Friday, September 02, 2011

Shoftim 5631 Third Ma'amar

Before going into battle, a priest addresses the army.  He begins, "שמע ישראל אתם קרבים היום למלחמה על איביכם .../Listen Israel.  You are coming forward today for war against your enemies …" (Devarim 20:3)  Why must the priest preface his speech with the words, "שמע ישראל/Listen Israel"?  This seems extraneous.  The previous pasuk states that the priest comes to address the army.  They are standing before him.  There is no need for him to get their attention.

According to Rashi these words are in fact extra.  They are not needed to get the attention of the army.  However, the Torah wants the priest to allude to the mitzvah of kri'as shma.  The priest is telling the soldiers that they will persevere over their enemies even if the only merit they have is that of saying kri'as shma.

This needs clarification.  There are many important mitzvos.  Kri'as shma is certainly one of them.  Still, why does the Torah single out this mitzvah over all others?  What is unique and about the mitzvah of kri'as shma?

The Sfas Emes explains.  The mitzvah of kri'as shma is essentially a declaration that God is One.  Since we believe that He is the Creator, saying that He is one means that He is not just a creator.  Saying that He is one means that He is the only Creator.  All components of the world come from Him.

Taking this concept to its logical conclusion we realize that there is absolutely nothing in the world that can oppose this truth.  Even if we see things that are obviously forces of evil, not recognizing God in them is only a reflection of our own lack of faith.  The truth is that God is the source of everything and this must necessarily include the darkest places. 

God first taught us this idea at the Exodus.  God's bringing us out of Egypt was proof positive that He was the force behind the dark exile.  At the time of His choosing, He revealed Himself, ending the exile and bringing the redemption.  This is clearly the meaning of the following pasuk according to the Targum, "... כחצות הלילה אני יוצא בתוך מצרים/… At midnight I am going out into the midst of Egypt."  The Targum of "אני יוצא/I am going out," is "אנא מתגלי/I am revealing myself."  Since He was able to end the exile, He must have been the force behind it.

This, then, is the significance of kri'as shma for the army about to enter into battle with our enemies.  Kri'as shma is our declaration that God is the source of everything including our enemies and including the very situation that requires us to fight our enemies.

This is also the meaning of the pasuk, "... אם תקום עלי מלחמה בזאת אני בוטח/… though war would rise against me, in this I trust." (Tehillim 27:3)  The word זאת/this, means that everything in the world exists only because God gives it existence.[1]  The Chiddushei HaRim explains that the spiritual point through which God manages the world is called zos.[2] 

Clearly, David HaMelech teaches that the army, when entering battle, should have faith that God is the source of everything.  This matches exactly the priest's allusion to the mitzvah of kri'as shma and clarifies its significance.

[1] The Midrash (VaYikra R. 21:4) says that the word zos/this in this pasuk is an allusion to God – in God I trust. 
[2] The early kabbalists (Sha’arei Ora 1:14a-b) teach that zos alludes specifically to that point of spirituality through which God gives existence to the physical.  See the Sfas Emes 5631 on Zos Chanuka for more on this.


Anonymous said...

"zos" appears regularly in parsha
tzav, until "zos hatorah" in 7:37-
does Chiddushei HaRim discuss? does he think the korbonos there
(their laws) key in Hashem's preferred management of the olam?

Moshe David Tokayer said...

Good question and I'm sure there is significance to the use of "zos" by the korbonos. The Sfas Emes, though, doesn't talk about "zos" by the korbonos.