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Parshas Ve’era ~ Torah Gems

Ve’era

I. Fear and Love of HaShem

1. ‘And G-d said to Moshe, and He said to him, “I am HaShem*” ‘(Shemos* 6.2) It appears to me that we can explain this verse according to what it says in the Talmud*. “For the wicked, in the beginning they have peace and at the end suffering. For the Tzaddikim* in the beginning they have suffering and at the end peace.” We can explain this teaching in this way. The Tzaddik needs to serve HaShem in the beginning with fear and to protect himself from his Yetzer HaRah*.  He should break his desires for physical things. That is the meaning of ‘In the beginning they have suffering.’ After they have broken their physical desires, their Yetzer HaRah makes peace with them. This is ‘his end is peace.’ [First he serves with ‘fear’ and then he comes to the level of ‘love’.] That is the meaning of the verse, “And G-d said.” [Heb. V’yadaber Elokim] “Saying’ implies a strong manner of speech. And ‘G-d’ refers to the level of fear. [This is because this name of G-d is usually used when there are instances of G-d punishing people or doing other actions showing His power.] ‘And He said [Heb. v’yomer] to him, “I am HaShem.”‘ [Then] when he comes to the level of ‘love,’ which is indicated by the name ‘HaShem.’ [This name of G-d is used when G-d shows his love and gives a reward.] Then it is ‘speech’ [Heb. amerah] which is a softer manner of speech. This can be the meaning of what Rashi* said, ‘”And G-d said.” He spoke to him strongly, words of judgement, because he [Moshe] questioned His actions and said, “Why have you done evil to this people.”‘ As the Midrash* says, ‘And he [Moshe] spoke improperly against heaven.’ The truth is that Moshe did not speak improperly. Only because of his great love of the Jewish people [he complained to HaShem about what happened.] This shows the great love of the Jewish people that HaShem has. The explanation is: ‘And G-d said.’ Even though it was worthy of HaShem to speak strongly [to Moshe] because he spoke improperly. However [Moshe had spoken that way] because of his great love of the Jewish people, and his great love of HaShem. Therefore [the verse continues] ‘And He spoke to him, “I am HaShem”‘ A soft speech showing His love. This is the meaning of what King David prayed, ‘Raise [up] to your servant your speech [Heb. Amroschah] The meaning being that HaShem should help him to attain the level of love which the word ‘speech’ is a remez*. [The verse continues] ‘Which is for the one who fears You.’ The meaning is that this [type of] love [is the type] from which one can come to have fear. [Which is] the fear of His greatness.  [This is the highest level of the fear of HaShem.] (p. 33 sefer Noam Elimeilech, teachings of the Rebbe Reb* Elimeilech of Lizensk)                                 * * * II. Mercy and goodness 2. ‘And G-d said to Moshe, and He said to him,”I am HaShem” ‘ (Shemos 6.2) I will first explain the verse, ‘For His anger is for a moment, life is from His will.’ The meaning is that even though there is a moment when HaShem is angry. It is also the case that ‘life is from His will.’ His will is compassionate, and [He desires] that there should be life in all the worlds. For that reason he causes us to suffer in this world. From [this suffering] we come to life in the world to come. This is what the verse says: ‘And G-d said to Moshe.’ [This indicates that HaShem comes] with strong judgement. Even though this is the case, ‘I am HaShem’ full of compassion. This is also what we pray, ‘HaShem show us your mercy.’ The truth is that we believe that even the punishments [that happen to us in this world] are good. As the Talmud says, ‘All that the merciful one does is done for good.’ Even so, we ask that HaShem should show us mercy. He should do open acts of mercy with us. That is the simple meaning of the blessing which we say, ‘Who bestows good [acts of] mercy.’ [How could there be bad acts of mercy? The meaning is that they should be] revealed acts of mercy [and not ones that we do not see clearly.] (p. 10 sefer Toras Shimon, teachings of Rebbe* Shimon of Yaroslav.)                                 * * * 3. ‘And G-d said to Moshe, and He said to him,”I am HaShem” ‘ (Shemos 6.2) HaShem said to Moshe, ‘According to your understanding everything that I have done in Egypt with my people Israel was done with strict judgement.  However the truth is not that way. ‘I am HaShem.’  i.e. the name [that denotes] mercy. Everything was [done with] compassion and great mercy, but hidden. Therefore [the verse continues] ‘Say to them.’ From now on I will do for them open acts of mercy so that even they will recognize that they are acts of mercy. (p. 59 sefer Toras Avos teachings of the Rebbes of Lechovitz, Kobrin and Solonim.)                                 * * * III. Reward 4. ‘I shall redeem you with an outstretched hand, and great judgments.’ (Shemos 6.6) Chazal* say in the Talmud, ‘The wicked are judged by their Yetzer HaRah. The Tzaddikim are judged by their Yetzer Tov*.’ [The meaning is this.] The ‘judgement’ and way of the Yetzer HaRah is to convince the person to listen to him. [It tells him] if he will serve HaShem he will not attain the enjoyment of this world. However the truth is: what is the value of this world? [The true value is the reward in the world to come.] However the Yetzer Tov comes with great judgments. If he brings himself to the service of HaShem, he will merit to the world to come. [The enjoyments of that world] are infinitely greater [then this world.] They are endless. If he accepts these ‘great judgments’ then ‘I will redeem them’ for the world to come. (p. 60 sefer Toras Avos teachings of the Rebbes of Lechovitz, Kobrin and Solonim.)                                 * * * IV. Serving HaShem 5. ‘And HaShem shall distinguish between the flocks of the Egyptians… And none died from all those belonging to the children of Israel.’ (Shemos 9.4) It is well known the teaching of the Zohar* that the foundation of the service of HaShem is: Whether things are going well or not he should not [let it] disturb his service [of HaShem.] His heart should not wax and cause him to rebel [against HaShem] from all the many good things and the riches that HaShem bestows on him.  Likewise it should not be that poverty should cause him to violate the will of HaShem.  Either way he should strengthen himself in the service of HaShem. This is the meaning of the verse: ‘And HaShem shall distinguish.’ This refers to the one who has separated himself to HaShem. The one who serves HaShem. ‘Between the flocks of the Egyptians [Heb. Mitzraim] and the flocks of Israel.’ Whether ones possessions and livelihood come in a small amount, [Heb. Metzer] or they are in a large amount. The word ‘Israel’ [Heb Yisroel] is a language of ‘greatness.’ As the verse says [Yakov was given the name of Yisroel because] he strove with the angel. No matter what occurs, nothing should restrain him from the service that is required of the children of Israel. This is the meaning of, ‘And none died from all those belonging to the children of Israel.’

There is nothing that occurs [to the servant of HaShem] to restrain him, or cause him confusion [from doing] what relates to him and is a required service for the Jewish people. The person who does this is called ‘separated to HaShem alone’ in all of his affairs. (p. 79 sefer Imrei Noam teachings of Rebbe Meir of Dzikov.)

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Glossary:

Arizal: Hebrew initials of the words: Adoni Rabbenu Yitzchok    Zechorono LeVaracha our master Rabbi Yitzchok. Better known as    Yitzchok Luria the great 16th century Kabbalist
Chazal: Hebrew initials for: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha (Our sages of Blessed memory) Used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud.
HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name
HY’D: Heb. HaShem Yimkom Domov: HaShem should avenge their blood.
Mishleh: One of the books of the Tenach, called in English Proverbs.
Mitzvah (mitzvos): One of the commandments of the Torah.
nashama: Hebrew word for soul.
peshat: A method of Biblical interpretation based on finding the simple meaning in the Torah.
Rashi: The primary commentary on the Tenach.
Rebbe: Leader of a Chassidic group or a teacher
Shabbos: Tractate in the Talmud
Shemos: Second book of the Torah. Called Exodus in English
Talmid (Talmidim): Disciples of a Rebbe.
Talmud: An ancient work of Jewish law.
Tehillim: Hebrew name for Psalms.
Torah: a. First 5 books of the Jewish Bible            b. Also refers to the whole of Jewish law            c. also common term for a chassidic teaching

Tshuva: Hebrew word for repentance

Tzaddik (Tzaddikim): lit. Righteous. Another name for a Chassidic Rebbe.
Yetzer: lit. Inclination. It is Jewish belief that every Jew has both an evil and good inclination within him, that are at ‘war’ to see which of them the person will follow.
Yetzer Tov: Heb. Good Inclination
Yetzer HaRah: Heb. Evil Inclination.
ZT’L: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechor Tzaddik LeVaracha (The memory of a Tzaddik – Righteous person is a blessing.)
ZY’A: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechiso Yagan Aleinu (His merit should protect us.)
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