Sunday, February 10, 2008

Tetzaveh 5631 First Ma'amar

וְאַתָּה תְּצַוֶּה אֶת־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל .../And you will command the children of Israel…” (Shmos 27:20) In the first pasuk of this week’s parsha, God instructs Moshe Rabbeinu to command the children of Israel regarding the mitzvah of lighting the menorah. Usually when God instructs Moshe to tell the people a commandment, He says, “... דַּבֵּר אֶל־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל/… speak to the children of Israel.” Why does God say here, “וְאַתּה תְּצַוֶּה .../And you will command …” when instructing Moshe about this particular mitzvah?

The Sfas Emes teaches us that the lamps of the menorah allude to the mitzvos. In Mishlei (6:23) we find, “... נֵר מִצְוָה וְתוֹרָה אוֹר .../… a commandment is a lamp and Torah is light …” Just as light needs a lamp to hold it, so too, the light of the Torah needs a vessel to contain it. As physical light, so too, the light of the Torah is ephemeral. It needs a mechanism for being drawn into and influencing the physical world. That mechanism is the mitzvos. The vessel that holds the light of the Torah in this world is the mitzvos.

When we perform mitzvos we bring the light of the Torah into the world. In fact, the Zohar says that our 248 limbs parallel the 248 positive commandments.[1] Our very limbs become the conduits through which the light of the Torah is drawn down into this world. When we understand that we are merely conduits, that there is nothing inherent in our actions or in us that brings spiritual light into the world, that it is the will of God that the specific actions of the mitzvos have this effect, we accomplish the will of God. That is why this specific mitzvah of preparing the menorah starts with, “וְאַתָּה תְּצַוֶּה .../And you will command …” It is only because God commanded us to do the mitzvos that they have this quality of drawing the Torah’s light into the physical world.

The Midrash, explaining the first few words of this week’s parsha says that the poor of Israel are equal to Eliyahu HaNavi and Daniel.[2] How does the Midrash arrive at this conclusion from, “וְאַתָּה תְּצַוֶּה .../And you will command…”? According to the Sfas Emes, however, it is clear. A Jew, regardless of his spiritual level, who performs a mitzvah with the understanding that the light of that mitzvah comes through him from God, is on the level of our greatest prophets. This is because when a person does a mitzvah he connects to God. In fact, the root of the word mitzvah is the same as that of the Aramaic “צַוְותָּא/connection”. It is encouraging to know that regardless of our backgrounds and spiritual state, each of us can do the will of God and bring the Torah’s light into this world by being aware of this when performing the mitzvos.

The Chidushei HaRim understands this concept from the brachah we make before doing a mitzvah. We say “... אֲשֶּׁר קִדְּשָנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ .../… that He made us holy with His mitzvos and commanded us …” We are able to do the will of God and bring the light of the Torah into the world through the mitzvos, only because this is the way God structured the world. He commanded us to do the mitzvos. Therefore, we are able to be His conduits to bring His light into the world.

The Chidushei HaRim explains that this is the intent of Chazal when they said that a person who wants to protect his assets should plant an adar tree as we find in Tehillim (93:4), “אַדִּיר בַּמָרוֹם ה'/God is strong on high.”[3] Planting an adar tree is a metaphor for knowing that our assets and strength, everything really, comes from God. Chazal are teaching us that the awareness itself is protective and strengthening. This concept and metaphor applies to the month of Adar as well. The month of Adar, then, is an especially appropriate time to work on our awareness that when we perform the mitzvos we are conduits for drawing God’s light, the light of the Torah into the physical world.

[1] Zohar 1:170b

[2] Tanchuma Tetzaveh 6

[3] Beitzah 15b

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