Friday, May 30, 2014

Naso 5631 First Ma'amar

Note: A ma'amar on Shavuos follows this one.

אִישׁ אוֹ אִשָׁה כִּי יַפְלִא לִנְדֹר נֶדֶר נָזִיר לַה' .../A man or woman who expresses a Nazirite vow to God …” (Bamidbar 6:2)  The pasuk uses an apparently extra word, “יַפְלִא/expresses.”  The Zohar explains that this word, from the root peleh which means wondrous and hidden, connotes separate as well.[1]  The Nazirite vow is no ordinary vow.  The Nazirite is one who distances himself from physical desires and pleasures even as he lives in the physical world surrounded by these desires and pleasures.  The Torah is teaching us that even though we are physical beings living in the physical world, we are, to an extent, able to separate from the physical and connect to the hidden spiritual aspect inherent in every physical thing and action.  We can lead spiritual lives in a physical world.

We find other references to these various meanings of the word peleh.  For example, in Tehillim, God is referred to several times as “Osei nifla’os/He does wondrous things.”[2]  David HaMelech is teaching us that God infused the seen physical world with an unseen spiritual aspect.  In the bracha Asher Yatzar we find that God is, “mafli la’asos/He does things wondrously.”  In Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 6, the Rema explains this as meaning that God created man – a physical being – and hid a soul in him.  Again, the word mafli whose root is peleh connotes hidden.

How can we, physical beings living within the confines of space and time, live a life style distanced from the physical and connected to its hidden spiritual roots?  The Midrash[3] on this pasuk addresses this very issue.  The Midrash explains a pasuk from Shir HaShirim (5:15), “שׁוֹקָיו עֲמוּדֵי שֵׁשׁ מְיֻסָדִים עַל אַדְנֵי פַז .../His thighs are pillars of marble set upon sockets of fine gold …”  The Midrash says that “שׁוֹקָיו/His thighs” refers to this world.  This is because “שׁוֹקָיו/His thighs” has the same root as “תְּשׁוּקָה/desire” and God yearned to create the world as we find in another pasuk in Shir HaShirim (7:11), “... וְעָלַי תְּשׁוּקָתוֹ/… his desire is upon me,” referring to God yearning for the Creation.  How do we know that this pasuk refers to the Creation?  The Midrash answers with a pasuk describing the completion of the Creation, the Shabbos, “וַיְכֻלוּ הַשָׁמַיִם וְהָאָרֶץ .../The heavens and the earth were completed …” (Breishis 2:1)  “וַיְכֻלוּ/They were completed” has the same root as the Hebrew word for yearning.[4]  From here we know that God yearned to create the world.

How, though, can “וַיְכֻלוּ/They were completed” prove this, though?  If anything, “וַיְכֻלוּ/They were completed” refers to the Creation yearning, not God yearning.  The Sfas Emes explains that God created a physical world far removed from spirituality.  He created it this way in order to afford us the possibility of yearning for Him.  We long for that which we do not have, not for the things that we already have.  On the first Shabbos with the completion of the Creation, every part of the Creation yearned to do the will of God, in essence, to come close to Him.  And in fact, on every Shabbos, everything is naturally elevated and yearns to come closer to God.  When the Midrash says that God yearns for this world, then, it means that He yearns for our yearning to come close to Him.  This is why the pasuk of, “וַיְכֻלוּ/They were completed” meaning that the Creation longs for God, is followed by, וַיְכַל אֱ-לֹהִים/The Lord completed,” suggesting that God also longed for the Creation.  In fact, the implication is that because the Creation yearned for God, God in response yearned for the Creation.

Once we long to come close to God, how do we do it?  The Midrash continues, “... מְיֻסָדִים עַל אַדְנֵי פַז/… set upon sockets of fine gold.”  Sockets of fine gold are the base upon which the world rests.  This is a reference to three things on which the world is based, chochma/wisdom, bina/understanding, and da’as/knowledge.  Since the Creation is defined as that which yearns for closeness to its Creator, it follows that the base of the Creation is that which can be used to come close to the Creator.  We need to use our wisdom to realize that we cannot fathom God and we need to subordinate our will to His.  Realizing this, leads to awe of God as the pasuk states, “הֵן יִרְאַת ה' הִיא חָכְמָה .../Behold, fear of God is wisdom ...” (Iyov 28:28)  Understanding means that we internalize our awe of God to prevent us from sinning as the pasuk continues, “... וְסוּר מֵרַע בִּינָה/… and turning from evil is understanding.”  Finally, knowledge means applying the wisdom and understanding drawing them into our actions and midos.

The Midrash teaches us that we can live in the physical world and still connect to its spiritual roots.  First, we need to long for it.  Yearning to attach to the hidden spiritual life force, to come close to God, leads to using our wisdom, understanding and knowledge to reach this goal.  May we merit it!

[1] Zohar 3:126a
[2] Tehillim 72:18, 86:10, 136:4
[3] Bamidbar R. 10:1
[4] E.g.  “כָּלְתָה נַפְשִׁי/my soul yearns,” (Tehillim 84:3)

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