28 May 2021

Rabbi Winston: Beha’alosecha – Igniting the Soul

LAST WEEK’S PARSHA ended with the Chanukas Hamizbayach, vis-a-vis all the gifts the princes of each tribe brought for the occasion. This week’s parsha begins with the mitzvah of lighting the Menorah, causing Rashi to question the juxtaposition. He explains that because Aharon’s tribe Levi had not participated in the inauguration ceremony, it made Aharon believe that it was because of his involvement in the golden calf, and he felt dejected. So G–D told him: 

“By your life, yours is greater than theirs, for you will light and prepare the lamps.” (Rashi, Bamidbar 8:1)


The Ramban rejects Rashi’s explanation saying that if this was meant to be Aharon’s consolation, it wasn’t much consolation. Any kohen could have done the mitzvah of lighting the Menorah, so what was special about it? Furthermore, the gifts brought by the princes of each tribe were voluntary, whereas lighting the Menorah was an obligation, making it far less personal.


Instead the Ramban says that the consolation for Aharon was a prophecy about how it would be the kohanim, in the future, who would heroically re-dedicate the Temple in the time of the Chashmonaim. The Pri Tzaddik adds to this that the Menorah would continue to be kindled by families all over the world even after the Temple was no longer standing. So the mitzvah of Menorah, unlike the inauguration-offerings of the tribes, was not a one-time thing. It was eternal. 


To this we can add another idea. Rather than view the mitzvah of kindling the Menorah as a separate matter altogether, it should be considered to be the continuation and crowning achievement of the Chanukas Hamizbayach. It should be understood as the climax of all that took place before it, just as we read the parsha on Zos Chanukah. Then the Torah reading continues from the end of the offerings to the lighting of the Menorah, making Aharon’s consolation:


“By your life, yours is greater than theirs, for you will light and prepare the lamps, which will be the culmination and completion of all that preceded it!”


How so? The answer to this question is actually in the way the Menorah was to be kindled: 


Speak to Aharon and say to him: “When you light the lamps, the seven lamps shall cast their light toward the face of the Menorah.” (Bamidbar 8:2) 


The six on the six branches; the three eastern ones—that is their wicks—facing towards the center one, and likewise, the three western ones, the tops of their wicks facing toward the center one. Why [were the wicks facing inwards, thus giving off so little light]? So that [people] should not say that He [G–D] needs the light. (Rashi)


All that trouble to produce light, just to send the message that G–D doesn’t need our light? Really?


THE TALMUD SAYS that if someone wants to be wealthy, they should face slightly “north” during the Amidah because the Shulchan, which represented parnassah, was placed to the north of the Heichel in the Mishkan and Temple. But if a person wants to be wise, the Talmud continues, they should face slightly south since the Menorah was placed on the south side (Bava Basra 25b). 


You might just call this a “segulah,” something done to try and trigger a specific result. For example, and this comes straight from the Talmud (Krisos 5b), we do segulos on Rosh Hashanah night at the seudah to “encourage” a positive judgment. The most obvious and universal Rosh Hashanah segulah is dipping apple in honey for a sweet new year.


How does eating something delicious and sweet add merit to our judgment in Heaven? Well, kabbalistically both an apple and honey allude to matters of specific deep Torah significance. It could be that we’re connecting to something important by doing the segulah specifically on that night. 


Other segulos might just be a play on words to focus us, and Heaven, on what we need or want. Therefore, some people like eating as part of their list of Rosh Hashanah segulos, a raison with celery to ask G–D for a “raison celery,” that is, a “raise in salary.” I did it one year and received as a bonus a box of raisons and package of celery. Just kidding.


But what about facing south in the “direction” of the Menorah? Just another segulah, or is it something far more profound?


It is pointed out that the word “chochmah—wisdom” spelled Ches-Chof-Mem-Heh, also spells “koach mah” when the first two letters are inverted. “Koach” means “strength,” but it can also mean “energy” or “potential, etc.” The word “mah” means “what,” which can also refer to anything that exists, making a statement out of the two words: the energy of everything. That is true wisdom, the knowledge of What it is that has given rise to all that exists, and what sustains it.


That being so, the mah alludes to something even deeper. It is the gematria (Mem=40, Heh=5) of G–D’s “expanded” Name, in which each letter of the Name, seen and invisible, is written out. The letter Yud is written Yud-Vav-Dalet, the Heh is Heh-Aleph, the Vav is Vav-Aleph-Vav, and Heh again is Heh-Aleph. If only the visible letters are used, the gematria is 26. With the added “invisible” letters, an additional (10+1+7+1=) 19 is added to the total, making it 45. Hence its Name, “Shem M”H,” the “Name of Mah—45.”


This name specifically corresponds to the six sefiros of Chesed, Gevurah, Tifferes, Netzach, Hod, and Yesod (see Perceptions: Emor). They are the levels of sefiros that have governed human history until today, each sefirah being “responsible” for a respective millennium. Each of them has embodied a particular aspect of G–D’s light and will, which has provided the potential for its corresponding millennium. 


In fact, according to Kabbalah, it is this level of sefiros (collectively called “Zehr Anpin”) that actually corresponds to the Name of G–D, “Hakadosh Boruch Hu,” The Holy One, Blessed Is He. Therefore, “koach M”H” means that our world was made and is sustained by the energy of The Holy One, Blessed Is He. G–D, for short. 


Knowledge can deceive a person into thinking that G–D does not exist, or that He does not get involved in the world of man. 


Wisdom is knowing that He does.


SHABBOS IS THE cornerstone of a Torah lifestyle:


Shabbos Kodesh is the great sign and covenant that The Holy One, Blessed is He, gave to the Jewish people, to know that in six days G–D made Heaven and earth and everything in them, and rested on the seventh day. It is the foundation of emunah to know that the world is renewed, and that there isn’t any nature or happenstance in the world. Also, that every day and every moment The Holy One, Blessed is He, renews and sustains the world, as it says, “Who renews Creation every day in His goodness,” and it says, “You give life to everything.” The Creator, may His Name be blessed, is the Master of everything, and we are His servants who are obligated to perform His will and to serve him with our entire bodies, souls, and belongings. (Hilchos Shabbos B’S habbos, Rabbi Mordechai Moshe Karp, Section 1:1)


Shabbos is about a lot more than simply abstaining from certain creative activities for about 26 hours. It is about more than cleaning up and eating good food. All of that it just to help us accomplish the real point of Shabbos, to reach a higher level of consciousness elaborated on in the quote above. 


It would even be a good idea to read it each week before Shabbos comes in, to make sure that you do the mitzvah properly. It would be a shame to go through all that preparation and barely do the mitzvah, as so many people undoubtedly do. How many times have I caught myself discussing things at the Shabbos table that would imply the opposite message? Far too many…


The Talmud says that Shabbos is one-sixtieth of the World-to-Come (Brochos 57b). This might mean different things to different people, depending upon how they define the World-to-Come. But this is how the Talmud describes it: 


A favorite saying of Rav was: [The future world is not like this world.] In the future world there is no eating nor drinking nor propagation nor business nor jealousy nor hatred nor competition, but the righteous sit with their crowns on their heads feasting on the brightness of the Divine Presence, as it says, “And they saw G–D, and ate and drank” (Shemos 24:11). (Brochos 17a)


This is the true meaning of beha’alosecha. The igniting of the candles, which are always a metaphor for the soul, is the igniting of our soul. Just as the kohen who lit the Menorah had to make sure they burned independently, likewise must a person make their soul “burn” independently for G–D. Just as the flame must point towards the center one, which points Heavenward, likewise must a person’s soul ascend towards G–D, even while still functioning in a physical and mundane body.


We’re here to reveal and see G–D, not to “bury” Him under the veil of nature and behind the words and statements of people who are barely conscious of Him, if at all. That’s why the mitzvah of lighting the Menorah was the culmination of everything before it, and Aharon was left out of the first part and saved for the second part. 


I WROTE A book about this called “Living Higher.” I am now working on the sequel called “Landing Higher,” which shows why Eretz Yisroel is crucial for being able to live higher. We’ll talk more about this next week, b”H, when we return to the debacle of the spies.


I used to check the news religiously. As a writer about current events from a Torah/geulah perspective, I felt obligated to do so. But then the Trump-Clinton election took over, and the continuous flow of lies and slander turned my stomach, and I just couldn’t look anymore. If I have to know something, I find out about it…sooner or later. 


I have been criticized for this over the years, but it doesn’t really bother me. The spiritual bliss I gained far outweighs any disadvantage people have told me I “suffer” from. In the meantime, all I have noticed is their consternation from staying on top of the news, and every time they complain about the bad they see or hear, my decision is greatly reinforced. 


The best part is the realization of just how much looking at the world through the eyes of G–Dless people, or at least people who do not properly understand how G–D runs His world, tied me down to a more mundane level of consciousness. Even so-called religious news outlets report events in ways that can deceive the average untrained mind. They forget to take the story back to G–D Himself and ask, “What is G–D telling us?”


There really is no CNN or Fox News, etc., or a Palestinian enemy or an unsympathetic-to-Israel UN. They certainly exist, but as instruments of G–D’s will. 


He built them. He controls them. He tells their anchor people what to say. He creates the news just so they will interpret it in their biased ways, to get at us. If something, or someone talks about or to us, it is G–D. We ought to pay close attention in order to figure out what it is He wants us to know, before He makes the situation worse.


In Sha’ar Bitachon of “Duties of the Heart,” the author explains that G–D lets a Jew believe whatever they want. But he adds that if that thing is something other than G–D, then the person will be subject to all of the problems of the world they have bought into, without G–D to help them. G–D will leave them in the “care” of the “idol” they have chosen to worship to see how well that works out. 


But for the person who sees past the veil of nature, deception, and hypocrisy, and doesn’t stop until they get to G–D Himself, there is only ascension. Hence, the Talmud says that anyone who “eats” the three meals of Shabbos will be spared the travails of Chevlei Moshiach—the birth pangs of Moshiach (Shabbos 118a). Given what Rabbi Karp said above, you can be certain it is talking about more than eating the physical food itself. If anything, it is talking about the spiritual “food” to which beha’alosecha alludes, and Aharon Hakohen “served” to the nation.


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