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High Holidays: Is Judgment Day Supposed To be Joyful?
Video 3 of 5
Let's just stop for a minute and think about why that's actually the case. You know, kingship is not such an easy concept for us moderns to wrap our minds around, we tend to live in democracies and tend to be fairly far removed from kingship. So let's just use the word leadership, a word that maybe we're more comfortable with. To accept G-d as king is really to accept Him as leader, it is to express a willingness to follow Him, to let Him lead you, and that, of course, was a facet of the Sinai experience. We accepted the Torah, these laws were the directives of the Master of the Universe, and our acceptance of those directives indicated our willingness to allow Him to lead us. We considered those laws binding, which means we accepted that it was okay, that it was right, for Him to make the rules and for us to follow them.
There was a context for that acceptance, the context goes all the way back to the first time we heard G-d's wordless voice. When we first heard that voice we hid and you would think, you know we were hiding from G-d because we were afraid, but if you look carefully at the text in some strange way we were actually hiding from ourselves. When G-d asks, where are you and Adam answers, I'm hiding because, what would you expect the rest of that sentence to be? I'm hiding because I heard You were coming, or I'm hiding because I can't bear to confront You. But what Adam actually said - shockingly - is, I'm hiding because I'm naked. I'm hiding because I can't bear - not to see You - but to see me. We became uncomfortable with ourselves after we ate from the tree, it was our own humanity that bothered us about ourselves.
Think about what we had just done. We had eaten from this tree, a tree of knowledge of good and evil, and in doing so we lost our bearings on who we were. By eating from that tree we were playing dress up, we were trying to imagine that we could eat from the Master's own tree, because we were the ones who could make the rules. We didn't have to accept the rules from someone else. Yeah, You say don't eat from this tree of knowledge of good and evil, we're going to eat from this tree and we're going to be the ones who make up our own ideas about what constitutes good and what constitutes evil. What's good is what I like and what's evil is what I don't like. We get to be the rule makers, we can pretend to be the master. But if you pretend to be the master you don't know who you are anymore and you get uncomfortable in your own skin, you can't bear your own nakedness anymore.
But as it turns out, after that sin we got a second chance of sorts, a chance to rectify that sin in the form of a voice - the only way really that G-d can reveal Himself to humans. After we had eaten from the tree G-d approached us. The voice of G-d was strolling through the garden, coming closer, calling out to us and that, was an opportunity. We had a choice then, we could have responded to that voice - how would history have been different if we had done so? If, instead of hiding we had acknowledged that we has stepped out of bounds, if we had reached out to G-d in spite of that, if we had called out to G-d and said, here I am, how would history have been different? But we didn't do that. Instead, we missed that chance, and that lost opportunity was maybe as tragic as eating from the tree was in the first place. Adam's response to Divine revelation was to hide, we humans hid, afraid of our own humanity, and we continued to play dress up, imagining ourselves as the master.
Once we decided to play master we were exiled from Eden and then years passed and as they did human beings continued to think themselves the ultimate arbiters of good and evil. They continued to identify right and wrong with what they liked and didn't like, with disastrous results. Indeed, Israel itself just before Sinai, became just the latest victims of this delusion, they were oppressed for centuries in backbreaking Egyptian slavery. What did the Egyptians think of that? They thought it was okay, no moral qualms there, this is the way things should be, these Israelites they're strangers, not even really human. That's the way it seemed to the Egyptians, through their view of good and evil. Now, at Sinai, G-d declares, I have taken you out of Egypt and I have brought you on eagle's wings to Me, and now I have one question for you; Im shamo'ah tishme'u be'koli - are you prepared to hear My voice?
Yes, those were the words at Sinai, even before the Ten Commandments, the words before words, are you prepared just to hear My voice? Because if you are, we can rectify the whole disaster that happened when you left Eden. You'll understand with that voice who I am, I am your creator. You'll understand who you are, you're the creature in the presence of the creator. Will that be uncomfortable? Will you have butterflies in your stomach when you encounter Me? Well of course you will, it's okay to have butterflies in your stomach. This is the good kind of fear, the fear that redeems the corrupted fear that you experienced in Eden when you were hiding. This is awe, the true product of an encounter between creature and creator. It's not the shameful kind of fear of hiding for yourself, of being unable to confront your own nakedness.
So at Sinai there was the sound of the Shofar - the voice of G-d without words, and then just after that G-d gives the Ten Commandments. It's just really a formality at that point. First we heard G-d's voice, we understood who He was, we understood who we were. He's the creator, we're the creature. In recognizing that we understood that by rights He should be the ultimate lawgiver, we accepted that. Now, we're just accepting the laws themselves. We accept that You can make the rules, that You decide right and wrong, and now tell us what right and wrong is - here it is.
All told, if our experience at Eden was a failure to recognize G-d's leadership, Sinai was a second chance. When Israel said; Kol asher diber Hashem na'aseh - everything that the Almighty says we will do, they replayed the events of Eden and redeemed them. So do we every year when we remember that day, when we remember that voice, on Rosh Hashanah we crown G-d anew.
So we've seen now how the idea of Malchiyot flows from the Torah's characterization of Rosh Hashanah as Zichron Teruah - a day on which we remember G-d's voice, how G-d called out to us at Sinai. Let's go on now to explore how Zichronot and Shofrot and even the larger idea of Yom HaDin itself, how all of these become aspects of Rosh Hashanah as well. I'll meet you in the next video.
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