“The heavens declare the glory of G-d, and the expanse of the sky tells of His handiwork. Day following day brings expressions of praise, and night following night bespeaks wisdom. There is no speech and there are no words; their sound is unheard.” (Psalm 19)
Hashem operates the universe in silence. He can be found, but we have to search.
Tzaddikim, holy people, imitate His trait of hidden-ness. Moses was concealed in Midian for forty years (Bereishis Rabbah 100:10). King David was summoned from the wilderness to become king of Israel. The Rambam says that the process of teshuva, repentance, includes exile, because “exile atones for sin” (Hilchos Teshuva 2:4) The Vilna Gaon zt”l is known to have imposed exile on himself. The Baba Sali ran from the public eye.
In the surrounding culture there is an industry called Public Relations, through which people seek to promote themselves and their projects. In that world, the very essence of success is to be seen by everybody. This alone indicates the deep sickness of that culture.
Those who study Daf Yomi recently began to learn Seder Kodshim. The very first subject discussed in Meseches Zevachim reveals an amazing world. The entire Seder begins with the subject of “intention.” If a sacrifice is brought in the Holy Temple without proper intention, the sacrifice can be invalidated.
Does anyone see intention? It is totally invisible. No one sees, except Hashem!
The ramifications are mind-boggling. The entire world of thought and emotion is subject only to the scrutiny of the King of the Universe! We are commanded not only to subject all our actions to the Torah, but also our inner world.
We can learn from tefillin: first we place the tefillin next to our heart, then next to our brain, and only then next to our hand. I believe this reveals that our emotions must first be subject to the control of the Torah, then our thoughts and only after that will our actions be in line with Hashem’s will.
Can we control this inner world? Clearly, the Torah expects this. Don’t we say every day “v’ahavta es Hashem elokecha … You shall love your G-d.” Can we do that? Of course we can! The Torah also commands, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart.” (Leviticus 19:17) Our entire Exile has come about through sinas chinom, unwarranted hatred between Jew and Jew! Can we control that? Of course we can! This week we read the Tochacha, which begins with these fateful words: “If you consider My decrees loathsome ….” (Leviticus 26:15) Can we control this? We had better control it!
We say every day: one of the “precepts whose fruits a person enjoys in this World but whose principal remains intact for him in the World to Come” is “iyun tefilla …absorption in prayer.” (Meseches Shabbos 127a) We are standing before the King of Kings! When we speak to Him, do we pause to reflect on every word?
Rabbi Chaim Yisroel Belsky zt”l trained himself as a young boy to concentrate intensely. He became a “cemented cistern that does not lose a drop.” (Ethics of the Fathers 2:11) If we want to train our emotions and thoughts to reach the standards expected by the King of the Universe, we should begin to tremble and shake. How can we do it?
The question is: how can we not do it!
Recently, travelling in Yehuda and Shomron (which some people refer to as the West Bank of the Jordan River), we saw the homes of our Islamic cousins springing up on many hills and valleys. I was reminded of the following words: “Bifroach reshaim … when the wicked bloom like grass and all the doers of iniquity blossom, it is to destroy them until eternity.” (Psalm 92) A hateful world surrounds us. A plague threatens our existence!
Can we deal with it?
My friends, the sanctity of our inner world will determine whether we survive. It is that simple.
“All the nations surround me. In the Name of Hashem I cut them down.” (Psalm 118) Dovid Hamelech reveals our strength! “Ele ba’rechev v’ele ba’sussim … Some with chariots, and some with horses, but we … in the Name of Hashem, our G-d we call out!” (Psalm 20)
We saw in our prayers, “Taher libainu l’avdecha b’emes … purify our heart to serve you sincerely.” The effort is intense. Scrutiny is required at every moment. I believe this is an important part of our responsibilities during Sefiras ha Omer. “May it be Your will, Hashem, our G-d the G-d of our forefathers, that in the merit of the Omer Count that I have counted … may there be corrected whatever blemish I have caused in the sefirah …. May I be cleansed and sanctified with the holiness of Above, and, through this, may abundant bounty flow in all the worlds. And may it correct our lives, spirits and souls from all sediment and blemish. May it cleanse us and sanctify us with Your exalted holiness!” (Prayer following Sefiras HaOmer)
Hashem is total ruchnius, spirituality. In order to live a life of Truth, we have to transform ourselves into spiritual beings, which means regarding the world of spirituality as the normal world. The world of spirituality is real and the material world is only a creation of the world of spirituality. The surrounding culture has it backwards.
“Like a shepherd inspecting his flock, making sheep pass under his staff, so shall You cause to pass, count, calculate and consider the soul of all the living!” (Rosh Hashana Prayer)
May the Name of Hashem shine on our faces! The Holy Temple is coming.
“Radiance of the Universe, my soul pines for Your love! Please, Oh G-d, heal her now by showing her the pleasantness of Your radiance. Then she will be strengthened and healed, and eternal gladness will be hers.” (Yedid Nefesh, which we say on Shabbos Afternoon)