We still have to understand what the Midrash means (see previous post) when it refers to the letter “yud” complaining of being erased. Even if a person does an aveira, does that erase the crime from the books? My thinking on this was opened up by a Sefas Emes on VaEra, but it is echoed in many mekoros.
The Sefas Emes focuses on a Midrash my wife wrote about once. “Had Reuvain known that the Torah would write of his efforts to save Yosef”, says the Midrash, “He would have carried him on his shoulders back to his father.” Under the spotlight, we all make an extra effort; however, the Midrash is not talking about us, it is talking about the bechor of the shivtei K-ah. Reuvain did not act for fame, and it is hard to imagine that he acted less enthusiastically just because he thought the spotlight was off.
R’ Tzadok haKohen (Pri Tzadik, Shmos #1) writes that every letter of the Torah corresponds with a Jewish soul. There is a paradigm of 600,000 souls in the Jewish nation, and a mesorah of 600,00 letters in Torah (no, this is not accurate. See R’ Tzadok as to how it works).
Just to expand a bit on this idea, here is how the Tiferes Shlomo uses it. Chazal tell us (Pesachim 22b) that Shimon ha’Amsuni was able to darshen every single word “es” in the Torah until he got to the pasuk “Es Hashem Elokecha tira” and he ran out of ideas. What can you be marbeh that can stand alongside yiras Shamayim? The gemara continues that R’ Akiva succeeded where Shimon haAmsuni failed and darshened the pasuk as coming to include yirah of talmidei chachamim. Did R’ Akiva have more imagination that Simon haAmsuni? Did he have a mesorah that Shimon haAmsuni lacked?
The Tiferes Shlomo explains that a Chacham making a derasha must understand how the neshomos of Klal Yisrael relate to the Torah he is expounding (see R’ Tzadok in Reseisei Layla). Shimon haAmsuni did not perceive how any neshomos could be included in the word “es” in the pasuk “es Hashem Elokecha tira” and he could not darshen a ribuy. Rabbi Akiva, on the other hand, had the deepest insight into how each Jewish soul is rooted in ratzon Hashem and has a place in Torah. “V’ahavta l’reacha kamocha – zeh klal gadol baTorah” (dayka). Precisely because we all share a Divine spark rooted in Torah, we must also share love for each other as well (see Rashi, Shabbos 31a d”h lo ta’avid, R’ Tzadok Pri Tzadik P’ Kedoshim, and the famous ch. 32 of Tanya). R’ Akiva was able to sense that even this word “es” of “es Hashem Elokecha tira” has a parallel in the neshomos of talmidei chachamim.
[Why the derashos were focused on the word “es” and not some other recurring word is a story for another time, but something to just note.]
To summarize: the idea here is that there is a deep pnimiyus behind the world (the Havaya behind teva, like we have been discussing in previous posts) which represents the ratzon Hashem. We can discover that deep pnimiyus by probing within ourselves (asking “mi” and “mah”, as we have been discussing) or by contemplating the Torah. Both paths lead to the same result and revolve around the same nekudah.
So these are the building blocks, and bl”n next post will bring it all together.