The Biggest Tikkun

I’m still making my way through Eim Habanim Semeichah, and apropos to the holiday of Shavuot which is coming up on Tuesday night, the section of the book that I read today included discussion of Tikkun Leil Shavuot, a sort of “restitution” or “repair” on the night of Shavuot.

Throughout the Jewish world and certainly throughout Jerusalem, places of worship and study will host all-night learning extravaganzas, often with special guest teachers.  There are several reasons cited for this customs.

In Eim Habanim Semeichah, Rav Teichtel brings the explanation of the Magen Avraham, who wrote that we stay awake on the night of Shavuot, a holiday that celebrates among other things the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai, in order to rectify the sin that the Israelites committed by sleeping through the night prior to the giving of the Torah.  If the rabbis introduced such a custom to rectify a minor infraction, how much greater must we change our behavior in order to rectify a major infraction such as the sin of spies, who told the Israelites that the Land of Israel was unsafe for habitation.

Rav Teichtal says that we should make up for this “bad debt”of trusting in the spies by making a tikkun today and returning to Israel.  Though they were sent with the expectations that they would return with such glowing reports about the wonders of the Land that the Israelites would be eager to come, they instead turned them to scorn the Land.

Torah study is considered to be equal to all of the other mitzvot combined.  The thesis of Eim Habanim Semeichah is that living in Israel is essential to Jewish life, perhaps a value that even exceeds strict observance of all other commandments.

I wonder what Rav Teichtal would have to say about the situation we find ourselves in today.  Some representatives of Jewish communities actively send glowing reports about the “land flowing with milk and honey,” technology, beauty, and scholarship.  Unfortunately it is also Jews who are behind some of the largest smear campaigns against Israel, declaring it an oppressive, apartheid state, that was founded on and is a world leader in human rights abuses.

Taking all of these considerations into account, it seems to me that there is a tikkun to be made in Torah learning and there is also a tikkun to be made not only in physically coming to Israel but also in hasbara, an explanation of why Jews have a legal and historical right to come to the Land of Israel and to set up a State, for it seems that we no longer know.


4 Responses to “The Biggest Tikkun”

  1. 1 Rebecca M July 4, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    where would you draw the line between heart-felt tochecha, and a “smear campaign”?

    • 2 Ilene July 4, 2011 at 10:01 pm

      “Heartfelt” tochecha comes out of a sincere desire to see the person change a damaging behavior and should be done in a modest way. A “smear campaign” would be to publicly disgrace the individual (or the country in this case). If you feel that the individual is not capable of receiving tochecha, then it’s best not to give it.

      Let me give a specific, non-political example. Someone recently was making statements about me in public that made me feel really uncomfortable. However, I felt that she was a reasonable person who was unaware that she made me feel that way, and so I let her know how I felt in a non-accusatory way aimed at making us both feel better. She seemed to understand. This, of course, is not always possible. But what would have never been effective, whether or not speaking to her was feasible, would have been to tell all of my friends what a jerk she is or to write things on Facebook about it. I think you can draw your own parallels.

  2. 3 Rebecca M July 27, 2011 at 4:51 am

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about effective tochecha, on both interpersonal and political levels. Probably because recently I tried to explain to someone that I was uncomfortable with things they were saying to me about other people, and the situation exploded, and took a while to resolve. So that kind of thing’s been on my mind.

    And on a political level, I disagree, for example, with the BDS movement aimed at Israel. Partly on ideological grounds (collective punishment of all Israelis, why aren’t they organizing as well against far more egregious human rights offenders). But also on a practical level– I can’t imagine it affecting Israel’s decisions in the ways that the BDS organizers intend it to.

    And yet, there are ways I can communicate with a friend that I can’t communicate with a country. I can call a friend on the phone, or find a time to talk one on one. I sometimes have strong disagreements with Israeli policies, but I can’t have a one-on-one talk with Israel. So I think there is a place for public discussion.

    Maybe that’s part of the difference? Discussion vs. debate? Trying to communicate and to genuinely learn vs. trying to win and convince?

    I think that’s part of why I react negatively towards the term “hasbarah.” I’ve often encountered it in debate form, as a predetermined truth putting other ideas and voices beyond the pale. Though re-reading your post I’m not sure that’s how you meant it.

    • 4 Ilene August 3, 2011 at 4:59 pm

      Of course individual discourse is different than when you’re dealing with a country. But isn’t that what democracy is all about? In a Democratic country like Israel, you can write an op-ed column and government representatives or protest (like what’s happening now) in order to voice your opinion.

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Ilene Rosenblum is a writer and marketing professional living in Jerusalem.

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