Friday, May 08, 2009

Emor 5632 Second Ma'amar

In the previous ma’amar, the Sfas Emes explains how to reach pure intention in the service of God. He teaches that there is a two step process. First, God brings us close to Him. “Us,” the Sfas Emes, makes clear, refers to the nation of Israel as a whole. It is important for us, then, to identify with and view ourselves as part of the nation in order to be included in this. Once God brings us near, we accept His rule over us and subordinate all our desires and actions to Him. This acceptance results in purity of intention.

This ma’amar further expounds on this concept. To continue to exist, the physical world needs to constantly receive spiritual sustenance. The mechanism for infusing this life force includes the ten sayings with which God created the world. 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 the daily workings of the universe cause us to utter praises to God each day for each day the Creation is renewed. The Sfas Emes explains that the word אוֹמֶר/speech in this pasuk is an allusion to these sayings through which spiritual power comes into the world.

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[1] explains the comparison. Just as a groom enters in purity and emerges impure so too the sun goes from purity to impurity. The physical in relation to the spiritual realms is called impure because it cannot exist without the spiritual much like a body is dead without the soul. 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. In this context the Midrash on the parsha tells us that Israel needs two אֲמִירוֹת/sayings. The Sfas Emes expounds. We need to desire to become pure by accepting God over us. We can succeed only by first identifying with and feeling a part of the nation of Israel.

Significantly, another Midrash in this week’s parsha states that slander (may God save us from it!) prevents purity.[2] 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 first “saying.” He is missing the first essential step in the process of becoming pure in his service to God.

The Sfas Emes clearly is teaching that the way to succeed in avodas HaShem is by developing a strong sense of identity with Knesses Yisrael. May we merit it!

[1] Midrash Tehillim 19

[2] VaYikra R. 26:2

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