Friday, August 14, 2015

Re'ei 5631 Fifth Ma'amar

When the Beis HaMikdash stood, a person was able to come close to God by physically travelling to the Beis HaMikdash where he was more easily able to experience the revelation of the Shechinah.  There are in fact many mitzvos that require us to travel to the Beis HaMikdash several times a year.  One of them is the mitzvah of Ma’aseir Sheni/Second Tithe that appears in this week’s parsha.

The mitzvah of Ma’aseir Sheni stipulates that we tithe our harvested grain, wine, and olive oil and bring the tithe to Jerusalem to be eaten there.  A person who is blessed with such abundance that he cannot easily transport it all to Jerusalem may redeem the tithes with money and bring the money to Jerusalem.  Once in Jerusalem, he must buy food with this money and eat it there.

The relevant pesukim are, “... כִּי־יִרְחַק מִמְּךָ הַמָּקוֹם ... וְנָתַתָּה בַּכָּסֶף וְצַרְתּ הַכֶּסֶף בְּיָדְךָ וְהָלַכְתָּ אֶל־הַמָּקוֹם ... וְנָתַתָּה הַכֶּסֶף בְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר־תְּאַוֶּה נַפְשְךָ ... וְאָכַלְתָּ שָּם .../… If the place is far from you … you shall change it into money, bind up the money in your hand and go to the place … You shall exchange the money for whatever your soul desires … and you shall eat it there.” (Devarim 14:24-26)

What can we do nowadays, when unfortunately the Beis HaMikdash is not yet rebuilt, in order to come close to God?  The Sfas Emes learns the answer to this question from a homiletical interpretation of these pesukim.  It is important to realize, firstly, that there is no place over which God does not have dominion.  In Tehillim, David HaMelech taught us, “... מַלְכוּתוֹ בַּכֹּל מָשָׁלָה/… His kingdom reigns over all.” (Tehillim 103:19)  We therefore have the ability to connect with God – to experience His presence – anywhere, even in places that are far from the Beis HaMikdash.

The physical world around us, though, prevents us from easily experiencing God’s presence anywhere.  Outside of the Beis HaMikdash, where there was a high state of revelation, God’s presence is concealed.  The advice the Torah gives to allow us to experience God’s presence outside the Beis HaMikdash is to cultivate an intense desire to do so.

The first pasuk quoted above alludes to this.  Chazal often use the word מָּקוֹם/place to refer to God.[1]  The word כֶּסֶף/money has the same root as כִּיסוּף/yearning.  The word “צַרְתָּ/you shall bind” also means, “you shall form or engrave” a picture.

Accordingly, the pesukim can be interpreted, “... כִּי־יִרְחַק מִמְּךָ הַמָּקוֹם ... וְנָתַתָּה בַּכָּסֶף וְצַרְתָּ הַכֶּסֶף בְּיָדְךָ /… If God is far from you … pine for Him, engrave the yearning in your strength and actions.”  Then the next pasuk states, “וְנָתַתָּה הַכֶּסֶף בְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר־תְּאַוֶּה נַפְשְךָ .../You shall place the yearning in everything you desire.”  We should imbue all our actions with a yearning for a connection with God.  All our actions should embody our love for God and our desire to experience His presence.

If we do this, we will merit, “... וְהָלַכְתָּ אֶל־הַמָּקוֹם .../… You will go to the place.”  Even though we are presently unable to experience the Shechinah’s revelation in the Beis HaMikdash, Chazal[2] teach us that if we intend to do some positive action and are prevented due to circumstances beyond our control, we are considered to have done it.  We can therefore believe with absolute faith that we have connected, through sheer willpower manifested in our everyday activities, to the root of our souls, the Shechinah itself, even if we have not actually experienced this in the Beis HaMikdash.

May we merit experiencing the revelation of God’s presence in the Beis HaMikdash!

[1]See for example Breishis R. 68:9
[2]Kidushin 40a; Yerushalmi Gittin 7:5 (43b)

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