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To See G-dliness – Not Worldly Matters
Sichos in English

Shabbos Parshas R’ei; 27th Day of Menachem Av, 5750

This is the Shabbos on which we bless the month of Elul, the month of stocktaking and teshuva for the previous year. In this month we review our behavior of the previous year, intending to correct and improve it. In this way Elul serves as the month of preparation for the new year. Thus, the ultimate intention of our Divine service is reflected in this month. This is alluded to in the name Elul, which is an acronym for the Hebrew words meaning, “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine,” implying that we are intended to unite with G-d in a deep bond of love and closeness.

This bond has two dimensions: the arousal of the Jew’s desire for union with G-d through the service of Torah and mitzvos (“I am my Beloved’s”), and the expression of G-d’s love for the Jewish people (“…my Beloved is mine”). There are two patterns through which this inner bond is expressed, as reflected in two similar verses in Shir HaShirim that describe this marriage relationship. One verse, “My Beloved is mine and I am His,” implies that the relationship begins with Divine revelation, which is what stimulates the response of the Jewish people. Conversely, “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine,” implies that it is the Jewish people who initiate the relationship with G-d and He responds in turn to them.

This reflects the ultimate goal of a Jew’s service: service on one’s own initiative. Instead of responding to an arousal from Above — in which case one’s service is tinged with “the bread of shame” — the relationship is initiated by the Jewish people. In this way,  the bond is internalized to a greater degree than if the Jewish people’s service were aroused from Above.

Although the revelation from Above comes from a higher source than a created being can possible reach on its own, it is often not internalized. In contrast, when the revelation from Above is preceded by an arousal on the part of the Jewish people, it relates to the Jewish people’s inner dimension. Furthermore, it results in a loftier arousal from Above than would otherwise be revealed.

We see this pattern reflected in the Jewish marriage ceremony. Before the groom consecrates the bride, she walks around the groom seven times. This reflects an arousal from below (“…my Beloved is mine”) on the part of the recipient in order to arouse inner communication on behalf of the mashpia.

Although the emphasis in the month of Elul is on service on our own initiative (“I am my Beloved’s”), the name of the month also includes the second half of the verse, “…my Beloved is mine,” implying that Elul is also associated with the revelation from Above. This revelation comes in the following month of Tishrei. It is through the service of Elul that the connection with G-d’s essence, which brings about this revelation, is revealed. Thus, the revelation itself shares a connection with Elul. Elul represents a month of complete connection, including both the service of the Jewish people and the revelation from Above by G-d.

Parshas R’ei (meaning, see) contributes an important dimension to the above concept, teaching that the service of “I am my Beloved’s,” and similarly, all other aspects of our service of G-d, must be openly revealed — “seen.” Sight possesses a major advantage over hearing or the other senses. Seeing something makes a powerful and indelible impression upon a person’s thinking process. (For this reason, Torah law forbids a witness to an event from serving as a judge regarding it. Since he saw the event take place, he will never be able to have the objectivity necessary to protect the defendant.)

In contrast, when a person hears a concept, it can be second-guessed. Even when he pays attention to what is said and hears it from a reliable source, the impression hearing makes is not as powerful. Over the course of time as he reflects about the matter, or if he hears a different report, he may change his mind.

This is the message communicated by the opening verse of our Torah portion: “See, I am giving before you today…” G-dliness, Torah and mitzvos must be openly revealed — “seen.” They should not be considered merely as what is “heard about” and believed in. It would be an added element of one’s consciousness that, over time, could be affected by changes. Rather, an inner bond and powerful connection must be established that resembles the connection established through sight.

In a deeper sense, not only does sight create an essential and true connection with the person who sees, it should also reflect the essence of the object that is seen. One should be able to see beyond an object’s external dimensions and appreciate its inner truth.

This is implied by the words, “See, I...” What should a Jew see? The essence of G-dliness (“I”) and nothing else. A Jew should use the power of sight to relate to G-dliness, Torah, and mitzvos – not to worldly matters. The world was created by G-d in a way that allows nature to conceal its true G-dly life-force. When a person looks at the world (without thinking deeply), he sees its material dimensions. The intent, however, is for the person to know — to the point that he actually sees — that the truth is G-dliness, that G-d gives life to and maintains the existence of all creation.

To quote the Rambam: “‘The L-rd, your G-d, is true.’ He alone is true; there is no other truth that resembles His. This is what is meant by the Torah’s statement, ‘There is nothing else except Him,’ meaning there is no other true existence like Him.”

This direct experience of G-d should be so powerful that one should question the nature of the material world: Does it truly exist or is it just an illusion? Only the Torah’s statement “In the beginning, G-d created the world,” not the evidence of one’s eyes, should cause one to regard the world’s existence as having actual substance. Existence depends on G-d, “the living G-d,” and is channeled through Torah and mitzvos, “our life and the length of our days.”

Thus, when a Jew looks at the world, he should see (and establish a powerful internal bond with) the G-dly life-force that maintains the existence of the world. He should appreciate that “G-d is the place of the world, and the world is not His place.” Not only does G-dliness pervade all existence, but He is the truth of all existence.

Furthermore, we are given the potential to see “I,” Anochi, which refers to the essence of G-d. It is G-d’s essence, and G-d’s essence alone that “has the power to bring into being something from absolute nothingness.” As an example of the potential of our power of sight, our Sages relate that at Mount Sinai, the Jewish people saw G-d and His Merkava, the hidden dimension of G-dliness.

Our “seeing G-dliness” should not negate our individual existence or that of the world at large. On the contrary, “seeing G-dliness” means seeing the true existence of every being in the world, seeing how each element in the world is a reflection of G-d’s ultimate existence. A person should feel that G-d created him to be a “something,” and yet also realize that he is totally at one with G-d’s essence.

Similarly, one should see the physical existence of the world, but appreciate that existence as an expression of G-d’s handicraft. He should perceive how each creation exists “for the sake of the Torah and for the sake of the Jewish people.” For example, when one sees the stars, one should appreciate how they are a metaphor for the measureless numbers of Jews; when one sees the moon, one should appreciate how it is a metaphor for the potential of renewal that exists within the Jewish people.

Each word in the verse, “See I am giving before you today,” provides us with a significant lesson. “See” emphasizes that one must approach existence in a manner of sight. “I” (Anochi) signifies the essence of G-d. “Giving” indicates that G-d has granted us power – and “whoever gives, gives generously.” “Before you” (lifneichem) is associated with the quality of p’nimiyus (inner dimension). The p’nimiyus of G-d is drawn down to the p’nimiyus of a Jew. “Today” teaches that the above is not merely a historical narrative (or even a history that is relived from time to time), but rather, a present day event, relevant at all times — “Each day, it should be new for you.”

A similar concept applies to our souls. The ultimate level of service is that a Jew sees openly the true nature of his G-dly soul. This means that he should become conscious of his soul, not only his body. He should appreciate the essence of his soul, the dimension of Anochi clothed within him, the level of yechida. The essential G-dliness of the soul should express itself in all the powers of the soul. Furthermore, the body itself should be seen as an expression of G-dliness, with its physical form a reflection of the name, Havaya.

The service of R’ei, revealing
G-dliness within a person’s individual soul, prepares him for the service of R’ei in the world at large. This service reveals how “Everything the Holy One, blessed be He, created in His world, He created solely for His glory.”

This leads to Parshas Shoftim, which describes the practical application of Torah law through the appointment of judges and officers who establish a system of justice and morality, expressing the latter concepts in actual deed.

The above should also influence our service in the month of Elul, which is associated with an increase in Torah study. The unity with G-d alluded to in the verse, “I am my Beloved’s” and in particular, its open revelation, R’ei, is accomplished through Torah study. Torah is “one with the Holy One, blessed be He” and reveals how “Israel and the Holy One, blessed be He, are one.”

To explain: A Jew must devote his own intellect to study Torah. But before he does so, he must approach the Torah with self-nullification (which is expressed through reciting the blessings before Torah study). He must strive to ascend from his frame of reference to the Torah (and not, G-d forbid, bring the Torah down to his level). In this manner, he establishes “a perfect union” with the Torah and with G-d. By comprehending the Torah, G-d’s will and wisdom, one unites with G-d Himself, for “He and His wisdom are one.”

Elul is also associated with an increase in deeds of kindness and tzedaka in the spirit of “Love your fellowman as yourself.” The fulfillment of this command is dependent on the service of R’ei. The only way a person can truly love another person as himself is when he sees openly his own G-dly nature and appreciates that same G-dliness in the other Jew. He must realize that “we share one father and...all Jews are called brothers because of the source of their soul in the one G-d.”

Unless a person openly perceives these qualities, it is impossible for him to have true ahavas Yisroel. We are motivated primarily by our own self-interest. Even the Torah teaches us, “Your own life takes precedence.” Only when one appreciates that one’s true self and that of another Jew are the same, is there a possibility for complete love. This, in turn, leads to an increase in the activities that reflect this love, including an increase in tzedaka.

The lesson from Parshas R’ei also teaches us an important concept relevant within the context of the stocktaking and personal evaluation characterizing the service of the month of Elul. A Jew should appreciate Torah and mitzvos, not as an obligation he must fulfill, but as an expression of love for G-d. Furthermore, he should not wait for an arousal from Above to begin this service, but must begin on his own initiative. He has the potential to carry out the service of “I am my Beloved’s,” which leads to the revelation of “…my Beloved is mine” in the month of Tishrei.

This service can be carried out in a manner of R’ei, which implies that G-dliness can be seen openly to the extent that it is one’s first and primary appreciation of reality – that all worldly matters are secondary.

In addition to carrying out this service with regard to himself, one should also endeavor to explain it to his family, his acquaintances, and other Jews he meets. This should lead to an increase in Torah study, particularly public sessions of Torah study, and an increase in ahavas Yisroel and its expression in deeds of kindness and tzedaka.

May this lead to the time when we see the third Beis HaMikdash openly revealed on this earthly plane. This is particularly relevant at present, when we see the signs portending the Messianic Redemption mentioned by our Sages.

It is significant to cite a passage from the Yalkut Shimoni which has been publicized in recent weeks: “Rabbi Yitzchok declared: In the year when the Messianic king will come, all the gentile nations will challenge one another. The King of Persia will challenge an Arab king and the Arab king will go to Aram for advice. The King of Persia will then destroy the entire world. All the nations of the world will panic and become frightened, falling on their faces, suffering contractions, like labor pains. The Jewish people will also panic and become frightened, asking, will we go? Where will we go?’ [G-d will then reveal Himself, and] tell them: ‘My children, you need not fear. Everything I did, I did for your sake. Why are you frightened?... The time for your redemption has come.’

“This ultimate redemption will not resemble the first redemption, which was followed by aggravation and subjugation to other powers. After the ultimate redemption, there will be no aggravation and subjugation to other powers. Our Sages taught: When the Messianic king will come, he will stand on the roof of the Beis HaMikdash and call out to the Jewish people, ‘Humble ones, the time for your redemption has come.’” (Yalkut Shimoni, Yeshayahu 499)

Everyone should realize that there is no reason to be frightened. We have the promise: “The time for your redemption has come.” May we see Moshiach standing on the roof of the Beis HaMikdash, and may he announce: “Moshiach is here.”



What should a Jew see? The essence of G-dliness (“I”) and nothing else. A Jew should use the power of sight to relate to G-dliness, Torah, and mitzvos – not to worldly matters.





This direct experience of G-d should be so powerful that one should question the nature of the material world: Does it truly exist or is it just an illusion?


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