True Self

Rebbetzin Wendy Hendler

Northfield Minyan

After each utterance that emerged from the mouth of the Holy One, Blessed be He, the souls of the Jewish people expired.

(Talmud, Shabbat 88b)

כל דיבור ודיבור שיצא מפי הקדוש ברוך הוא יצתה נשמתן של ישראל.

(שבת פח:)

On Shavuos, Hashem descended on Mount Sinai, as Hashem revealed Himself at Mount Sinai.1 This revelation, according to the Sfas Emes,2 indicates that prior to the Giving of the Torah, the world's true "self" was hidden from humankind. What then is the true self of the world? It is the spiritual force of Hashem's presence, and of the Torah, that infuse life into the world constantly.3

This inner meaning was publicly revealed to all humanity with the Giving of the Torah, when humanity was made aware that the universe is preserved only through Torah. But it was also revealed to each individual, with the idea that on an inner spiritual dimension, each person is intrinsically good.

The sages teach4 us that during the giving of the first two commandments of the Torah, the Jews’ souls expired. Their previous lifestyle, based on materialistic values, was negated. Their old tarnished souls were replaced by new, elevated souls invigorated by a Torah-based reality.

On Shavuos, each one of us has the capacity to connect with our own pure, untarnished souls and to penetrate the depths of our inner selves. This time of lockdown has given us the opportunity to make this inward journey of preparation for receiving the Torah anew, to reflect in quiet and solitude on the meaning and purpose of our own lives, and to strengthen our connection to Hashem.

On this Shavuos, may our intrinsic goodness emerge and energise us spiritually for the coming year. Just as the Jews' garments were cleansed in the days before the receiving of the Torah,5 so may our purified bodies and souls guide us as we re-enter the "new world" post lockdown.

  1. Exodus 19:20, as translated by Onkelos

  2. Sefas Emes, Numbers, Shavuos 2:5, 1:5

  3. The Three Festivals, Ideas and Insights of the Sfas Emes on Pesach, Shavuos, and Succos, Rabbi Yosef Stern, 1993, Mesorah Publications

  4. Talmud, Shabbos 88b, based on Song of Songs 5:6

  5. Exodus 19:10

©2019 by The Office of The Chief Rabbi