Friday, August 28, 2009

Teitzei 5631 Fourth Ma'amar

These days, there is a lot of confusion and uncertainty regarding almost everything in life. Presented with various choices, we list pros and cons, analyze the situation and do all the things we are taught in our culture for resolving dilemmas. The Sfas Emes, though, says that confusion stems from distraction.

Before doing all the things we are taught, the Sfas Emes teaches that we must make sure that our point of departure is total dedication to fulfilling God’s will. When we are totally devoted to achieving God’s will, when we are ready to deliver our soul, so to speak, in the quest to fulfill God’s will, there is no room for confusion. We have a singular focus and anything outside that focus will not receive our attention. The Ba’al Shem Tov as well, gave this advice to attain clarity. Therefore, confusion in any particular situation is a sign to take a step back and refocus on fulfilling the will of God.

The Sfas Emes learns this from pesukim and Chazal in this week’s parsha. We find, “כִּי־תֵצֵא מַחֲנֶה עַל־אֹיבֶיךָ וְנִשְׁמַרְתָּ מִכָּל דָּבָר ָרע ... כִּי ה' אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ מִתְהַלֵּךְ בְּקֶרֶב מַחֲנֶךָ .../When you go out to camp against your enemies you shall guard against any evil matter… For God, your Lord goes among your camp …” The Hebrew וְנִשְׁמַרְתָּ/you shall guard is literally translated as, “you shall be guarded.” “You shall guard,” is the correct translation of, וְשָׁמַרְתָּ. Why does the Torah use the reflexive form of the verb? The Sfas Emes explains that the Torah is teaching us how we can protect ourselves from confusion that comes from being distracted by nonsense – כָּל דָּבָר ָרע/any evil matter.

Chazal understood מַחֲנֶה/camp as referring to each individual person. God going in your camp refers to the Divine presence resting in each person. The Chiddushei HaRim therefore understands מַחֲנֶה/camp to refer to all of a person’s limbs just like a camp is a gathering of people.

The first part of the pasuk is thus understood homiletically as referring to an individual who is ready to dedicate himself totally to achieving God’s will. One who has marshaled his entire being to fulfill God’s will in not easily distracted.

By dedicating ourselves to fulfilling God’s will with every fiber of our being, we cause the Divine presence to reside within us. This is why the last pasuk in this paragraph uses the causative reflexive form, מִתְהַלֵּךְ/(lit.) He is made to go, instead of מְהַלֵךְ/He goes. Chazal are teaching us that we cause the Divine to reside within us or we push the Divine away.

The last part of this pasuk states, “... וְלֹא־יִרְאֶה בְךָ עֶרְוַת דָּבָר וְשָׁב מֵאַחֲרֶיךָ/… and He shall not see in you anything indecent and turn away from you.” Chazal learn from here that one may not say kri’as sh’ma while his heart is exposed to indecency. The Sfas Emes understands this Chazal homiletically that a person’s heart may not see indecency. It goes without saying that we may not think indecent thoughts. Chazal are teaching us that we should not allow our hearts, our desires to consider anything that is not for God.

This is the meaning of the pasuk, “קְדֹשִׁים תִּהְיוּ/You shall be holy.” The Hebrew for holy – קָדוֹשׁ – connotes dedicated, a nuance that is lost in English translation.[1] The Torah is instructing us to dedicate ourselves to God and fulfilling His will. We thus gain clarity in our lives. May we merit it!

[1] For example, the Hebrew word for marriage – קִידוּשִׁין – has the same root as the word for holy because a married woman is separated from all men and dedicated to one. A nazarite is called holy because he must keep away from wine and things that would defile his pure spiritual state. He has separated himself from the mundane and dedicated himself to the holy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you!