Pesach marks our geulah, our freedom. Sefirat Ha Omer marks our counting up from that freedom to the elevation that is our receiving of the Torah, Shavuot. Especially during this span, this time between our emancipation and our illumination, it behooves us to embrace behaviors that springboard us to the highest planes of human existence, that call forward the Messianic Age, and that keep us, even at micro levels, on the derech. From generation to generation, we are not merely, and specifically, the army of the Holy Land, but are, more generally and more grandly, its torchbearers, i.e. Hashem’s dedicated servants.
Accordingly, we reflect sacredness when we engage in proper conduct in even the most mundane and minute of choices. When we: hold open doors for the elderly, pick up after our pets, and remember to say “thank-you” to the folks who bags our groceries, we are lifting up ourselves. When we pay our rent, feed our families, and respond, with courtesy, to employers, then, too, do we draw our spiritual status higher and higher. We glisten when we avoid degrading other people through our speech and when we refrain from referring to ourselves in a degrading manner. We bump up our worth when we treasure our goodness and when we otherwise strive to pull as much light out of the darkness as possible.
What’s more, we are capable of repeating these instances of decency again and again and we are able to receive the blessings consequent to such repetitions time after time. Any single good choice, which we actualize at any single instance, can advance us per mitzvot bein adom l’Makom, the mitzvah (of kavod) between man and his Maker, or per mitzvot bein adom l’chaveiro, the mitzvah (of kavod) between man and his peers. Let’s look together at some fairly accessible examples.
Regarding mitzvot bein adom l’Makom, we can benefit by pressing our G-d given gifts into service. Consider music. Either we can, has v’shalom, use our voices and our manufactured instruments for ill purpose, such as when we were forced to literally perform for our murderers during the Shoah, or we can use our talents and crafted goods to virtuous ends, as we did, also during the Shoah, when we secretly sang the words of our ancestors to each other, for reasons of hizach. Today, too, we can emulate our rabbanim, cantors, youth directors, and others, whom use music to connect to The Aibishter. We can put melody to our gratitude at sma’achot, extend our inner tunes in minyonim, and more generally chant, upon seeing a flower bud, in smelling the spices of Havdallah, or in noticing rain or dew, offer up our praises of Hashem.
Another way in which we can exalt our relationship to The Boss is to guard our mouths, to keep our tongues clean, to be mindful not to engage in loshen hara. We ought to fill our mouths with holy words. Equally, we ought not to place our precious motes where garbage, i.e. where vile communication, sits. Now, as is true at any other moment, is a propitious time to work toward clean speech. While, the truth named by Chofetz Chiam, that “the multitudes do not view loshon hara as a sin and they give no thought at all to the rights and wrongs of speech,” remains in our world, we can promote change. In being vigilant about our communication’s content, we extend our personal spiritual wellbeing and evoke general welfare.
Embracing the mitzvot bein adom l’Makom is not the only step we can take to make ourselves more consecrated. We can and must, simultaneously, engage in mitzvot bein adom l’chaveiro.
There are still enough hours before the advent of Shavuot, for instance, to share our literal foodstuffs with literally hungry others. Today is exactly the right time to inventory our pantries, refrigerators, and freezers, in order to determine which among our comestibles we can immediately donate to local food banks. We can make plans, too, to help out with organizations that take gleanings from actual fields and from simcha halls for the purpose of aiding the poor. Similarly, we can send money to agencies that feed the indigent. Even if just one or two of us emailed a check to such an agency, after reading this blog, we would move progress.
Another action we can undertake is to be rigorous about our halachic honesty. We tend to smile when we share our wealth with mikvas, schuls, schools, and the like, identifying ourselves, all along, as “righteous” individuals. Yet, at the same time, we both engage in frivolous spending and eschew, walking broad circles out of our way, if necessary, the street beggars that great us with outstretched arms. Perhaps, just for today, we can smile at those other Jews, too, and graciously give them some of the sustenance that Hashem channeled to us. Their requests, after all, exist not to burden, but to boost, us.
As well, it suits us to proactively engage in deeds of loving kindness. Tonight is not too soon to call the newly widowed, or to befriend, perhaps, with a small measure of homework help or with a trip to a sweets shop, the child who was rejected from the school of his or her first choice. We can bridge human gaps when we remember to help our gabbaim put away our schuls’ folding chairs and seferim, when we greet our mailmen with bottles of cool water, and when we say “please” and “thank-you” to service providers for whose efforts we pay.
Seemingly insignificant acts make a difference both in our connection to HaKadosh Baruchu and in our connection to each other. This season of revelation, in which we abstain from tasting the ecstasy concomitant to traveling to heaven during our hours of sleep, because we intentionally stay up all night learning Torah, let us, instead, taste the ecstasy that can be made manifest on earth. We are possessed of a toolbox of good choices. Let’s use it!