Sustained Spirituality by Zev Jarashow


Everyone has had that moment when everything fell into place on a religious level. Maybe it happened when you were sitting in camp at a particular Se’udah Shelishit and everything just clicked, or perhaps it was when you attended a special Kumzits, singing with your friends, eyes closed, feeling the holiness of Judaism. For many, the Ne’ilah prayer on Yom Kippur, during which we plead to Hashem to grant us yet another year of life, takes on that quality yearly. However, after experiencing this spiritual glow, what comes next? All too often we do not retain this spirituality, and it unfortunately fades away. Ramban in this week's Sidrah offers a fascinating suggestion that may shed light on how to maintain these uplifting moments.

Towards the end of Parashat Ki Tisa (Shemot 34), Moshe receives the second set of Luchot (tablets) from Hashem after he had shattered the first. One can only imagine how spiritually uplifting this moment would have been for the Jewish people, as they received a second chance, in the form of the Luchot, to follow Hashem’s Mitzvot. And yet, the spiritual high of being presented with the second set of Luchot was doomed not to last. Therefore, suggests Ramban, Bnei Yisrael created a tangible, physical building, the Mishkan, immediately after this event. This was built as a physical remembrance of their awe-inspiring moment, namely the receiving of the Luchot. This explanation of the role of the Luchot makes it clear why the Luchot and Shivrei Luchot, or Shards of the Luchot, resided in the Aron of the Mishkan.

Another example of this concept of cementing a spiritual moment by converting it into a physical remembrance may be taken from the Midrashim surrounding the story of Akeidat Yitzchak. In Parashat VaYeira, we are told of the story of Avraham ascending a mountain to sacrifice his son Yitzchak as an offering to Hashem. As Avraham was ready to offer up Yitzchak as a Korban, BeReishit Rabbah (65:6) tells us, the angels from above shed tears because Avraham was about to kill his beloved son. The Midrash continues and reports that Yitzchak’s blindness in later years (BeReishit 27:1) was caused by the tears of these angels falling into Yitzchak’s eyes.

Keeping this in mind, we can now look at a major question about Yitzchak’s life: why did Yitzchak never pray for his eyesight back, especially if his prayers were extremely potent, as evident from the fact that his request to Hashem to cure Rivkah’s barrenness was answered (25:21)? We can answer that Yitzchak emerged from the experience of the Akeidah on an extremely high spiritual level due to his close encounter with Hashem. The fact that Yitzchak chose to remain blind was a deliberate choice that was aimed at preserving the only constant physical reminder of the Akeidah so that Yitzchak would never forget that charged moment of being bound on the altar at Har HaMoriyah.

Returning to the original question, how does one retain the high spiritual level that he or she just achieved? Obviously, one cannot blind himself or create an elaborate structure such as the Mishkan to maintain a blatant physical reminder. Rather, just as the Parashah teaches us, we should attempt to create something meaningful for ourselves that can remind us of the spirituality, whether it be a mental or physical reminder, so that like Bnei Yisrael or Yitzchak, we can cherish the moment forever.

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