Friday, October 13, 2006

Succos 5632 Fourth Ma'amar (VeZos HaBracha)

... ה' מִסִּינַי בָּא וְזָרַח מִשֵּׂעִיר לָמוֹ הוֹפִיעַ מֵהַר פָּארָן ... /… God came from Sinai, He shone to us from Sei’ir, He appeared from Mount Paran …” What is the meaning of this pasuk? God is everywhere. What does it mean to say that God came from a specific place? Chazal answer that each of these places represent one of the nations of the world. Before giving us the Torah God offered it to the nations. When the pasuk says that God came to us from a specific place, the significance is that He offered the Torah to the people of that place before coming to offer it to us.

The Zohar elaborates further that the word “from” in the pasuk does not mean from the place but rather from what was said by the people who lived in those places. So the pasuk would translate, “… He shone to us from what the children of Sei’ir said – that they are unwilling to accept the Torah …” As a direct result of their unwillingness to accept the Torah, God enlightened us and added light and love.

Thinking about Chazal’s explanation two questions come to mind. Firstly, why did God ask the nations of the world to accept the Torah? Secondly, did God make giving us the Torah dependent on whether the nations of the world accept it or not?
Chazal tell us that when Moshe Rabbeinu ascended Mount Sinai to accept the Torah, the angels complained to God that man is too puny for the Torah. Moshe Rabbeinu answered that the Torah was made for man. He gave examples from the mitzvos which are obviously only possible in the physical world. Why, then, did the angels want the Torah? The Sfas Emes explains that the Torah can be understood on many levels. The angels, of course, had no use for the mitzvos that are possible only in the physical world. However, the angels understood the Torah on the higher level of sod/secret mystery. Their complaint makes sense on this spiritual, non-physical level.

The Sfas Emes is teaching us that the Torah is understood and accepted by each according to his level. The angels understood the Torah on the very high level of sod. The nations of the world are a natural part of the physical world. It follows that when God offered the Torah to the nations of the world, he offered them the Torah on its most physical level. The nation of Israel, on the other hand, is not associated with this level. We are not part of the natural order of the world. We received the Torah in a way that was beyond nature. On this level we received it unconditionally. However, once the nations of the world rejected the Torah we received their path of Torah as well. This is the meaning of the Zohar. God enlightened us with an additional path in the Torah because this path was rejected by the nations of the world.

This idea sheds light on a Midrash that explains why the Torah starts from Breishis instead of from the first mitzvah. The Midrash brings a pasuk in Tehillim, “כֹּחַ מַעֲשָׂיו הִגִּיד לְעַמּוֹ לָתֵת לָהֶם נַחֲלַת גּוֹיִם/He declared the strength of his works to his people to give them the heritage of nations.” The Sfas Emes explains that the strength mentioned in this pasuk is referring to the strength of the Torah that is the underlying force giving life and existence to God’s works, the Creation. The Torah begins with a description of the physical world because God is declaring to the nation of Israel that the strength of the Torah underlies the Creation. He did this in order to give us the aspect of the Torah that was meant for the nations – the Torah in nature.

This idea also explains why Moshe Rabbeinu’s blessings in parshas VeZos HaBracha are material. He blesses the tribes with physical strength, bountiful crops, etc. The nation of Israel received the spiritual levels of the Torah unconditionally. For this we needed no encouragement and blessing. However, Israel received the physical aspect of the Torah by default once the nations of the world forfeited it. Since this aspect was not naturally meant for Israel, Moshe Rabbeinu made a point of blessing us with it. Moshe Rabbeinu blessed us with life from the Torah through nature.


The back of the hill said...

Tayere reb Tokayer,

I am so glad that you commented on my blog - not because you indicated that I was wrong (which I will at some point verify - or, unlikely, dispute), but because if you had NOT done so, I would not have discovered your own blog.

Which, given that I have read as much about the Sfas Emes and his granfather the Chiddushei Ha Rim as a can find in English, is a blessing.

Thank you.

The back of the hill said...

Correction: 'Which, given that I have read as much about the Sfas Emes and his grandfather the Chiddushei Ha Rim as I can find in English, is a blessing.'

Moshe David Tokayer said...

You're welcome and hatzlacha rabba to you as well.