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The 5 Step Program

05/26/2017 12:12:12 PM


An exciting week is approaching us next week. On Monday, Americans will observe Memorial Day, and on Wednesday & Thursday Jews will celebrate Shavuot.

Memorial Day is an annual day dedicated to memorializing the fallen soldiers of our country’s armed forces. It is a day to give gratitude to their heroism, which has allowed us to enjoy the liberties and opportunities that our great country offers to us all.

Making a memorial, or more broadly the idea of remembering the past, is very central to Judaism. The Torah prescribes several daily remembrances to recall seminal events of our history. That is how we are able live in the present so mindfully, and to be assured of a bright and purposeful future.

Today is Rosh Chodesh, the first of the month of Sivan. Historically, the Jewish people arrived on this day at the foot of Mount Sinai 3,329 years ago, in preparation to receive the Torah. Their next few days were filled with special events and activities which readied them to enter into the covenant with G-d. As we approach Shavuot, it would be prudent for us to recall these events, and to implement their teachings over the next few days.

The Talmud records the following outline of events: On the 1st of Sivan, they arrived at Mount Sinai, and G-d did not give them any special task. Instead He let them rest. On the 2nd day, He proclaimed to them, “And you will be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.” On the 3rd, He ordered them to fence off the mountain to ensure that no one would step foot on the holy space without permission. On the 4th, He instructed them to abstain from sexual relations with their spouses. On the 5th, Moses built an altar, offered sacrifices to G-d, and after reading to the people passages from the Torah, the Jews responded “naaseh-venishma – we accept.” Finally, on the 6th of Sivan, G-d came down upon Mount Sinai and delivered the 10 Commandments.

So how does this apply to us today? Here are some suggestions:

Friday May 26 – Sivan 1: REFLECTION

It is surprising to learn that the Jews felt that they needed to rest on this day. True, they had been traveling through the hot desert, but hadn’t they been excitedly counting the days in anticipation for all this? Were they even able to calm themselves? The commentaries explain, that in fact this day was used for meditation. Being that G-d did not give the Jews any specific task, they used their off-time to reflect. Any successful performer will tell you that the most important ingredient to their success is their mental preparation before their performance. For the Jews, there was much to consider. Just one and a half months ago they were a slave nation in Egypt. Now, in just a few days, they will be chosen as the moral leaders of humanity. Do they know what they’re getting into? Are they ready for it? Thus, this day was used for soulful, mental and emotional preparation.

Today, we too can do this by pausing from the hustle and bustle, shutting out the outside world, and looking deep into ourselves. We should ask ourselves, “What does it mean to me to be a child of G-d?” “How am I contributing as a leader of wisdom and morals to my peers and community?” “How can my life become better guided by the Torah?”

Shabbat May 27 – Sivan 2: STRENGTH

On this day, we were told by G-d that we will become a royal nation, and that we ought to be holy. Let’s ask ourselves, “what does it mean to be royal? Holy?” A royal person carries themselves with pride, enjoys the clarity of being guided by a concrete goal, and is filled with determination to achieve it. A holy person doesn’t just go with the flow, isn’t afraid to stand out against the shallow and seductive trends, and is courageous to live up to their calling. How appropriate that this year this days falls on Shabbat. What will you do on this day that will be expressive of your royalty and holiness?

Sunday May 28 – Sivan 3: BOUNDARIES

On this day, we were commanded to set up borders, between the sacred mountain and ourselves. In our life, borders are important. Creating boundaries is how we discern between the many facets of our lives, and how we can best nurture each one optimally and appropriately. We should setup clear boundaries that set apart our family from our professions; time with our spouses and time with our children; time in the Synagogue and time with our friends; time to work and time to rest; time to be with others and time to be alone. Today would be a good day to improve our boundaries.

Monday May 29 – Sivan 4: TRANSCENDENCE

Before hearing from G-d, He instructed us to temporarily abstain from a physical and sexual relationship with our spouses. Every relationship consists of many layers. Physical intimacy is just one of them. But the Torah encourages us to also create mental and emotional intimacy with our spouses. Sometimes, if we become too consumed by the physical connection, we neglect to nurture other and deeper forms of connection. To be ready to hear from, and to see, the Divine, G-d asked us to temporarily wean ourselves off from our pursuit of material pleasure, and to become in tune with, and sensitive to, that which is more transcendental. When we elevate ourselves, we relate better to G-d, to our spouse, and to all those around us.

Tuesday May 30 – Sivan 5: COMMITMENT

Moses made sacrifices, and we exercised submission. To live a life in accordance with the Torah; to live a moral, honest, disciplined and purposeful life, often requires sacrifices. It isn’t easy to turn away from alluring pleasures or instant gratification. But making these sacrifices is what sets us apart from animalistic behavior, and what turns us into ideal human beings who are created in the image of the Divine. To achieve this also necessitates commitment. We live in a time when the virtue of commitment is becoming less fashionable, but it was the Jews’ unwavering commitment and acceptance of ‘naaseh-venishma’ that kept us going up until today. What do you feel deeply committed to, and what sacrifices are you prepared to make to achieve it?

Wednesday May 31 – Sivan 6: RESULTS

Well, if you’ve followed this 5 Step Program, then you are now ready to receive the Torah. You are open to hearing G-d’s calling to you, and you are prepared to take the higher road and live a purposeful life guided by the Torah.

Chag Sameach!  

Fri, December 3 2021 29 Kislev 5782