Monday, February 05, 2018

a spiritual revolution

1. There is a glaring redundancy in the first pasuk of Yisro.  "VaYishma Yisro... es kol asher asah Elokim l'Moshe u'l'Yisrael amo," Yisro heard whatever G-d had done for the Jewish people.  The pasuk continues and ends, "Ki hotzi Hashem es Yisrael m'Mitzrayim."  Isn't it clear from the beginning of the pasuk that Yisro had heard about this?  Isn't yetzi'as Mitzratim obviously part of "kol asher asah Elokim l'Moshe u'l'Yisrael?" 

It could be that this is the question that was bothering Rashi and caused Rashi to say that Yisro heard about the splitting of Yam Suf and/or the war with Amalek.  It had to be something other than yetzi'as Mitzrayim that Yisro heard about otherwise the whole phrase is redundant.

The Sefas Emes offers an explanation that caught my attention because of something I heard on a tour of the old city given by R' Simcha Hochbaum that we took 2 weeks ago when we were in Yerushalayim.  R' Hochbaum made the point (and I hope I am paraphrasing him correctly) that so many of the yeshivos and seminaries we and/or our children (depends on your age : ) go to learn in only came into existence post-1967.  That's not just because now there is more geographical space, a bigger city of Yerushalayim, a more developed area, for these yeshivos and seminaries to take root it in.  It's because the unification of Yerushalayim released this pent up spiritual energy that had been held in check so long as the city was divided and in foreign hands.  Having Yerushalayim in our hands, whole again, did not just change the physical map of Eretz Yisrael -- it changed the spiritual map as well. 

Says the Sefas Emes, so long as the Jewish people were enslaved in Egypt, spirituality was locked up and held in check.  Chazal tell us that no one -- not a single slave, no matter what nation they were from -- escaped Egypt.  It was like a black hole that sucked everything in.  "VaYishma Yisro," suddenly a person like Yisro, after years of worshipping every avodah zarah under the sun, wakes up and is able to hear that there is a true G-d.  How did that happen?  The pasuk answers, "Ki hotzi Hashem es Yisrael m'Mitzrayim."  Because the Jewish people were taken out, the black hole's pull was broken.  Because the Jewish people were taken out, all that ruchniyus that was pent up was suddenly free, and it had an effect not only on us, but on the whole world as well.

Same idea, different context. 

2. In the haftarah we read that Yishayahu heard the malachim saying "kadosh kadosh..." and he responds, "oy li ki nidmeisi ki ish tmei sefasayim anochi u'b'toch am tmei sefasayim anochi yosheiv."  What does that first phrase, "oy li ki nidmeisi," mean?   I congratulate you if you knew without looking at Rashi that the word "nidmeisi" here can mean death.  I don't have Artscroll at home, but I checked on Shabbos in shul and they translate something like "Woe is me for I might die."  Yishayahu heard the angels and he thinks that's the end for him.  How can a person who is "tamei sefasayim" live through that?

If I were doing the translating I would go with the second interpretation of Radak.  "Nidmeisi" here is like "va'yidom Aharon" -- to be silent.  Yishayahu heard the angels and did nothing -- he didn't say anything.  When he came out of his shock, he bemoaned the fact that he had not responded in kind, he bemoaned the fact that his tamei lips (according to Rashi, why the stress on the lips)? were unworthy of uttering such holy praise. 

(I am not suggesting that Rashi is wrong or a mistranslation.  I am just saying that given the choice of one or the other, from a literary perspective I would go with Radak.)

1 comment:

  1. in other words, if Yisro, who once worshiped angels in themselves (among his many other practices), had heard what Yeshayahu heard (Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh...), he'd have rejoined on-the-spot, baruch kavod Hashem mi'm'komo, like one of the inspired ophanim or chayos (Yechezkel 3:12); his revolutionized spirit would be maximally alive to the deference of the seraphim; Yeshayahu learned thru self-disappointment that b'mokom she'baalei teshuvah omdim, ein tzadik gamur yachol la'amod