1) This past Wednesday was an exciting day for many around the world. It is the day of celebrating the conclusion of the 41st cycle of the study of Maimonides Magnum Opus – Sefer Hayad, and the beginning of the 42nd cycle. Since I was a young Yeshiva student I participated in this study of Torah that was initiated by the Rebbe in the honor of the Rambam’s (Maimonides) 850th birthday.
2) Then yesterday, known as Lag Ba’omer was the day of light in celebration of the author of Zohar (which means light). Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, passed away on this day during the Talmudic Era and asked that this day be one of celebration. It is celebrated with light and fires, especially in Israel where great bonfires are lit and singing and dancing take place.
3) There is a simple and beautiful tie in between these events and the opening of this week’s Parsha known as Behar. The Parsha begins with the instruction regarding the observance of the Sabbatical year in the Land of Israel. This unique Mitzvah of the land resting is only observed in the Land of Israel while other Mitzvos are observed both within the land and outside of it.
Today’s natural science is uncovering fascinating things. Most fascinating to me is that there is a layer of connectivity that lives beneath the surface and beyond what our natural consciousness immediately relates to.
These include the energy of the body, the interconnectedness of the universe and people, and so on.
What we are coming to accept on a scientific level, is that there is a layer of awareness that you can’t touch with your hand but exists and is in fact the underlying cause for the heartbeat of existence.
This of course is not novel in Jewish mystical thought or experience, but when the alignment between Torah and the world becomes more obvious it is cause for us to reassess our own investment in living and connecting deeper.
How do we move ourselves to live deeper? For this we have the three points above.
For starters we have the study of Torah (Maimonides). The more we invest ourselves in any intellectual pursuit the more we become conscious of the world through that lens. If all you have (or know) is a hammer, then everything is a nail. When Torah becomes something we study regularly, our consciousness becomes a more Divine one that allows for us to look beneath the surface.
This connects to the second point; the celebration of light and Zohar and Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai known as Rashbi. As the father of Jewish mysticism, Rashbi empowers us to begin to see the light in every existence around us and all the physical matter.
Which is why (point 3) the Mitzvah of the Sabbatical year is only observed in the land of Israel. The Sabbatical year is less about the land being able to recharge itself and more about directing the consciousness of those that work the land to G-d and our Higher Power. This capacity for this consciousness is more aligned in Israel where the physical reality is more G-dly in light of its Divine history and its proximity to Jerusalem and the holy places.
The take away for me is that studying Torah, regularly, empowers us to live deeper and higher. Deeper being to see the G-dliness in everything around us and Higher being the ability to see the connectivity between the things and experiences
Happy Lag B’aomer and Good Shabbos!
Rabbi Mendel Schusterman
Thanks to my brother, Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman, of Chabad Intown, Atlanta, for sharing the above thought.