night, I returned to the Yeshiva - sitting with
about 75 chevra in a room that should not fit more
than 25 people.
learned Ramchal - for the uninitiated, that is short
for Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzato - one of the greatest
experts in sisrei Torah - the hidden aspects of
Torah. The Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Yaakov Friedman is well
known in the Torah world as a brilliant, intense and
sagacious young-ish Torah scholar. There is a pride
and an intensity in this yeshiva.
the table were budding and intense young man who had
just finished an intense week of review of Tractate
Nedarim and it was time for something otherworldly -
thus Ramchal and we were delving in to a work known
as Da'as Tevunos
was compelling. It was an elaborate structure that
contrasted body to soul and then proceeded to
parallel that contrast to the dual mode via which
Hashem runs the world. The body is complex and
varied and limited. The eye can see but not hear,
the finger can touch but not see, etc. This is the
modality known as hester panim - things are
hidden. The soul is not limited other than it being
in the body. The soul has a shleimus - a perfection
- a completion. It is not varied - it is one and
completely and perfectly integrated. The modality of
the soul is called he'aras panim - the illumination
of Hashem's face.
is so much to say about this. As I was watching this
beautiful scene of mesorah transmission in action -
and was taken by the purity of the experience - but
then something very body oriented began to occur
could not help but smell - first a hint - and then
quite overwhelmingly the fantastic aroma of fresh
brownies being made in the kitchen - and admittedly
I had another deep philosophical question - perhaps
not as great as the body/sould dialectic - but on
some level a more pressing question - and that was -
was the Rebbitzen baking for Shabbos or for now -
this question had great and almost immediate
ramifications. To be honest, I was mostly [at least
51%] involved in the shiur - and everybody else
knew the answer to the question [I was the only
newcomer] , but I could not bring myself to ask
anyone this deep existential question in the middle
of the Rosh Yeshiva's hour shiur.
was stunning and opened up a whole new world for me
- and as the shiur ended, I had the privilege of
asking the RY a few questions and I then I saw a few
boys rush out.
my chagrin, I believed that all my
questions had been answered and then as I was about
to leave - I saw several pans of fresh brownies
going around the tables. This was a fitting end to a
delicious soulful experience
report happily that I left w/o a brownie.
sweet warm smell of a Thursday night deep Torah
transmission - combined body - soul on many levels.
I preferred for a moment to let the soul emerge
I must tell you, that delicious chocolatey smell -
experience [I have a proof from Brachos 43 - look it
Shabbos - we are off to Yerushalayim
payback time! The Midianites seduced and brought
Bnei Yisrael to sin. Hashem commands Moshe to avenge
Take revenge for the children of Israel against
the Midianites ...
an added element of drama here as well [ibid]:
afterwards you will be gathered to your people.
[i.e. you shall die]
heroically does not delay [ibid,3]:
So Moshe spoke to the people, saying, Arm from
among you men for the army, that they can be against
Midian, and carry out the revenge of the Lord
all about the other. His total humility does not
allow for personal expediencies. Not only that, but
a remarkable midrash teaches us that it was with
simcha [echoing a comparison with Rabbi Akiva for a
Rashi - Although he heard that his death depended
on the matter,
it joyfully, without delay. - [Sifrei
Mattoth 34, Mid. Tanchuma Mattoth 3, Num. Rabbah
Ironically, the people want to tarry. The midrash
notes that it is irony atop irony
The people were
[in the passive form] to inform you of the virtues
of the Jewish shepherds [leaders]-how cherished they
were by Israel.
they had not yet heard of his death, what did he
say? "Just a little longer and they will stone me"
(Exod. 17:4). But as soon as they heard that Moses'
demise was contingent upon the revenge against
Midian, they refused to go, until they
were given over against their will. - [ibid]
there's something else here. Note the difference
between Hashem's formulation and Moshe's. The
Midrash immediately picks up on it:
Holy One, blessed be He, said: THE VENGEANCE OF THE
CHILDREN OF ISRAEL (ib. 2), yet Moses said: THE
LORD'S VENGEANCE ON MIDIAN!
says avenge for Bnei Yisrael and Moshe says
avenge for Hashem. Why?
answer flowing from our first notion finds support
in a famous Talmudic passage:
Nahman b. Isaac said ... What is written in Lord's
tefillin?... "And who is like your people Israel,
a nation one in the earth". Does the Holy One,
blessed be He, sing the praises of Israel? - Yes. ..
Hashem said to Israel: You have made me a unique
entity in the world, and I shall make you a unique
entity in the world. 'You have made me a unique
entity ..as it says : Hear, O Israel, the Lord our
God, the Lord is one. 'And I shall make you a unique
entity.. And who is like Thy people Israel, a nation
one in the earth.
and Bnei Yisrael have a special singular and
reciprocal relationship. In a phrase, it is
ani l'dodi v'dodi li(Shir Hashirim, 6:3- I
am for my Beloved and He is for me). Ani
l'dodi means to make Hashem the One
of our world - we must toil for him and seek to
experience Him and demonstrate Him in and to the
V'dodi li: Remarkably, the same is true for
Hashem, who, as it were is saying: ein od
milvadchem - mein tyre kind, My dear
children, without you My world is meaningless.
Thus the Berditchever
Rebbe teaches that we call the holiday Pesach, while
Hashem (in the Torah) calls it Chag Hamatzos?!
- for Pesach [passing over our homes] is what Hashem
did for us, while Chag Hamatzos celebrates
our great leap of faith; our ability to leave 210
years of baggage before the dough could rise.
Appropriately, on that night, many sing Shir
Hashirim, for it is the night that I am for my
Beloved and He is for me.
Hashem is worried about the honor of Bnei Yisrael
and Moshe [representing Bnei Yisrael] is concerned
about Hashem's honor. The essence of the
relationship is about the other!
midrash however has a different angle. It is not
simply that we focus on Hashem's dishonor to the
exclusion of our own.
said to Israel: It is you who have an account to
settle with them for they caused Me to harm you.
says to Moshe - look how they did you in. You must
avenge your dishonor. Moses responds with a deep
Sovereign of the worlds! If we had been
uncircumcised, or idolworshippers, or had denied the
binding force of the precepts, the Midianites would
not have hated us.
only persecute us on account of the Torah and the
precepts which You have given us! Consequently the
vengeance is Yours and so I say, TO EXECUTE THE
true Hashem that they did us in! But let's go back a
step: why are we the target in the first place?
It is a wrenching question that Jews have asked
themselves over millennia [Why us?]. The answer is
YOU. We represent You in the world and that's why
they hate us.
greatest heresy to the non- believer is God.
poignant it is that every time the Jew takes out the
sefer torah, [and recites vayehi binsoa
ha'aron] he reminds himself of this theme:
Those who hate You:
Those who hate Israel, for anyone who hates
Israel hates the One Who spoke and the world came
as it says, "Those who hate you have raised their
heads" (Tehillim . 83:3-4). Who are they? Those
who"plot deviously against Your nation" - [from
is never pleasant to be a target, the poignant
notion that a Jew doing right represents a loving
Torah reminds us that a life well lived is a walking
advertisement of Hashem's presence in the world is
(scary and) empowering. To the extent that we live
up to the calling, no matter what happens to us
and no matter how exhausting it is, knowing that
we are defending Hashem - and thus He is always
there with us, gives us the menuchas hanefesh
(peace of mind) to keep it up and up until we
finally get to see it all a lot more clearly in
Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh, speedily in our days.
Good Shabbos - Asher Brander
See Reflections Tetzaveh 5768 for this
notion fleshed out in the context of the
ephod (apron) and chosen (breastplate) -
when the order is switched between 28:4 and
28:15. It all works out on the basis of
Zevachim 88b which indicates that the apron
atones for idolatry [man-God]and the choshen
for corrupt judgment [man-man]. Herein an
excerpt: In Tetzaveh, the priestly
clothing atone. Hashem's major concern is
for His suffering children, often victims of
corrupt judges and perverse judgments. God
enumerates the first garb as the choshen,
the one that will rectify and alleviate His
children's pain. V'dodi li! [In
implementation], Moshe changes the order,
why? Because in a thou-focused relationship,
His greatest hurt, hurts more than mine; and
there can be no greater insult to God than
ignoring/denying Him, (aka avodah zarah).
Thus Moshe teaches Bnei Yisrael to first
build the ephod - which atones for the
terrible sin of idolatry. Ani l'dodi!