Friday, August 02, 2013
“אֶת-הַבְּרָכָה אֲשֶׁר תִּשְׁמְעוּ אֶל-מִצְוֹת ה' אֱ-לֹהֵיכֶם .../The blessing, that you will listen to the mitzvos of God your Lord …” (Devarim 11:27) The simple meaning of the words implies that the blessing is mitzvah observance. Conventionally, though, blessing is the result of mitzvah observance. In fact, this is how Rashi understands the pasuk, “The blessing is on the condition that you listen …” The Sfas Emes, however, explains the pasuk according to the simple meaning. He bases his understanding of the pasuk on a Midrash in our parsha.
In Mishlei a lamp is used as a metaphor for both the Torah and mitzvos on the one hand and the soul on the other hand. “כִּי נֵר מִצְוָה וְתוֹרָה אוֹר .../For a mitzvah is a lamp and Torah is light …” (Mishlei 6:23) Here Shlomo HaMelech compares mitzvos to a lamp and the Torah to the lamp’s light. In another pasuk in Mishlei we find, “נֵר ה' נִשְׁמַת אָדָם .../Man’s soul is the lamp of God …” (Mishlei 20:27) According to the Midrash God says, “My lamp is in your hands and your lamp is in My hands.” If we protect and keep His lamp, He will protect and keep our lamp.
The Sfas Emes develops this metaphor further. He explains that the Torah is the mechanism through which God gives life to every thing in existence including our actions. The spiritual life-giving force flows out of the Torah into every thing and action in the Creation. It is hidden, though. We have an obligation to reveal this inner spirituality which pervades everything. We do this by performing the mitzvos. The Sfas Emes teaches that every action is a potential mitzvah depending on our intent when we act. The metaphor of a lamp is exact. When the Midrash says that God’s lamp is in our hands, it means that we are able to and required to light the lamp. This happens when we observe the mitzvos. Every act, if done with the intent to serve God, unleashes and reveals the latent spiritual light inherent in the act. The revelation of spiritual light is itself the blessing. It heightens our awareness of God, the ultimate Blessing. This is the exact meaning of the pasuk, “אֶת-הַבְּרָכָה אֲשֶׁר תִּשְׁמְעוּ אֶל-מִצְוֹת/The blessing: that you will listen to the mitzvos …”