War

I am not a political pundit, so I don’t have much to say about current events. But how can we not discuss this topic?The Hebrew for war is milchamah. The root of the word is /לחם/ (bread or food in general). The gemara notes this point in Sukkah 52a, when it , and just read the conjugation, we need to know whether war is the primary meaning of the root and bread/food the derived meaning, or the other way around.R’ Yosef ibn Kaspi, in Sharshos Kesef (a seifer dedicated to this kind of thing), takes the first approach. He says that the root’s primary meaning connotes opposition, and food is in opposition to that which is fed. In this, he cites Artistotle’s “On the Soul”.

Another approach is to identify lechem in contrast to matzah. I.e. symbolic of the vanity of being “puffed up”, of lacking motivation (the haste needed to make matzah), and a lack of contemplation. Thus lechem is emblematic of man’s inner battle.

A more Marxian stand would be to note that wealthy people are less likely to make war. National leadership must keep the masses impoverished if it desires to turn many of them into “suicide bombers”. It is when there is a shortage of resources that nations strive to enlarge their borders. From this angle, one would say that the allegedly religious motivation of those currently attacking Israel is actually more about being able to control more of the world by getting them to follow Shia — as they guide them to.

However, in Judaism wealth is not inherently good or evil. A life that’s about the pursuit of wealth and the control that gives you is evil. But a life of acquiring honestly and with purity and using one’s resources to better serve Hashem… “The righteous value their wealth more than their own bodies” (Chulin 91a) since it is the greater leverage for doing good than one’s biological resources.

People who spend all day merely surviving, trying to eke out enough calories to stay alive, don’t have the luxury of thinking about religion. Greater resources means more ability to do something — but whether that “something” is noble or dehumanizing is up to the owner of the resources.

For example, we fought the seven nations under Yehoshua. Yes — by getting rid of them we purified the land from evil Canaanite practices and culture. But the primary focus of the book is getting land and resources. Is the location on earth with the greatest “spiritual leverage” used for orgies in worship of Asheirah, or to promulgate Judaism’s message of a G-d Who taught us how to maximize the gifts He gives humanity?

Perhaps the synthesis of these ideas is suggested by the gemara in Sukkah (52a):

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him lechem, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. For you will stoke coals over his head and Hashem will yeshaleim (pay/repay) you.” (Mishlei 25:21-22) Do not read it “yeshaleim”, but “yashilemanu lakh — will grant you peace”.

To which Rashi elaborates (proof-texts elided):

Feed him lechem: exert him in the wars of Torah….
Give him water to drink: Torah…
Will grant you peace: That your yeitzer hara be shaleim (whole and at peace) with you, and will love you, and will not drag you to sin and to be lost from the world.

Rashi understands the gemara in a manner that suggests ibn Kaspi’s idea that lechem refers to opposition and exertion. But it is also a means of feeding and satisfying the yeitzer hara and thus refers to the Torah. True shalom on the internal front is described as using the war to get the means to satisfy oneself as well as the enemy. Peace comes from a win-win resolution that unifies the parties through mutual satiation. That is shalom as in sheleimus, wholeness.

As I wrote on this blog in the past, my rebbe (halevai I were his talmid!), Rav Dovid Lifshitz, spoke about this concept of shalom often. Shalom is embodied by the words of the tefillah, “Veyei’asu kulam agudah achas la’asos retzonekha beleivav shaleim — and they will all be made into a single union to do Your will with a whole, a shaleim heart.”

To apply this idea to our cousins and neighbors in the Middle East will take a long journey.

Defining Ge’ulah

R. Shimon said: When the Holy One, blessed be He [-- HQBH], came to create Adam, the ministering angels formed themselves into groups and parties. Some said, “Let him be created,” while others urged, “Let him not be created.” Thus it is written, ” חֶֽסֶד־וֶאֱמֶ֥ת נִפְגָּ֑שׁוּ, צֶ֖דֶק וְשָׁל֣וֹם נָשָֽׁקוּ׃ — Love and Truth fought together, Righteousness and Peace kissed each other.” [Tehillim 85:11] Love said, “Let him be created, because he will dispense acts of love”; Truth said, “Let him not be created, because he is compounded of falsehood”; Righteousness said, “Let him be created, because he will perform righteous deeds”; Peace said, “Let him not be created because he is full of strife.” What did Hashem do? He took Truth and cast it to the ground. Said the ministering angels before HQBH, “Sovereign of the Universe! Why do You despise Your seal? Let Truth arise from the earth!” As it is written [in the continuing words], “אֱ֭מֶת מֵאֶ֣רֶץ תִּצְמָ֑ח — Let truth bloom up from the earth.” [v. 12]

-Bereishis Rabba 8:5

Man was created with Hashem’s knowledge that with the existence of free-willed beings, Truth would be submerged and have to emerge over time through the process we call history.

The Qetzos haChoshen has a beautiful comment on this medrash. He noted that here truth is described as tatzmiach, blooming. When we make the berakhah after an aliyah, we say “vechayei olam nata besocheinu — eternal life [or perhaps: life of the world{-to-come}] was planted within us.” The Qetzos explains: Torah is the seed from which our medrash tell us Truth blooms.

Rav Shim’on Shlop writes about the difference between the first luchos and the second ones.

AS A BEGINNING OF this preparation, so that one is ready to acquire Torah, the Torah requires specific conditions. The first condition is toil and contemplation, as our sages explain “‘If in my statues you go’ (Vayiqra 26:3) … that you should be toiling in the Torah.” (Rashi ad loc, quoting Toras Kohanim 26:2)

One can use this to explain the whole notion of breaking the [first] Tablets, for which I have not found an explanation. At first glance, understanding seems closed off. Is it possible that Moses our teacher would think that because the Jews made the [Golden] Calf they should be left without the Torah? He should have just waited to teach them until they corrected their ways, not break them altogether and then have to fall before Hashem to beg for a second set of Tablets. Our sages received [a tradition that] there was a unique ability inherent in the first Tablets. As it says in Eiruvin (folio 54), “What does it mean when it is says, [of the first Tablets] ‘[The Tablets were made by God and written with God's script] engraved on the Tablets’ (Shemos 32:16) ? Had the first Tablets not been destroyed, the Torah would never have been forgotten from Israel.” (Eiruvin 54a) Which is, they had the power that if someone learned them once, it would be guarded in his memory forever. This quality Moses felt would cause a very terrible profaning of the holy to arise. Could it happen that someone destroyed and estranged in evil deeds would be expert in all the “rooms” of the Torah? Moses reasoned a fortiori from the Passover offering about which the Torah says “no foreign child shall eat of it.” (Shemos 12:43 [To explain: If one offering can not be possessed by a non-Jew, how much more so should the entire Torah not be possessed by someone who is not merely a non-Jew, but an evil person.]) Therefore Moses found it fitting that these Tablets be shattered, and he should try to get other Tablets. The first Tablets were made by G-d, like the body of writing as explained in the Torah. The latter Tablets were made by man [Moshe Rabbeinu], as it says “Carve for yourself two stone tablets.” (Shemos 34:1) Tablets are things which cause standing and existence, that it’s not “letters fluttering in the air.” Since they were made by Hashem, they would stand eternally. But the second ones, which were man-made, only exist subject to conditions and constraints.

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 Yir’as Hashem [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 Torah's closing words])

- Introduction, Shaarei Yosher

Thus, with the giving of the Second Luchos, the Torah was made a dynamic process. Rather than a Torah entirely contained in writing, external to the people for easy reference, it is now make part of the people, and part pf our process of growth in both wisdom and in middos. (And even, as Rav Shimon continues, of our material progress.)

R’ Chaim Brisker (Derashah 17) writes something similar to Rav Shimon Shkop’s words on the second luchos. He says that the first luchos contained the entire Torah, even down to “a question a student will ask his rebbe in the last generation.” With the second luchos came the concept of Oral Torah and the need for Torah study. They entail Hashem’s choice to make Torah less well known but more internalized into the people. Making the nation Hashem’s “parchment”.

Rav Chaim refers to the thught of Chazal which says that had we not made the Golden Calf, the redemption from Egpt would have been the complete redemption. That sin necessitated further exiles, a longer process to reach the ultimate ge’ulah, And this is why the first luchos could not exist in a post-calf world — for two reasons. First, because without the Torah being intimately tied to the Jewish People, our host nations would have co-opted it. And second, the unity of the people and the Torah would give us a self-definition that would enable us to survive as a distinct people.

The picture I am drawing using the concepts of Rav Shimon and Rav Chaim is of history as a process by which Truth, which had to be compromised by the creation of Man, is planted again in the Heart of the Jewish People as Torah, and through that Man is refined, the Torah is refined, and Truth sprouts forth from the ground, reconciled with the refined human being at the culmination of history.

It certainly sounds like a definition of ge’ulah, redemption, in the sense of describing the redemption of the universe and of the human condition.

Following his theory that phonetically related roots are similar in meaning, Rav Hirsch places the “ge’ulah” in the same family as \יעל\ (to progress), as ג and י are articulated in the same part of the mouth, as are א and ע. The meaning would also be shaded by other \גל\ roots that lack the middle א semivowel — \גלל\ (to revolve) and \גלה\ (to reveal). Our definition can thus be phrased as “a process for the the ultimate revelation of truth.”

And thus it is no surprise that the dips in the process, where it takes what looks like a step away from the embodiment of Truth in order to cause a greater revelation, is called “galus” (exile).

There is an interesting implication here. (The startling element is not in my embellishments, but in the original Qetzos.) Torah is not being described as Truth. Rather, it is the seed and process from which Truth blossoms.

One wonders if this is related to the Maharal’s explanation of machloqes (disputes in halakhah). In an earlier entry, I described his position as follows:

The Maharal’s position is that “divrei E-lokim Chaim — the word of the ‘Living’ G-d” is simply too rich and too complex to exist in this world. Therefore they are mapped to oversimplified models, related to Hashem’s words the way a shadow is a flattened representation of the original. And thus, different people looking at the problem from different directions will get different shadows — even though they are all accurate representations of the same thing.

To finish out the metaphor: The angle at which we look at Devar Hashem is our “derekh“, our path in how we . This derekh, just like the lamp, is determined by two things: mei’ayin basa, ule’an ata holeikh — from where do you come, and to where are you going? Where the lamp is, and the angle it points. Different people were put together differently, and can have different emphases in how they interpret the ultimate goal.

The complexity of Devar Hashem causes the illusion (to us) of paradox. It’s no more real of a paradox than the 5 blind men who argue about the nature of the elephant. The one who felt the elephant’s ear would argue an elephant is like a fan. The one who felt its leg would think it is like a tree. But it’s only because we can’t capture the full picture.

It is possible to say that history is the process of closing the gap between Truth in its full richness, and Torah as our ability to make it manifest. Or, as the mequbalim would say, “Lesheim yichud Qudshah berikh Hu uShechintei – For the sake of the unity of the Holy” — i.e. Remote — “one and His Presence” — i.e. as we Perceive her amongst us.

Ge’ulah and the Halachic Process

Last week I drew the conclusion from the Qetzos haChoshen that Torah is not Truth, it — combined with the Jewish People — is the process by which “Truth will bloom from the earth”. As I wrote then:

One wonders if this is related to the Maharal’s explanation of machloqes (disputes in halakhah). In an earlier entry, I described his position as follows:

The Maharal’s position is that “divrei E-lokim Chaim — the word of the ‘Living’ G-d” is simply too rich and too complex to exist in this world. Therefore they are mapped to oversimplified models, related to Hashem’s words the way a shadow is a flattened representation of the original. And thus, different people looking at the problem from different directions will get different shadows — even though they are all accurate representations of the same thing.

It is possible to say that history is the process of closing the gap between Truth in its full richness, and Torah as our ability to make it manifest. Or, as the mequbalim would say, “Lesheim yichud Qudshah berikh Hu uShechintei – For the sake of the unity of the Holy” — i.e. Remote — “One and His Presence” — i.e. as we Perceive her amongst us.

I want to make explicit what this says about the case of the Tanur shel Achnai. This tanur is a kind of oven where the parts are just fitted together. Is it a single oven and can become tamei, or not? (I discussed this a while back in a post titled “The Legislative Authority of Bas Qol“, a summary of the Encyclopedia Talmudica entry. It should be noted again here that there is a clear dispute as to whether this story describes the norm for revelation and halakhah, or if our accepting the Bas Qol authorization to hold like Beis Hillel is an example the norm. Here we will just avoid the question, and assume like most do that it is indicative of the norm.)

An Achna’i-style oven was made from pieces of pottery that were not cemented together. So, the question arose: Can it, like any other oven, become tamei? Or, is it like shards of pottery which can not? Rabbi Yehoshua and the other sages ruled stringently. Rabbi Yehoshua ruled leniently.

When the vote was taken, Rabbi Eliezer disputed the result. “If I am right, let the carob tree prove it.” The tree flew through the air. But the chakhamim replied that we don’t accept halachic rulings from trees. He similarly makes a stream flowed backwards, and even the walls of the beis medrash started to buckle. All three times, the miracles back Rabbi Eliezer, but the sages insist the law follows the majority. Rabbi Eliezer then appeals to heaven, and a bas qol declares, “Why are you disputing with R. Eliezar, for the Halakhah is according to him everywhere”. Rabbi Yehoshua rose to his feet and said, “It is not in Heaven.” (Devarim 30:12)

Several generations later, Rav Noson asked Eliyahu haNavi what happened in heaven during that story. He is told that G-d “smiled” and said, “Nitzchuni banai – My children have defeated me!”

In light of the idea we’re currently developing, we can say as follows. Rav Eliezer may have even been closer to Emes than the final ruling was. But the purpose of halakhah isn’t directly to obtain the Truth. It’s to make the Truth bloom within us and be manifest in the world. Thus, the essence is our working the process. And thus, by implementing it, “nitzchuni banai!

Rav Moshe Feinstein discusses the halachic process and the role of poseiq in his introduction to Igros Mosheh. (The introduction itself deserves serious study.)  He writes about “ha’emes lehora’ah umichuyav lehoros kein af al pi im be’etzem galyah kelapei shemaya galya she’eino kein hapeirush – the true ruling, and one is obligated to teach accordingly, even if in essence is it revealed in heaven that this isn’t the correct eplanation!” The ideal is following the pesaq as according to the process.

As proof, Rav Moshe brings the gemara in Shabbos 130. We rule that only the milah itself overrules Shabbos. All preparation before the milah must be done in advance. Rabbi Eliezer ruled that anything necessary for the milah, even cutting wood to make the fire to make the knife, etc… could also be done on Shabbos. There was a town in Israel that followed Rabbi Eliezer. The gemara says that Hashem rewarded them for their tenacity for the mitzvah of milah. No one in that town died an early death. And when the Romans passed a law in Israel against milah, they exempted that one town from the law!

Who was right — this town, which was rewarded for their position, or we, who rule differently? If we understand that the essence of halakhah is that it and the Jewish People become one in a process to make truth bloom in this world, we can understand how the answer could be “both”.

Torah, like life, is about becoming, not being.

Ge’ulah and Accepting Hashem as King

(Significantly expanded May 6th.)

When someone hears bad news, such as a death, the gemara (Pesachim 50a) tells them to say the berakhah of “Dayan haEmes“. This phrase is often translated “the True Judge” as though it were a noun-adjective pair. But that would have a hei hayedi’ah (a leading “ha-” prefix meaning “the”) on both words. If “emes” were an adjective, it would be “haDayan haEmes“, figuring that “amiti” is a newer construction for “true” as an adjective than the berakhah. (Or perhaps the commonly said “Dayan Emes“, but that might have the heretical implication ch”v that Hashem is “a”, not the only, true Judge.)

Here, the form is that of a semichut (literally: attached form), used to mean “the A of B”. Such as Benei Yisrael, the Children of Israel. This form takes the hei hayedi’ah on only on the second word. A head of Pharoah’s executioners would be “sar tabachim”, but in Bereishis 39:1 the head is called “sar hatabachim” — prefix only on the second word. This is possibly because the noun doesn’t require more specification than being told it’s of something else. In English we say “the Children of Israel”, but in Hebrew it would appear that since the children are being specified as being Israel’s, we don’t need a “the”.

In any case, “Dayan haemes“, being a semichut, would mean “the Judge of Truth”. Semantically, one is accepting the tragedy as an expression of His Justice (which is true), the other is an acknowledgment that Hashem is the One Who judges which truths to reveal, and which to keep hidden from us. I therefore prefer “Dayan ha’Emes“, which acknowledges the reality that I am not capable of coming to terms with the death, even if I intellectually know in theory that He has good reasons. Aside from it simply being more correct since it’s the original form as found in the gemara.

Rav Hutner gives a related thought, that I was holding on to to use closer to Rosh haShanah. But I found that Kollel Iyun haDaf (no name given, I’m guessing it’s from the Rosh Kollel, R’ Mordechai Kornfeld) did a better job than what I had started doing last Elul. So, rather than hold onto it. I will just share the relevant part of the kollel’s Insights into the Daf email for Rosh haShanah 32b.

THE ACCEPTANCE OF HASHEM’S KINGSHIP ON ROSH HASHANAH

QUESTION: The Gemara discusses a dispute whether the verse, “Shema Yisrael Hashem E-lokeinu Hashem Echad,” is considered a verse of Malchiyos such that it counts as one of the ten verses which must be recited in the Musaf Shemoneh Esreh of Rosh Hashanah.

RAV YITZCHAK HUTNERzt”l (in PACHAD YITZCHAK, Rosh Hashanah, Ma’amar 11) asks that the Gemara earlier (32a) says that “Ani Hashem E-lokeichem” is the source for reciting verses of Malchiyos. Why, then, is there any argument whether the verse of Shema Yisrael counts as an expression of Malchiyos? The words “Hashem E-lokeinu” in the verse of Shema Yisrael should be the ideal expression of Malchiyos, because the verse of “Ani Hashem E-lokeichem” is the undisputed source for Malchiyos!

Conversely, when one recites Keri’as Shema he must recite the verse in its entirety, including the words “Hashem Echad,” in order to properly fulfill the Mitzvah to accept Hashem’s Kingship upon oneself. If he omits the words “Hashem Echad,” he has not properly expressed his acceptance of Hashem’s Kingship; the words “Hashem E-lokeinu” are not sufficient. Why, then, is “Ani Hashem E-lokeichem” a valid source for reciting Malchiyos if those words do not fully express Hashem’s Kingship?

Another difference exists between the acceptance of Malchus Shamayim of Keri’as Shema and the acceptance of Malchus Shamayim in the blessing of Malchiyos on Rosh Hashanah. In Keri’as Shema, one accepts upon himself the Kingship of Hashem with an emphasis on the love of Hashem, “v’Ahavta Es Hashem.” On Rosh Hashanah, in contrast, one accepts upon himself the Kingship of Hashem with an emphasis on the fear of Hashem (as Rosh Hashanah is the first day of the “Yamim Nora’im,” the Days of Awe). What is the basis for this difference?

ANSWER: RAV HUTNERzt”l cites the words of Rashi on the verse of Shema Yisrael. Rashi explains that the verse means, “Listen, O Israel: Hashem, Who is our G-d now in this world, will be One G-d [accepted by all people] in the World to Come.” This principle is expressed in the Gemara in Pesachim (50a) which says that in this world Hashem is not recognized by all as One. The Gemara adds that in this world man does not recognize the singular goodness behind all that happens. Consequently, in this world a person recites one blessing for bad tidings (“Dayan ha’Emes“) and a different blessing for good tidings (“ha’Tov veha’Metiv“). Times of suffering appear to be times of strict judgment and punishment, while times of prosperity appear to be times of mercy and goodness. Olam ha’Ba will be different; there, one will recite one blessing, “ha’Tov veha’Metiv,” on all that happens, because “on that day Hashem will be One and His Name will be One” (Zecharyah 14:9). (See Insights to Pesachim 50a.)

Rav Hutner explains that man’s mission on Rosh Hashanah is to accept Hashem as King in this world according to the limits of his perception in this world. A person in this world cannot fathom the concept of Hashem’s Kingship the way it will be revealed in the World to Come when “Hashem will be One and His Name will be One.” In this world, we do not see Hashem as Echad, but rather as both “Dayan ha’Emes” and “ha’Tov veha’Metiv.” Therefore, when we accept upon ourselves Hashem’s sovereignty on Rosh Hashanah, we must do so with the expression of “Ani Hashem E-lokeichem” — without the additional “Hashem Echad” — “Hashem is One.” This verse expresses the way we perceive Hashem as King in this world. The acceptance of Hashem as King the way He will be perceived in the future is not part of our present experience, and thus such an acceptance cannot comprise a full-hearted acceptance of Malchus Shamayim.

In contrast, in our acceptance of Hashem’s sovereignty in Keri’as Shema, we proclaim our belief in the way Hashem will be recognized in the future when His true Oneness will be revealed to and perceived by all. Accordingly, one does not fulfill his obligation properly if he recites Shema Yisrael without the words “Hashem Echad,” for he omits the essential component of the future acceptance of Hashem’s sovereignty, that Hashem will be recognized as One. On Rosh Hashanah, however, these words are not an ideal expression of the this-worldly Kingship of Hashem which we proclaim in Malchiyos. (Even though the verse “Shema Yisrael” also contains the words “Hashem E-lokeinu,” that phrase is not the main point of the verse and thus “Shema Yisrael” does not count as a verse of Malchiyos. Alternatively, the phrase “Hashem E-lokeinu” in the verse is not an expression of our acceptance of Hashem as King, but it is a statement of fact: “Hashem, Who right now is our G-d….” In order to be considered a verse of Malchiyos, the verse must contain an acceptance of Hashem as King and not merely be a statement of the fact that Hashem is our G-d. See PACHAD YITZCHAK, ibid. #22.)

This also explains the emphasis in Keri’as Shema on the love of Hashem (“v’Ahavta“). Keri’as Shema refers to the time in the future when we will perceive Hashem as “ha’Tov veha’Metiv” and we will be drawn to Hashem through our love for Him. In this world, in contrast, when we accept Hashem as our King as we perceive Him now — as the judge of mankind, “Dayan ha’Emes,” and as “ha’Tov veha’Metiv” — we accept His Kingship through an expression of awe and fear.

Rav Hutner sees the split in our perception of Hashem between “Dayan haEmes” and “Tov uMetiv” as being a consequence of what we have been identifying with the casting down of Truth for the creation of man. And thus resolved in the World to Come.

We see something similar in the opening chapters of the Chumash. In chapter 1, describing the creation of the world, man appears only as the pinnacle of that process. And G-d is called simply “E-lokim”. When the Torah switches in chapter 2 to tell the story of the creation of man as a decision-maker, with a mental life of his own, He is described as “Hashem E-lokim“. A split but integrated perception of G-d. (I wrote on this topic in the Mesukim miDevash for Parashas Bereishis.) After the first sin, the names start being used alone, with some exceptions, which call for treatment. Notably, in the Merkavah, beyond the olam – elem, Yechezqeil haNavi speaks to “Hashem E-lokim” (albeit spelled A-dny Y-HV-H).

As Rav Hutner writes, history progresses until ge’ulah. “On that day, Hashem will be one, and His name will be one.”

Returning to our opening gemara, R’ Achar bar Chanina says that on that day there will only be one berakhah. We would understand the Truth, and there would be no unpleasant news. On all events we will bless haTov vehaMeitiv — that Hashem is “Good and the Bestower of good”. Similarly, Rav Nachman writes that we will no longer need to use the name Ad-nai where the quote has the tetragrammaton. The four letter name, representing Divine Mercy, will not be occluded by the tragedies of history, and can be said with proper comprehension.

In the Name of the One Who Said It

(I think this will be the last post in this series on ge’ulah.)

גדולה תורה יותר מן הכהונה ומן המלכות, שהמלכות נקנית בשלשים מעלות, והכהונה בעשרים וארבע, והתורה נקנית בארבעים ושמונה דברים, ואלו הן:… והאומר דבר בשם אומרו. הא למדת: כל האומר דבר בשם אומרו מביא גאולה לעולם, שנאמר “ותאמר אסתר למלך בשם מרדכי.”

Torah is greater than the priesthood or sovereignty, for sovereignty is acquired with thirty virtues, the priesthood with twenty-four, and Torah is acquired with forty-eight qualities. These are: … and (#48) saying something in the name of its speaker. Thus we have learned: One who says something in the name of its speaker brings ge’ulah to the world, as is stated (Esther 2:22), “And Esther told the king in the name of Mordechai.”

- Beraisa, Avos 6:6

What is it about giving credit when repeating something that it alone is singled out for mention as the final item on the beraisa‘s list, as though it was the loftiest of the qualities necessary to acquire Torah? And more startling – this is the means to bring the ge’ulah? Right. Yes. Proper. Of course. But what does giving credit for a thought have to do with redemption?

This conclusion is drawn from verse about Esther. Somehow this trait shows why Esther had what it took to not only spiritually cause the redemption from Haman’s plan, but to merit to be the aegis by which Hashem impemented that ge’ulah. We can go beyond that “somehow”, though. Because the Torah give us an archetype of a person in a redemptive role, and even focuses our attention on the qualities that were the key to his uniqueness. Moshe Rabeinu, who is described as being the world’s greatest in three domains: anavah, as an eved Hashem, and in his prophecy.

Here are some of the conclusions about anavah that we have explored in the past:

  • Anavah is the emulation of Hashem’s tzimtzum (“constricting” Himself to make “room” for us, so to speak). It is this constriction that made Moshe the greatest of all prophets — both in his making “room” in his soul for Hashem’s word, but also in Moshe Rabbeinu’s greater insight into what Hashem is all about.
  • Anavah is the middle path between ga’avah (egotism) and shefeilus (lowliness). This might be why the Rambam recommends the Middle Path with respect to all middos (Dei’os ch 1) but advises going to the extreme with respect to anavah (2:3). It’s the ultimate pursuit of a blend of the dei’ah‘s actual extremes.
  • Because of this, anavah motivates. It doesn’t lead me to believe I am too puny to get anything done, nor have me complacent in my accomplishments, real or imagined. We looked at a number of figures from history who erred in either direction, and portrayed Esther as an example of someone who found the proper balance. She accepts Mordechai’s “perhaps it was just for a moment like this that you came to royalty” as well as being willing to say “if I am to be lost, I will be lost”.
  • In the same essay I suggested that anavah therefore also brings happiness, contentment with one’s lot, one’s role to play in history. Thus Esther’s anavah leads to “when Adar enters, we increase in joy.”
  • This is why an enigmatic gemara defines an anav as someone who always prays in his maqom qavu’ah (permanent, established, location). Anavah is having one place in the big whole.
  • Rav SR Hirsch links anavah to the word “anah“, to respond (the thesis of the same essay as the previous point). This ties together the notion of tzimtzum, leaving room for the other, with the notion of finding my place and role in the big picture (which in turn requires the balance between knowing the significance of my place and knowing that it’s not everything).
  • And last, I suggested that this is how one gains permanence to one’s accomplishments. By acting toward Hashem’s plan, lesheim Shamayim, one is promised permanence. This is why Moshe couldn’t bring us into Israel, because exile was inevitable. And why “a congregation” — and “a dispute” — “which is for the sake of heaven, it’s end is to be eternal.”

“Listen” to how well the emerging picture dovetails to Rav Shimon Shkop’s words:

The entire “I” of a coarse and lowly person is restricted only to his substance and body. Above him is someone who feels that his “I” is a synthesis of body and soul. And above him is someone who can include in his “I” all of his household and family. Someone who walks according to the way of the Torah, his “I” includes the whole Jewish people, since in truth every Jewish person is only like a limb of the body of the nation of Israel. And there are more levels in this of a person who is whole, who can connect his soul to feel that all of the world and worlds are his “I”, and he himself is only one small limb in all of creation. Then, his self-love helps him love all of the Jewish people and [even] all of creation.

In my opinion, this idea is hinted at in Hillel’s words, as he used to say, “If I am not for me, who will be for me? And when I am for myself, what am I?” (Pirqei Avos 1:14) It is fitting for each person to strive to be concerned for himself. But with this, he must also strive to understand that “I for myself, what am I?” If he constricts his “I” to a narrow domain, limited to what the eye can see [is him], then his “I” – what is it? Vanity and ignorable. But if his feelings are broader and include [all of] creation, that he is a great person and also like a small limb in this great body, then he is lofty and of great worth. In a great engine even the smallest screw is important if it even serves the smallest role in the engine. For the whole is made of parts, and no more than the sum of its parts.

This notion of an engine running the process we call history is also a theme I touched on before.

When you drop a drop of ink into a cup of water, the ink spirals around in some chaotic pattern and eventually diffuses until the entire liquid is a uniform light blue. Even though each time you repeat the experiment the dance and spiral is different, something about it in the general is predictable. If you had different snapshots of the sequence that were significantly far enough apart in time, you could place them in historical order. Entropy always increases until it reaches the maximum. The system runs a certain way, reaching equilibrium.History also has a known final state — the Messianic Era. The colorless, pure potential of this world will be eventually assigned a meaning represented by the sky-blue of techeiles, of the vision of sapphire paving stones under the heavenly throne during the revelation at Sinai (Exodus 24:10). Even though people have free will, and therefore how the process unfolds is not fixed, the general parameters are known. And, like the ink in the water, it’s hard to understand the purpose of any particular dance or spiral in the process of history. But, we are tending toward an equilibrium.

And that means anything not in the equilibrium state will eventually cease to exist. At the end, there is no clear water. And, at the end, there is no evil. Evil must inherently destroy itself, or else there could be no guarantee of that Messianic equilibrium.

To the extent that we work with Hashem’s process, our actions are part of the final end-state, and thus gain permanence. The only way we can make an eternal contribution to the universe is buy signing on to that process. This is akin to the words of Great Britain’s Chief Rabbi, R’ Sir Jonathan Sacks (A Letter in the Scroll: Understanding Our Jewish Identity and Exploring the Legacy of the World’s Oldest Religion, pp. 39-41, 47, as quoted recently by R’ Gil Student):

[T]he Baal Shem Tov–founder of the Hassidic movement in the eighteenth century–said that the Jewish people is a living Sefer Torah, and every Jew is one of its letters. I am moved by that image, and it invites a question–the question: Will we, in our lifetime, be letters in the scroll of the Jewish people?

At some stage, each of us must decide how to live our lives. We have many options, and no generation in history has had a wider choice. We can live for work or success or fame or power. We can have a whole series of lifestyles and relationships. We can explore any of a myriad of faiths, mysticisms, or therapies. There is only one constraint–namely, that however much of anything else we have, we have only one life, and it is short. How we live and what we live for are the most fateful decisions we ever make.

We can see life as a succession of moments spent, like coins, in return for pleasures of various kinds. Or we can see our life as though it were a letter of the alphabet. A letter on its own has no meaning, yet when letters are joined to others they make a word, words combine with others to make a sentence, sentences connect to make a paragraph, and paragraphs join to make a story. That is how the Baal Shem Tov understood life. Every Jew is a letter. Each Jewish family is a word, every community a sentence and the Jewish people through time constitutes a story, the strangest and most moving story in the annals of mankind.

That metaphor is for me the key to understanding our ancestors’ decision to remain Jewish even in times of great trial and tribulation. I suspect they knew that they were letters in this story, a story of great risk and courage. Their ancestors had taken the risk of pledging themselves to a covenant with God and thus undertaking a very special role in history. They had undertaken a journey, begun in the distant past and continued by every successive generation. At the heart of the covenant is the idea of emunah, which means faithfulness or loyalty. And Jews felt a loyalty to generations past and generations yet unborn to continue the narrative. A Torah scroll that has a missing letter is rendered invalid, defective. I think that most Jews did not want theirs to be that missing letter…

I am a Jew because, knowing the story of my people, I hear their call to write the next chapter. I did not come from nowhere; I have a past, and if any past commands anyone, this past commands me. I am a Jew because only if I remain a Jew will the story of a hundred generations live on in me. I continue their journey because, having come this far, I may not let it and them fail. I cannot be the missing letter in the scroll. I can give no simpler answer, nor do I know of a more powerful one.

Anavah: knowing that one is only one letter, but that anyone could make oneself critical to the kashrus of the entire scroll.

This series on ge’ulah started with the Qetzos haChoshen’s analysis of a medrash. To quote myself:

R. Shimon said: When the Holy One, blessed be He [-- HQBH], came to create Adam, the ministering angels formed themselves into groups and parties. Some said, “Let him be created,” while others urged, “Let him not be created.” … Love said, “Let him be created, because he will dispense acts of love”; Truth said, “Let him not be created, because he is compounded of falsehood”; Righteousness said, “Let him be created, because he will perform righteous deeds”; Peace said, “Let him not be created because he is full of strife.” What did Hashem do? He took Truth and cast it to the ground. Said the ministering angels before HQBH, “Sovereign of the Universe! Why do You despise Your seal? Let Truth arise from the earth!” As it is written [in the continuing words], “אֱ֭מֶת מֵאֶ֣רֶץ תִּצְמָ֑ח — Let truth bloom up from the earth.” [v. 12]

-Bereishis Rabba 8:5

Man was created with Hashem’s knowledge that with the existence of free-willed beings, Truth would be submerged and have to emerge over time through the process we call history.

The Qetzos haChoshen has a beautiful comment on this medrash. He noted that here truth is described as tatzmiach, blooming. When we make the berakhah after an aliyah, we say “vechayei olam nata besocheinu — eternal life [or perhaps: life of the world{-to-come}] was planted within us.” The Qetzos explains: Torah is the seed from which our medrash tell us Truth blooms.

The process then, is the sprouting of truth. The anav knows to contribute to it, that he may be a mere screw, a single letter, that will not be famous or recorded in the annals of history. But he can make himself critical to reaching the end. Part of eternity.

Now we can finally answer my opening question. Why is Esther’s citing Mordechai as her source when telling the king of the plot to kill him so critical to redemption, and the final skill necessary to acquire Torah? It combines all these elements. It’s an anav‘s acknowledgment of her role in history. By giving credit she declares herself part of a greater whole, she has her own place in a bigger picture. And she does so with respect to the revelation of truth.

To close with another medrash (with thanks to MBD for turning it into song lyrics, and to Nachum Segal for playing them on the radio last week):

שנו רבותינו בשעה שמלך המשיח נגלה, בא ועומד על הגג של בית המקדש והוא משמיע להם לישראל ואומר: “ענוים הגיע זמן גאולתכם, ואם אין אתם מאמינים ראו באורי שזרח עליכם.” שנאמר: “קומי אורי כי בא אורך וכבוד ה’ עליך זרח… והלכו גוים לאורך, ומלכים לנגה זרחך” (ישעיהו ס:א,ג).

The Rabbis taught: As the time that the messianic (i.e. annointed) king is revealed, he will come and stand on the roof of the Beis haMiqdash. And he makes himself heard to Israel and says, “Anavim – Modest Ones! The time for your redemption has arrived. And if you do not believe, look with my light that is dawning upon you.” As it says “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of Hashem has dawned upon you…. And nations shall walk by your light, and kings by the brightness of your dawning.” (Yeshaiah 60:1,3)

- Pesiqta Rabasi 31

At the time of redemption, how does the mashiach refer to us? As anavim.

Yom Yerushalayim

“זְכֹ֤ר ה’֨ ׀ לִבְנֵ֬י אֱד֗וֹם אֵת֮ י֤וֹם יְֽרוּשָׁ֫לִָ֥ם– Hashem, remind the children of Edom of the Day of Jerusalem…”

It seems odd to me, but this is the oldest source for the idiom which the Chief Rabbinate of Israel took as the name of the holiday. But what is Yom Yerushalayim?

The name of the city is a portmanteau of two words: Yeru, and Shaleim.

Yeru” derives from the Aqeidah, when Avraham finally offers the ram, and declares the future Temple Mount to be “Har Hashem Yir’eh — Mount ‘Hashem Will See’”, which, the chumash continues, is then called “Har Hashem Yeira’eh – Mount ‘Hashem will be Seen’” (Bereishis 22:14). Yeru is a place where Avraham encountered G-d, where He experienced hashgachah peraris, Divine Supervision.

Right near the place of the Aqeidah, Malkitzedeq (who tradition identifies with Sheim the son of Noach) was reigning as king of Shaleim. “Shaleim” means whole, both in the sense of lacking missing parts, and in the parts working together smoothly.

According to R’ Aryeh Kaplan, King David unified these two places into one city. (“Jerusalem, the Eye of the Universe”, pg. 46) But whether unified by him or earlier, the Psalmist does describe it as “ke’ir shechubrah lo yachdav“, taken literally: “a city which is connected for Him together.” (122:3) The City of David is a place of unity, where Yeru and Shaleim connect.

Rav Dovid Lifshitz zt”l often spoke about the connection between shaleim as wholeness, and that of another conjugation, “shalom“, peace. Shalom is not simply a cessation of violence. That wouldn’t be an expression of sheleimus, wholeness. Rather, shalom is a time when all the nations “will come together in a single union to do Your will with a leivav shaleim, a whole heart.” Sheleimus within each heart being expressed as sheleimus within humanity as a whole.

שָׁלוֹם רָב, לְאֹהֲבֵי תוֹרָתֶךָ;    וְאֵין-לָמוֹ מִכְשׁוֹל.

Shalom rav is granted those who love Your Torah, and they have no obstacles.

- Tehillim119:165

What is shalom rav? To quote an earlier post:

Shalom rav is the unity and wholeness of self that eliminates all obstacles from the path of the lover of Torah.

The rule with respect to tzara’as is “אין אדם רואה נגעי עצמו – a person [a kohein, since no one else is empowered to determine tzara'as] does not inspect his own afflictions”. This has become a rabbinical aphorism, “people don’t see their own faults”, which is probably the motivation of the law of tzara’as.

Rav Dovid elaborates on the impact of this truism. Because I can not make a realistic assessment of my own shortcomings, I can not succeed without participating in a healthy community. Thus, there can be no pursuit of sheleimus without shalom and no shalom without sheleimus! One is simply another manifestation of the other.

וַיּ֨וֹשַׁע יְהוָ֜ה בַּיּ֥וֹם הַה֛וּא אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מִיַּ֣ד מִצְרָ֑יִם וַיַּ֤רְא יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ אֶת־מִצְרַ֔יִם מֵ֖ת עַל־שְׂפַ֥ת הַיָּֽם׃ וַיַּ֨רְא יִשְׂרָאֵ֜ל אֶת־הַיָּ֣ד הַגְּדֹלָ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֨ר עָשָׂ֤ה יְהוָה֙ בְּמִצְרַ֔יִם וַיִּֽירְא֥וּ הָעָ֖ם אֶת־יְהוָ֑ה וַֽיַּאֲמִ֨ינוּ֙ בַּֽיהוָ֔ה וּבְמֹשֶׁ֖ה עַבְדּֽוֹ׃ אָ֣ז יָשִֽׁיר־מֹשֶׁה֩ וּבְנֵ֨י יִשְׂרָאֵ֜ל…

Hashem saved, on that day, Israel from the control of the Egyptians, and Israel saw (vayar) Egypt dead on the shore of the sea. And Israel saw (vayar) the “Great Hand” that Hashem did in Egypt, and the nation feared/was in awe of Hashem, and they believed in Hashem and in Moshe His servant. Then Moshe and the Israelites were singing…

Shemos 14:30-15:1

Rav Avraham Elya Kaplan, in the title essay of BeIqvos haYir’ah, writes (translation R’ YG Bechhofer):

Only if he sees (re’iyah) will he fear (yirah), and only if he fears will he repent… And from here we proceed to the fear [awe] of loftiness (“yir’as haromemus”) – that is the vision [the perception] of loftiness. From here – “The maid servant at the Red Sea saw loftier visions than the Prophet Yechezkel.” From here comes the direct view, across all the dividers, to the source of existence. This is an unceasing inner gaze toward the matter that is one’s responsibility [the bundle of his life's meaning] (that he must safeguard lest it fall…). The gaze is one that leads to remembrance, remembrance that leads to care, care that leads to confidence, confidence that leads to strength (“oz”) – an inner, bold, uplifting, strength (“Hashem oz li’amo yiten) and a strength that leads to peace (“shalom”) and wholeness, internally and externally, in thought and in deed (“Hashem yivareich es amo ba’shalom”). Indeed, This is the wisdom of life: “Reishis chochma yir’as Hashem.” A fear that is vision. “And remember” – “And see” – “Shivisi Hashem l’negdi tamid…”

Har Hashem Yeira’eh is not only the centerpiece of where Hashem’s presence can most readily be seen. It is also the source of yir’as Shamayim, the fear and awe of the One in heaven that leads to inner-strength, to wholeness, to peace, and to break out in song to Him, “in a single union to do [His] Will with a heart that is shaleim.”

Yerushalayim is where re’iyah can create shalom rav.

The call to remind Edom doesn’t end with a cry for Divine Justice. Although it is that. But it may also be seen as a call for them to remember the eventual Yom Yerushalaim, a day in which they join the union to serve G-d wholeheartedly. A day when we not only hold sovereignty over Jerusalem, not only rebuild the Beis haMiqdash, but one in which it serves as a centerpiece, a place where one experiences Hashem’s over-awing presence, and is moved to work together to serve Him.

“For from Tzion shall the Torah come, and the Word of Hashem from Yerushalaim.”
Bimheira beyameinu, amein!


PS: The JPS translation takes “Yom Yerushalaim” to be a date in the past, a day for which Edom should be judged. However, at the destruction of the first beis hamiqdash, Edom had no part in ransacking Yerushalayim. Nor were the Romans identified with Edom until the amoraim! It therefore seemingly refers to the day Yerushalayim will be reestablished, and thus their evil at the time depicted in the Tehillim is reverted. That includes both the eventual meting out of justice and the reestablishment of all the Jerusalem stands for, all they tried to destroy.