Tuesday, May 24, 2016

518 - Pekudei

The week's parsha begins, "These are the reckonings of the Mishkan, the Mishkan of Testimony, which were reckoned by Moshe" (Vayikra 38:21). Rashi, commenting on the redundancy in the pasuk, cites the Medrash which explains that the double mention of the Mishkan is the Torah's way of hinting to the two Batei Mikdash which were destroyed. They were both seized by Hashem as "collateral" - mashkon - in lieu of the debt created by the sins of Bnei Yisrael. Rav Wolbe (Daas Shlomo) offers a beautiful explanation of this Medrash.

Chazal exhort us (Yerushalmi Brachos 9:5) "Serve [Hashem] out of love and serve [Hashem] out of fear. Serve out of love because if you become inclined to hate, you will bear in mind that one who loves does not hate. Serve out of fear because if you decide to rebel, you will bear in mind that one who fears does not rebel." There are two possible relationships that one can have with Hashem; one of closeness or one of feeling distant. Both of these scenarios each have a positive and negative facet. Closeness can breed a tremendous love of Hashem. On the other hand, this closeness has the ability to develop into hatred. We find that Hashem said to Bnei Yisrael that if not for the fact that He rested His Shechina amongst them they would not have sinned in kivros ha'taava (Rashi to Bamidbar 11:20). Familiarity breeds contempt which in turn caused them to rebel against Hashem.

Disconnection obviously has the ability to breed hatred. Yet, there is also a positive side to this situation. The acknowledgment of the distance between the Creator and oneself, and the cognizance of the infinite greatness of Hashem in contrast to his own finiteness, will bring a person to yiras Shamayim. The Maharal explains that we refer to fear of Hashem as "yiras Shamayim"in contrast to love of Hashem which is not referred to as ahavas Shamayim. This is to emphasize the distance between man and his Creator: it is as great as the distance between heaven and earth.

Man is meant to utilize the inherent distance between him and his Creator to produce a fear of Hashem, and use the inborn closeness of being created in Hashem's image as a catalyst to obtain a deep love of Hashem. These two qualities will keep his relationship with Hashem in check. The love created by the closeness will prevent any feelings of hatred that might have been generated by the distance, and the fear borne out of the distance will preclude the possibility of any rebellious actions engendered by the closeness.

Yet, there is another situation which also exists. When the intensity of the closeness or distance is so strong, nothing in the world can change that situation. Chazal refer to the yetzer hara as "a foreign god." Its very essence is one of isolation and distance from Hashem and there is nothing that can be done to change that fact. The converse is also true. Chazal tell us, "A cherished one (Shlomo) the son of a cherished one (Dovid) will build a cherished edifice (the Bais Hamikdosh) for the Cherished One (Hashem) in the portion of the cherished one (Binyomin) wherein the cherished ones (Bnei Yisrael) will find forgiveness" (Yalkut Shemoni Shmuel II 12:149). We should be awestruck by Chazal's description of the intensity of the love between Hashem and Klal Yisrael. The connection is so deep that there is no way out of it.

With this idea in mind, we can appreciate the Rashi at the beginning of the parsha. Collateral is something which despite the fact that it is being held by the lender, nevertheless, remains to an extent in the possession of the borrower. Likewise, the love manifested by the Bais Hamikdosh, which was taken as collateral in lieu of the debt created by the iniquities of Bnei Yisrael, still remains intact despite their wayward behavior. The connection to Hashem is so intrinsic that there is nothing in the world that can sever that bond.

Appreciate the greatness of Klal Yisrael. No matter what and no matter when, they remain cherished beyond words. Even the destruction of the Bais Hamikdosh, and certainly any spiritually depraved situation in which one finds himself, cannot wipe away the tremendous love that Hashem has for us. Next time you daven, thank Hashem for the zechus of being part of the Chosen Nation. It's a fortune much greater than winning the billion dollar Powerball lottery!

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