Pesach/Shavuot 5777


G-d’s Face in place of pharaoh’s: through Pesach to Shavuot

Much ceremony is given to Rosh Hashanah and Passover, and so little to Shavuot. This is unfair and must be re-thought. The High Holidays divine G-d as the Sovereign Creator and Pesach encapsulates G-d as Redeemer. Mount Sinai alone presents the Presence in the terrifying term most profound: the Revealer. Who can withstand such a face-to-Face encounter?

Freedom from Egypt spits us into the Sinai desert, a howling wasteland. There is no direction in freedom, only dizzy possibility, except for this: we know the way back to Eden is through Tzion. Fearful desert wandering forestalls Tzion. Those who carried a slavery mentality could not live innocence. Similarly, Israel must transcend the Shoah before it can be purely defined. Paradise is beyond an escape from evil. It’s an ascension from good, tuning onto G-d’s wavelength. We mark our lowest points and pray to never return. Fear is distance from G-d, and Redemption the answer to our fear. We cleanse ourselves of the stain of victimhood through our children. When they laugh at the bogeyman. When the name Haman is ridiculed with mirth. When Amalek is a story. When Hitler is a cartoon. D’ror, liberation from the depths of depravity, is only the beginning. Now what?

Indeed, we find the celebratory reach of Judaism in the supernal gift of Shavuot. Whereas Passover is indemnifying, a return to humanity from subhuman strife, Shavuot points to the pinnacle, where G-d’s gift of Revelation is a triumph to the world, silhouetted in the children of Israel. All our wandering is in preparation for Revelation. And so we fortify ourselves through pursuing the mitzvot. We must fortify ourselves, because G-d doesn’t put a stop to evil. People mis-accuse G-d of malicious insouciance, but G-dliness understands even an encounter with evil as a chance to re-fashion a loftier platform of steadfast integrity. We do life for the sake of G-d, in order to face G-d in the World to Come.

Why rehash becoming free more than we revel in being free? Simple freedom is a G-d-given entitlement, the normative state of the human being. Let’s rather have a haggadah of glory envisioned and actualized, sanctity sought in all exchanges. A haggadah for Shavuot of aspiring to G-dliness, of preparing ourselves for encountering the Voicing Face of G-d. We might include an anagogic Ten Commandments of spiritual presence in place of the ten plagues… a Four Questions where instead of asking how tonight differs from all other nights, we ask how to shape each coming night to be more and more like this one…  Just as our weekly goal is to make Shabbat a week-long event, thus life in the Shabbat Shabbaton Seventh Heaven, we strive yet more audaciously to make Shavuot last the year.

G-d commands us to attitudinize joy and ecstasy. The Hebrew word for smile is chiyuch, which is the word chai (life) combined with the letters vav and chaf sofit, which together represent the number 26: the numerical value of the Shem HaMeforash. As my daughter Briah insists to me—and I appeal to you, dear reader—the secret mitzvah is to receive every person with your most beautiful face. We all hold multitudes of depths and heights. But to rise to encounter another soul with your own knowledge of the smile of G-d’s Light is an act of sever panim yafot (Pirke Avot 1:15.) This is how you bring forth your neshama! As we ever-develop the soul toward its face-to-Face with G-d, may we display the Almighty’s glint in our face-to-face with one another.

G-d the Creator jump-starts the human creature’s life with a kiss {onto/into?} their breath. A dual “they” for the singular creature, as Adam and Eve were created as one—Eve is latent inside Adam from the moment of Adam’s creation (see Genesis 1:27). This kiss of light is a presentiment of the World to Come, yet accessible to each of us here and now. We must raise our relations toward the pristine perfection of Adam to Eve, and Eve mutually to Adam, as from their first inhale. There awakens the Heavenly abode of G-dliness infinitely re-Creating.

Revelation is the exertion—the strain—for Loftiness, while yet centering G-d’s Presence on Earth, within all people, among all nations. Each person carries in their comportment their own rapport with Heaven. It takes boldness to share it, to trust it, to mix it with others. It is our secret face to bring into the world, our sever panim yafot we dare present each other. But this is how we bring Heaven to the land. The Heavenly Host awaits Its footing here. G-d reveals G-d’s light for human beings to carry. This is how G-d becomes known to the world. This is the apprehension of the celestial truths of life. This is the inheritance that the Ruach Elohim, the Holy Spirit, awaits to build. All innermost aspire that the whole world shall be the Temple of G-d. Chag Shavuot Sameach. Amen.


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