Friday, May 13, 2016
Emor 5632 Second Ma'amar
Identifying with the Nation of Israel – Key to Serving God in Purity
The first pasuk of our parsha states, “... אמור אל הכהנים ... ואמרת להם .../… say to the the kohanim … and say to them …” Why the redundancy? The Sfas Emes explains according the Midrash.
To continue to exist, the physical world needs to constantly receive spiritual sustenance. The ten sayings – עשרה מאמרות – with which God created the world is the mechanism for infusing this life force into the physical world. The ten sayings are more than just God’s speech. They are actual spiritual entities. When God said, “Let there be light” (Breishis 1:3) , the words themselves were the spiritual entity that created light. Through the ten sayings the world receives the spiritual sustenance it needs to continue to exist. A pasuk in Tehillim (19:3) suggests this, “יוֹם לְיוֹם יַבִּיעַ אֹמֶר .../Day to day utters speech …” The plain meaning of this pasuk is that each day the workings of the universe cause us to utter praises to God for each day the Creation is renewed. The Sfas Emes explains that the word אוֹמֶר/speech in this pasuk alludes to these אמירות/sayings through which spiritual power comes into the world. According to the Sfas Emes’ understanding, the translation would be, “Each day expresses a saying.” The Creation is the physical manifestation of the spiritual sayings.
The chapter in Tehillim continues by comparing the rising of the sun with a groom who emerges from his chamber in the morning. The Midrash explains the comparison. Just as a groom enters in purity and emerges impure so too the sun goes from purity to impurity. The Midrash refers to the physical in relation to the spiritual realms as impure because the physical needs the spiritual to exist much like a body is only alive if it contains a soul. When the spiritual departs, what is left is impure. Since the groom engaged in the most physical of acts, the Midrash calls this impure in relation to the spiritual. So too, the sun manifesting physically as it rises is called impure. Each day God renews the workings of the Creation and draws new life from the source of life to all the creations. In this context purity represents life that comes from the source of life whereas impurity is the physical Creation without the spiritual.
We see that אֲמִירָה/saying connotes a connection with the source of life. How do we connect to the source? How can we live spiritual pure lives even in the physical and mundane world? The answer according to Sfas emes is hinted at in the Midrash which, explaining the redundancy in the first pasuk of the parsha, teaches us that Israel needs two אֲמִירוֹת/sayings. The first saying, is God’s imbuing the physical world with spirituality as we explained above. But this alone is not enough. The spirituality is latent. It is concealed and does not affect us. As the Midrash said before, the physical without the spiritual is impure.
For us to connect with the spiritual we need to desire to become pure and to connect with God’s “sayings”, the spiritual embedded in the physical that gives the physical existence. The way to do this is to identify and feel a part of the nation of Israel. This is because the spiritual entity called Knesses Yisrael is the prime conduit for bringing God’s “sayings”, His spiritual sustenance into the physical world. This then is the meaning of the second “saying” in the pasuk. The second saying is each individual Jew acknowledging God’s spirituality in the physical world by identifying with the nation of Israel, the conduit for bringing that spirituality into the world.
Significantly, another Midrash in this week’s parsha states that slander (may God save us from it!) prevents purity. According to the Sfas Emes, this is because a person who slanders another Jew is not feeling a part of the nation of Israel. He is therefore missing the second “saying.”