Friday, March 07, 2008

Pekudei 5632 First Ma'mar

The beginning of this week’s parsha is an accounting of all the materials that were brought to build the Mishkan. Ideally, Chazal teach us, it is better not to count material possessions because blessing rests only upon those things which are hidden from the eye – not counted. Why, then, were the materials of the Mishkan counted? The Zohar answers that since the counting was done by Moshe Rabbeinu, blessing nevertheless rested on the materials and the work. What is the meaning of this enigmatic Zohar?

To understand the Zohar we need to understand why blessing does not rest on things that are counted. The Sfas Emes explains. Everything in this world is connected to the spiritual and, in fact, derives its physical existence from the spiritual. The spiritual power that underlies the physical can be viewed as the root of the physical just as a tree’s branches derive their existence from the tree’s roots. Just as there is one root to a tree with many branches, so too, the more spiritual the less plurality there is. At the top of the hierarchy whose bottom is all the disparate components of the physical world is God Himself, the ultimate Unity and Root of everything. Things that are uncounted, are viewed from the perspective of the whole rather than the individual parts. The whole, because it represents less plurality, is closer to “oneness,” – to the spiritual – than its separate components. Accordingly, blessing rests on them.

This same concept applies whenever we recognize and acknowledge that the physical has spiritual roots. Moshe Rabbeinu understood this as he was the ultimate believer. Chazal teach us that the pasuk in Mishlei, “אִישׁ אֱמוּנֽוֹת רַב־בְּרָכוֹת .../A man of faith will increase blessings …” refers to Moshe Rabbeinu. Even though Moshe Rabbeinu was very involved with the physical world, since he internalized that God is in everything, that everything physical stems from spiritual roots, all his deeds were blessed.

The second part of this pasuk from Mishlei, “...וְאָץ לְהַֽעֲשִׁיר לֹא יִנָּקֶֽה/… but one impatient to become wealthy will not be exonerated,” is the exact opposite. Chazal teach us that this part of the pasuk refers to Korach who wanted the priesthood for himself even though it was not his. He did not recognize God in everything for if he did, he would have recognized the blessing in what was his and not have been tempted by what belonged to others.

This concept explains the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos, “אֵיזֶהוּ עָשִׁיר הַשָׂמֵחַ בְּחֶלְקוֹ/Who is wealthy? He who is happy with his lot.” According to the Sfas Emes, the Mishnah is teaching us that a person’s desire for his wealth needs to be because that is the portion that God granted him. He needs to know and recognize that no one can take away that which is his and he cannot take from another that which is not his. He is not “impatient to become wealthy” like Korach jealously regarding what others have because he desires only that which God designated for him. He recognizes God in his assets. As a result, there is blessing in them.

Chazal teach us this concept elsewhere as well. Chazal say that a person who wishes to protect his assets should plant a maple – אֶדֶר – tree as it says, “אַדִּיר בַּמָרוֹם ה'/God is strong on high.” What is the meaning of this enigmatic Chazal? Chazal relate planting a maple – אֶדֶר – tree to God being strong on high. The Chiddushei HaRim explains that by recognizing that God is the source of our assets, it is as if we are planting His strength in our assets.

We learn this same idea from the word for assets – נְכָסִים which, according to Chazal, imply being covered from others and revealed only to their owner (נְכָסִים/Assets has the same root as covered – כִּסוּי.) The Chiddushei HaRim explains the significance of this. A person’s assets are his – no one can take them from him – specifically because they are hidden from others. As we noted earlier, blessing rests on assets that are hidden from the eye – uncounted. And as the Sfas Emes explained, uncounted assets represents metaphorically closeness to “oneness” – to the spiritual – and ultimately, closeness to God.

With these concepts we can understand the difficult Zohar. Even though Moshe Rabbeinu counted the materials of the Mishkan, blessing rested on them because he recognized in the deepest way their spiritual roots.

For this same reason blessing rests in Shabbos. Shabbos is the day when the Creation became a single complete system, every disparate component performing its unique task but with the singular goal that the entire system “works.” Because of this, the entire Creation as a whole became “connected” to its spiritual root. Shabbos thus became a vessel to receive blessing.

We can ensure that blessing rests on our assets as well, by recognizing that they are our God-given portion and that they have spiritual roots. The very recognition affects the things we do with our assets. May we merit using them to fulfill the will of God. Amen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this Sfat Emes, it helped me understand the Chazal on blessings from those assets which are hidden.

Chodesh tov and shabbat shalom.