Monday, February 12, 2007

Ishbitza on the mitzvah of tefillin

My son began putting on tefillin yesterday, so we made a little breakfast in his school to celebrate. Some thoughts in the topic of tefillin: The Torah tells us in Parshas Ki Tisa that Moshe Rabeinu was afforded a glimpse of the “back” of Hashem, but was told he could not see Hashem’s “face” (Shmos 33:23). Chazal (Brachos 7, cited by Rashi) teach us that Moshe was shown the back of G-d’s tefillin, meaning only part of the connection between man and G-d was revealed to Moshe, but there still remained something which was concealed (see Rambam, Yesodei haTorah 1:10). This more complete vision was actually revealed later to someone else. The Midrash ascribes to R’ Akiva the pasuk “kol y’kar r’asa einai” – all of your glory my eyes have seen - referring to R' Akiva's insight into Torah which surpassed even that of Moshe Rabeinu. This word y’kar brings to mind the pasuk in Megillas Esther, "layehudim hayisa orah v’simcha v’sason v’yekar”; Chazal comment that this word "y’kar" refers to tefillin. Moshe Rabeinu saw only the back of G-d’s tefillin, but R’ Akiva witnessed “kol y’kar ra’asa einai”, the complete tefillin of Hashem.

The Ishbitza explains: Moshe Rabeinu as deliverer of Torah had to transmit to the Jewish people not only commandments, but also the punishments for transgression, implicitly acknowledging that there can be a break in the bond between man and G-d. The Mishna records that R’ Akiva said that had he sat on the Sanhedrin he would have been so harsh in his cross examination of witnesses that the court would never mete out capital punishment to a Jew. R’ Akiva refused to consider that a Jewish soul could be so distant, so torn from its root in G-d’s presence, as to be deserving of a penalty of death. R’ Akiva said, “v’ahavta l’reiacha kamocha, zeh klal gadol batorah”, love of a fellow Jew is the greatest principle in Torah. The bond of tefillin is complete and cannot be broken.

The Ramchal and many others write that each letter of Torah corresponds to a neshoma of klal Yisrael. Moshe Rabeinu had the burden of transmitting the Torah with all the warnings of possible punishment – neshomos that could drift; Torah in those neshomos that could be lost and remain unrevealed. R’ Akiva saw the Torah in each and every Jew and refused to surrender any soul as lost, hence his Torah insight was all the deeper and richer than even that of Moshe Rabeinu.

The Ishbitza teaches that wearing tefillin is a key to being able to arrive at new Torah insights, chiddushim. The more one is aware of the connection between G-d and every Jew, the more one strives to attain the ideal of R” Akiva’s “kol y’kar ra’asa einai” the greater will be one’s insight and understanding of Torah.

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