the excuse of not having “known the light”)… Dan, the Judge is in charge of the ‘salvation’ of the stragglers or lost. Fitting that upon some representations of his tribal banner there appears the soaring eagle. So often we hear of Israel being “carried upon God’s wings like an eagle”… who better to see those left behind than Dan, the eagle, for from his vantage point he can see the lost and bring them back to Hashem. So I believe that even these wanderers can be gathered up by the Compassionate Judge, called back ‘in time’ onto the Derek (path) and make it to the foot of Sinai and just as fully receive God’s Torah and be filled with His Divine Spirit. Perhaps…even fuller, for they will in turn be enabled to search for the lost and really feel for their woes and be enabled to touch them in a place they can relate to. Yeshua himself seems to encourage those who feel like they are not as worthy to recieve God’s free gift of grace…or His ways as explained in His Torah as given from Genesis… proclaiming that their return to the “way” is a cause for (EVEN) music made in Heavenly places.
Luke 15;1 Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. 2 Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” 3 So He told them this parable, saying, 4“What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? 5“When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 “And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ 7“I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
I don’t know if you have caught on, but at this point in my life I have related most to the last person mentioned. The wanderer, who happened to get lost. However, I have at times been all of these people. Sometimes longer than others. There are shades of all of them I have been at different seasons in my life. There is a little bit of each of these people in all of us (I believe). So who am I facing Shavout? Well, a little bit of all of them. With their strengths and shortcomings.
There is one person more I’d like to acknowledge whom I believe I will never have to be… because despite my wandering I have had Hashem’s prompting and probing and coaxing and convicting all along the way… I will not lose faith. I have been in much more incredibly challenging situations to lose my King than these… but the following person needs acknowledgment. Lest one lose hope! Chas V’Shalom (God forbid!)
The Last Minute Believer
This person may in fact not physically be on his or her deathbed, he or she may not feel like he or she is aged or dying …but for some who are “alone”, who are apart from God and His provision, love and truth… there might not seem like there’s anything left. It is true… whether or not one is literally nearing their final hour, or driving themselves to that point with the wilful, rebellious, selfish, haughty way they are living… there is still an open opportunity. Even a deathbed confession is accepted (whether you are there, or headed there… and a life lived without God is surely headed in that direction).
I am certain there were people like this leaving Egypt. In the midst of the awesomeness of the plagues and judgment of Egypt they trusted. But once in the sand… they were really only there because their wives believed or husbands trusted. Inside, they were bitter toward God or doubted His existence at all. How could this possibly be after all they witnessed? The wrong words in their ears, the continual questions which require answers which surpass (ultimately- simple trust and faith in Hashem) what can be reasoned or proven… bad experiences with believers, trauma inflicted by ‘religious’ systems… who knows what causes the dead to remain in their burial shrouds, singing their own dirges of “tapping into reality”. The stubborn youth or obstinate aging man, anyone…then or now- both would receive the Torah and Hashem’s mercy should they decide to repent, and recieve His commandments, to strive to their variant capacities to fulfill them and
simply open their hands…
Yes. The hope of God’s love, the promises gifted in His Torah are for all people, at all times, coming from all places and positions and walks of life.
I don’t know if I have become any more enlightened facing Shavuot…but I do believe I have considered the human condition a little deeper, and taken a more reasonable look at the expectations I have placed upon myself…
when in reality…
He just wants me to meet with Him.
To love Him. To trust Him. To accept as the free gift that it is, salvation and a life of Torah (His teachings) through every single personality…season…and experience in this life He has graced me to live in.
Chag Shavuot Sameach!
Baruch Hashem! Todah Yeshua! You mercy is beyond me.
A Psalm which reminds me of Shavuot
1The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice;
Let the many islands be glad.
2Clouds and thick darkness surround Him;
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.
3Fire goes before Him
And burns up His adversaries round about.
4His lightnings lit up the world;
The earth saw and trembled.
5The mountains melted like wax at the presence of the LORD,
At the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.
6The heavens declare His righteousness,
And all the peoples have seen His glory.
7Let all those be ashamed who serve graven images,
Who boast themselves of idols;
Worship Him, all you gods.
8Zion heard this and was glad,
And the daughters of Judah have rejoiced
Because of Your judgments, O LORD.
9For You are the LORD Most High over all the earth;
You are exalted far above all gods.
10Hate evil, you who love the LORD,
Who preserves the souls of His godly ones;
He delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
11Light is sown like seed for the righteous
And gladness for the upright in heart.
12Be glad in the LORD, you righteous ones,
And give thanks to His holy name.