Wednesday, April 07, 2010

keriyas yam suf and tzadik yesod olam

The seventh day of Pesach, the anniversary of kriyas Yam Suf, always coincides with the sixth day of sefirah. The number six represents the midah of yesod, which was embodied by Yosef, the tzadik yesod olam. Not coincidentally, we find the parsha of Beshalach makes explicit mention of Moshe taking Yosef’s bones with him en route to Yam Suf, and we find in Midrash that “hayam ra’ah va’yanos,” the sea split in the merit of Yosef’s fleeing from the temptation of Eishes Potifar. The six days of creation are the foundation (yesod) upon which rests Shabbos; the six millennia of creation set the foundation for the seventh millennia of Mashiach ben David. Yosef haTzadik prepared the way for Ya’akov to come to Mitzrayim; Mashich ben Yosef will prepare the world at the close of our sixth millennium for the arrival of Mashich ben David.

The Mechilta teaches a mashal: The king sold the inner field of his lot. When the customer came to take possession of the land, he discovered a guard standing by the outer lot who refused to let him pass. The customer begged admittance, saying that he has permission from the king, but the guard would not budge. The customer showed the guard the king’s ring, but still the guard would not budge. Finally, the king himself came. The guard fled, and the customer was able to pass.

If the guard is supposed to represent the Yam blocking passage to Eretz Yisrael, then what have we learned? Do we really need a mashal to tell us that rivers don’t split because we demand that they do? Or that they do split if G-d shows up and makes them?

I think there is a different lesson here. We all have personality layer upon personality layer built around the core of our neshomos, outer “fields” of all kinds that form rings around the innermost chamber of who we really are. That inner core is the “tzadik yesod”, the foundation upon which all rests. The Mechilta is speaking to us about our own attempts (assuming we even try to make any) to penetrate the protective layers, the pollution, the hardened shell of our own selves to rediscover the beautiful inner field which the king has given us. Too often we delude ourselves into thinking true pnimiyus is about verbal commitments to being a “religious Jew” or doing that which is right, or true pnimiyus is about wearing the king’s ring, whether it be a talis, tefillin, or black hat. None of that gets you past the guard into the real inner field of the soul. Getting to the inner field is about mustering from within the connection with the king himself, a connection that goes beyond words and dress and lies at the core of our being. Passing across the Yam is easy if one can pass across the turbulent waters of one’s own soul and reconnect with the core of tzadik yesod olam.

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