HaKel HaGadol HaGibbor veHaNora


In this week’s parashah Moshe describes Hashem as “… haKel haGadol haGibor vihaNorah — the G-d, the Great, the A-lmighty, and the Awesome …”. These words were incorporated by the Anshei Kinesses Hagedolah into the opening of the Shemoneh Esrei.

The same phrase is also found at the conclusion of the poem “Nishmas”. There, the poet goes even further and gives each one an explanetory phrase. This yields the strange result that the very same poem that says that “even if our mouths were filled of poetry like the sea, and our tongues – joy, like the many waves, and our lips – praise like the expanses of sky … we would still not be sufficient to praise you”, this same poem then praises G-d in four words!

A student who lead the congregation as Chazan before the tanna Rabbi Chanina once embellished on these four simple adjectives. After he was finished, Rabbi Chanina corrected him, “Have you finished all possible praise of your Master?” No list of complements could completely describe Hashem. Had Moshe not spoken these words, and Hashem not told him to write them into the Torah, we would not have the chutzpah to use these four. (Brachos 33b)

According to the Vilna Gaon, “haKel haGadol haGibor vihaNorah” is not only included in the first brachah of the Shemoneh Esrei, but it is the basis for the structure of the rest of the brachah too.

To the Vilna Gaon, these four names of G-d form a progression. They summarise how man approaches G-d.

Kel means not only G-d but judge or legislator. To be HaKel, THE Legislator, means that Hashem rules over the entire universe, His authority is all-inclusive.

Rabbi Yochanan (Megilah 31a) said, “Where ever you find G-d’s greatness, that is where you find His humility”. Perhaps we can understand this apparent paradox by comparing G-d’s properties to those of humans. Schools have a problem of overcrowding. There are just so many students a teacher can adequately pay attention to. As the number of students grows, each one can only get less and less attention. Not so Hashem. His infinity is not just that He is a “Kel“, G-d over all, but also “Gadol“, great enough to give personal attention to each person.

HaGibor. We said already that Hashem Legislates to all, and that He is not limited to looking only at the universal picture, but can pay attention to each and every one of us. The combination of these two facts yields “HaGibor“. G-d has the power and uses it to guide each of us in our daily lives.

VihaNorah. There are two types of Divine intervention, the behind-the-scenes subtle activity, that the non-believer dismisses as mere luck, and the flashy miracle that defies the law of nature. While the former is more common, it is the miracle that inspires awe.

These thoughts are elaborated twice in the brachah, once before the quote of the pasuk, and once after. They provide the structure for the entire blessing.


Baruch. Chazal write often that “‘brachah‘ is a term of increase”. The relationship between the idea of “increase” and G-d is unclear. We can’t really be claiming that G-d is missing something, and requires, increase — can we?

One resolution, in line with the Gaon’s approach to the b’rachah as a whole, is to say that it is a statement of fact; we are saying “You are maximally increased”. This is “haKel“.

A second is to define the word as, “You are the Source of all increase”; a statement that we recognize that all of our blessings come from G-d.

Third, Rabbiner Hirsch’s approach, is to focus on the one thing we can contribute to G-d. Since He allows us to make free choices, by choosing to support Hashem’s goals we are adding our efforts to his. By this approach, “baruch” means “I commit myself and my resources to You”.

Ata. It is incredible that man has the gall to talk to G-d, to refer to the Creator as “You”. What grants us that power? HaGadol, He is big enough to attend to each of us.

Hashem, the tetragrammaton. Chazal note that this name of G-d is used in Tanach to refer to Him when his actions appear merciful to us. Alternatively, we can look at the root of the word. The word is normally seen as a contraction of “Yihyeh – Hoveh – Hayah” — “Will be, is and was”. A G-d who is above time. The Trancendent Deity. A third alternative is that of Rabbiner Hirsch’s who sees it as the causative form of “havah“, to exist. G-d who sustains our existence.

Pairing off each of these three with the commentary’s corresponding translation for “baruch”, we can render “Baruch Ata Hashem” in these three ways:

  • You are inifinitely increased, You who are even above time.
  • You are the source of all blessings, You, the G-d of Mercy.
  • I commit myself to increase your influence in this world, you who gives me and the world our continued existence.
  • Ata Hashem. You are so trancendent, you even have the ability to be immanent. G-d is not too great to care about a single inhabitant of some uninteresting planet in some typical galaxy. No, because He IS great, because he IS above limitation, is why we can say “Ata“, “You”.

    Elokeinu. The Vilna Gaon teaches that this corresponds to “HaGibor“. Elokeinu, our G-d, is different than HaKel, The G-d. There is a possessiveness, this might and authority of HaKel doesn’t only apply to the big picture, but he guides each of us, our fates and destinies.

    Hashem Elokeinu. Two paradoxes. Our G-d, like Ata, reinforces the idea of an Immanent Deity.

    But also, we unify the Merciful One with the G-d of Justice. As Nachum Ish Gamzu would say “Gam zu litovah“, “this too is for this best. Or in the words of his pupil, Rabbi Akiva, “All that G-d does, he does for the good.” All that G-d does is good. Some seems harsh and punishing, some is more obviously merciful. But it’s all one. The difference is in our perception, not in the One who acts.

    Elokei Avoseinu. In our lives, Hashem’s intervention is subtle. However, for our forefathers He performed miracles. Whereas Elokeinu, our G-d, refers to Hashem’s constant guiding of history, Elokei Avoseinu, G-d of our Fathers, asserts that the same One can work outside of the laws of nature. In order to work toward the day when we too will merit an age of miracles, we next recall each forefather, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, by name, to recall and resolve to emulate their character strengths.

    Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov are seen as archtypes of three different types of divine service. The Maharal (Derech Hachaim on Avos 1:2) finds them to be the masters of Torah, Avodah and Gemillus Chassadim.

    Elokei Avraham. G-d of this world, the world where people interact, feel hunger, pain. Where we need a society to support each other. The G-d who commanded us to be kind to each other.

    Elokei Yitzchak. Yitzchak was otherworldly, nearly a sacrifice entirely to G-d. Elokei Yitzchak is the G-d of Avodah, of prayer and Temple service. G-d of our spiritual selves.

    Elokei Yaakov. The G-d of the “whole man, who sat in tents” of study. Perfection of that third world between the spiritual and this one, the mind which must decide which is to be the source of inspiration, and which to be the means to get there.

    When you say Elokei Avraham, Elokei Yitzchak, v’Elokei Ya’akov, you not only acknowledge that this G-d that we relate to on these three different levels is one and the same, but also we commit ourselves to improve in all three pillars of our life.


    Next we repeat the four names of Hashem, and then elaborate on the themes in a different variation.

    Kel Elyon. This is an elaboration of “haKel”, G-d above all. Again, we declare that He commands everything. Even the other’s deities, the embodiments of nature, represent subjects to His Will.

    Gomel Chassadim Tovim. Hashem supports us through His kindness. As we said, “haGadol” means that He not only looks at the universe as a whole, but that He also is “big” enough to pay attention to each and every one of us.

    Gomel. To support, not just a single act of kindness, but like its root “gamal”, a camel, a continued source. Chassadim. Chessed, to go beyond the call of duty. Tovim. As we said above, ALL that he does is for the good, whether we can percieve that good or not.

    ViKonei Hakol. The consequence of being the G-d above all, and able to relate to the individual is that this means He touches each of our lives – HaGibor. The Vilna Gaon translates “konei” in our context from the root of “litakein”, to fix. Konei hakol, Hashem fixes all, heals the sick, raises the downtrodden and the depressed.

    “Konei” has two other meanings, to make or to acquire. These two meanings are related, for as R YB Soloveitchik zt”l teaches, the root of ownership is that people own what they make. From there, they barter or buy to transfer the ownership to others in exchange for ownership something they couldn’t make.

    Hakol, THE all, in distinction to “kol”, all. “Hakol” should be translated as “the universe”, not as “everything”.

    ViKonei Hakol can therefor also be rendered Owner or Maker of the universe.

    Zocher chasdei avos. VihaNorah. Hashem remembers how our fathers went beyond the call of obligation. We are only “bnei bineihem”, the children of their children, twice removed from their stature. But whatever of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov we carry, may it be enough that we too merit miraculous intervention, that Hashem bring us our redeemer.

    Umeivi goel livnei vineihem. Umeivi — lehavi, to bring, not lishloach, to send.

    Another thought that hit me is how aptly these words literally apply to my generation. Two generations before me, “chasdei avos” our ancestors were pushed beyond the call of duty, to sanctify G-d’s name in Aushwitz, Treblinka, Babi Yar and dozens of other infamous locations. Umeivi go’el livnei vineihem. May Hashem bring the redeemer to us, their children’s children.

    Lima’an sh’mo, for the sake of His name. Not for our sake. G-d, don’t wait for us to merit it, to earn the redemption. For your sake. “Sheim”, name, is from the same root as “sham”, there. Both are references to another thing. The Jewish People are one of G-d’s names. People see us as Your People. Redeem us to redeem your name, so that people will think highly of the ideals of ethical monotheism.

    Bi’ahavah. With love. Maimonides defines the term as a perception of one’s unity with the beloved. In redeeming us “lima’an sh’mo”, for the sake of His name, G-d shows that we are His and He is ours.


    Melech. King. Not a “moshel” a dictator, but one who rules with the support of His people. “Ki lashem hamluchah umoshel bagoyim — for G-d has the Kingship, but he is a dictator over the nations”. Until the day that they accept Hashem’s rule, “And G-d will be King over the entire land, in that day He and His name will be one/unique”.

    Ozer. Helper. Beyond being just a king, one who organizes society, G-d also helps the individual.

    Umoshia. Savior, one who gets us out of trouble, even when we are not putting in effort for Hashem to be considered a helper.

    Umagein. Even further, a sheild, one who prevents the trouble to begin with.

    Although the Gaon doesn’t say so, the “Melech Ozer uMoshia uMagein” progression matches his approach to “haKel haGadol haGibor viHanorah”. Melech, like keil, is a legislator who takes the global view. Ozer implies the one-on-one of haGadol. uMoshia parallels His intervention in our lives, in contrast to uMagein, how he protects those who go beyond the call of duty on His behalf.

    Baruch ata Hashem…. As above.

    Magein Avraham. Protector of Abraham, the one who mastered the idea that this world is the tool, not the goal. That we are in this imperfect world together to help eachother, and to perfect it.

    Abraham would tell his guests, “Don’t thank me, thank the Creator of heaven and earth, who is truly the one who gave you this food.” This is the Protector of Abraham.

    A Second Covenant

    “To enter into a beris, a covenant, with Hashem your G-d, and in His oath, which Hashem makes with You today.” (Devarim 29:11) The Ramban comments that the beris mentioned here is a new one made in Arvos Mo’av, in addition to the one made at Har Sinai. (The Rav has some Torah on this as well.)I would like to suggest the following distinction between the two covenants:At Har Sinai, we were “ke’ish echad beleiv echad — like one man, with one heart”. We were unified because we chose to follow a common objective. Man joins the community — the connection is made outward from the individual.

    Rashi comments on the dots over “lanu ulvaneinu in “The hidden are for Hashem our G-d, vehaniglos lanu ulvaneinu la’asos es kol divrei haTorah hazos — the revealed are for us and our children to do all the words of this Torah.” (29:28) He quotes the opinion of R’ Nechemiah that with these words we accepted areivus zeh lazeh. That lanu, written in the plural, falls the responsibility for the known sins of individuals. The community is responsible for its members, even those who choose not to follow its goals. As parashas Nitzavim opens, “Atem nitzavim hayom kulkhem — You are standing here today, all of you.” The connection is made from the community in toward the member — and so membership is automatic, regardless of personal choice.

    It is different but similar to a distinction The Rav makes between the am, and the eidah. The am is the community of fate (which would include all Jews) and the eidah (from the word eidus testimony, those who believe in and live according to the revelation in Sinai), the community of destiny. Man chooses to follow his destiny, fate is imposed upon him. Note the purpose of this second beris: “lema’an haqim osekha hayom Lo li’am, veHu yihyeh likha lEi-lokim — so that you will be established for Him a community of fate, and He will be for you a G-d.” (29:12)

    May only goodness and kindness pursue me

    .וּבָאוּ עָלֶיךָ כָּל-הַבְּרָכוֹת הָאֵלֶּה וְהִשִּׂיגֻךָ, כִּי תִשְׁמַע בְּקוֹל ה’ אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ

    And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you listen to the call of Hashem your G-d.

    Devarim 28:2

    This verse from parashas Ki Savo recalls a line from Tehillim that we sing often:

    .אַךְ טוֹב וָחֶסֶד יִרְדְּפוּנִי כָּל-יְמֵי חַיָּי, וְשַׁבְתִּי בְּבֵית-ה’ לְאֹרֶךְ יָמִים

    May only goodness and loving-kindness pursue me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the House of Hashem for the rest of eternity.

    Tehillim 23:6

    What does it mean when we speak of something overtaking or pursuing (or even, as the JPS  translation of Tehillim has it, the milder “follow”) us? Implied is the realization that we so often flee from the very things that are good for us. And with that awareness, we ask Hashem to allow His Good and Loving-Kindness to pursue us despite ourselves!


    My rebbe, Rav Dovid Lifshitz, passed away on 9 Tammuz 5753, 20 years ago today. I am posting a gemara that rebbe would often refer to in his shmuessin. Yuma 86a:

    At Rabbi Yanai[‘s school] it was said: Anyone whose peers are embarassed by what is heard about him, that is a desecration of Hashem’s name.
    Rav Nachman bar Yitzchaq said: For example, if people say [about him], “May the Lord forgive So-and-so.”

    Abaye said: As the beraisa says, “‘And you shall love Hashem your G-d’ — that the Name of Heaven shall be beloved because of you.”

    If someone studies Tanakh and Mishnah, and apprentices under the Sages, is trustworthy in business, and speaks pleasantly to people, what do people say about him? “Enriched is his father who taught him Torah! Enriched is his rebbe who taught him Torah! Woe for those who didn’t study Torah! For So-and-so who learned Torah, look how pleasant his ways are, how sweet his deeds!” The pasuq says of him “[Hashem] said to me: Yisrael, you are my servant that in you I will be glorified!” (Yeshaiah 49:3)
    But, if someone studies Tanakh and Mishnah, and apprentices under the Sages, but is not trustworthy in business, and his words are unpleasant toward people, what do people say about him? “Woe for his father who taught him Torah! Woe for his rebbe who taught him Torah! So-and-so who learned Torah, look how accursed are his ways, how disgustinghis deeds!” The pasuq says of him, “About them people say: These are Hashem’s people, and they are gone from His land.” (Yechezqeil 36:20)


    דבי ר’ ינאי אמר: כל שחביריו מתביישין מחמת שמועתו (היינו חילול השם).
    אמר רב נחמן בר יצחק: כגון דקא אמרי אינשי שרא ליה מריה לפלניא.
    אביי אמר כדתניא: (דברים ו, ה) וְאָהַבְתָּ אֵת ה אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ — שיהא שם שמים מתאהב על ידך.
    שיהא קורא ושונה ומשמש ת”ח ויהא משאו ומתנו בנחת עם הבריות מה הבריות אומרות עליו אשרי אביו שלמדו תורה אשרי רבו שלמדו תורה אוי להם לבריות שלא למדו תורה פלוני שלמדו תורה ראו כמה נאים דרכיו כמה מתוקנים מעשיו עליו הכתוב אומר (ישעיהו מט, ג) וַיֹּאמֶר לִי עַבְדִּי אָתָּה יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר בְּךָ אֶתְפָּאָר.
    אבל מי שקורא ושונה ומשמש ת”ח ואין משאו ומתנו באמונה ואין דבורו בנחת עם הבריות מה הבריות אומרות עליו אוי לו לפלוני שלמד תורה אוי לו לאביו שלמדו תורה אוי לו לרבו שלמדו תורה פלוני שלמד תורה ראו כמה מקולקלין מעשיו וכמה מכוערין דרכיו ועליו הכתוב אומר (יחזקאל לו, כ) [וַיָּבוֹא אֶל הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר בָּאוּ שָׁם וַיְחַלְּלוּ אֶת שֵׁם קָדְשִׁי] בֶּאֱמֹר לָהֶם עַם ה אֵלֶּה וּמֵאַרְצוֹ יָצָאוּ.

    Other posts related to Rav Dovid:

    • Rebbe – Bios and hespedim
    • Brisk and Telzh – on how his shiur differed from Brisker derekh (and why I am happy with my choice), published in Kol haMevaser
    • Shalom Rav – on peace and wholeness, and why they share the same root, another theme Rav Dovid often revisited

    Seeing and Listening

    Thinking about the title word of yesterday’s parashah, I wondered about the two sensory metaphors we use for learning. Here our parashah opens “re’eih”– see. But usually the Torah uses “shema“, to listen. In fact, shemi’ah appears later in the very same paragraph.1

    כורְאֵה, אָנֹכִי נֹתֵן לִפְנֵיכֶם הַיּוֹם בְּרָכָה וּקְלָלָה.26 Behold, I put before you today a blessing and a curse:
    כז  אֶת-הַבְּרָכָה אֲשֶׁר תִּשְׁמְעוּ אֶל מִצְו‍ֹת ה אֱלֹקֵיכֶם, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם הַיּוֹם.27 the blessing: if you listen to the commandments of Hashem your G-d, which I command you to day;
    כח  וְהַקְּלָלָה, אִם לֹא תִשְׁמְעוּ אֶל מִצְו‍ֹת ה אֱלֹקֵיכֶם, וְסַרְתֶּם מִן הַדֶּרֶךְ אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם הַיּוֹם,  לָלֶכֶת אַחֲרֵי אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים אֲשֶׁר לֹא יְדַעְתֶּם.  {ס}28 and the curse: if you do not listen to the commandments of the Hashem your G-d, but turn way from the way which I command you today, to go after other gods, which you have not known.

    Notice that there are two differences between shemi’ah and re’iahYes, they refer to different senses. But also, whereas shemi’ah is an active process — it means to listen, not to hear, re’iyah is to see, not specifically to look.

    I realized over Shabbos that the question of theodicy is consistently associated with vision. For example, after the Golden Calf, Moshe asks to see Hashem’s ways:

    יג  וְעַתָּה אִם-נָא מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ, הוֹדִעֵנִי נָא אֶת-דְּרָכֶךָ, וְאֵדָעֲךָ, לְמַעַן אֶמְצָא-חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ; וּרְאֵה, כִּי עַמְּךָ הַגּוֹי הַזֶּה.13 Now if I have found Grace in Your Sight, show me now Your Ways, that I could know You, to the end that I may find grace in Thy sight; and consider that this nation is Thy people.’
    יד  וַיֹּאמַר:  פָּנַי יֵלֵכוּ, וַהֲנִחֹתִי לָךְ.14 And He said: ‘My Presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.’
    כב  וְהָיָה בַּעֲבֹר כְּבֹדִי, וְשַׂמְתִּיךָ בְּנִקְרַת הַצּוּר וְשַׂכֹּתִי כַפִּי עָלֶיךָ עַד עָבְרִי.22 And it will have been that as My Glory passes by, that I will put you in a cleft of the rock and cover you with My “Hand” until I have passed by.
    כג  וַהֲסִרֹתִי, אֶת-כַּפִּי וְרָאִיתָ אֶת-אֲחֹרָי, וּפָנַי לֹא יֵרָאוּ.  {פ}23 And I will take away My hand, and thou shalt see My back; but My face shall not be seen.’

    And the Chasam Sofer explains in a thought that often gets quoted, that this is a deep truth about how Hashem runs the world. We can not see Hashem’s plan as events unfold. We can hope, someday, after the fact, to get some glimpse of it, “from behind”.

    Similarly here. Hashem asks us to “listen” to the commandments and “see” His reward and punishment.

    Moshe’s prophecy is “Vayedaber Hashem“, Hashem “speaks”. A prophet’s mind clothes his message in visions, as in “Chazon Yeshaiahu“. An earlier pasuq in Shemos makes this point:

    ב  וַיְדַבֵּר אֱלֹקְים, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה; וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו, אֲנִי ה.2 And G-d spoke to Moses, and said to him, “I am Hashem
    ג  וָאֵרָא, אֶל-אַבְרָהָם אֶל-יִצְחָק וְאֶל-יַעֲקֹב–בְּקֵל שַׁקי; וּשְׁמִי ה, לֹא נוֹדַעְתִּי לָהֶם.3 and I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as G-d Who Sets Limits, but as My name Hashem I did not let them know Me.”

    Which then made me think of a difference in language I noticed between the two Talmuds. In the Bavli, when a conclusion can be derived from something we “shema mina — we listen from this”. But in the Yerushalmi, such conclusions are more often “chamei” — “we see”.

    At this point I think I saw a pattern. The Yerushalmi has a lot less confidence in deductions than the Bavli. To the extent that the word “ba’ei“, which means “to ask” in the sense of requesting someone to teach the halakhah in some case (as it does in the Bavli), is also used to introduce a proposed novellum. An amora requesting a ruling is the same language as if he were suggesting one from his own reasoning.

    Moshe’s prophecy is more sure than that of other prophets, except when it comes to theodicy, understanding suffering or for that matter why there are wicked people who are enjoying their lives, for which there is never a sure answer. Again, sight being used as a metaphor for the less sure mode of learning.

    Which is an interesting contrast to “seeing is believing”.

    1 If you look at the wording, Hashem doesn’t say that there is a blessing that Hashem will give us if we listen to the mitzvos, and a curse if we do not and instead pursue idolatry. Rather, the listening to the mitzvos itself is the blessing. The Sifri makes a point of this. See “The Gift of Justice” in the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah Reader.)

    Earning one’s livelihood

    The pasuq reads:

     וּבָא הַלֵּוִי כִּי אֵין לוֹ חֵלֶק וְנַחֲלָה עִמָּךְ, וְהַגֵּר וְהַיָּתוֹם וְהָאַלְמָנָה אֲשֶׁר בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ, וְאָכְלוּ וְשָׂבֵעוּ, לְמַעַן יְבָרֶכְךָ ה אֱלֹקֶיךָ, בְּכָל מַעֲשֵׂה יָדְךָ אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲשֶׂה.  {ס}And the Levi, because he doesn’t have a portion nor an inheritance with you, and the ger, and the orphan and the widow, who are within gates, shall come, eat and be satisfied; so that Hashem your G-d may bless you in all the work of your hands which you do.

    As this is right at the end of shelishi of parashas Re’eih, the last phrase caught my attention. “All the work for your hands” describes it, what is added by “which you do”?

    The line reminded me of a thought I had to answer a different question. The ninth berakhah of the Amidah is called “Birkhas haShanim — Blessing of the Years” (the following is Nusach haGra, but the point remains in all versions):

    בָּרֵךְ עָלֵינוּ ה אֱלֹקֵינוּ אֶת הַשָּׁנָה הַזֹּאת וְאֶת כָּל מִינֵי תְבוּאָתָהּ לְטוֹבָה. וְתֵן [טַל וּמָטָר לִ]בְרָכָה עַל פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה, וְשַׂבְּעֵנוּ מִטּוּבָהּ, וּבָרֵךְ שְׁנָתֵנוּ כַּשָּׁנִים הַטּוֹבוֹת. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה, מְבָרֵךְ הַשָּׁנִים.Bless for us, Hashem our G-d, this year and all its kinds of crop for good. And give [dew and rain for] a blessing upon the face of the earth, satisfy us with its good, and bless our years like the good years. Blessed are You / You are the Source of Blessing, who blesses the years.

    Why does this berakhah mix two ideas? Are we asking Hashem to bless all the crops and the land (and in the winter: the rain and dew) which provides them? Or are we asking Him to bless the year to be among the best ones? To understand the berakhah, I turned to my favorite source, Rav Shimon Shkop’s introduction to Shaarei Yosher (in what I called sec. 6: Refinement, part 4:

    ותחלת קבלת התורה על ידי משה רבינו ע״ה היתה דמות ואות לכל בני ישראל מקבלי התורה, שכמו שאמר הקב״ה למשה רבינו ע״ה “פסל לך שני לוחות אבנים”, כל כך הוא רמז לכל מקבלי התורה, שיכין כל איש ישראל לוחות לעצמו, לכתוב עליהם דבר ה׳, וכפי הכשרתו בהכנת הלוחות, כן תהיה קבלתו, מתחילה וכן גם אחרי זה אם יתקלקלו אצלו הלוחות, אז לא תתקיים התורה, ועל ידי זה לא יהיה מצוי כל כך ענין פחד משה רבינו ע״ה, שלפי ערך מעלת האדם ביראת ה׳ ובמדות, שהוא לוח לבבו, לפי ערך זה ינתן לו מן השמים קנין התורה, ואם יפול אחר כך ממדרגתו, לפי ערך זה תשכח התורה ממנו, וכמו שאמרו חז״ל שכמה ענינים גורמים לשכחת התורה ר״ל, ועל דבר גדול זה אמרו חז״ל לפרש את הכתוב בסיומא של תורה, “ולכל היד החזקה שעשה משה לעיני כל ישראל”,The beginning of the receiving of the Torah through Moses was a symbol and sign for all of the Jewish people who receive the Torah [since]. Just as Hashem told Moses, “Carve for yourself two stone Tablets”, so too it is advice for all who receive the Torah. Each must prepare Tablets for himself, to write upon them the word of Hashem. According to his readiness in preparing the Tablets, so will be his ability to receive. If in the beginning or even any time after that his Tablets are ruined, then his Torah will not remain. This removes much of Moses’ fear, because according to the value and greatness of the person in Awe/Fear of Hashem and in middos, which are the Tablet of his heart, this will be the measure by which heaven will give him acquisition of Torah. And if he falls from his level, by that amount he will forget his Torah, just as our sages said of a number of things that cause Torah to be forgotten. About this great concept our sages told us to explain the text at the conclusion of the Torah, “and all the great Awe Inspiring acts which Moses wrought before the eyes of all of Israel.” (Devarim 34:12, the closing words of the Torah)

    Hashem doesn’t just hand us our needs, He created the notion of having to work for them, because that’s the process by which we hone the middos necessary to embody the Torah. And so, we ask Hashem to bless us with good crops, but we don’t only mention the success at the end, but  ask for His berakhah on the year of process it takes to get those crops. Bless for us this year, that it not only be prosperous, but that we too grow and flourish.

    And perhaps that’s what the Torah means here too. We give ma’aser to the Levi “so that Hashem your G-d may bless you in all the work of your hands” — that we have financial success, and blessing in “that you do” — that the activity itself is blessed in how it refines us.

    Kosher, Tahor, Qadosh

    The pasuq (still in parashas Re’eih) discusses the various species of kosher and non-kosher mammals (Devarim 14:3-8), marine animals (v. 9-10), and flying creatures (v. 11-20). And the terminology is that this species is tamei, whereas that is tahor.

    Then, in the final pasuq (14:21):

    לֹא תֹאכְלוּ כָל נְבֵלָה, לַגֵּר אֲשֶׁר בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ תִּתְּנֶנָּה וַאֲכָלָהּ, אוֹ מָכֹר לְנָכְרִי, כִּי עַם קָדוֹשׁ אַתָּה, לַה’ אֱלֹקיךָ; לֹא תְבַשֵּׁל גְּדִי בַּחֲלֵב אִמּוֹ.  {פ}Do not eat from anything which died on its own; give it to the stranger who is in your gates, so that he can eat it, or you my sell it to a foreigner; because you are a holy  nation to Hashem your G-d; do not cook a kid in its mother’s milk.

    There is a shift. When discussing which animals we may or may not eat, the Torah frames it in terms of tamei vs. tahor. But when describing the requirements of shechitah and separating meat and milk, the attribute in question is our qedushah.

    As I wrote in a comment on the haqdamah to Shaarei Yosher:

    When the Torah speaks of taharah,  the proposition is “mi-”, from, e.g. “vetiharo min hatzora’as”– and he [the kohein] purifies him from the [tum’ah associated with the spirito-somatic illness,] tzora’as“. What is taharah? While many object to translating it as “spiritual purity”, the word is used to describe the “pure gold” of the menorah, “zahav tahor”. Taharah is freeing the soul from a kind of adulteration, just as it describes gold that is free of impurities.  The tahor soul is one that is free from the habits and effects of living within an animal body.

    On the other hand, qedushah is about pull. The golden tzitz on the kohein gadol’s forehead reads “qadesh Lashem”. Qedushah is being set aside for a given purpose. The wedding formula, “Hereby you are mequdeshes li…, committed to me…” uses the term where the “to” isn’t Hashem’ purpose. But in usual usage, if the “le-” is not provided, it means creation’s Ultimate Purpose, “for My Honor, lekhvodi, I have created it”.

    (And then continued in R’ Shim’on’s vain that the Ultimate Purpose is to partner with HQBH to share His Good with the rest of creation.)

    This dichotomy may explain the shift here as well. When the subject is what we eat, avoiding certain foods is staying away from what’s wrong, and thus is a path to taharah. But having rituals for how we eat, that elevates eating into a means of remembering our higher calling and serving him, and thus is part of striving for qedushah.