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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Backing Up Our Hearts

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

What will it be like to watch Moshiach walking the streets of Jerusalem?

The Talmud advises us, that if the opportunity arises we should expend effort to observe the royalty of the world. Seeing the operations of the kings and queens of the world will help us visualize what Jerusalem might look like when the Moshiach is anointed as the King of Israel.

So when I visited London I made it a point to check out royalty and be present for the changing of the guard. Sunday morning at 11:45 I was just on time at Buckingham Palace.

Although I have heard about this ritual since my earliest childhood I didn’t know exactly what takes place at the ‘changing of the Guard’. (The answer is, not too much).

The music began and out from the Queens palace marched out 50 or so beautifully trained horses in perfect formation. A minute or so later a different set of beautiful horses and riders marched into the gateway of the palace. The guard had changed. Apparently this multitude of perfect English horses and horsemen represent an ancient symbol of royalty. The Queen of England is surrounded by the majestic grandeur of a collection of some of the finest horses to walk the Earth.

As I contemplated this very majestic sight I realized that this scene will actually never take place at the palace of the Jewish King in Jerusalem. The Torah forbids the King of Israel to obtain show horses.

The King of Israel must portray a very different sort of image. He is told that wherever he travels, whenever he enters or exits the gates of his palace, even when he sits upon a throne, he must carry a Torah scroll with him. The national leader can never be seen without the Torah close to his heart. When the King of Israel convenes his ministry and meets with his officers he must have his Sefer Torah with him. As he walks the battlefield he should carry his Torah, even as he strolls in the marketplace - the King of Israel should never be seen without his Torah.

But that’s not all.

Besides for the Torah that the King must carry with him, he must also write a second Sefer Torah that he must keep locked up in his treasury. This second Torah Scroll, never saw the streets of his kingdom and was never carried on his rounds among his people.

So, if the second Torah scroll was never seen or used why did the king need to have it?

Backup!

As the King of Israel carries his Torah, as he walks through the marketplace or through the battlefield the elements take their toll. Very gradually letters fade, crack or even fall off. So slow is the process that the King may not even realize that the Torah he is carrying is not the same as the Torah he set out with. Therefore the King is told not to rely on that Torah alone. He should keep a pristine copy of his Torah in the treasury. He should never let it be exposed to the winds of wars and the corrosive elements of life. He should let its character remain perfect and absolute. While his cradled Torah fades and cracks his treasured Torah will remain sharp and flawless.

From time to time the king would bring his public Torah into his inner chambers., He puts both Torahs on the table side by side opens, compares them and correct them.

He must never allow the Torah to fade. The Torah sets the standard and the standards must be pristine!

All of us have stood at the threshold of a great endeavor. Perhaps before we married, started a new career or entered into the lifetime commitment of parenthood. At these momentous milestone occasions we become very thoughtful. We talk about the kind of home we always dreamt of, plenty of guests and full of peace; the way parents should really be and how we will always be there for our children; and at the start of a new career or job we resolve to make our jobs a way of fulfilling a meaningful purpose and a means of accomplishing our function in life.

Then reality sets in. The demands of the moment often cloud our view of the bigger picture. The nitty gritty of life takes over. We find ourselves saying, what happened to this marriage? Where did I go wrong with my children? What happened?

As we start out, like the king of Israel we have our own very pristine Sefer Torah. We fashion our lives according to our ideals, unbiased and untainted by the winds and wars of life.

All of us should take that perfect Torah and place it in the treasury of our hearts. Because, as life goes on, as we carry our principles and standards with us on all of life’s journeys the letters begin to fade, crack, and even fall apart. The elements of life take their toll.

The Torah gives us some good advice. Every once in a while go back into your own inner chambers, compare what you were to what you are and correct. This is the essence of Teshuvah.

Life is full of challenges and pitfalls. We do not always have the opportunity to conduct ourselves exactly according to the book. The original standards we set for ourselves begin to fade. The month of Elul is the right time to enter into the treasury of our souls and to once again obtain the clarity that we began with.

The Kabbalists teach that our first thoughts are holy and we should inscribe them on the parchment of our hearts. Treasure those first thoughts and refer back to them often for in them lies the secret to G-dliness and growth.

This week’s Dvar Torah is sponsored by my friend
Jeff Zucker, on the occasion of the ninth yartzeit
of his beloved father Ross, Reuven ben Shaul, a"h.

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