by Tzuri Hason –
This article was originally published in Hebrew on Jeducation World.
On the last night of Passover, we began a journey that is now nearing its end, though physically our journey is very different from the journey our ancestors made more than 3,000 years ago. In the journey of our forefathers, they left behind Egypt, the most developed and comfortable country in the world, even under the unbearable burden of slavery, into the arid desert the Promised Land: the Land of Israel. Today, we live in the sovereign and flourishing State of Israel, and we have the freedom to do whatever we want (within the bounds of reason and law, of course,) and yet in spite of this, on the spiritual level, the journey of our forefathers is the same journey that we repeat every year.
This journey began on the night of Passover, when we were liberated from the things we were enslaved to, whether consciously or not. From there we embarked on a spiritual journey of 49 days in which we count the Omer and build up our spiritual level for the acceptance of the Torah on Shavuot. At the beginning of that journey, we are in a celebration of joy over our freedom from slavery, which lasts for a week. Then we search through the spiritual wilderness of the Sefirat HaOmer. During this same period, we adopt specific methods of behavior, points of intention and Israeli holidays that have joined this time period over the years, such as the various memorial days and Independence Day. We march on our journey, counting our progress each day, towards the goal of receiving the Torah on Shavuot.
However, reaching the end is not the goal, rather it is the journey we undergo and the renewal and growth that transitions us from a state of limitless freedom to the acceptance of the Torah, through which we are restricted and with right and stable boundaries as Jews. Just as we would not allow our children to go out and spend time with bad influences all night long, we instead set the right limits for his age and circumstances. Unlimited freedom can also lead us down dangerous path if proper boundaries are not set.
We go through this journey every year. You could say we do not need to keep doing this because we’ve done it already, and we’ve gone through the process whether it worked for us or not. Rather, it is wonderful that we have the opportunity to define our freedom, and to set out on the right path to receive the Torah again, each year anew. The very fact that we can evaluate where we are in relation to where we want to be in our relationship with Torah is a great kindness that God offers us. This is also related to how we as educators work with our students. We have different students who are in different places in their lives, and who do not feel connected to Torah. I do not speak only of those who do not appear physically or spiritually for prayer and Torah study. It is true even among those who wake up early and come to the beit midrash to study before morning prayers! Even these students may not be on the right track.
In counting the Omer between Passover and Shavuot, we have the opportunity to embark on a journey with our students. Along this journey, we can check in with them and see where their connection with the Torah stands and whether they want to readjust where they are on their path. As an educator, you can help guide them in finding a way to connect to Torah and the service of God. The goal really lies in the journey of reaching Shavuot after we have gone through the desert together. We have the blessing of being able to make this journey every year.
From my experience, I truly believe that such a process can elevate us, not just in terms of our spiritual stature, but also in all aspects of life. In addition, receiving the Torah over and over again throughout our lives allows the spiritual forces that are trapped inside of us to awaken and radiate outwards. Just like watering the seeds allows flowers to grow and bloom, the student finds the seeds of his potential each year anew, and is given the opportunity to cultivate it, so he too can grow. As it states in the book of Tehillim:
“But his desire is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be as a tree planted beside rivulets of water, which brings forth its fruit in its season, and its leaves do not wilt; and whatever he does prospers.”
With the help of God, as we journey towards Shavuot, we will be able to reunite with the Torah, and it
will nourish us and our students, who will give us our fruits in their time.
Tzuri Hason is Jeducation World’s Hebrew-speaking Jeducation Representative. Tzuri has worked in a variety of teaching positions throughout Israel and the United States.