Thursday, May 03, 2018

a good word -- amaros tehoros

I was not feeling in a writing mood this week, but then I got an uplifting email from someone telling me how much they appreciated the posts and it changed my mind.  That person gets the credit for being mezakeh everyone who might read this and learn something.  You never know the value of a kind word.

Why a bow and arrow on Lag ba'Omer?  When you use a bow and arrow, if you want to shoot an arrow into the air you have to pull back the drawsting toward the ground.  The further back down you pull the string, the higher up the arrow will go.  Life often pulls us down.  Lag Ba'Omer tells us that what we think is a big setback is really just a needed step to shoot even higher.  Can you imagine how far R' Akiva thought he had fallen when all 24,000 students of his died?  But then the arrow shot upwards again, and it was the whole torah sheba'al peh that was the result.

The Midrash opens our parsha by telling us that "amaros Hashem tehoros" unlike the promises of a human ruler.  A human king may make all kinds of campaign promises to build this or fix that, and then the king goes to sleep and maybe never wakes up and all the promises are for naught.  (The Midrash is pretty dramatic -- I guess the Midrash could not even conceive of modern politicians who make promises and don't keep them even though they remain alive and well.)  Hashem's word is emes for all eternity.

A beautiful idea, but what does it have to do with our parsha?  Why stick it here?  Just because the word "amaros" is like "emor" and "amarta" in the parsha -- so what?

Secondly, the Midrash gives examples of the promises a human king makes with no guarantee of being able to fulfill them, but it doesn't tell us what promise of Hashem it is talking about. 

If you had to choose one word to sum up the theme of our parsha, a good choice would be "tahara."  We learn in our parsha about the holiness of the kohen, who cannot become defiled with the dead and who cannot serve as a ba'al mum.  We learn about korbanos and the disqualification of mumim.  We learn about the mitzvah of sefira that we are engaged in, "u'sefartem lachem" = to make ourselves into sapir, precious sparkling gems, so to speak, ready for kabbalas haTorah.  It's all, at least in a symbolic sense, about perfection is serving G-d, about not being spiritually defiled, blemished, unsuitable.

The first Sefas Emes on the parsha asks a basic question: how is it possible for a human being of flesh and blood to become tahor, to purify himself properly to serve G-d?  How can any of us, with all the mistakes we make, with all our shortcomings, measure up?

The Besh"t taught "l'olam Hashem devarcha nitzav bashamayim" means that the words of Hashem used to create the world are constantly emanating from Him and constantly causing the world to be recreated.  Not only that, but as the Alter Rebbe explains in the second part of Tanya, those words are what are the true essence of what everything is made of.  In other words, Hashem's utterance do not cause the world to exist; rather, they are the very stuff of which the world is made, the underlying subatomic subphysical "stuff" of everything that exists. 

Says the Midrash in Parshas Kedoshim, "Nasata kedusha l'Yisrael, nasata lahem l'olam, she'ne'emar 'Kedoshim ti'hiyu.'"  G-d gave us eternal kedusha.  How do you know?  Because, answers the Midrash, the pasuk says, "Kedoshim ti'hiyu." 

How does that answer the question?  All the pasuk says is that we have a mitzvah to be holy?

Based on the Besh"t's teaching the Rebbe of Aleksander answers that the words "kedoshim ti'hiyu" are not just a command, but they are a reality.  Just as the words, "ye'hi or" reverberate for all eternity and every moment ensure the recreation of light in the universe, so too, G-d's words of "kedoshim ti'hiyu" reverberate for all eternity and make us holy.

I'm just flesh and blood, a human being with all the faults that go with that -- a spiritual ba'al mum, a person with spiritual tumah enveloping him.  How can I get ready for kabbalas haTorah?  The answer is "amaros Hashem tehoros" for all eternity.  What promise is the Midrash talking about?  The promise of "l'nefesh lo yitamah."  The promise of "kedoshim ti'hiyu."  Our parsha is not just a list of demands, commands.  It's a map of the reality of who we are and what we are.  Hashem's words give us the koach to be tahor, to be kadosh, for eternity -- no matter if we've fallen, if we've become a little blemished and defiled.  That's just the arrow being pulled back.  The koach to be better is within us willy nilly because Hashem's words, the words of our parsha, make it so.  All we have to do is not spoil that kedusha and tahara, not drive it away. 

1 comment:

  1. sounds like the Rebbe of Aleksander considers "kedoshim ti'hiyu" to be subsumed by the creative utterance 'na'aseh adam b'tzalmeinu'(Ber. 1:26)-- Elokim is kodesh, and thus so His tzelem; kedoshim ti'hiyu concentrates the recreative emanation from 1:26 on Israel