Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Loyal to the Truth

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

The classic paradigm of a machlokes that hides behind the mantle of piety and ends up wreaking havoc is the spat started by Korach. Supposedly a brilliant man and a leader in Klal Yisroel, he had the audacity to challenge the leadership of Moshe and Aharon.

It’s difficult to decide what is more extraordinary, that a person of his rank and intelligence could presume that he could wrest the leadership of Am Yisroel from Hashem’s chosen emissary, or that people would actually rally behind such a naked grab for power.

Indeed, does it not defy comprehension that anyone was taken in by Korach’s cause? Yetzias Mitzrayim. Maamad Har Sinai. The eigel. The sorry episode of the meraglim. The punishment of Nadav and Avihu. The incident with Miriam speaking lashon hara about her brother Moshe. These miraculous and awesome events all transpired in front of their very eyes. These Divinely orchestrated occurrences were not tales that had been reported secondhand; they were profound real-life experiences for every member of the dor hamidbar.

How could they ignore all the striking signs that Moshe and Aharon were Divinely chosen and believe that a rebellion against their leadership would earn approval from Above?

A person who has a negiah – a personal interest or ulterior motive- is a nogeiah b’dovor; he is blinded and can’t think clearly. Korach and his followers fell prey to their own negiah. It distorted their perceptions, so that what would be obvious to any impartial observer was not apparent to them.

Korach’s followers permitted themselves to be swayed by a sweet-talker with pretensions of greatness. They allowed themselves to be led astray by the presumption that if Korach would win, they too would reap advantages and benefits from his victory.

History is full of examples of gifted demagogues who, armed with a forked tongue and manipulative guile, were able to rally the masses around them. These con artists duped people into believing that granting them power would bring great advantages to the average citizen.

It happens all the time. People fall for propaganda. They are easily taken in by hype and glittering sales pitches.

Although it would seem that anyone with a grain of common sense couldn’t possibly fall for Korach’s outrageous arguments, he nevertheless succeeded in attracting a significant number of people to his cause. Everyone in Korach’s eidah was motivated by the assumption that were Korach to win, their own secret ambitions would be realized as well.

All were blind to the certainty that Korach was doomed to fail in his uprising against two illustrious brothers handpicked by Hashem for their roles.

Today we can witness countless examples of the human tendency to ignore logic and common sense, spurred on by wishful thinking. People flock to listen to gifted orators and easily fall prey to their impressive rhetoric. Men with a good command of language and a stock of good stories draw a crowd wherever they go. Today, a person who can speak articulately is so admired for that talent that people are ready to entrust him with the highest offices, regardless of whether he has any experience or ability to be more than an articulate spokesman.

Take a look at what is going in the presidential race. A genuine war hero well known to the country for his courageousness during a five-year brutal captivity, a man armed with a solid track record, a person readily available for informed discussion on any topic with media members, is facing the real possibility of being trounced in the upcoming elections. And by whom?

By a newcomer of uncertain background, someone with no clear record on any of the vital issues facing the country and no accomplishments of any significance, and who boasts the most liberal voting record in the senate. Nonetheless, despite the glaring lack of substance, this man is viewed as the messiah by his supporters.

This is because the newcomer is a gifted reader of speeches crafted for him by hired experts. The novice candidate takes people’s breath away as he reads the words displayed on the teleprompter by wordsmiths paid prodigiously for their talents.

Though this candidate is consistently ambiguous and fumbles on the rare occasion he is forced to answer a question without a script to rely on, his poll numbers continue to rise.

He advocates the most dangerous policies a country could undertake in a time of war, yet most citizens of this country appear to support him. In a time of energy shortage and price run-ups, he holds fast to discredited ideologies holding back the nation from obtaining more fuel of its own.

With recession threatening, he remains loyal to increased government intervention and long discredited economic policy pushing for more taxes.

Yet people appear almost bewitched by him, so enamored are they by his oratory. His words attract them like moths drawn to a light bulb. With hollow but enchanting slogans, he ropes them in and gives them the impression that a win for him is a win for them.

“Yes, we can!” they chant, as if affirming their conviction that his electoral victory will enable each one of his followers to see success in their own personal lives as well. They ignore the troubling question marks hovering over this candidate. They forgive the indiscretions and mistakes, and forget - or choose to ignore - the inexperience and the obvious fact that the man is ill-equipped to lead a nation. They’ve been suckered into believing that his victory is synonymous with their own success. This is the fatal negi’us that totally blinds them to the truth.
In Israel, we see what happens when people elect corrupt individuals and people of flawed character as leaders. In that country, the disastrous fallout from the tenure of a prime minister not worthy of office provides an object lesson for any serious observer.

The man parlayed himself into office claiming to be the worthy heir of a war hero. People were swayed by his pretensions and by their desperate desire for peace. They bought into his fallacious argument that by vacating Gaza, they would achieve the longed-for peace.

No matter that the position made no sense, that it flew in the face of everything that his predecessor - and he himself - had advocated his entire life. Reason was trounced by wishful thinking, by self-delusion. Because people wanted so badly to believe the fantasies they were being fed, the truth could no longer influence them.

As anyone could have predicted, the exodus from Gaza turned into a disaster of unprecedented proportions. The prime minister went on to lose the Lebanon War and is facing indictment on no less than five counts of financial misconduct.

Last week, he entered the country into a misguided cease-fire with Hamas, a sworn enemy. Instead of beating the enemy back, Israel has, in effect, handed the vicious terrorists a victory, acknowledging their authority over an area on its border, something Israel swore it would never do.

As the prime minister engages in yet another suicidal move, you would expect other leaders in that country to protest and cry out against him. But that is so slow to happen. Why?

Because the people in a position to do something about the deplorable situation are so locked into their own self-interest, nothing else matters to them. They worry solely about their own jobs, knowing that if new elections are held, they will be thrown out. So they refrain from speaking out and continue posturing for the media.

Tragically, voters are too apathetic to oust leaders who are plunging the country on a collision course.

Just like with Korach’s band, there is no concern for the truth or the well-being of the nation in the country’s government. The hunger for kavod and status overpowers all other considerations. Driven by self-aggrandizement, these people suffer from fatally impaired judgment and are thus doomed to fail—dragging down others with them.

They are so entrapped in their pursuit of personal gain that they cannot save themselves from the most glaring pitfalls.

We must learn mussar and take care—not only in times of elections and life-changing events but at all times—not to fall prey to the incitement of our our less noble inclinations and desires. To keep ourselves on the winning side and ensure that we don’t succumb to charlatans who present themselves as saviors, we must try our utmost to screen our actions and reactions for negios.

We must view them as an outsider would, and as much as possible divorce any potential personal gain from the equation. We must not permit ourselves to become spellbound by rhetoric to the degree that it causes us to veer off into irrationality and reckless conduct.

The more we train ourselves to perceive falsities, the easier it will become to puncture the myths propagated by naysayers and charlatans. We will instinctively know when a person’s motivations are wholesome and when they are driven by negative intentions.

Those who wish to change the way we frum Jews live or attempt to bring down Jewish institutions and those in our community who work to better the lives of others will be easily identified. Those who enjoy scoffing at noble people and disparaging constructive ventures will reveal themselves as people of low character. We will have no trouble sizing them up and taking stock of their true motives.

Korach was able to keep his feud going until the earth miraculously opened and swallowed him and his group alive. Immediately, his convincing arguments vaporized and the truth reigned with clarity once again.

In our own day, we look forward to that magnificent burst of clarity with the arrival of Moshiach, when those who remained loyal and steadfast to the teachings of Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon Hakohen will bask in their Divine reward. All the false ideologies holding sway in today’s world will collapse as all will proclaim, “Moshe emes vesoraso emes!”

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

How To Know What To Say And Do

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

The tragedy of the meraglim as recounted in Parshas Shelach is one of the most remarkable episodes in the Torah. It is difficult to understand what went into this devastating event, the complex factors behind the mission, and how ten of the finest leaders of the Jewish people failed so miserably in their shlichus.

The Bnei Yisroel who asked for the spies to be sent to the Promised Land were the same people who not long before had been rescued from being lowly slaves in Mitzrayim. These are the same people who experienced the makkos, Yetzias Mitzrayim and the splitting of the Yam Suf. They are the ones who ate monn every day and saw the cloud of Hashem lead them during the day and the pillar of fire at night.

Not only were they witness to all the great miracles, but they and their families survived in the desert solely through the constant outpouring of Hashem’s beneficence. How did they make such a grave mistake?

Rashi quotes the Medrash Tanchumah which comments that the parsha of the meraglim follows that of Miriam and the lashon hara she spoke about her brother, Moshe Rabbeinu, to demonstrate that the spies saw the severity of lashon hara but failed abysmally to heed its lessons.

This indicates that the root of their folly can be traced to the same pitfalls that led to Miriam’s lashon hara.

Many of the meforshim question what it is that the meraglim did wrong. Having been sent on an investigatory expedition, did they not have a duty to report what they saw? Moshe gave them a list of questions and they came back with what they thought were the proper answers to those questions.

It seems that the explanation can be derived through understanding that the sin of lashon hara is not committed by spreading malicious lies about other people, but by telling the truth. Lashon hara, by definition, is slander by truth. It is taking one aspect of a person’s actions and highlighting it in a negative, destructive way, and then going all around town and letting everyone know about it.

The victim of this character-defamation may be kind and generous. He may be a person of high character who is patient and gentle with everyone, but one day someone pushed him too far and he got angry. He may have lived a lifetime practicing honesty, tolerance and generosity, but in one fell swoop, a baal lashon hara can destroy that sterling reputation.

He can do this without lying or exaggerating, by simply reporting this noble individual’s single lapse.

The baal lashon hara derives great enjoyment from finally bringing down an individual occupying a pedestal of honor in the neighborhood or community. No longer does he have to hear from people about this person’s virtues. No longer does he have to feel inferior or guilty for not working as hard or contributing as much to the communal welfare as the guy everyone else praises.

Lashon hara levels the playing field. As Miriam said when gossiping about Moshe’s wife, “Hashem doesn’t speak only to Moshe; He also speaks to us.” Thus, Moshe Rabbeinu, the greatest leader in history, was reduced to the level of the people who gossiped about him and his marriage.

The posuk adds that “Ha’ish Moshe anav me’od mikol adam asher al pnei ha’adamah - Moshe was an extremely humble person, the most humble person on the face of the earth.”

Why is this description of Moshe’s humility inserted here, right after the recounting of Miriam’s lashon horah? What is the message?

Because Moshe was so humble, people were able to delude themselves into thinking that he was just like them. True, there was no prophet like Moshe and there was no leader like Moshe, but since he was so humble and unassuming, people could prop up their egos by diminishing his stature. They could say, “He’s no big deal; he’s one of us.”

There is no one in our world who is so righteous that he has no faults at all. A baal lashon hara ignores the whole picture and focuses only on the part he can criticize. He dismisses the good in the person and singles out one facet that he has interpreted negatively. He assuages his own feelings of inadequacy by trying to magnify the shortcoming he has found to pull the giant down to his own, much lower stature.

The meragalim set out to map the land which G-d had promised to their forefathers generations before. Twelve leading men of Israel were given a mission to appraise the Promised Land. They could have approached every site with the perspective that this was the land of destiny upon which Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov walked. It was the country their forefathers had fought and prayed for; the eternal home of the Jewish people.

But they didn’t look at Eretz Yisroel as being govo’ah mikol ha’aratzos. They didn’t look at Chevron and Yerushalayim as being different from any other cities and towns in countries anywhere in the world. They were bureaucrats on a scouting mission. Whatever they saw, they measured with an ordinary yardstick as they would measure sights and artifacts in any other part of the world.

They traversed the Holy Land as if it were green land; they looked at the fruits with which Eretz Yisroel is praised as if they were the products of a simple agrarian state. They didn’t hear G-d’s promises reverberating in the backs of their minds as they walked about inspecting the lay of the land. They found fault in everything they saw.

Just as Miriam saw fit to speak ill of Moshe because she looked at him as a regular, normal human being, they were comfortable speaking poorly of the land because they viewed it as just another country.

Their sin was two-fold: They denied the greatness of the land and they denied the Divine promise.

From the incident with Miriam, the resha’im should have learned that not all men are created equal and not all countries are created equal. The methods of appraisal are not the professional tools of a psychologist or the yardsticks of the real estate agent, but the Torah and the word of Hashem.

One who fails to heed that lesson is a rasha.

The counterpart of a rasha is one who internalizes the admonition of “hayad Hashem tikzor” when he sets out to analyze if something is doable. One who follows the words of Hashem knows that Moshe was different because “Peh el peh adabeir bo.”

One who seeks to fulfill Hashem’s will takes heed of what transpires around him and learns how to live his life by the messages Hashem delivers.

A rasha seeks to rip down great men and bring them down to his level. An ish builds people up. A rasha sees people trying to build something and mocks their efforts, saying they will come to naught; he can only discourage. An ish offers encouragement and succor to strengthen others for the challenges which inevitably lie ahead.

A rasha is a bean counter who treats everyone the same and does everything by the book, ostensibly following the ‘rules.’ An ish uses intelligence and heart to judge people and their actions.

A rasha is a naysayer. In his judgment, nothing can be done to improve a situation and no achievement will last. An ish, on the other hand, says, “Let’s do what’s proper and we will succeed.” A rasha says, “Don’t bother trying.” An ish says, “Let’s make our hishtadlus; Hashem will do the rest.”

The lesson of the meraglim calls out to us in our day as well. When you see people struggling to fulfill G-d’s word, encourage them. When you see people working on a project for the communal good, strengthen them. When called upon to assist noble individuals, worthy projects, yeshivos and communal endeavors, respond as Calev did and say, “Yachol nuchal loh.”

When you assess a situation or a person, do so with the periscope of Torah. Let the promises of the neviim ring in our minds as we go about our daily tasks so that we may merit the fulfillment of veshavu bonim ligvulam speedily in our days.

When called upon, we must not let our own egos and biases interfere with doing what is proper.

The posuk relates that Moshe added a yud to the name of Hoshea bin Nun and called him Yehoshua. Rashi explains that the letter yud was to signify that “Yud-Hey yoshiacha mei’atzas hameraglim - Hashem should save you from the evil designs of the meraglim.”

The question is asked why Moshe prayed only for his talmid Yehoshua and not for the others.

I was thinking that perhaps the explanation is that Koh yoshiacha mei’atzas hameraglim was not a prayer offered up by Moshe on behalf of Yehoshua, but rather a reminder to Hoshea. Moshe added the yud to his name so that he should remember that Hashem promised to bring the Jews into Eretz Yisroel. Hashem promised that it will be a blessed land flowing with milk, honey, and all else that is good.

Additionally, the yud was a reminder to Yehoshua that he shouldn’t jump to determinations about the land based upon his own intelligence which is biased. When he thinks of his new name and the yud that was added, he will remember to judge the land with the proper perspective and he will thus be saved from the whims of the meraglim.

In our lives, we must similarly bear that lesson in mind. Remember Hashem’s admonitions and the promises reserved for those who heed His word. Look at every situation the way Hashem wants us to and you will be saved from the atzas hayeitzer. The offspring of the meraglim are present in every generation and seek to prevent people from recognizing the blessings of Hashem. Beware of them.

Remember the yud of Yehoshua’s name and you, too, will be saved from the atzas hameraglim. When you hear people find fault with rabbonon vetalmideihem, you will know to go the other way. When you hear others poke fun at devorim shebikedushah, you will know to ignore them.

When you read of ostensibly religious people engaging in a boycott of the country’s largest kosher slaughterhouse, you will recognize them for what they are: evil people, with evil designs, bent on destroying all that is holy. You will do all in your power to help the cause of kosher shechitah in particular and ehrlicheh businesses in general. You will not fall prey to those who constantly find fault in all that is holy and dear to us.

When you have to make a decision, you will think to yourself, “What does Hakadosh Boruch Hu want me to do in this situation?” and you will never be misled. You will be blessed with success and happiness in all that you do.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

We’re Not Budging

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

For the first time in my life, I found myself in Meron on Lag Ba’omer two weeks ago. It is a wild scene, with hundreds of thousands of all kinds of Jews descending on a small enclosed area on top of a mountain.

I was packed together with thousands of people on a small plot of land as we watched the lighting of the traditional flame on the kever of Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai. It was so crowded that one couldn’t move and could barely breathe.

I had arrived as part of a group and we made up a time to leave. As the hour approached, I looked around me and it was nearly impossible to move, let alone exit the area.

I saw a small opening nearby and tried to get by and push my way through the throngs. But there was a man blocking my way. He appeared to be a normal person, middle-aged, with a long beard. He was reading from the Sefer Zohar. I asked him if he could please step aside so I could get by. He refused. I asked again. I said, “Please.” He said, “No.” Again I pleaded with him and again he said it was impossible for him to move.

I couldn’t get out of there if he wouldn’t move. He was blocking my exit and I really didn’t want to miss the bus back to Yerushalayim. So I surveyed the scene again and ascertained that my only way to that bus was through the area where he was standing. So I tried again. And again.

It was comical, but the hour was getting late and the man wouldn’t budge. Finally, I said to him, “Please tell me why you can’t move. Why in the world can’t you step aside?”

He looked at me and said, “Because this is my spot.”

“Come on,” I countered, “there are hundreds of thousands of people spread out all over the place here. What do you mean that this is your spot?”

“I stand here every year,” he replied.

“You stand on this very spot every year?”

“Yes, I do,” he said.

“What’s so special about this spot,” I questioned, “that you davka have to stand here, that you stand here every year, and that you are scared to step aside for a second for fear that someone might take this spot from you?”

The man turned to me and said, “Because I stood at this spot 500 years ago!” “Ani omaditi poe lifnei chamesh mei’ot shana, v’ani lo yachol lazuz mipo!”

I wasn’t sure I had heard correctly, so I asked him, “Mah atah omeir?”

He repeated that this is his spot, that he must stand there, and that he stood there last year and the year before and 500 years ago.

He was a sweet Sefardishe Yid and seemed to be a perfectly normal person, until that point, although he had a hang-up that he wouldn’t move. So I said to him, “Come on. Zeh meshugah.”

He responded, “Atah tishmah harbeh devarim muzarim bamedinah hazot, aval mah ani agid lechah, zeh emet, vehadevorim amitiyim, zeh hamakom sheli v’ani lo yachol lazuz mipo beshum ofen. Atah chayav lisloach li. You will hear many strange things here in this country, but they are true. What can I tell you? It is also true that this is my spot and I cannot move from here, no matter what happens. I am really very sorry for being in your way, but I hope you understand.”

The man shook my hand and smiled. I didn’t know what to think or say, so I smiled back. I made my way out somehow, but his words haunted me.

Ani omaditi poe lifnei chamesh mei’ot shana, v’ani lo yachol lazuz mipo.”

The words kept on ringing in my ears and I wondered why these kinds of stories always have to happen to me. Why, wherever I go, do I have to bump into such characters? And what message was there in his words for me?

When I started thinking about Shavuos, however, it all came together.

We are a special people. We are different. We stood at Har Sinai 3320 years ago. We heard the word of Hashem and we received the Torah. We stood there packed around the mountain. And ever since, we can’t just move whenever we want or whenever people want us to.

There are many times when we have to say, “Slicha, ani omaditi al Har Sinai. I stood at Har Sinai and therefore can’t just come and go as I please. I can’t do whatever I want, whenever I want to do it, wherever I want to do it. I am guided by the Torah and by Hashem. I have to be better, more honest, more pure, more holy than the society around me.

On Shavuos, we celebrate the day that the Torah was transferred from Heaven and given to man. On this day, we stood at the foot of Har Sinai and heard the voice of Hashem. We were lifted above all mankind, for eternity. With the giving of the Torah, the Jewish nation was born. Every Yom Tov has its own mitzvos, Pesach has matzohs, Sukkos has the sukkah and the arabah minim, why is it that Shavuos has no identifying mitzvah? Because we commemorate the day we received the Torah at Har Sinai by living as Jews, and fulfilling the mitzvos; by living a life of Torah, following all its precepts.

We celebrate kabolas hatorah by stating to the world that we are different, that we live differently and act differently because we stood at Har Sinai and received the Torah. We don’t just pick out one mitzvah with which to make that statement, we honor the day by being punctilious about the observance of all the mitzvos. We honor the day by proclaiming to the world, “Ani omaditi al Har Sinai. Ani lo yachol lazuz.”

The Gemara in Maseches Pesachim (68b) states that half of the Shavuos day is dedicated to the service of Hashem and the other half is for our own benefit. In the Gemara parlance, “Chetzyo LaHashem vechetzyo lochem.” It is not sufficient to simply accept the Torah. It is not enough to study Torah. We must internalize the teachings of the Torah and make ourselves better people. Torah must touch our souls and impact our actions.

Chetzyo laHashem vechetzyo lochem. We must demonstrate that we are devout not only when it comes to learning and davening. We are religious, as well, in the way we behave and conduct ourselves as we go about our regular, mundane pursuits. Our mantra must be “ani omaditi al Har Sinai.”

The famous words of Rav Yosef recounted in Maseches Pesachim (66b) are often quoted to convey the extraordinary spiritual power of the day. On Shavuos, he would partake of a meal consisting of the finest meat. He explained that, “Ih lav hai yoma dekogorim kama Yosef ika b’shuka - If not for this day, there would be no difference between me and all the other Joes in the street.”

Rav Yosef was saying that the study of Torah is not just an intellectual pursuit. It transforms those who absorb its lessons and strive to make themselves into better and holier people.

The greatness of this day is that it celebrates this transformative force of the Torah on all aspects of our lives. If we remain with the same personality we possessed prior to our study, then we are just another Joe. If our limud haTorah falls short of changing us and does nothing for us, the day’s gifts have been wasted.

Torah is a Divine gift given to man, but it contains myriad obligations. The holiday and the accompanying joy are reserved for those who conduct themselves as Rav Yosef did, channeling their lives toward a steady upward journey of elevated performance and accomplishments.

The posuk recounts that when Hashem appeared to the Bnei Yisroel and offered them the Torah, they responded in unison, “Na’aseh venishmah - We will do and we will hear.” The Gemara in Maseches Shabbos (88a) cites Rav Sima’i’s teaching that when they answered thus, placing na’aseh before nishmah, angels descended from Heaven and fastened two crowns on the head of each Jew, one for na’aseh and one for nishmah. Rabi Elazar says that a bas kol rang out, stating, “Who taught my children this secret, which is used by the angels?”

Many commentators question what was so extraordinary about the words na’aseh venishmah that the Jews were so richly praised for uttering them. Many different answers are offered.

Perhaps, allegorically, the greatness of the response was that they understood that acting is of greater importance than listening. By placing na’aseh ahead of nishmah, they demonstrated their understanding that Torah is not just an esoteric theoretical pursuit. They vowed to make the performance of the Torah’s dictates their highest priority. With the statement of na’aseh venishmah, they demonstrated their cognizance that because they stood at Har Sinai, their conduct would have to be different for all time.

When we proclaimed na’aseh venishmah, we were saying that we would never forget the day we stood at Har Sinai and will always act as people suffused with Torah and kedushah.

The Jews were thus deserving of receiving the Torah and declared to be on the level of angels who follow G-d’s word with steadfast devotion, without deviation or question.

At times, we lose sight of what we should be doing. We forget that we stood as twelve shevotim at Har Sinai and proclaimed na’aseh venishmah as one, k’ish echod b’leiv echod.

The seforim hakedoshim state that the 600,000 letters in the Torah correspond to the number 600,000 which is always used to represent the collective tally of the Jews in the Midbar. This is to symbolize that there is a letter in the Torah for each Jew and each Jew has a letter in the Torah. The Torah is the collective embodiment of every individual good Jew who adheres to its precepts and commandments. Each Jew can find his place there. We all have our own spot. We all stood at Har Sinai and we all trace our roots back there.

This is what is meant by the Toras Kohanim at the beginning of Parshas Bechukosai. “Im bechukosai teileichu v’es mitzvosai tishmiru.” Hashem says that if we follow his chukim and mitzvos, all will be good. The Toras Kohanim, quoted by Rashi, explains that the words v’es mitzvosai tishmiru mean that Hashem will bless us if we will toil in Torah in order to be able to follow its commandments. Ameilus baTorah is not sufficient if it is not accompanied by the intention to heed the Torah’s mandates. Ameilus baTorah without remembering that we have to be different because we stood on the hallowed ground of Sinai 3320 years ago is not sufficient.

Life is full of nisyonos, tests. There are always people and ideas pushing us from all sides, trying to goad us to deviate from the words we heard at Sinai. There are countless temptations lurking wherever we turn, which attempt to cause us to veer from our Divine mission.

When we are confronted by those who propose deviating from our mesorah and traditional practices, we must remember that we are different. When we are tempted by the glitz that the Yeitzer Hara throws in our path to entice us to sin, we have to remember that our souls stood at Har Sinai. Slicha, we must say, but we aren’t like everyone else. Slicha, ani omaditi al Har Sinai.

On Shavuos, we must remember these words and those we uttered at Har Sinai, na’aseh venishmah, and rededicate ourselves to the study of Torah and devotion to its mitzvos and scholars.

Chag someach.