I stood this week on Har Sinai and Har Nebo alongside Bnai Yisrael after their forty year journey in the wilderness and received the Tochacha, the 98 curses and the blessings that followed. I stood. And even though it was only from my hospital room, where it took a team of four to support me, I firstly mouthed a joyous, celebratory “Shehecheyanu” and then began to recite the Amidah—the Standing Prayer:
Baruch Ata Hashem Mechayeh HaMetim: Blessed are You, Hashem, who resurrects the dead.
With full stature, I fulfilled the mitzvah of Modim Anachnu Lach. We thank you G-d for every minute, every hour of the day.
In Parshat Ki Tavo, when we are settled in Israel, we are commanded to bring the Bikurim, the first fruits to a priest, a kohen, and to recite the section reiterated in the Hagadah every Pesach seder: “Arami oved avi”, “My father Jacob served Lavan. We not only bring the orlah, the frist fruits three years after planting them, but in addition, we have to confess our personal history and biography. Each one of us has to tell the priest why we are here as Jews, as individuals in Eretz Yisrael. I personally shame that I do not live in Israel because of this law. He will ask: “Tell me your majestic Chassidic fiery travels. Speak about the miracles you gathered in Galos. Where have you been these two thousand years? Or were you asleep? How beautiful it would be to tell the Kohen my life’s amazing story, how I love G-d’s land and how I honour the Torah that radiates from Tzion. Every Jew must know their part in manifesting the splendorous emanation of G-d throughout the world. Those who live in Israel take part in the spreading of the Glory of the Beit haMikdash—the Holy Temple and the Holy of Holies. How I would prepare my reasons to the Priest why I am in Eretz Yisrael:
The Shoah and three years later to the day, the Orlah, the first fruits mechayeh hametim, the miracle from the dead—the rise of the State of Israel.
Adam and Eve had the Divinity’s skin. It was completely luminescent. The reason we put our hands near the braided havdalah candle at the closing ceremony of Shabbat is because our fingernails have the same transparency of the Original Light of day one of Creation. When we say Kriat Shma and call to each other that G-d is One, we also recall the First Light of day one.
The rabbis say that skin was once light—Or, spelled in Hebrew, Aleph- Vav-Resh, but after G-d dressed Adam and Eve’s shame, he put on them Or, spelled Ayin-Vav-Resh, a robe of leather, the flesh we wear today. The orlah, the first fruit that we bring to the Temple, commanded in this week’s parasha, is our attempt to restore the original light, which is anyway inside us all. We want that inner Divine spark to shine forth like the Eternal Light of the Temple. Or-lah also means “her light”, or shela, referring to the light of the Shechina, which shines when G-d is no longer in Exile from us nor the world.
May we each be blessed the Holy Light of the One. Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Ronnie Cahana
18 Elul 5771/ September 17, 2011