Friday, October 10, 2008

VaYeilech 5631 First Ma'amar

... וְאָעִידָה בָּם אֶת-הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֶת-הָאָרֶץ/… And I will call upon the heavens and the earth to testify about them (i.e. the nation of Israel).” (Devarim 31:28) The heavens and the earth represent the entire Creation. How does the Creation testify? The Chiddushei HaRim explains that the entire Creation is affected by the actions of the nation of Israel. When we do good, the Creation responds positively. When, God forbid, the opposite is the case, the Creation responds accordingly. By its response the Creation testifies regarding our actions. When we think about this we come to the realization that it is actually we who are clarifying the inner workings of the Creation. If the Creation responds to our actions then it is as if we are testifying, through our actions, that God is the force that directs everything.

The concept that we are witnesses to the Godly force that underlies the Creation is an aspect of Shabbos. How so? The Zohar says that Shabbos is called a testimony.[1] When we say the pesukim of VaYechulu we are giving testimony that God created the world. Shabbos is the testimony that we give. Chazal say, in fact, that when we say the pesukim of VaYechulu we become partners with God in the Creation.[2] This is because Shabbos as the culmination of Creation represents the entire Creation.

Although generally, nature hides God, nature hides nothing from those who know without doubt that God is the force underlying the Creation. The Sfas Emes goes further and explains that nature does not have the power to hide God from us. The reason is because the source of our souls is above the physical Creation. Chazal tell us that all the souls of the nation of Israel have a single source which is a very high spiritual place, so to speak. In fact, it is such a high place that there is nothing that stands between God, as it were, and the soul of Israel. This is the meaning of the first pasuk of parshas Nitzavim, “אַתֶּם נִצָּבִים הַיּוֹם כֻּלְּכֶם לִפְנֵי ה' אֱ-לֹהֵיכֶם .../This day you are all standing before God, your Lord …” (Devarim 29:9) The Sfas Emes explains that standing before God implies that there is nothing separating us from Him. There is nothing between us. The implication is that we are between God and the rest of the Creation, so to speak. Anything that comes to the Creation must necessarily come through us.

Rashi[3] alludes to this idea with the following Midrash: Why does the parsha of Nitzavim directly follow the curses of parshas Tavo? The Midrash answers that after the nation heard the curses they became quite upset and complained, “Who can possibly withstand these?!” Moshe Rabbeinu, upon hearing this consoled them with parshas Nitzavim where it states, “לְמַעַן הָקִים־אֹתְךָ הַיּוֹם לוֹ לְעָם .../In order to establish you this day as a nation unto Him …” (Devarim 29:12) The Midrash explains that the pasuk is comparing the nation to “this day” which exists, is dark at night and light during the day.

The Midrash points out the obvious that the day comprises a period of darkness and a period of light. The Sfas Emes explains that darkness and light come through the nation of Israel. As we explained, this is because the nation of Israel is first in the spiritual structure of the Creation. Because of this, through our actions we have the ability to turn things around.

אַתֶּם נִצָּבִים ... לִפְנֵי ה' .../You are standing … before God …” also suggests prayer. Standing before God connotes acceptance of and submission to Him. We accept God’s yoke and submit to Him by identifying with the nation of Israel whose collective soul is always before God.

[1] Zohar 2:90a

[2] Shabbos 119b

[3] Rashi on Devarim 29:12

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