I. Serving HaShem*
1. ‘Now I know that HaShem is greater then all the gods, for in the very thing that they sinned.’ (Shemos* 18.11) This verse is very hard to understand as the main point of the verse is missing. [What happened to them because of how they had sinned?] It appears to me that we can answer this according to the musar* I have taught in another place based on another verse. ‘And to You, Lord, is mercy, for you reward to each person according to his deeds.’ The Talmud* asks a question. It would appear that it is in accord with strictness of justice to reward a person according to his deeds. [And that it is not an act of mercy. However] it is [a true example of the] mercy of HaShem. [It is really an act of mercy for HaShem to act according to the principle of justice, and not the opposite as one would think.] This can be the meaning of the verse: ‘Now I know that HaShem is greater then all the gods.’ [Heb. elohim] The meaning is that He draws His mercy [the name HaShem is a remez* for midah* of Chesed* ] from the level of ‘elohim.’ [Which is a remez for HaShem’s midah of strict justice.] ‘For in the very thing that they sinned.’ This means that by His rewarding a person according to his actions, he is acting midah kenegid midah*. The person will know from this that he needs to do tshuva* and bring himself close to HaShem. This is the mercy of HaShem which is called ‘great.’ [Heb. gadol] [Therefore the verse] spoke well [when it said] ‘HaShem is greater.’ [This greatness] is drawn from ‘all the gods.’ [HaShem’s midah of mercy comes from his acting according to his midah of justice.] This can be understood by what I said in another place on the verse, ‘And Pharaoh approached.’ Look there [where he explains that according to the Zohar* the meaning is not that ‘Pharaoh approached’, but that ‘Pharaoh made the Jewish people to become close to HaShem.’ When he appeared they did tshuva.] According to this we can understand what the Talmud says. ‘A person is required to drink on Purim* until he does not know the difference between ‘Cursed is Haman’ and ‘Blessed is Mordechai.’ As the Talmud says, ‘The removal of the ring [of Haman] was greater then 48 prophets.’ [When Haman removed his ring he caused the Jewish people to do tshuva more then any of the prophets.] From this we understand that from ‘Cursed is Haman’ is drawn out ‘Blessed is Mordechai.’ With this we can also understand what the Talmud says: [The verse says,] ‘”To do the desire of each man.” Rava says that this refers to Haman and Mordechai.’ It is difficult to understand this as the desire of the one is the opposite of the other. [However the meaning is that] the desire of Haman causes the desire of Mordechai [to be actualized.] This [can be understood] according to what I heard from my teacher [the Baal Shem Tov] ZT’L* on the verse, ‘And capture its captivity.’ [He explains in another place that the meaning of this verse is that according to the complaint of the Yetzer HaRah* itself, a person learns how to overcome the Yetzer HaRah.] Therefore from the desire of Haman one can know how to do the desire of Mordechai with a strong desire and without laziness. (p. 248 sefer Tzifonis Peneach teachings of Rebbe* Yakov Yosef of Polnoye] * * * II. Attachment to HaShem 2. ‘And G-d spoke all these things, saying…’ (Shemos 20.1) Through the Torah a person can come to attachment [to HaShem.] That is the meaning of ‘All these things.’ [The reason that HaShem spoke these things was:] ‘saying, I am HaShem.’ This refers to attachment to HaShem. [The commandments were said in order that a person should be able to attach themselves to HaShem.] (p. 43 sefer Noam Elimeilech teachings of the Rebbe Reb* Elimeilech of Lizensk.) * * * III. HaShem’s special people. 3. ‘And now, if you will harken to My voice… And you will be a treasure to me more then all the other peoples.’ (Shemos 19.5) The Zohar says that the 613 mitzvos* are ‘advice from the Torah.’ Through them we are able to come to attachment to HaShem. [By observing the 613 mitzvos one can become attached to HaShem.] An example [of this idea is as follows.] With regards to medicines and healing. When there is a particular medicine for a particular illness there is usually someone who understands the reason that this particular medicine works for this illness. There are however some medicines that are effective and there is no one who understands the reason why this medicine works. It’s only that we see it works, and there is nothing anyone can answer [when asked why.] This is the meaning of the verse: ‘And now, if you will harken to My voice.’ If you shall do the mitzvos of HaShem. You will cause that ‘You will be a treasure [Heb. segulah] to me more then all the other peoples.’ According to this treasure [the mitzvos] you will be called ‘My people.’ Then there can be no answer to me. [Just as there are medicines that no one can say anything about, except that they work.] It is a ‘treasure’ for Me that you should be called My people. ‘Because all the world is Mine.’ Even though all of the world belongs to Me, I have chosen the Jewish people, the smallest of the nations. That is because they are a ‘treasure’ and no one is allowed to question this. (p. 39 sefer Mevasar Tzedek teachings of Rebbe Yissachar Dov of Zlotchov.) * * * IV. Avoiding temptation 4. ‘You shall not bow down to them and you shall not worship them.’ (Shemos 20.5) ‘You shall not bow down.’ This means that you should not make yourself a subject to anything that is contrary to the will of HaShem. Instead you should strengthen yourself over these things, which are foreign powers and foreign desires. ‘And you shall not worship them.’ This means that you should not make from them a ‘service’ to HaShem. You should not bring yourself into a trial [with your Yetzer HaRah] in order that you should overcome your Yetzer HaRah. Against this the verse warns us, ‘And you shall not worship them.’ [You should not act in this manner as a way of serving haShem.] The Talmud addresses this when it relates that one Amora*, ‘passed by the door of a house of prostitution in order to overcome the desire of his Yetzer* and from this gain a reward.’ The Talmud asks, ‘How can he do that?’ Rashi* explains that it means, ‘How can he rely on himself to go there and not fall into the hands of his Yetzer HaRah?’ >From this we see that a person is forbidden to bring himself into a trial. This is true even if his intention was to increase the honor of HaShem by his overcoming his Yetzer HaRah. This is ‘and you shall not worship them.’ (p. 51 Vol. 2 Sefer Mi Hashiloach teachings of Rebbe Mordechai Yosef of Izbitza.) * * * V. Winning over the Yetzer HaRah. 5. ‘And Yisro heard.’ (Shemos 18.1) There are three things, according to the teachings of Chazal*, that can help a person to counter the Yetzer HaRah. 1. Learning Torah*. 2. Saying Krias Shema* 3. Remembering the day he will die. With these three things one can overcome his Yetzer HaRah. This is what it says [in Rashi,] ‘What did he hear? He heard the splitting of the sea and the war with Amalek’. Some Midrashim [like the Mechilta*] add [he heard about] the giving of the Torah [on Mount Sinai.] The splitting of the sea is the sod* of Krias Shema as is explained in seforim. Split [the word] ‘sea’ [Heb. yom] in two. Half [of the word ‘sea’] is 25. This is the mystery of the 25 letters that are in the verse of Krias Shema. The war with Amalek is a remez that in the future Amalek will be destroyed, which is a remez to the day of one’s death. And [with regards to the Midrash] who says the giving of the Torah [we have learning Torah. We see that] there is a remez to all three of these ideas [in this verse.] And by overcoming his Yetzer HaRah, Yisro came and converted. (p. 70b sefer Ateres Yeshua teachings of Rebbe
Yehoshua of Dzikov.)
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.)
Copyright (c) 1997 by Moshe Shulman ([email protected]) All rights reserved.
Issur Hasugas Givilv