Friday, August 26, 2011

Re'ei 5631 Fourth Ma'amar

כִּי יַרְחִיב ה' אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ אֶת-גְּבֻלְךָ ... וְאָמַרְתָּ אֹכְלָה בָשָׂר ... בְּכָל-אַוַּת נַפְשְׁךָ תֹּאכַל בָּשָׂר/When God, your Lord, expands your boundaries … and you say, ‘I will eat meat,’ … you will eat meat with all your soul’s desire.”  This pasuk, which promises that our boundaries will be expanded, directly follows the admonition not to abandon the Levites.  The Midrash teaches us that this pasuk is the reward as we find in Mishlei, “מַתָּן אָדָם יַרְחִיב לוֹ .../A man’s gift expands for him …” and, “... ה' מַתִּיר אֲסוּרִים/… God releases the bound.”  In the case of our pasuk this is referring to removing the prohibition against eating meat that was not brought as a sacrifice.  This meat is referred to by Chazal as bassar ta’ava/meat of desire.

The Sfas Emes explains.  Expansion is the opposite of restriction.  Expansion implies openness to God whereas restriction implies a blockage that prevents a person from experiencing closeness to God.  The Sfas Emes teaches that blockage is a test.  The way to overcome the blockage and pass the test is by overcoming our own desires in favor of God’s.  When we give to the poor overcoming the natural desire to keep things for ourselves, we are leaving our own desires in favor of God’s will.  Doing this automatically eliminates the blockage.  We experience closeness to God.  This is the meaning of the pasuk in Mishlei.  Giving a gift opens the giver to God.

The second part of the pasuk seems to include a redundancy.  “I will eat meat” means that a person desires to eat meat.  The pasuk continues, “with the complete desire of your soul you will eat meat.”  Why is this?  The Alshich points out that the pasuk does not say that the motivation for eating the meat is the body’s desire.  Rather the pasuk says the motivation is the soul’s desire.  A person’s soul would desire to eat meat for holy reasons.  A person’s soul is interested in coming close to God.  The Alshich says that the soul would desire to eat meat in order to elevate the meat.  Based on this, the Alshich understands the last part of the pasuk as a command.  If you eat meat, your motivation must be only and completely the desire of your soul to the exclusion of the desire of your body.

The Sfas Emes points out that the pasuk does not state that we should not desire to eat meat.  Rather, the pasuk says that we should channel our desire for meat in order to attach ourselves to and experience God.  Only thus does bassar ta’ava become permitted.  To bring out this point the Midrash continues and cites a pasuk from Tehillim, “... ה' מַתִּיר אֲסוּרִים/… God releases the bound” which can also be translated as, “God permits the prohibited.”

The point of Godliness within even the lowliest physical thing is hidden by gross physicality.  Our mission is to realize this thus expanding that point of Godliness by expand the same point of Godliness within ourselves.  In the case of eating meat, we do this by desiring to eat meat in order to elevate it.  Then the Godliness expands within us and affects the meat and our actions.


Anonymous said...

sounds like "mitzvah goreres mitzvah" could be the working motto of Sfas Emes(see last week's
"comments" re the 2-step process)!
the last paragraph above resonates with Ben Azzai's 2nd saying too,
"al t'he mafleeg l'chal davar" (Avos, 4:3)

did S. E. think it man's main mission to repair his desires, desires originally holy?

shavua tov Moshe

Moshe David Tokayer said...

Interesting point. Regarding repairing our desires, the Sfas Emes says explicitly in many places that we were created to reveal the holiness or the spirituality that is latent in the physical world. One technique for doing this is to align one's own desires with Hashem's.