Friday, March 12, 2010

Parshas HaChodesh 5631 Second Ma'amar + Practical Application

Chazal[1] relate a story about the Tanna, Rebbi Elazar ben Arach.  After the destruction of the second Beis HaMikdash, Rebbi Elazar ben Arach went to a a certain city expecting his students to follow him. They didn’t. Alone in a city known for its decadence, he forgot his Torah learning. When he had the opportunity to read from a Torah, instead of reading, “הַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה לָכֶם/This month is for you,”[2] he transposed the letters and read, “הַחֵרֵשׁ הָיָה לִבָּם/Their hearts were deaf”, a seemingly innocuous mistake.  The Chiddushei HaRim[3], however, understands that this was not an innocuous mistake.  The mistake was actually a hint to Rebbi Elazar to leave the city.

The Chiddushei HaRim understands this from a Midrash[4] which implies that the leaders of Israel either have the power to lead the people and steer them onto the right path or are led by them and fall.  Rebbi Elazar understood the words that he mistakenly said as applying to the inhabitants of the city of his exile.  He understood that he would not be able to improve them, would be drawn after their evil ways and should therefore leave. 

The Sfas Emes gives another interpretation to this story.  The new moon/month symbolizes renewal.  The words for month and new are the same, חֹדֶשׁ and  חָדָשׁ, respectively.  In order to experience the light of renewal, the Sfas Emes explains, we first must experience the darkness of deafness.

We could only experience God’s revelation at the redemption from Egypt, after having first experienced the darkness of His concealment in the exile.  In fact, we define exile and redemption as God’s concealment and revelation respectively.  The redemption is simply a removal of the screen that conceals God.  We merited this renewal of our relationship with God by first living through and bearing His concealment.

This idea underlies the need for the four kingdoms – Babylon, Medes, Greece, Rome – before the final redemption.  Each one the four kingdoms is a rectification of some aspect or aspects of God’s concealment.  A complete rectification will manifest at the ultimate redemption as, “מַלְכוּתְךָ מַלְכוּת כָּל־עֹלָמִים .../Your kingdom is a kingdom spanning all worlds …”[5], the culmination of the historical process.

Rebbi Elazar ben Arach went to the city knowing that the inhabitants were on a low spiritual level.  He did so in order to be able to find renewal after living in an atmosphere of God’s concealment.

The Zohar[6] as well teaches us that purity implies a preceding period of impurity.  Attaining purity from a state of impurity means that the mask hiding God is removed.  We find this in the following pasuk, “מִי־יִתֵּן טָהוֹר מִטָּמֵא לֹא אֶחָד/Who can produce purity from impurity?  No one!”[7]  The Midrash[8] translates this pasuk as, “Who produces purity from impurity?  Is it not the One?”  God produces purity from impurity by removing the screen that hides Himself.

Revelation of God means that we subordinate ourselves to Him.  This is also symbolized by the ashes of the red heifer.  We only attain purity when we are sprinkled with the ashes of the red heifer.  When we subordinate ourselves and our own desires for God’s, we “connect” to Him and attain a state of purity.

When purity is reached we are open to a renewed relationship with God.  This is the meaning of the pasuk, “לֵב טָהוֹר בְּרָא־לִי אֱ־לֹהִים וְרוַּח נָכוֹן חַדֵּשׁ בְּקִרְבִּי/Create pure heart for me, Lord, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”  First David HaMelech asks God for purity - revelation.  This naturally leads to a desire for renewal.

Parshas Parah representing attainment of purity from within an impure state therefore precedes Parshas HaChodesh representing spiritual renewal.  May we merit it! 

Practical Application

The cycles of God’s concealment and revelation are a part of the natural order of the world.  We see it everywhere.  No one can keep going constantly upward.  We need to sleep and rest to become rejuvenated.  Economic cycles show periods of decline and renewal.  A seed must first rot for the tree to grow from it.
If we find ourselves in a situation that is not to our liking, if chas vesholom, we are having parnassah challenges, health challenges or any other situation in which we are in pain, we should know that we living through a process at the end of which is God’s revelation and spiritual renewal.  Internalizing this idea is very helpful for not getting into a panic.  Hatzlacha!

[1] Shabbos 147b
[2] Shmos 12:2
[3] Sefer HaZchus Shlach s.f. Slach lecha
[4] Shmos R. 27:9
[5] Tehillim 145:13
[6] Zohar 2:69b
[7] Iyov 14:4
[8] Bamidbar R. 19:1

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