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Friday
Apr122019

A BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION TO BREAK THE STATUS QUO OF GALUS

It is not enough to celebrate 11 Nissan because it is the right thing to do, because we know it is required of the Rebbe’s Chassidim (even though it is virtually Erev Pesach). That approach does not suffice and it is a sure-fire strategy for us to remain in the same status quo another year, G-d forbid. Let’s give the Rebbe the ultimate birthday gift, giving ourselves over truly and completely to the mission of perfecting ourselves and everything around us to bring Moshiach now!

By Rabbi Boruch Merkur

A shliach gets up to speak, chuckling about the pitfalls of shlichus and how it is a mechaya to be at the Shabbaton. He is touched by the novelty of immersion in yeshiva life, at least for a few days, so different than his daily fare of outreach.

Here at yeshiva he’s surrounded by the vibrancy of Torah and avoda. At the Chabad house, he has to create the s’viva. It is his responsibility to establish the atmosphere and inspire Jews with words of wisdom.

So he has to prepare Torah. Or more accurately put, he once had to prepare. Now – he tells the amused crowd – all he has to do is repeat last year’s drashos. He’s starting to remember them all, but conveniently they don’t. He can recycle material and everyone’s happy from year to year.

Aside from the efficiency of this system, am I the only one struck by the obvious deficiency here? This shliach is a powerhouse of charm and charisma. When he speaks, he commands attention. But the very fact that his mushpaim suffice with recycled material – even if these teachings are silver and gold, holy and precious – the very fact that his mushpaim suffice with that, is telling.

L’shana ha’baa b’Yerushalayim! Every year we proclaim that next year will be different. Then we will achieve shleimus – not because this year we will not be complete, and will remain lacking and deficient, G-d forbid, but because the shleimus we achieve this year, should be seen as exile in comparison to next year.

The Torah we learn next year, even the same topic, does not negate the importance of our first perusal, but it is a higher plateau to lift off from. If the drush – even the same teaching – was approached with new insight, new thirst, a new breath of life, it would make such an impression on those who hear it that they will not only remember it next year, they will be on an entirely different plane and find last year’s drush insufficient, lackluster. They will want more and more. They are not the same people as before.

In the same vein, davening each day, even though the words are the same, should be entirely fresh and new, imbued with new depth, new meaning, a new adventure into the infinite depth of the cavernous heart and soul of Dovid HaMelech, the Anshei K’nesses HaG’dola, etc.

***

The bachurim are preparing for 11 Nissan in yeshiva. The Rebbe’s new niggun was just released and most of the students segue from Rabbeinu Tam to the booming refrain that fills the zal, humming along as best they can. The melody sinks in so that when the day of great celebration arrives, they will be ready for the new song, breathing into it a whole new spirit.

I look for a quiet corner to finish my davening, but the walls are only so thick. Over and over the niggun repeats, but I only have one Krias Shma. Not wanting to sound out of touch, I don’t complain about the volume so much as the repetition.

And it pays. No, they don’t stop playing it, but I get to learn a new concept in Chassidus in the exchange! Rabbi Levi Zaltzman, the mashgiach, directs my attention to Likkutei Torah (BaMidbar 18a):

Dovid HaMelech called Torah and Mitzvos “z’miros,” songs or melodies, for they were to him a kind of tune, where a single melody is repeated again and again because of its incredible sweetness. Likewise, all Mitzvos are the will of G-d, yisborech. Dovid HaMelech was offering a praise that is common to all Mitzvos, as they are all garments of the Supernal Will, baruch hu. Notwithstanding [their differences], he enjoyed and celebrated all Mitzvos, as people take pleasure and joy in the pleasantness and sweetness of a melody or tune, singing a single refrain over and over in delight. This is the joy of a Mitzva.

Admittedly this lesson was humbling to see. Here I was criticizing the repetitive approach to introducing this new song, but that is precisely what expresses our appreciation that the Mitzvos are G-d’s will.

Ah, but why then was Dovid HaMelech punished for his praise, for calling Torah and Mitzvos “z’miros”?

Also, on this basis, what’s wrong with mastering 53 parshiyos and repeating them endlessly, enjoying their precious beauty like an intoxicating melody? After all, Torah study is G-d’s will.

The answer is found in the next part of Likkutei Torah. There it clarifies that Dovid HaMelech’s praise was only that Mitzvos are G-d’s will, something we cannot understand or appreciate but we defer to and accept as the King’s decree. Sometimes we accept G-d’s will as an ox receives a yoke; sometimes we accept it with jubilation, like a pleasant melody, for we are doing something that is pleasing to G-d.

The level Dovid should have attained though is even more central and primary, more essential. He should have praised how each Mitzva is an individual, unique pleasure to G-d, and by extension, our greatest delight – taanug (pleasure) being more sublime and essential than ratzon (will). This avoda is the spectacular submission to the oneness of G-d in Krias Shma and the recognizing and affirming that our entire pleasure is G-d in “V’ahavta, etc.” (Ibid 18c).

***

Birthday celebrations are inherently repetitive. We celebrate the anniversary, the repetition of another year of someone’s life. It is not enough to celebrate 11 Nissan because it is the right thing to do, because we know it is required of the Rebbe’s Chassidim (even though it is virtually Erev Pesach). That approach does not suffice and it is a sure-fire strategy for us to remain in the same status quo another year, G-d forbid, singing the same refrain of exile ad nauseum. We need to revel in 11 Nissan like a new piece of Torah that we discover and are elated to learn, a new communication directly from G-d, “Torah chadasha mei’Iti teitzei.”

Let’s give the Rebbe the birthday gift of “s’u mincha u’vo’u lefanav,” lifting ourselves (s’u) above where we were last year and giving him the gift (mincha) that is truly pleasurable, reaching G-d’s inner desire and delight, by truly coming before Him (“u’vo’u lefanav”), giving ourselves over truly and completely to the mission of perfecting ourselves and everything around us to bring Moshiach now! ■

 

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