Friday, June 13, 2008

BeHa'aloscha 5633 First Ma'amar

This week’s parsha begins with the mitzvah incumbent upon the Kohanim to light the menorah in the Beis HaMikdash each day, “... בְּהַעֲלֹתְךָ אֶת הַנֵרוֹת אֶל מוּל פְּנֵי הַמְּנוֹרָה יָאִירוּ שִׁבְעַת הַנֵרוֹת/When you light the lamps, the seven lamps shall cast their light toward the face of the candelabrum.” Why does the Torah use the word בהעלתך/When you light, which literally translates as, “when you raise up,” instead of bhadlakaskcha/when you light? Rashi explains that the Kohein must hold the taper to the wick until the flame rises of its own accord. Why is the exact way the Kohein lights the lamp significant?

In order to understand the significance of the menorah and the way it must be lit, the Sfas Emes cites and explains a Midrash in this week’s parsha. The Midrash quotes a pasuk in Mishlei, “יְרָא־אֶת־ה' בְּנִי וָמֶלֶךְ .../Fear God my son and the king …” The Midrash is bothered by the last word which seems to be redundant if it is referring to God. If it is not referring to God, then to whom is it referring?

The Midrash gives several related answers. The first is that word, “ומלך/and the king,” is referring to God. This extra word is teaching us the importance of accepting God’s rule in addition to being in awe of Him. The second explanation the Midrash gives is that it is referring to ruling over our evil inclination. The pasuk is teaching us to fear God and make sure that our good inclination rules over our evil one. The third explanation the Midrash gives is that the pasuk is God’s advice to Moshe Rabbeinu. God tells Moshe, “Fear me my son and I will make you a king.”

What is the connection between these explanations? To understand the connection between these explanations we need to know that everything in the physical universe has an inherent spiritual force that gives it existence. Furthermore, Chazal teach us that God created everything for His glory. This means that all components of the Creation have a built in inclination towards revelation of their inherent spirituality – a built in inclination to experience the spiritual, to come close to the Creator. Experiencing God is the best we can do to reveal His glory.

The Midrash is teaching us that a person who accepts the rule of God over himself becomes a conduit for God’s rule to extend to everything with which he has contact. As the Midrash implies, this refers even to the evil inclination. Even the evil inclination wants to subordinate itself to the righteous one whose every action is done for the sake of glorifying God. The evil inclination has no choice. It is built in to his make up. The Sfas Emes explains that the way to make sure that we are ruling over our evil inclination is by subjugating ourselves to God in everything that we do.

The more we accept God’s rule, the more we subordinate ourselves, the better a conduit we become. This is because we ourselves, offer less resistance. Moshe Rabbeinu was the ultimate conduit. His self offered no resistance whatsoever. This is the reason he was able to become a king even though he was not from the tribe of Yehuda. His own kingship was simply a reflection of God’s. The second half of the pasuk in Mishlei alludes to this, “... עִם־שֹׁונִים אַל־תִּתְעָרָב/… Do not mix with those who are inconsistent (in their service to God.)” The Sfas Emes understands this pasuk as referring to the individual and how much he is purely devoted to God. He understands the pasuk as, “Do not allow a mix of different components within yourself.” Be a pure conduit of God.

When a person acts for the sake of Heaven, when his intent is that God should be honored through his action, a certain spirituality is revealed through his action because it is inclined to be revealed.

Now we can understand the significance of the menorah and the procedure for lighting it. The menorah lamps and the flame are metaphors for the physical world and its inherent spirituality respectively. Just like the flame, the spirituality that is innate in the physical world wants to rise towards its source, wants to be revealed. The Kohein is required to hold the taper to the wick until the flame rises of its own accord just as we are required to influence the physical world around us so that the spirituality inherent in it is revealed.

We find this very same concept in the relationship between Shabbos and the days of the week. During the six days of the first week, “... עשה את השמים ואת הארץ .../… He made the heavens and the earth …” The Sfas Emes explains that the heavens in this pasuk are not referring to the physical sky. Rather, the heavens refer to all the spiritual realms. The earth in this pasuk refers to the entire physical universe. During the six days of Creation, there was a separation between the physical and the spiritual. The end of this pasuk states, “... וביום השביעי שבת וינפש/… and on the seventh day He ceased and rested.” What does the Torah mean when it tells us that God rested? God resting suggests that the Creation was in harmony, each component performing its function thus glorifying God. If everything glorifies God, there is a synchronization between the physical universe and the spiritual realms. There is unity between the spiritual and the physical and they are revealed as being one and the same in different forms.

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