I don’t go by the official June 21st date, that is solar equinox stuff. I go by a far more important and holy mark.
The first Test of the Summer. England v Ireland started yesterday. Summer is here!
However, we may have a machloket. Some would hold that 16th June is the start of the summer. What is the disagreement between the two opinions?
The first opinion (June 1st) holds that it just has to be a Test match which England are playing in, the opposition is irrelevant.
The other opinion (June 16th) holds that even though Ireland may now be a test playing nation (since May 2018) they are not one of the nine test playing nations in the ICC World Test Championship, therefore it is not a senior enough game to be able to start the summer. That must wait till Australia on 16th June – a true Test.
Now all of the above is a bit of light-hearted ‘Talmudic’ fun, but there is a serious spiritual issue at hand. Life is made up of ‘nisyonot’ – tests. Throughout our lives we face many tests and by succeeding in them, we grow and strengthen our connection to Hashem.
However not all tests are equal.
For example, one can walk into a supermarket and the test is to just buy Kosher products. For most people who keep Kosher, this is not a huge test. Yes, you may have to check the Kosher App for some purchases, but you don’t grow from the experience.
However, if you are working very late, you go to bed exhausted. The next morning the alarm goes off at a very early hour for Shacharit at shul, this is a much harder test, the decisions going through one’s mind, the arguments for and against getting up – we have all been through these sorts of tests. These are the ones that we can really grow from, actively improving ourselves, achieving spiritual growth from a challenging test.
With our above ‘Talmudic’ discussion – is Ireland really a Test? (In both meanings of the word!) Will the England players really be challenged (so far not so much!).
We can take this idea further, and of course link it to this week’s Sedra!
Everyone is different, not all tests are the same for us. For someone raised in a completely secular home, certain tests, like kosher food, may be incredibly challenging – it depends on the background of each individual.
In Naso, we come across the Nazir. We learn that they may not have any contact with the dead. They may not become Tamei [ritually impure] even when their father, mother, brother or sister dies, ‘for the crown of his God is upon his head. [Bamidbar 6:6-7]. This is similar to the Kohen Gadol.
The Avnei Nezer (Rav Avraham Bornstein of Sochaczew, 1839-1910) explains why the Kedusha of a Nazir is greater than that of a regular Kohen. A Kohen’s Kedusha derives from his father. It is therefore only proper that one should defile that Kedusha for the honour of his father. When Kedusha comes via family, then Kedusha can be suspended by participating in the burial of family members.
However, a Nazir’sKedusha (and the Kedusha of a Kohen Gadol) are not a result of family. Rather, Nezirut is the result of the person’s personal voluntary aspiration for spiritual elevation. Since his Kedusha does not come via family, but through his personal endeavours and abstinence.
The Sefat Emet (Rav Yehudah Leib Alter of Ger; 1847-1905) says that implicit in this insight is more than just basic equity and fairness. This insight teaches us that the Kedusha which one attains on his own is more profound and more substantial than Kedusha which one attains through external sources or as a gift. That which one achieves by virtue of his own spiritual efforts is a far greater accomplishment than that which one receives because his last name just happens to be “Cohen”.
How is Judaism learnt and transmitted?
For many, it is something they have grown up with, it came through family. The challenge here is to make sure that one’s observance and connection is not simply because of the way they were raised. Efforts need to be made to renew and grow throughout our life. Nothing should be done by rote.
For those who have not grown up with a strong Jewish identity, the challenge is very different. It is to discover the beauty and meaning in a Torah lifestyle. They, like the Nazir, have ‘voluntary aspiration for spiritual elevation. Since their Kedusha does not come via family, but through their personal endeavours.’ It is a tremendous challenge.
However, in many ways, we are all like the Nazir. All of us should make choices to voluntarily improve our spiritual levels. To challenge ourselves to always be striving in Torah, Tefillah and Chesed. To be living fulfilled lives.
So, whether you are waiting for the Ashes with bated breath or you think the Ashes is some pre Tisha B Av ritual – use the lesson of Test matches to understand better our challenge on this earth
Beating Ireland is not the challenge.
Australia is the true test.
It is only from true tests, that we can truly grow.