This week, we tremble at the Tochecha.[i]
“For the sin of … cessation [of the observance of] shmittah[ii] and yovel,[iii] exile comes to the world,” (Shabbos 33a) “then the land will be appeased for its Sabbaticals during all the years of its desolation….” (Leviticus 26:34) In the fearsome words of our Torah Portion, “I shall punish you … seven ways for your sins.” (ibid 26:18)
Several weeks ago, Rabbi Yaakov Feitman wrote in the Yated Ne’eman newspaper about Sefiras Ha’omer.[iv] In essence, Sefira is a long semi-Yom Tov linking Passover and Shavuos. (Ramban on Leviticus 23:36.) Shavuos completes the process which began on Passover. Sefira is the forty-nine-step ladder we climb to get there.
Why forty nine?
The process of readying ourselves to meet G-d at Mount Sinai must be seven times seven. This number comes up constantly: at negative forty-nine we were almost lost in Egypt. At positive forty-nine we arrive at Mount Sinai!
Everything, my friends, starts with the Seventh Day, Shabbos. Hashem built the world upon Shabbos: “last in deed, first in thought.” (Lecha Dodi) Shabbos frees us. “Dror Yikra … [Hashem] proclaims freedom!” The same word is used regarding Yovel: “You shall proclaim ‘dror b’Aretz,’ freedom throughout the land.” (Leviticus 25:10)
When I was living without Torah, people called that “freedom.” We thought we were free because we did whatever we wanted. We lived on the carousel: round and round it goes. Then, one day, the music stops; the ride is over; you get off the horse, and – guess what! – you are exactly where you started! Your entire life was a race to get nowhere!
The Torah, lehavdil, is not a circle. We are going somewhere! We are coming constantly closer to the Master of the Universe. Each week ends with the Day we spend with Hashem! There are six directions in this world – east, south, west, north, up and down, like waving the lulav – but on the Seventh Day we enter a new existence.
Suddenly, we are free: free of fear … free of troubles … free to connect with the Source of Life!
All success in life has to do with the number “seven,” which takes us beyond the material world. And then there is an even higher level: seven times seven!
Every Shabbos ends with havdalla, the separation between Shabbos and the coming week, but imagine not having to make havdalla, living continuously on the level of Shabbos! Thus, at Har Sinai, on the fiftieth day, we entered a new level of existence. When you reach the fiftieth level , you are a different person. Mount Sinai is the antidote to the Tochecha; the Fiftieth Day heals us. “Shelo asani oved… Blessed are You, Hashem, that I am not a slave!”
Every moment we have a choice: do I go “acharei levavchem v’acharei ainaichem … after my heart and my eyes” (Numbers 15:39) or do I follow our Teacher Moses? At Mount Sinai we meet the Master of the Universe. “Dror yikra … proclaim freedom! … Let your soul know Torah and it will be a crown on your head!” May we all soon wear this crown!
[i] The long section of Admonition in this week’s Torah Portion.
[ii] The Torah Agricultural Law according to which the Land of Israel must rest every seven years.
[iii] The Torah Law according to which the Land of Israel reverts to its original owner every fifty years.
[iv] The seven-week Omer count between Passover and Shavuos