Friday, February 16, 2007

Mishpatim 5631 Second Ma'amar

At the time of the revelation on Mount Sinai, God instructs Moshe Rabeinu regarding the nation’s upcoming journey to the land of Israel, “הנה אנֹכי שֹׁלח מלאך לפניך לשמרך בדרך ... אל תמר בו ... כי שמי בקרבו ... ועבדתם את ה' אלקיך וברך את לחמך ... והסרֹתי מחלה מקרבך/Behold I am sending an angel before you to safeguard you on the way … do not defy him … for My name is within him … You shall serve God your Lord and He will bless your bread … I will remove illness from your midst.”

The Sfas Emes understands this paragraph as a metaphor explaining the difference between serving God during the days of the week and on Shabbos. First, a description of the metaphor, followed by how the Sfas Emes sees it in the p’sukim.

The Torah requires us to work during the week, “שֵׁשֶת יָמִים תַּעֲבֹד .../You shall work for six days …” During the week the Torah tells us, essentially, to immerse ourselves in the matters of this world. Should we not live a life of holiness? The Sfas Emes explains that holiness is hidden in our weekday activities. We are able to draw out the holiness and transform our activities into mitzvos. How so? God gives life and existence to everything continuously. Existence is a continuing act of creation. We and every other part of the Creation continue to exist is so that we may do God’s will. Since God enables every action we take, it follows that every action can be a tool to do His will. Every action is a potential mitzvah.

The p’sukim mentioned above suggest this. The angel that God sent is the holy life force within every part of the Creation. We are required to recognize it by striving to do God’s will with everything and every action. Regarding this the pasuk says, “אל תמר בו ... כי שמי בקרבו/Do not defy him … for My name is within him.” When we go to work without recognizing the angel within our work, without recognizing the potential holiness inherent in our work, we are defying the angel. Significantly, the Hebrew word for work – מלאכה has the same root as the Hebrew for angel – מלאך. The מלאכה/work enclothes the מלאך/angel.

During the week this applies to our weekday work. On Shabbos, though, there is no מלאכה/work. On Shabbos we can serve God without the outer shell of work. Shabbos, Chazal tell us, is like the next world. Just like there is no work in the next world, so too, there is no work on Shabbos. This is alluded to by the pasuk, “ועבדתם את ה'/You shall serve God.” It implies that there are ways of serving God directly.

The pasuk continues that God will remove illness from our midst. The automatic result of serving God on Shabbos is that He will remove all illness from our midst. According to the Sfas Emes, eating and the removal of illness is symbolic of all our activities and needs. This is why, on Shabbos we do not request things for ourselves in our prayers. There is no need to. Why does the pasuk speak specifically about eating, then? The reason is that there is a particular physical connection between eating and illness. The Zohar says that all of the body’s illnesses have dietary causes.

How does serving God on Shabbos result in His taking care of all our needs? The Sfas Emes explains. Directly following the requirement to serve God the pasuk states that God will bless our bread. The Hebrew word for bless – ברך has the same root as the Hebrew for a type of grafting – הַבְרָכָה. Grafting means that a branch from one tree attaches to and gains nourishment from a different tree. The pasuk is teaching us to “graft” our mundane activities, such as eating, to God by using them to serve Him. We then gain nourishment from Him and He removes illness from our midst and takes care of our needs.


Jonathan Taitz said...

Hi Moshe

Thanks so much for the blog, its a big help.

Jonathan Taitz

Moshe David Tokayer said...

You're welcome. I really appreciate feedback! Thanks.

Do you have a blog? I clicked on your name but received a message denying access.