Friday, June 04, 2010

Shelach 5632 Second Ma'amar

Parshas tzitzis, the last parsha of the Shema, appears at the end of  Shelach.  In parshas tzitzis we find, “וְהָיָה לָכֶם לְצִיצִת וּרְאִיתֶם אֹתוֹ .../They shall be fringes for you, you shall see it …” (Bamidbar 15:39)  Chazal explain homiletically that a person who is stringent regarding the mitzvah of tzitzis will merit seeing the Divine Presence.  Of course, the Divine Presence is non-corporeal.  We cannot see It in the sense that we see physical objects.  However, Chazal are referring to experiencing a revelation of the Divine Presence.  The Sfas Emes explains that the Divine Presence resides everywhere and in everything as the prophet tells us, “... מְלֹא כָל־הָאָרֶץ כְּבוֹדו/… the entire world is filled with His glory.”ֹ (Yishaya 6:3)  His glory, the Divine Presence, is concealed.  By being quick to observe the mitzvah of tzitzis we can experience a revelation of the Divine Presence.  But why is this so?  What is special about the mitzvah of tzitzis?

The Sfas Emes explains that the mitzvah of tzitzis symbolizes subordination to God.  Wrapping oneself in the tallis is an expression of subordination.  When a person desires only to see God in everything, he merits sensing and experiencing God’s glory that is in everything.  Accordingly, “וּרְאִיתֶם אֹתוֹ/You shall see it” refers to the desire to see God’s glory.  The word אֹתוֹ/it, alludes to אוֹת/sign.  The pasuk can thus be translated as, “You shall see His sign.”  Chazal[1] teach us this on the words, “ה' אֱ-לֹהֵי צְבָאוֹת/God, the Lord of Hosts”.  The word צְבָאוֹת/Hosts, can be split into two words, צָבָא/Host, and אוֹת/sign.  Chazal teach us that God’s glory resides within His hosts – within everything.

We find the same idea in the liturgic poem that the Ariza”l wrote for the Kiddush we say Shabbos morning, “נֶחֱזֵי בִיקָרֵיה וְיַחֲזֵי לָן סִתְרֵיה דְּאִתְאַמַּר בִּלְחִישָׁא/We will see His glory and He will show us His secret that is said silently.”  What is this secret and what is the significance of it being said silently? 

The Sfas Emes explains that His secret refers to God’s light that is concealed within everything.  

“Silently” refers to subordination.  Here’s why.  In Hebrew the word for silent is חֶרֶשׁ.  In this week’s Haftorah we find that Yehoshua sent spies to Jericho חֶרֶשׁ/secretly (Yehoshua 2:1).  Chazal[2] explain that this is an allusion to the word חֶרֶס/earthenware.  Chazal therefore understand that the spies were disguised as potters.  Why were they disguised specifically as potters?

The Sfas Emes quotes the Chiddushei HaRim elsewhere that the significance of earthenware vessels is that , as opposed to vessels made of other materials, they have no intrinsic value.  The value of earthenware vessels is only in terms of their function.  The spies were disguised as potters to teach us an important lesson about spies and messengers in general.  A true messenger has no motive other than fulfilling the desire of the ones who sent him.  If a messenger has a personal agenda, he is no longer purely a messenger.  He is on his own mission, too.

This is the meaning of the Ariza”l’s poem.  “Silently” in the poem is an allusion to the earthenware vessels that have no value other than their function.  If we have no personal agenda.  If our only desire is to reveal the light of God in this world, He will show us His concealed glory.

The pasuk continues, “... וְלֹא־תָתוּרוּ אַחֲרֵי לְבַבְכֶם וְאַחֲרֵי עֵינֵיכֶם אֲשֶׁר־אַתֶּם זֹנִים אַחֲרֵיהֶם׃  לְמַעַן תִּזְכְּרוּ וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֶת כָּל מִצְוֹתַי וִהְיִיתֶם קְדֹשִׁים .../… and you shall not wander after your heart and after your eyes, which have led you astray.  In order that you shall remember and shall perform all my commandments and you shall be holy …”

From the continuation of the pasuk we learn that not only is it fundamentally important to realize that the entire world is filled with His glory and to thus subordinate ourselves to Him.  Our intent when we perform His mitzvos should be to realize that we exist solely to be His messengers in this world.  We are here for one purpose – to fulfill the will of God.

The Torah admonishes us not to live a hedonistic life.  In truth, any thinking person will come to the conclusion that living merely to satisfy his physical desires is not a good thing.  But Chazal teach us that a person should not say that he does not want to eat non kosher meat because it disgusts him.  Rather he should say that he wants to eat it, except that his Father in heaven decreed it prohibited.  We see that leading an ascetic live removed from physical desires is not an end in and of itself.  The goal is to achieve God’s will.  We see this from the juxtaposition of these two pesukim.

The Sfas Emes explains the second pasuk elsewhere.  He teaches that the word for “remember” in Hebrew means more than simply recalling.  It is much deeper.  It means to internalize something until it becomes a part of the person.  At that point there is no possibility of forgetting.  The Torah is telling us, “Do not follow your physical eyes and desires so that you may internalize the underlying Godliness of everything physical.

This is the meaning of the end of the pasuk as well, “... וִהְיִיתֶם קְדֹשִׁים לֵא-לֹהֵיכֶם/… and you shall be holy to your God.”  It is not enough to be holy.  You must be holy to God.  Holy in Hebrew connotes separated and dedicated.  The pasuk is teaching us that separating from the physical desires of this world is meaningful if the intent is to come close to God.

[1] Mechilta Beshalach Masechta deShira (end of) 1
[2] Tanchuma Shelach 1

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