SHAVUOS: WE’VE BEEN SO GOOD, THAT WE FORGOT HOW TO BECOME BETTER

Rabbi Yehoshua Weber

“Hashem will descend onto Mount Sinai…..so guard yourself about ascending the mountain and about touching the edge of the mountain.”[1]

There was danger in ascending that fiery, holiness-encased mountain.. Because of that, we were warned to “guard” ourselves by not “ascending” the mountain.

That imperative about “ascending” is still so relevant now.

It’s just that today, it’s a different sort of imperative.

The imperative, today, is not about guarding oneself from ascending a fiery, holiness-encased Sinai. Such an ascent is no longer dangerous because we no longer live in the shadow of a fiery Sinai.

The imperative, today, is, rather, about pushing oneself to, once again, “ascend” Sinai and to recreate the inspiration that we once experienced there.

And there are so many reasons as to why we must now “reascend” and recreate that inspiration.

Firstly, we live far removed from the inspiration of Kabbolas HaTorah, that the inspiration is hidden from us. “Reascending” can reawaken that inspiration. Secondly, we’ve been performing mitzvos for so long that we’ve become habituated to those mitzvos. Those habits can make those mitzvos stale. “Reascending” can bring those mitzvos to life. And we’ve been maintaining relationships with Hashem – and with people around us – for so long that we may be giving those relationships short shrift. “Reascending” can prompt us to give those relationships the attention that they deserve.

Yes, we must try to “ascend” Sinai and to recreate its passion.

All of this may be read – homiletically – into that possuk about “guarding yourself about ascending the mountain. ” 

That possuk can be read to mean “guard yourself and continue to ascend.” That ascent will, hopefully, counter our mitzvah-emasculating habituation. 

This also explains the latter part of the possuk about “touching the … mountain.”[2] Touching Sinai symbolizes “touching” – but not being deeply involved in – our yiddishkeit. It can mean living with out-of-habit davenings, lackluster mitzvos and insipid relationships.

Yes, we need to make that ascent.

And no, it’s not easy to do that.

We’ve been mumbling davening for so long that we can’t envision something better. And we’re so accustomed to cruise-control relationships that we don’t envision new sparkles.

But it can be done. 

Not by envisioning always-transcendental davenings. Nor by expecting ever-uplifting relationships. Those dreams may be unachievable.

But by implementing incremental ascents.

By bettering small blocks of time and of space.

By committing to not talk at all during the Shabbos Shacharis chazaras ha-shatz.

By pledging to not say one bad word at the Shabbos day meal.

By making any one of a million other manageable commitments.

Yes, we must start ascending the mountain. 

Once that ascent begins, we’ll see the wonders that await us on that mountain’s summit. 

Soul-searing davenings.

Joy-filled mitzvos.

Loving relationships.

Seeing those realities will further motivate us to reach that mountain’s summit.

Yes, we can reach that summit.

First, though, we must begin the ascent.

[1] Shemos, 19:12

[2] Repeated in the name of the Kotzker Rebbe.