Friday, April 30, 2010

Emor 5633 First Ma'amar

The first half of this week’s parsha addresses the laws of purity of the priests.  The parsha begins, “וַיֹּאמֶר ה' אֶל־מֹשֶה אֱמֹר אֶל־הַכֹּהֲנִים בְּנֵי אַהֲרֹן וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם .../God said to Moshe, ‘Say to the sons of Aharon the priest and say to them …”  Chazal and the commentaries address the redundancy in this pasuk.

In order to understand the redundancy we need to explain the significance of the word אַמִירָה/saying.  God created the world with עַשָׂרָה מַאֲמָרוֹת/ten sayings.  These are not simply God’s commands.  The sayings themselves were imbued with spiritual power so that the actual saying is in the creation.  Purity then, underlies the entire Creation.

We find this idea in the following pasuk, “אִמְרוֹת ה' אֲמָרוֹת טְהֹרוֹת כֶּסֶף צָרוּף בַּעֲלִיל לָאָרֶץ מְזֻקָּק שִׁבְעָתָיִם; אַתָּה־ה׳ תִּשְׁמְרֵם .../The sayings of God are pure sayings, like purified silver, revealed to the world, refined sevenfold.  God, you will guard them.”  אֲמָרוֹת טְהֹרוֹת/Pure sayings, refer to the words of the Torah.  It is with the words of the Torah that God created the world.  The sayings of the Torah underlie and are the source of purity in the Creation.

Indeed, our purpose is to reveal that purity through studying Torah and performing mitzvos.  Accordingly, אֲמָרוֹת טְהֹרוֹת/pure sayings, means that the sayings of the Torah purify those who occupy themselves with Torah.  At the end of this pasuk is a request that God guard the words of the Torah.  The Sfas Emes explains that this is a request that God guard the purity of the Torah in our hearts.  We are asking that it should not become defiled, rather the words of the Torah should purify us.

However, in order to internalize the Torah, we need to first reach a certain level of purity.  Purity, as we’ve seen means the spiritual that underlies the physical.  So, in order to reach purity, we need to reveal the spiritual.  In fact, the pasuk cited above says, “בַּעֲלִיל לָאָרֶץ/revealed to the world.  The Torah needs to be like purified silver, revealed to the world.

How can we do this?  We learn from a Midrash in this week’s parsha.  The Midrash relates that at the time of David HaMelech, children who had not yet sinned were able to explain the Torah in 49 ways of impurity and 49 ways of purity.  What does this mean?  As we’ve said, purity refers to the Torah or the spiritual that underlies the Creation.  Impurity, then, refers to the physical.

The first step in revealing the spiritual is believing that what we see is only a “shell” whose innards are pure.  We thus become more in tune with the spiritual and are able to experience it.

The Midrash is teaching us that in order to truly connect to the spiritual in this world, we need to be able to recognize that there is a spiritual component to everything.  The metaphor is that the children were able to separate the 49 ways of impurity recognizing them for the barriers they are that prevented them from seeing the underlying spirituality in the Torah and the world.

It is only by first recognizing the dual nature of reality – physical with spiritual underpinnings – do we reach a level on which the Torah that we take in purifies us and protects us from impurity.  When we reach this level, we start experiencing the underlying spirituality in everything.  We thus influence everything with which we come in contact as well.

David HaMelech’s prayer was that God should help all those who overcome there inclination towards the physical and yearn to discover the underlying spirituality in the Creation, to influence their surroundings and draw them near to the truth as well.

We see that there is a two step process for reaching a level on which the Torah purifies us, protects us from impurity and through which we can elevate our surroundings.  It is this two step process which is alluded to in the redundancy in the beginning of our parsha.

But before we can explain it we need to know that the word אַמִירָה/saying also connotes connecting.  We find, “וַה' הֶאֱמִירְךָ הַיּוֹם .../God has distinguished you today …”  Chazal interpret the pasuk as meaning that God separated us – His nation – and made us unique as the pasuk states, “וּמִי כְּעַמְךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל גוֹי אֶחָד בָּאָרֶץ/And who is like your nation Israel, a unique nation on Earth.”  He made us His nation by “connecting” us, so to speak, to the source, by bringing us closer to Him.  הֶאֱמִירְךָ/distinguished you, and אַמִירָה/saying, have the same root.

The first אַמִירָה/saying in the pasuk is admonishing us to be careful of impurity.  We do this by yearning to connect with the underlying spirituality in the world, the source of life.  The Midrash alludes to this as well.  The Midrash asks, “Why is God truth?”  The answer, “Because He is the God of life.”  The Midrash is teaching us that He is truth because He is the source of existence.  The source of existence is also the source of purity by definition, as we’ve seen before.  The Chiddushei HaRim sheds more light on this concept.  He explains that the reason for the impurity of death – טוּמְאַת מֵת, is that the inner spiritual purity is gone.  

We first pine to attach to God through the Torah and mitzvos, which are the source of existence as the pasuk states, “... אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶׂה אוֹתָם הָאָדָם וָחַי בָּהֶם/.. that a person will do and live through them,” and, “... כִּי הוּא חַיֶּיךָ .../… for it is your life ...”  After we’ve done this, “וְאָמַרְתָּ לָהֶם/you will say to them,”  which, according to our concept means that God will connect to us, as it were.  He will shower upon us a spirit from on high in order to enable us to experience Him through the Torah which we’ve brought into our hearts.

As a result, no impurity can possibly enter us because of the Torah, the pure sayings that He placed within us.

Practical Application

It is interesting that in the first ma’amar of 5632, the Sfas Emes explains the two step process as starting from God whereas in this ma’amar he explains it as starting from us.  If anyone has any ideas about this, I’d be glad to here them.

The practical application of this ma’amar is a theme that runs through the Sfas Emes.  Our purpose is to reveal the spiritual that is hidden within the physical world.  In other words, we are here to make the world a holier place.  We do it by intending to achieve God’s will through our actions.  This ma’amar adds that by doing this, God reciprocates and the Torah that we internalize protects us against impurity.  

Impurity was defined in the ma’amar as meaning the physical outer shell that hides the inner spirituality.  Broadly applied, this can refer to performing mitzvos for ulterior motives, purity being pureness of motive.

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