Tuesday, May 14, 2013

vayichan yisrael -- what's even better than finding chein in each other's eyes?

Rashi famously comments that the pasuk “VaYichan sham Yisrael neged ha’ar…” uses the singular tense because Klal Yisrael was united “k’ish echad b’lev echad,” like one person with one heart in preparation for kabbalas haTorah.  R’ Yitzchok of Vorke explained the word “vayichan” comes from the word “chein.”  If every person can see the chein in his or her neighbor, then we can be united as ish echad b’lev echad.

 Beautiful vort, right?  But the Shem m’Shmuel (5762) is not satisfied.  Sure, it’s easy to get along with your neighbor if you see their chein.  The trick, though, is to get along with your neighbor even when you don’t see that chein, even when you disagree and don’t see eye to eye.  This is the level that Bnei Yisrael rose to at mattan Torah.  The Shem m’Shmuel gets this from Chazal’s statement that “Moshe hosif yom echad m’da’ato,” Moshe used his “da’as” and added an extra day to the waiting period before mattan Torah.  Here’s how:

 The word “da’as” seems to have two opposite meanings.  On the one hand, da’as means to connect on the deepest level, like the connection between a husband and wife, “V’ha’adam yada es Chavah ishto…  On the other hand, da’as refers to the ability to discriminate and distinguish.  The Yerushalmi writes that we say havdalah in the bracha of “chonein hada’as” because without da’as there would be no havdalah, we could not draw distinctions. 
The truth is that there is no contradiction between the meanings; they supplement each other.  No matter who it is, if you look at every detail of a person, there is going to be something there you don’t like.  The person is great, but they like chocolate ice cream and everyone knows vanilla is better, or vica versa.  That person is a great ba’al chessed, but wears an ugly tie.  We can all come up with a million examples.  How can you ever have the da’as of connection and companionship if everyone is flawed in some way?  Answer: by having the da’as of distinction, knowing how to put to the side those nitpicky details and focus on the good that there is.

I put it in language that we can relate to; the Shem m’Shmuel says it a little deeper.  The bad taste in ice cream, the ugly ties, etc. – all these are superficial details.  If you dig into the core of a person, you are going to find a G-dly neshoma, and what’s not to like and be able to connect to about that?  If we want the da’as of connection, we need da’as to discriminate between the pnimiyus, the G-dly core, and all the other chitzoniyus that we see on the outside.

Moshe hosif yom echad m’da’ato” – Moshe introduced this factor of da’as into the process of mattan Torah.  K’ish echad b’lev echad means that Klal Yisrael dug into the pnimiyus of who they were and what their mission was, and through that, they realized that all the differences really don’t matter at the end of the day, they are just superficial distractions.


  1. How far do you take it, though?
    For instance - the girls that went to protest WoW= how would that work in with this thought? Should we respect all other Jews and their decisions despite their differences? Is protesting the manner in which people want to daven outside the bounds of recognizing their them and their godly Neshamos?
    Dare I ask if the Gedolim that sent the girls who were generally concerned with Kavod HaTefila, etc. etc. correct in dismissing the WoW (and their Neshama's)out of hand?
    I'm not saying either way, just wondering...

  2. That whole situation is a mess.