The Shechinah, the manifestation of Malchut, Kingship, from above, corresponding to the middah of Shiflut, humility, lowered itself down to Mount Sinai on Shavuot. Though G-d lives in the highest of the four worlds, Atzilut, for one time in history He came down to our world of Assiah.
Though in fact G-d chose to have Malchut below as well, as the Zohar (Shoftim 275b) notes on the verse (Deut. 17: 15), “Som tasim alecha melech – you shall select a king,” the first “appoint” refers to Above, the second “appoint” refers to below, nonetheless, we can and should seek an intimate relationship with the Shechinah itself, the Creator of the world.
The question then becomes, what doorway is necessary to pass in order to meet and feel the Shechinah every day, like that one time at Sinai, at the highest level of joy, exemplified by Dovid HaMelech, whose yahrtzeit is on Shavuot, and who enjoyed an intimate closeness with G-d?
Furthermore, we want to explore the individualism bestowed upon us from Above and how we can reach levels of unending gratitude by utilizing the second and third worlds of Briah, creation, and Yetzirah, formation, and if the Sinai experience contains a unique reason for gratitude.
And we want to get to meet the Shechinah through His Torah, to gain our own knowledge and relationship with it. How do we get our own portion in the Torah? Was there something from the Sinai experience that divulged the secret on how we can gain our own portion in the Torah? Furthermore, are there certain opportune times, like Shavuot, where one can maximize their portion?
By addressing these questions, hopefully we can arrive at a path to feel close with the Creator like Dovid HaMelech, shine gratitude upon a King who believes in individualism and put forth a method to gain a piece of G-d’s intellectual faculties in this world.
Dovid HaMelech’s Dance of Humility
Perhaps the most passionate-filled and celebratory moment in Tanach takes place when Dovid HaMelech dances with the Ark, as the verse (II Samuel 6:15) says, “Thus David and all the House of Israel brought up the Ark of the L-rd with shouts and with blasts of the horn.” Upon his meeting with Michal, King Saul’s daughter, he is met with rebuke and suspicion regarding his seemingly proud and overly joyous behavior. He responds, (ibid. 6:22) “… and dishonor myself even more, and be low in my own esteem; but among the slave girls that you speak of I will be honored.” Michal’s rebuke earns her a life without children.
Focus on Dovid HaMelech’s words, “and be low in my own esteem.” This does not mean low in self-esteem. This means Dovid HaMelech had no self, it was all to G-d. He achieved a state of Shiflut, lowliness, bridging him with the Malchut of G-d which is synonymous with Shiflut. He echoes this sentiment (Psalm 22:6), “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people.” His modus operandi was the endurance of scorn from others, but that’s not what concerned him, he only wanted to dance with G-d. Being trampled upon was of little consequence as his one desire was (Psalm 73:28), “But as for me, it is good to be near G-d…”
We have in our kochos hanefesh the elements of fire, water, wind and earth. Earth or dust is symbolic of the middah of humility. The metaphor is quite clear. As Pirkei Avot (3:1) says, “…From where have you come?–from a putrid drop. Where are you going?–to the place of dust, worm, and maggot…”
Anyone who attends a burial sees firsthand where they are going. In such a reality it’s hard to hold onto any ego. The Orchot Tzaddikim, the seminal book of mussar attacks arrogance in the first chapter, showing how despised it is by G-d. He scoffs at anyone who thinks they can serve the Creator in such a way.
In the next chapter, dealing with humility, he illustrates what humility offers. He notes that the prayers of the humble are attended to, “Before they call, I will answer” (Is. 65:24) and that when a humble man performs the precepts they are received with pleasure and joy, and it is said, “For G-d hath already accepted thy works” (Eccl. 9:7). Humility is the only way to gain favor with the Creator.
G-d wants our hearts, as it says, (Sanhedrin 106b), “Rachmana liba ba’I – G-d desires the heart.” And if the heart is not wiped clean of arrogance then G-d is repulsed, a beckoning call to transform the heart and destroy any pride within.
Imagine you were outside a concert hall and you heard hundreds of melodious notes that worked in perfect unison. It seemed to exact for the musicians to be all timing it correctly. You then walk in and see a conductor making little gestures with a baton towards each musical section.
Our lives are no different. G-d is looking at each of us in exact fashion. He carved out a life for us that matches our skills, needs and wants. We must celebrate the notion that G-d loves humanity for its individualism, as the Tosefta (Berakhot 58a:3) notes, G-d sees [and appreciates] His nation where “minds are not alike.” This was the Creator’s plan. As the Mishna (Sanhedrin 4:5) points out, “but the King of kings, the Holy Blessed One, has stamped every human with the seal of the first man, yet not one of them are like another.”
If we tap into the worlds of Briah, creation and Yetzira, formation, that exist above the world of Assiah: worlds that call for emotional awakenings and intellectual realizations, then we can come to a state of limitless gratitude for a Creator who gave us each our own story.
I recently heard that the previous rosh yeshiva of Chofetz Chaim insisted that the bachurim wear blue shirts to differentiate themselves from the yeshiva world that were all wearing white. He insisted that if each bachur didn’t realize that they were unique and special with their own individual story than their living the wrong life. This wasn’t the Creator’s intention.
The Sinai experience gives reason for additional gratitude. The Jewish nation can claim alone its own Mesorah that started at Sinai and exists until today. However, it’s critical to know why the Mesorah is alive. It’s because its “MiSinai.” It stems from a place of lowliness, bareness and the reality that one is mere dust. G-d lowers himself only to those who lower themselves. If one lives such a life, he can rejoice, “and whoso trusteth in the L-rd, happy is he” (Proverbs16:20).
A Chelek in Torah
Just as G-d created no one alike enabling every person to have their own story, He built a system where each person can have their own connection to the Torah, not available to anyone else. However, this acquisition must be activated and nurtured.
A clear proof to the fact that its needs to be activated is found in Pirkei Avot (5:20), “Judah ben Tema said… May it be the will, O L-rd our G-d, that your city be rebuilt speedily in our days and set our portion in the studying of your Torah.” This begins with the phraseology of “May it be your will.” This is a prayer for gaining Torah knowledge, the inference being that it’s not automatic.
How does one gain their lot with the Torah? One needs to first imagine the indelible imprint that the thunder, lightning and awesome noise from Sinai made on the onlookers. It was too overwhelming for anyone to live, as all of Bnei Yisroel perished and had to be revived. The key idea is that the senses were astonished and thus impacted forever.
If I were to tell you that the document that you want to ingest and understand is a song, then the advantage to remembering it is double fold, because it’s a song itself and it can be sung as well. the Torah itself is referred to as Shirah, “So now, write this shira [song] for yourselves, and teach it to the Children of Israel” (Deut. 31:19).
And if one sings this song and ingests it, then the The Medrash says, “Whoever says Shira (a song of praise to G-d) in Olam Ha’zeh will merit to say Shira in Olam Haba” (Tanchuma Tzav 7).
G-d yearns for us to establish a chelek in his Torah. The verse, (Proverbs 4:2), says, “Ki lekach tov natati lachem – A good taking I have given to you.” Lekach rearranged spells chelek. The Torah is a chelek tov for us and G-d wants us to meet Him through it.
There’s an additional way to hasten the gaining one’s share in Torah. We say on Shabbos and yom tov “Veten chelkeinu betoratecha – Hashem give us our piece, our part in your Torah.” This request comports with the fact that “The Sabbaths and Holidays were given to Israel in order that they might study Torah” (Jerusalem Talmud, Shabbat 15:3). Not only is Shavuot the time of the giving of the Torah, but it’s the opportune time for one to gain a chelek in the Torah.
We say every day in Shemoneh Esrei:
וְתֶחֱזֶֽינָה עֵינֵֽינוּ בְּשׁוּבְ֒ךָ לְצִיּוֹן בְּרַחֲמִים: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה הַמַּחֲזִיר שְׁכִינָתוֹ לְצִיּוֹן
May our eyes behold Your return to Zion in mercy. Blessed are You L-rd, who restores His Divine Presence to Zion.
The beracha is affirming our capacity for sight sound and intellectual capacities to meet the ever-present Shechinah. Right after this acknowledgment, we recite Modim, thank you, in overwhelming gratitude to the Sovereign Creator that is willing to let us meet His Shechinah. We can all dance with the Melech if we’re willing to negate self, abundantly thank a Creator who appreciates individuality and sing a song that penetrates our heart to make it everlasting.