Based on ideas said by Rav Moshe Weinberger on Lag B’Omer 5772
Prepared for the 5th yahtzeit of my mother-in-law, Rivka bas Chaim Yosef a’h
We know that everything in the world has an opposite. The opposite of happiness, שמחה simcha, is sadness, עצבות atzvus. Rav Tzadok HaCohen and others teach that to find the real source of anything in the world we have to look at the first time it is mentioned in the Torah.
Rav Itamar Shwartz, the author of the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh seforim brings down that the first time we experience sadness in is Bresishis 3:16 when Adam and Chava are punished for eating from the Eitz Ha Daas Tov v’Rah.
טז. אֶל הָאִשָּׁה אָמַר הַרְבָּה אַרְבֶּה עִצְּבוֹנֵךְ וְהֵרֹנֵךְ בְּעֶצֶב תֵּלְדִי בָנִים וְאֶל אִישֵׁךְ תְּשׁוּקָתֵךְ וְהוּא יִמְשָׁלבָּךְ:
So what’s going on here? When a baby is born we say, “Mazel Tov!”
The word עֶצֶב means pain/or sadness. It is the shoresh of the word עצבות.
Where is the sadness, the pain? The sadness, and this is the biggest sadness is the universe, a sadness that every one of us has felt, is the sadness of separation, of not being connected. A baby and a mother are one being in the womb. It is a relationship between a creator and that which is created. The child and the mother have the strongest bond in the world. There are echad, which is the gematria of ahavah. The pain of childbirth is the pain that the child feels, not the mother. When a child comes out of the womb and the physical bond is broken, and that is the pain of separation, the feeling of dissconnect. Feeling apart of the source of life is the root of all sadness in the world. A child doesn’t understand this. A child view a connection with a parent only in terms of proximity That’s why when a mother (or a father) leaves them, they cry. They feel the sadness of separation.
Mother, Ima, is the shoresh of Emunah. With maturity, the child grows up tp understand a powerful lesson (that is a teaching of Rav Shimon Bar Yochi): Unless you believe in someone or something, you cannot connect with it. Unless you believe that your parents love you, you will never have a true relationship with them. You can be half way across the world and still feel close with a parent. You can be in the same room with your spouse and fill miles apart from them. If you believe in your parents and the connection you have with them, then you can be across the world and still be close with them. A mother never stops thinking, loving, or davening for her child. Not in this world or the next.
This is how it is with the Rabbono Shel Olam. We are connected to him, always. It’s the feeling of being connected that Klal Yisrael felt at Har Sinai at Matan Torah. We went, as my friend R Micha Berger says, from knowing all about Hashem to knowing Hashem. When we received the Torah we started living a life of mitzvos and feeling that connection. But we have to believe it. If we don’t feel that connection, then we are sad, we feel separated. That distance from Hashem is the source of sadness. As time goes by, we begin to feel distance from Hashem. We stop davening as much, because we feel that Hashem is far from us and not listening. We stop learning or doing chessed, because we feel isn’t who we are anymore.
It’s that connection to Hashem that he wants for us as we approach Shavuos. Hashem want us to go from that rote observance, of feeling separated, to a feeling of being inspired and close to him. That feeling of having a relationship with Hashem is something that I saw and heard in every interaction I had with my mother-in-law. She loved Hashem and felt close to him. She felt that way at home, when she was at her shul for a shiur, when she saw her grandchildren, and when she saw a fellow Jew. She had a constant connection and a powerful lesson for me.
Five years ago, at the hesped for Joanie’s mother, a Lubavitch sheliach spoke and said that with Shavuos so near, Rivka bas Chaim Yosef must have known that it was time to get as close as her neshama could to the Mikor Chaim, the source of all life. May we all be zoche to get as close to Hashem as we can during Shavuos and not just learn and eat cheesecake, but feel that connection we all desperately want.