Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Two paths. ONLY.

Shavuot is my favorite chag for many reasons. Among the top reasons:
1. The "symbol" or "prop" of this Chag is the Torah. Matan Torah...the basis of our lives and purpose in this world. What else could be a greater celebration?
2. Sivan is my favorite month. My birthday is also in Sivan :D
3. Cheesecake. YUM!

Personal favoritism aside, there are countless lessons to learn from this holy time period.

For now, we'll focus on just one, out of the many, in this post. This lesson is taken from a wonderful shiur by Rabbi Wallerstein.

Why do we read Megillat Rut on Shavuot? We're celebrating the fact that we received the Torah. Why are we reading about a righteous convert to Judaism?

One of the "basic" reasons that Megillat Rut is read on Shavuot because David HaMelech came from Rut, and David Hamelech was born on Shavuot and passed away on Shavuot. However, there are much deeper reasons for reading this holy Megillah.
Among them are:
-Mashiach comes from David Hamelech, and one of our goals is to bring Mashiach.
-After Rut converted, a letter "hey" - symbolizing HaShem's Name, and therefore, holiness, was added to her name. Rut + hey = Torah.
-Rut has the gematria of 606, symbolizing that she kept the 7 noahide mitzvot before she was Jewish, and therefore, was a righteous gentile. After she converted, she had to add 606 mitzvot, rsther than 613.
-Rut shows us the loyalty that we should have for HaShem, Torah, Mitzvot, and Am Yisrael - through thick and thin. No matter what.
-Rut teaches us that a person can do teshuva, regardless of what type of background they're coming from!

All of these lessons are wonderful.
I'd like to focus on one that many people might know but not internalize the importance of it: Megillat Rut teaches us the importance of making decisions. How ONE decision can change our lives completely - for the better, or for the worse. For life or for death. For victory or for defeat. For closeness to HaShem or, chas v'shalom, richuk - disconnection/feeling far - from HaShem.

Rut and Orpah were both non-Jewish women who were married to Naomi's two sons, who both died.
Now, Naomi, the Jewess, and Rut and Orpah, two goyish widowers were left alone.
Rut and Orpah could've:
1. Leave Naomi and stay together
2. Part ways completely
3. Both go away with Naomi
4. Individually take two separate directions. One making the wrong decision, and one making the right decision.

They were both coming from the same exact place. Both non-Jewish, princesses of moav, both widowers, both alone with their mother-in-law. However, ONE decision make the difference between victory and defeat.
What decision was that?

Naomi was leaving to Eretz Yisrael. She had to leave the mental state that she was in. Naomi told Rut and Orpah - I'm leaving. I have nothing here. Go home. Go back to your parents.
What did Rut and Orpah do?
Orpah kissed Naomi, and she left.
Rut did the complete opposite. She didn't LEAVE her mother in law. She said your nation is my nation, your G-d is my G-d; I'm sticking with you. I'm NOT leaving you!

There's a Midrash that tells us that Orpah was with A THOUSAND men AND a dog that night. HaShem Yerachem! She fell so low! She went from being so close to leaving with her mother-in-law to Eretz Yisrael, and she fell to the lowest level that a person can be. She became pregnant that night, and we learn that she had a child: goliat. Goliat was a giant who attacked Klal Yisrael, and he made fun of G-d in public.
His nemesis, the only one who would stand up to him - was David Hamelech, who came from the righteous Rut.

So, we learn, from the one decision of whether to go with Naomi or not - two children were conceived:
one, Goliat, an evil plishti giant. A rasha who is remembered and recorded as such even now - thousands of years later.
And a second - David Hamelech. The king of Israel. A tzadik. The father of Mashiach!

From this ONE step away from her mother in law, and therefore, Judaism, Orpah caused destruction. From Rut's ONE step closer to her mother in law, and therefore, Judaism, she caused victory and geula (redemption).
Yetzer Hara tells us it's just a little bit. Just miss minyan this once. Just wear a shorter skirt this once. Just eat this non-kosher food this once. Just speak this one word of lashon hara.
NO! That one time is DESTRUCTION. That one time then psychologically causes validity. That one time can completely make a person fall and make it extremely difficult to be on the derech again.

As Jews, as HaShem's children, we must ALWAYS think about every move we make. Every word that comes out of our mouthes, every piece of food that enters our mouthes, every sound that enters our ears, every image our eyes seen.
NOTHING is just neutral.

The Tanya explains beautifully that everything in this world can be categorized into just TWO categories:
Sitra D'achra and Sitra D'Kedusha.
Sitra d'achra is anything that leads you to feel FARTHER away from HaShem. It can be something small. Even a song.
Sitra d'kedusha is anything that leads us to be closer to holiness, and therefore, closer to HaShem.

There is NOTHING that is just neutral. A Jew's mission in this world is not to be neutral and just chill all day.
Every day our goal should be to grow closer and closer to HaShem.
The Asher Yatzar of today should not be the same Asher Yatzar of 5 years ago. Just like when we're friends with someone for longer, we feel like we know them way better, so too - with HaKadosh Baruch Hu!
It's a relationship that requires wise decision and planning.
Where's our manual, or directory, about what leads to closeness to HaShem and what leads to richuk?
The Torah. Our minds. Our feelings. (In that order.)

Melech, a king, has the letters of Mem, Lamed, and Chaf. Kelev, a dog, has those same letters rearranged. Kaf, Lamed, Mem.
The Mem stands for Moach (mind/brain: logic)
The Lamed stands for Lev (heart: emotions)
The Chaf stands for Klayot (liver: desires)

When one allows his logic to control his emotions and then his logic + emotions to control his desires - then he is a MELECH, a king, over himself.
if someone allows his desires to control his emotions, and his emotions to control his logic - then he is no better than a DOG, who clearly can't control his desires.

THAT is the importance of Megillat Rut. A decision made in a split second has such power. Ohhhh if we'd only realize our potential. Our power!
The power of words, the power of a smile, the power of keeping the mitzvot, and the power of our averot!
It is written that if a man REALLY knew how terrible an avera was - he would NEVER dare to do it. That's why chazal tell us a "ruach shtut" (a foolish spirit) comes upon a person who wants to do an avera. There's no way that someone who acts like a melech can allow himself to do an avera.
Always ask yourself - is what I'm doing going to help me grow closer or farther from my Father in Heaven?

May HaShem bless all of us to have clarity and make the proper decisions in the proper fashion, and therefore, be kings over our desires, and may we all merit to be close to Him!