Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita

It is early morning, I gaze out my study window and bid good morning to my close friend. Standing straight and firm my special tree shimmers in the sunlight as the breeze wakes its many branches with a fresh kiss of renewal. The leaves are heavy with new life, its small buds dangling down with eternal potential. I’m not the only admirer, small birds keep touching down on its branches, dancing from one bough to the next. This ballet of life will lift any heart, giving hope as the day awakens to its unique challenges.

Devoted readers will remember that I have spoken of my love for trees in previous installments of this Journal. I am nothing if not loyal, and my whimsical attachment to these evergreen gifts from Hashem never lessens.

The Torah Hakodoshah is likened to a tree, one that reigns supreme in all our lives, towering higher than anything our imagination can conjure. Mishlei tells us:   ‘It is a tree of life to those who take hold of it, and those who support it are blessed.’(3:8)

The tree standing outside my window is a mere exemplar of the power that is the true Tree, the life-giving source of all existence, the Torah Hakodoshah.

The tree that is our Torah has leaves that represent our Mitzvos, outgrowths of the trunk that is the mainstay of all life. The birds, are our precious souls that flit upon them and with alacrity feed on the sap for our spiritual survival.  Hashem is hidden in so many ways and this is indeed a gift, something that gives us hope in our golus.

We are taught that at Kabolas Hatorah, Hashem said to Moshe, “Behold, I shall come to you in the thickness of the clouds, so that the nation will hear Me speak to You and believe in you forever.”  Many ask, would it not have been better for Him to openly reveal Himself to the entire nation, and thus further increase our faith in Him?

The answer to this may shed light on Tosfos’ question of why Hashem held Har Sinai over the heads of Bnei Yisrael and threatened to bury them beneath it if they refused to accept the Torah. At that point, they had already willingly declared, “Na’aseh v’nishmah–we shall do and we shall listen. What then, asks Tosfos, was the need for coercion? An answer to these questions can be found thru the prism of our lives that throws difficult challenges at us.  Like birds in a storm, we have moments when reaching that Tree of Life seems impossible. The Biala Rebbe of Tzefas Shlita tells us that it is for this reason that; ‘it was essential for the revelation at Har Sinai, which is the bedrock of our faith, to have occurred behind a thick layer of cloud.’ The Rebbe goes on to explain, ‘Hashem then gave us the vision to see through the clouds that mask His Presence. Not only in times of ease and evident holiness would we be able to keep our faith in Hashem, but even in times of hardship and concealment. Therefor it was not enough for Bnei Yisroel to willingly accept the Torah with the declaration of “Na’aseh v’nishmah.”

We should not think that just as we chose to accept the Torah when we felt inspired, we may choose to forsake it when the inspiration fades and hard times come. The Torah was forced upon us, under threat of burial beneath the mountain, to teach us that we have no choice but to observe it even in challenging moments.

The Rebbe clarifies our situation: ‘The same is true of our faith in Hashem. There are times when we are lifted on the wings of inspiration, and we feel exhilarated by the sense of Hashem’s Presence. Then we willingly embrace our faith in Him. But there are also times in which we must force ourselves to maintain our faith. When darkness strikes, we have nothing to grasp hold of but our unshakable, simple faith in Hashem, which is part of our Jewish heritage. This must be preserved at all costs.’

Our present Golus is particularly murky and we are challenged at the very roots of who we are. In previous epochs, the communities we were thrown into had at least a modicum of beliefs and a sense of a moral code that was attached to religion. A recent YouGov survey shows that younger Britons tend towards non-belief. Only 25% of 18-24 year olds believe in a G-d and 46% deny the existence of any greater spiritual power whatsoever. Among over-60s the numbers are flipped: 41% believe in a G-d and 24% are non-spiritual.  So yes, sadly we are living in a society where spirituality is rapidly becoming something looked upon with disdain and little respect.

This is the golus Hashem has sent us into, and it is from here we must thrive and grow. Despite all the ridicule, and attempts to wash away our treasured beliefs, we must stand tall and actively see the Hand of Hashem in our daily lives.

The gift at Kabolas Hatorah was the thickness of the clouds wherein we will always find Hashem, and this is our only goal. We may seem like lost birds flying with little intent, springing about, with no clear purpose. The truth is vastly different, we alight upon the Tree of Life, soaking up its kedusha so that we can fly higher in our Avodas Hashem.

May our celebration of Kabolas Hatorah bring us closer to our tikun, so that we will be blessed with our total Redemption.