Monday, April 22, 2013

353 - Vayeitzei

This week's parsha recounts Yaakov's prophetic dream. The Torah tells us that he dreamt that Hashem was standing over him. The Gemara (Chullin 91b) elaborates that when the angels perceived Yaakov's image etched into Hashem's throne, they became jealous and as a result wished to harm Yaakov. Therefore, Hashem stood above Yaakov in order to protect him. From this incident we can glean the greatness of man: He can reach a spiritual level greater than that of the angels to the point that his image will become etched into the Throne of Glory.

Rav Wolbe in his introduction to the second volume of Alei Shur writes that he is basing his sefer upon the concept of adam - man. He then proceeds to ask the following question: Since the Torah and mitzvos are the manifestation of Hashem's will and therefore the essential aspect of Judaism, why is he placing such an emphasis on the person himself? In other words one could ask, "What is the most fundamental aspect of Judaism: the Torah or the person who upholds the laws of the Torah?"  The answer can be found in the following Tanna D'bei Eliyahu (14).

"I (Eliyahu Hanavi) was once walking and a man approached me with a question: 'I have two things in this world that I love totally and completely: the Torah and Yisroel. Which one deserves preference?' I answered him, 'My child, most people would say that the Torah deserves preference for it is written "Hashem acquired me (the Torah) - the first of His ways". However, I say that Yisroel deserve preference for it is written, "Holy are Yisroel to Hashem - the first of His crop". This is comparable to a king whose wife and child were living in a certain house. The king wrote to the others living there, 'If not for my wife and child who are also living in that house I would have destroyed the entire place.' Likewise, if not for the Bnei Yisrael, the world would not have been created."

Rav Wolbe explains Eliyahu Hanavi's answer. The king's wife, whom he "acquired", represents the Torah which was acquired by Hashem. The king's child, the first of his "crop", represents Bnei Yisrael, the firstborn of Hashem. To be sure, both the Torah and Bnei Yisrael are important and are called "the first". However, the purpose, "the crop", of the creation is Bnei Yisrael. The purpose of the Torah is, that Bnei Yisrael in general and each person specifically, should reach the highest possible level of perfection.

Our Sages write (Pesachim 49b) that the Torah is likened to a betrothed woman for we find that the Torah writes, "Moshe taught us the Torah, (morasha) an inheritance for the congregations of Yaakov." Do not read it morasha (an inheritance) rather me'orasa (a betrothed). Why is the Torah compared to the wife of he who studies its laws? Would it not be more appropriate to describe it as the crown that adorns the head of the scholar who studies its precepts? The answer is that the Torah is the "eizer k'negdo" (helpmate) of the talmid chochom. The Torah, like one's wife, can help a person grow spiritually infinitely. The goal toward which we strive is perfection - to the best of our ability.

Adam Harishon had extraordinary abilities. His spiritual perfection allowed him to perceive what was occurring in the far corners of the Earth and up to the heights of the heavens. After he sinned he lost this ability, but not the capability to regain the previous level of perfection. Slowly but surely, beginning with Avraham Avinu and culminating with Matan Torah, Bnei Yisrael regained their former glorious status. This awesome spiritual level lasted for merely a few days until they once again lost their footing with the sin of the golden calf. The purpose of the Torah and the luchos shnios was to help them reclaim their prior magnificent madreigah. 

Shleimus Ha'adom (perfection of man) is what we aim for, and Torah is the conduit through which we can materialize this goal. However, we must not think that by a mere perfunctory performance of the mitzvos we will automatically reach shleimus. In the service of Hashem nothing comes automatically! Every mitzva performed earns reward, but shleimus only comes if one puts his heart into its performance and works on achieving perfection. Every step requires effort, but the realization of the magnificence attainable by a human being should be enough to encourage us to take the time to work on reaching this summit for which all of Bnei Yisroel must strive.

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