See G-dliness – Not Worldly Matters
Parshas R’ei; 27th Day of Menachem Av, 5750
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.’
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)
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.”