Friday, January 08, 2016
VaEira 5632 First Ma'amar
At the beginning of this week’s parasha we learn that Moshe Rabbeinu prophesied on a higher level that Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov. God revealed Himself to Moshe through His ineffable name whilst He revealed Himself to our forefathers through the name ש-ד-י/Almighty. Yet Rashi, quoting Chazal, tells us that God was more pleased with the forefathers than with Moshe Rabbeinu. Referring to the forefathers God says, "חבל על דאבדין .../Alas, those who are gone …" If Moshe Rabbeinu was on a higher level than the forefathers, why was God more pleased with the forefathers?
A deeper understanding of the names through which God revealed Himself to the forefathers and Moshe Rabbeinu will shed light. The name ש-ד-י/Almighty, represents the Godly life force which, although hidden, permeates the entire Creation. This life force is the source by which the Creation manifests. The mission of our forefathers was to spread this idea and the awareness of God in the Creation. Chazal teach us that Avraham Avinu was the first person to refer to God as אדון/Master. He is Master of the Creation.
Our mission as well, is to realize that God's presence is in every aspect of the Creation. This is easy work in holy places. The work becomes more difficult the less holy the venue. The definition of exile is God's concealment just as the definition of redemption is God's revelation. The purpose of exile is to come to believe and internalize the belief that God is with us even in the most unholy of places. God reveals Himself to those who believe that He is there and in fact, this is the way to redemption. The work and teachings of our forefathers prepared us for redemption.
In order for our forefathers to do their work of spreading an awareness of God in nature, they had to experience the natural world, be a part of it. This is the level of ש-ד-י/Almighty, God's life force within the natural world.
Moshe, as well, was charged with the mission of bringing an awareness of God to the nation of Israel within the exile of Egypt. But God revealed Himself to Moshe Rabbeinu through the Tetragrammaton, representing God as eternal, above nature. The nature of Moshe’s relationship with God made his mission exceedingly difficult for him. So, God was more pleased with our forefathers because they were able to do a better job of spreading awareness of God in the world.
Moshe Rabbeinu told the nation that the redemption – God's revelation – was at hand but they did not listen, "... ולא שמעו אל משה מקצר רוח .../… and they did not listen to Moshe from shortness of breath …" (Shmos 2:6) The simple meaning is that they were too consumed by their oppressive work to even hear Moshe Rabbeinu. The deeper meaning involves the concept we've been discussing – the idea that God's presence permeates the Creation but is hidden by it. How so?
Everything has a physical component and a spiritual component. In man this idea is clearly stated in the Torah, "ויפח באפיו נשמת חיים .../He blew into his nostrils the soul of life …" If we act with a view for the spiritual, for the soul so to speak, then our actions are spiritually meaningful. If we act only for the physical, then our actions are cut off from the spiritual. Exile is the ultimate being cut off from the spiritual because it is the ultimate concealment of God.
"מקצר רוח/from shortness of breath" alludes to this idea. רוח also refers to the soul. קצר/short also means to cut (as in לקצור/to harvest.) Therefore, מקצר רוח can also be translated as, "because of being cut off from the soul." Moshe Rabbeinu was trying to teach the nation that God was with them even in the exile. Internalizing this belief would be instrumental in revealing God and bringing on the redemption. In fact, this acknowledgment was a prerequisite for the redemption. But the nation could not hear the teaching because they were removed from the spiritual and involved only in the physical.
This concept explains the Zohar on the pasuk, "... הן בני ישראל לא שמעו אלי ואיך ישמעני פרעה .../… Behold the children of Israel did not listen to me so how will Pharaoh listen to me …" (Shmos 6:12) The Zohar says that they did not listen because the דבור/speech was in exile. What does this mean?
Chazal teach us that the world was created with ten sayings – עשרה מאמרות. The Chiddushei HaRim explains that these ten sayings became the עשרת הדברות/ten commandments through the ten plagues. This seems even more enigmatic than the Zohar. However, according to what we've said earlier we can understand this. The purpose of the Creation is to conceal God, to afford us free will. When we look around us, all we see is the physical word. This concealment is represented by the ten sayings through which the Creation came about.
The word דבור/speech, means to lead in Aramaic. We find, for example in Tehillim, "ידבר עמים תחתינו/He shall subdue (lit. He will lead) nations under us …" In another example, the Zohar explains, "ודברת בם/You shall speak about them" as meaning that we should lead our lives according to the Torah. In exile, God's leadership is not apparent. This is the reason the Zohar says that דיבור – meaning God's leadership – was in exile. God's leadership was concealed.
The Chiddushei HaRim is teaching us that God's leadership was revealed through the ten plagues. By the end of the plagues it was clear to all that God was controlling nature. So, the ten sayings that created nature to conceal God turned into the ten דיברות/leadership revelations through the ten plagues.
One can imagine Moshe Rabbeinu’s frustration. He was on a level of experiencing God beyond time and nature. The exile represented no barrier to his experience. The nation would not listen to him because they were so far removed from the spiritual. So, when God instructed Moshe to speak to Pharaoh, his response was that if the nation could not accept that God is with them, then how would Pharaoh possibly accept it. And in fact the prophet tells us that Pharaoh said, "לי יאורי ואני עשיתני/My river is mine and I have made myself" (Yechezkeil 29:3) This is the ultimate expression of God's leadership being in exile, of God’s concealment.
So, clearly, God would be more pleased with our forefathers even though Moshe Rabbeinu was on a higher level in terms of experiencing God.