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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays Preperation for Shavuot

In Order to Elevate You've got to Descend

The task of the Torah is to repair all. To plunge to the depths in order to elevate even the lowest of the low
מוקדש לעלוי נשמת
R. Avraham ben-tziyon ben shabtai
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Shavuot is the holiday of Matan Torah , the giving of the Torah. It is also a day of heshbon nefesh , soul-searching and introspection. Some people are greatly distressed these days by the decline in faith amongst a portion of the Jewish People. In their eyes, the situation seems beyond-hope, to the point where they have trouble understanding how things will ever improve. The rift separating the far-removed from the world-of-faith appears so great that it is hard to conceive of its ever being bridged. The sight of so large a portion of our people, so distanced from the Torah, weighs down on the 'man-of-faith' in particular, who wants to believe that the entire Jewish People, without exception, will eventually repent. The situation seems hopeless, clouds of despair blot out every ray of optimism. And we ask, is there a way to show these troubled individuals the light at the end of the so-dark tunnel? How can we console those who are so distressed on account of today's 'faith-crisis'?

Yet there is with what to comfort these weary individuals. The situation is not entirely hopeless. The Talmud informs us that the Almighty "concocted the remedy prior to the illness." The difficulties of our world were long ago anticipated by the Creator. Pirkei Avot , Chapters of the Fathers, teaches us that a number things were created even before the creation of the world, and that amongst them was teshuva, repentance. This, as a matter of fact, is the purpose of creation, and the true task of the Torah- to face difficulties and to overcome them, to accept fearlessly life's struggles, even the most difficult amongst them. To the contrary, the light of Torah is that much more discernable when it appears as a result of struggle with conflicting ideologies. In fact, the more that the darkness around it grows, the more the light of Torah breaks forth and rises with greater clearness and purity.

This concept is contained in the words of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi in the tractate of Shabbat where he relates that when Moses went up to heaven to receive the Torah, the ministering angels said to God: "Master of the Universe, what is this human doing here amongst us?" He replied: "He's come to receive the Torah." They said to Him, "A hidden treasure which has been stored away with You for some nine hundred and seventy four generations before the creation of the world, You now wish to hand over to a man of flesh and blood?" God's ministering angels didn't understand how it was possible to give the Torah to a mere mortal, how it was even thinkable to present a heavenly Torah to an 'only-human' world. The most fitting place for the Torah, they reasoned, is in heaven. Man lacks stability, he contradicts himself and changes his mind from one moment to the next. What's more, man is easily given over to all sorts of influences. What, they contended, does he have in common with God's Holy Torah?

God, though, chose not to respond to the angels. He said to Moses, "You give them an answer!" And how did Moses reply? He explained to the ministering angels that this is precisely the purpose of the Torah: to descend to the human world and to elevate it. To penetrate the complex and confusing material existence, in order to light up the darkness. The task of the Torah is to repair all. To plunge to the depths in order to elevate even the lowest of the low. To confront the most far-out ideologies with the intention of bringing-them-close. To leave no place empty of the light of God.

So, we see that man - with all of his shortcomings - is, in a sense, superior to the angels. Man unites within himself body and soul- a lowly, material body and a lofty soul - and, in this respect, unites the higher and the lower worlds. He is capable of ascending to the loftiest heights and elevating everything else with him. It is the free-choice of man which brings him into the innermost chamber, to a place which even the angels cannot enter. The ministering angels, for all of their greatness, are by nature static. True, they don't descend or fall, but, in the same respect, they don't ascend and are not capable of elevating the world. That is the task of the Jewish People and the Torah: to light up the darkness, and to face life's challenges, aware of the fact that the more the darkness grows, the more the light of Torah breaks forth and rises.
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