Make a Fixed Time for Study

עשה תורתך קבע – אמור מעט ועשה הרבה

The Objects of our Affection – כִּי תִשָּׂא

Posted by rabbiart on March 11, 2009

This Shabbat we climb to the highest heights and sink to the lowest lows. Israel (us) purifies itself (ourselves) and prepares to receive HaShem’s greatest gift; the very blueprint of creation. Even before the gift itself can be brought down the mountain and celebrated, Israel (us again) debases itself and offers up the greatest rejection that could possibly be imagined.Are we a schizophrenic two timing messed up people, or what?

While Moshe sits atop the mountain establishing that HaShem is the One who brought us out of the slavery of Mitzraym, Israel is partying down below and inventing a way to violate the first and most fundamental commandment. Have no other gods before HaShem? We got your other god right here. That we made all by and for ourselves. In the language of the street, what the (expletive deleted) is going on? What are they (us) thinking?

We’ve reconfigured the sanctuary seats at Temple Beth Abraham so that we can have a more intimate arrangement on Shabbes mornings when there isn’t an event or speaker. Everything happens on the floor, including reading the Torah. There is no “Torah stand”, so whoever has Hagbah has to hold the Torah until it is time to return the Torah to the Aron HaKodesh.

Awhile back I was given the honor of Hagbah and found myself seated hding the Torah for the Haftorah, the special prayers and Ashrei. It was also a Shabbat on which we were announcing the coming Rosh Hodesh.

So I was sitting holding the Torah in my right arm and a Humash in my left hand to follow the Haftorah. Eventually I began really feeling it’s weight but since I pump iron I had no urge to shift it to my other arm or change my seated position.

Jay Goldberg, seated on my right, leaned over and whispered a comment that called for a response and hinted at a brief conversation. (Its OK – it was about the Haftorah and not frivolous.)

Instinctively I shifted the top of the Torah leftward across my body to lean in close to Jay and whisper my response directly into his ear. This resulted in my holding the Torah on my lap with both my arms around it. Like you would hold a small child or (don’t get ahead of me here) or a loved one. An amazing transformation immediately took place. I could feel a surge of what I – in that moment – could only have described as love as love and affection for the Torah. When it came time to announce the coming Rosh Hodesh I reluctantly gave up the Torah to Jay so he could hand it to the shalach tzibur at the appropriate moment. (it is customary for the Shatz to hold the Torah when reciting the specific day(a) on which Rosh Hodesh will occur.)

As we sat back down for Ashrei, Jay offered to hold the Torah. I would have none of that. I wanted, nay, I needed to hold the Torah on my lap. I beleve I felt a momentary surge of jealousy or resentment. How dare Jay Goldberg not hand me back my Torah, my beloved! All because of a subtle shift of position.

This, I think, is part of the secret understanding of “the strange incident of the Golden Calf”. We all need a place to put our love and affection. Even the beaten and downtrodden wilderness generation had all the complex drives of Hashem’s most marvelous creation. Individually and collectively, they (us) needed to make a place in their hearts.

When we can’t find the right place, we risk choosing the wrong place. If we can’t find any place, we create one. The cosmic distance between right and wrong, between wrong and right, can be traveled with hardly the smallest movement in our position. Hold the Torah to your side with one arm, and feel only the weight of wood and parchment. Wrap two arms around it, and the Torah comes alive as any human being, and we can awake to our love for her teachings and her creator.

May we always understand what truly should be the objects of our love and affection.
May we always find our way to holding the Torah – and each other – in our hearts.

Shabbat Shalom


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