Friday, July 21, 2006

neder = dira

Aside from the enigmatic facts that the opening of our parsha addresses itself only to the roshei hamatos and that the declaration ‘zeh hadavr asher tzivah Hashem’ might be applied to any mitzvah, even stranger is what is missing. What happened to the almost standard opening of 'vayidaber Hashem el Moshe leimor'?
The word neder, the Sefas Emes and Noam Elimelech teach us, is related to the word dira, dwelling. What does an oath have to do with a dwelling? The Shem m’Shmuel questions the entire parsha of nedarim: how is it that a person has the power through his verbal declaration to create issurim (in the case of nidrei bituei) and create a status of kedush (nidrei hekdesh)? This power goes so far that the gemara has a safek whether there is an issur me’ila for violating a neder! I think the answer (see Sm”S for a different approach) is that in essence no new kedusha is being created. The concept of neder is a recognition that beyond what meets the eye there is a level of kedusha already inherent in the reality around us - the Shechina already dwells immanently in the world. Sefas Emes notes that the first person in chumash to take a neder is Ya’akov Avinu. While the other Avos revealed G-d’s presence as similar to a mountain or a field, Chazal tell us that Ya’akov revealed G-d’s presence as the bayis, a dwelling. Chazal tell us that taking a neder is like building a bamah, an alter used outside the Mikdash. G-d metaphorically “dwells” in the Bais haMikdash – to create a sanctified space for him outside those confines is a task fraught with challenge. Perhaps in this light we can appreciate the response of BN"Y to the attack of Amalek in Parshas Chukas. Amalek disguised themselves as Cana’anim to attack Bnei Yisrael so BN”Y’s prayers would be ineffective. If Amalek recognized the power of tefillah, how could they dare challenge Hashem’s people? Amalek understood the concept of G-d in the same way other primitive people call on deities - a far off force that can interact and impose its will on the world, but only when called on or invoked. BN”Y responded with a neder; G-d is with us in th world in all that we do and is not subject to being deceived by petty masquerades. Nodrin b’eis tzara, one is permitted to make a neder during times of crisis, perhaps to underscore (as we discussed from the Ishbitzer in the past) that tzarah is just a result of our inability to see the Shechina which is kulo tov inherent in reality, the attitude which the parsha of neder corrects. At the end of Sefer baMidbar, BN”Y stand poised to enter Eretz Yisrael and engage in conquering, building, and farming of the land. It becomes imperative that Bnei Yisrael be taught to carry on the mesorah absent the voice of Hashem echoing from Ohel Moed. There is no command of vayidaber Hashem el Moshe leimor opening our parsha precisely to emphasize that Hashem dwells in the mundane reality and we need not look to a voice from shamayim giving instructions. The roshei hamatos have a right to declare “zeh hadavr asher tzivah Hashem” when they reveal his ratzon (see our past discussion on the mechayev of dinei derabbanan) and those words, as the Noam Elimelech writes, are tantamount to an actual expression of the Torah itself. If we want to find Hashem, we need not look "out there", but rather to his metaphorical dira which already exists in our world.
Chazak Chazak v'Nischazeik.

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