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Monday, May 13, 2013
Finding Our Way to Sinai
By R. Michael Levy, Board Member of Yad HaChazakah and Director of Travel Training, NYCT
During our seven-week journey towards receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, our tradition has challenged us to deepen our Torah learning, and to purify our character through the mystical power of counting the Omer. Rabbi Moshe Weinberg suggests another type of preparation, citing Rabbi Yitzchak of Vorca:
Rabbi Yitzchak comments that this kind of unity is possible if “vayichan” also means that every Jew could see the “chein“- the beauty, in every other Jew.
Rabbi Yitzchak calls upon us to find the beauty and worth of a Jew who might have very little connection to his faith. What about the Jew who insists that everything be done his way, the Jew who treats people with disabilities as unintelligent or incompetent, the Jew who proclaims himself an atheist, the obese Jew, the Jew who doesn’t smell so nice?
An incident recounted in Masechet (Tractate) Menachot 64B provides a guide to finding beauty in every Jew. Once, in the late Hasmonean era, when the Holy Temple still stood, the community searched in vain for barley to bring for the Omer offering. A public declaration asked anyone who knew where to find barley to come forward.
A man who could not speak approached. The man put one hand on a roof and another on a tent. Mordechai (possibly from the Purim story) understood that the man was indicating the name of a specific location. Sure enough, barley was found in gigot tsrifim (literally, roofs of tents.) In a similar incident, the gestures of the same man directed the community to the wheat for the special Shavuot offering.
To find beauty in every person, start with the assumption that each and every one of us has something unique to contribute to Klal Yisrael (the community of Israel). It might be worthwhile to urge everyone to look within themselves to find what they, in particular, are capable of contributing.
As we celebrate Shavuot, may G-d help us re-create the Sinai experience by finding the beauty in every individual, including ourselves.
Below, please share a thought, story, or experience that can help us all find beauty in every individual.
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