Thursday, June 30, 2016

PARSHAS SHELACH 5776

“RABBI’S MUSINGS (& AMUSINGS)”
Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Shelach
Pirkei Avos perek 3
25 Sivan 5776/ July 1, 2016

Another great camping season has begun. Yesterday, the busses pulled into camp, and smiling campers lugging soda, water, and hockey sticks jumped off happily. The 156 lush acres of Camp Dora Golding instantly came to life with the convergence of campers from as far as Miami, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, and neighborhoods throughout the Tristate area. For a few exciting weeks they have all made East Stroudsburg, PA their new home.
After a few hours unpacking, the campers gathered for orientation. The director, head counselor, and division heads (including yours truly) all began their orientations with big smiles and assurances about how this summer will be the best ever, with great trips and exciting events. But, then the smile is gone, and the speaker looks poignantly at his crowd and waits for absolute silence. He tells the assemblage that they must listen well because now they will hear the rules. When all the rules have been said, the smile returns and the speech concludes with another reassurance that this summer will be incredibly memorable and endless fun. 
Why the need for the seriousness and rules? Because nothing good can come out of something that is all fun and games. There has to be a balance of regulations to ensure that things do not become anarchic and chaotic. If there’s no bedtime, campers become grumpy the next day, and they will not enjoy any part of camp. With all the love, positive, and fun, there has to also be boundaries and a modicum of respect for authority in order for there to be a truly enjoyable experience.
This idea helps us understand an integral idea regarding Shabbos Kodesh. How strange is it that towards the end of the Friday night davening (in ‘Magen Avos’), we state “Before Him we will serve with fear and trepidation”. Fear and trepidation on Shabbos? That sounds more like the emotions of Yom Kippur?
Shabbos is a day of incredible closeness with Hashem. We begin Shabbos by lauding and praising the kallah - the holy day of Shabbos, who is greeted by her chosson, referring to those of us who observe Shabbos according to halacha. If one really appreciates that during this lofty day we are so connected to the infinite and omnipotent Creator, he will inevitably feel a combination of intense joy and fear. Joy with the opportunity; fear of not being sufficiently respectful with the day’s due honor.
In Lecha Dodi we sing “Shamor v’zachor b’dibbur echad”. There is an inextricable connection between safeguarding Shabbos and remembering/honoring Shabbos. Ramban explains that ‘remembering’ is accomplished by observing the positive mitzvos associated with the day, which expresses our intense love for the day. ‘Safeguarding’ is accomplished by adhering to all the prohibitions of the day, which symbolize our fear of violating its laws.
Observing Shabbos is not just about enjoying kugel, cholent, and a Shabbos nap. It’s also about understanding the extreme sanctity of the day and realizing how serious it is to violate its prohibitions.
The truth is that this is an idea that is vital for Judaism generally. Our observance should not be regulated to mere practice and performance. It must be passionate, emotional, and elevating. However, there must also be a balance wherein we recognize that mitzvos are not just something we do because they make us feel good. We are bound to them by virtue of an eternal covenant and our lives can only have meaning if we live in that manner.   
It’s that balance that ensures not only the best summer ever, but optimal living constantly.
     
 Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

      R’ Dani and Chani Staum  

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