Friday, April 16, 2010

Tazria 5631 Second Ma'amar + Practical Application

The first paragraph of parshas Tazria teaches us that a woman who has just given birth is in a spiritually impure state.  Considering the blessing of bringing new life into the world, particularly a Jewish soul, why should this be?

According to the Chiddushei HaRim,[1] the second Midrash on this week’s parsha addresses this question.[2]  The Midrash explains a pasuk in Iyov (36:3), “אֶשָּׂא דֵעִי לְמֵרָחוֹק וּלְפֹעֲלִי אֶתֵּן־צֶדֶק/I will raise my knowledge from afar and to my Maker I will ascribe righteousness.”  The Midrash attributes this pasuk to Avraham Avinu after the test of Akeidas Yitzchak because on his way to sacrifice his son the pasuk tells us, “... וַיַּרְא אֶת־הַמָּקוֹם מֵרָחוֹק/He saw the place from afar.” (Breishis 22:4) 

This hints at an additional aspect of the incredible test that was before him.  The place he needed to reach was far away.  Nevertheless, he strengthened himself to do the will of God.  The Chiddushei HaRim explains that the physical distance is a metaphor for the spiritual distance that separated Avraham Avinu from God.  Avraham Avinu overcame the separation by realizing that God was with him even if He appeared to be far away.  The distance was an illusion.  After Avraham passed God’s test and came close to Him, he praised God for he understood that the entire test, including the perception of distance was for his own benefit.  It provided him the opportunity to discover God’s holiness even from a perception of distance from Him.

As a result, Avraham Avinu was able to bequeath to his descendents the idea that no matter how distant we may feel from God, at times, the reality is that God is with us always.  There is a spark within each of us that represents closeness to God.  When God told Avraham Avinu, “אָנֹכִי מָגֵן לָךְ/I will protect you,” (Breishis 15:1)  He was referring to protecting this spark of closeness to God.  The ending of the first brachah of the Amidah, “מָגֵן אַבְרָהָם/Protector of Avraham,” is our testimony to this spark of God’s love within us that God protects.

The Chiddushei HaRim[3] cites the prophet Yishayahu (57:19) who said, “... שָׁלוֹם שָׁלוֹם לָרָחוֹק וְלַקָּרוֹב .../… Peace, peace to the far and near …,” to teach us that God’s distance is part of the natural world.  And this answers the Midrash’s question.  The spiritual impurity that is drawn onto a woman when she brings new life into the world symbolizes the distance from God that is built into the natural world.  It is a good thing because it affords us space within which we can work to come close to Him.

We see this idea in the pasuk from Tehillim (139:5), “אָחוֹר וָקֶדֶם צַרְתָּנִי .../You have bound me back and front.”  The word, “צַרְתָּנִי/You have bound me,” can also be translated as, “You have formed me.”  Back” represents distance from God whereas “front” represents nearness.  The pasuk is teaching us that God formed us with the ability to come close to Him through the aspect of distance which is built into the Creation.  The reason is, as we’ve said, that the distance is illusory.  We were created with the spark of closeness within us.  May we merit emulating Avraham Avinu, thanking God for the distance and tests that afford us the opportunity to come close to Him.

Practical Application

Many times when our lives are not proceeding according to our plans and expectations, we have a feeling that God is far from us.  We feel that if He were close, we would be experiencing success.  The truth is that God is always near us.  Distance is an illusion that is built into our lives to afford us the opportunity to work to “come close”.  And this is really the key because coming close to God or revealing Him in this world is the reason we live.

Realizing this during difficult times can be life changing.  Whereas a difficult situation can be depressing, understanding the opportunity that comes with it, can have a profound affect on our mindset.  The way we reveal Him, the Sfas Emes explains elsewhere is by dedicating our actions to Him.  By realizing that He is the motive force behind everything we do and by intending to accomplish His will through our actions, we actually do that.  Realizing that He is involved in our lives during the difficult times is a tool we can use to reveal Him and make things better.

[1] Chidushei HaRim Tazria
[2] VaYikra R. 14:2
[3] Chidushei HaRim ibid.

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