Friday, January 07, 2005

Parshat Va'eira

My totally schizo dvar Torah for this Shabbat...
     This week’s parsha, Parshat Va’eira, starts out with HaShem appearing to Moshe and telling him, “I am HaShem. I appeared to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Yacov as El Shakkei, but with My Name HaShem I did not make Myself known to them. Moreover, I established My Covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their sojourning, in which they sojourn. Moreover, I have heard the groan of the Children of Israel whom Egypt enslaves and I have remembered My covenant.”
     Now, I thought it was interesting that HaShem mentioned that He did not appear to the avot with the name HaShem, so I went to Beresheit to find the first time the name HaShem is used. Lo and behold, I found that the first mention of the name HaShem comes right after the mention of Shabbat and in conjunction the creation of man and subsequently, the creation of the etz hada’at. “These are the products of the heaven and the earth when they were created in the day that HaShem God made earth and heaven—now all the trees of the field were not yet on the earth and all the herb of the field had not yet sprouted, for HaShem God had not sent rain upon the earth and there was no man to work the soil. A mist ascended from the earth and watered the whole surface of the soil. And HaShem God formed the man of dust from the ground, and He blew into his nostrils the soul of life; and man became a living being. HaShem God planted a garden in Eden, to the east, and placed there the man whom He had formed. And HaShem God caused to sprout from the ground every tree that was pleasing to the sight and good for food; also the Tree of Life in the midst of the garden, and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad.”
     The name HaShem appears five times in the above passage. It also appears five times in the complete quote from this week’s parsha… “Therefore, say to the Children of Israel: ‘I am HaShem, and I shall take you out from under the burdens of Egypt; I shall rescue you from their service; I shall redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I shall take you to Me for a people and I shall be a God to you; and you shall know that I am HaShem your God, Who takes you out from under the burdens of Egypt. I shall bring you to the land about which I raised My hand to give it to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yacov; and I shall give it to you as a heritage—I am HaShem.’” There must be a parallel.
     The Abarbanel says that God’s underlying intention in creating man was that he’d strive to emulate HaShem. What HaShem wanted was Adam and Chava communing with God and gaining perfection of wisdom through HaShem—all together. So HaShem made everything in Gan Eden readily available to Adam and Chava so that they wouldn’t have any concerns.
     The Etz HaDa’at was symbolic, according to the Abarbanel. It represented the need for physical pursuits. HaShem made this tree accessible to Adam and Chava because we need limitations to grow and HaShem was being m’chanech them. Although they had everything else to eat from, the two of them started pining after physical pursuits that they didn’t need. God’s intention in providing them with everything was that they wouldn’t be diverted by physical things and able to focus on their personal development.
     Our time in Egypt was crucial for us to bring Mashiach because it was in Egypt that we became a people. Had we not been forced to keep to ourselves (I highly doubt that slaves were allowed to mingle about like the natives of Egypt were), who’s to say that bnei Yisrael would have stuck so closely together? It was after we were taken out that we accepted HaShem and the religion of Judaism…we were a people first.
     Then, of course, we had to be taken out of Egypt because it was impossible to focus on anything but the physical labor and pain that we suffered from while there. To work on personal development, to push forward and achieve what HaShem had planned for man to achieve in Gan Eden, we had to be brought to Eretz Yisrael.
     In his Sefer Kuzari, R’Yehuda HaLevi writes, “There are sites in the Holy Land what are without doubt worthy of being called ‘the gates of Heaven’ We find that when Yacov had his prophetic dream (Beresheit 28), he did not attribute the vision he saw to the purity of his soul or to his deep faith or to his integrity, but to the significance of the place itself, as he said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other but the House of God, and this is the gate of heave.’ Earlier, his arrival there was described, ‘He encountered the place’ (28:11), indicating its special nature.
     When Avraham, the very root of the chosen Am Yisrael, was found worthy of Divine revelation, HaShem removed him from his birthplace and set him in the one land in which he could attain perfection” (as translated by Rabbi Avrohom Davis).
     It is possible to experience spiritual growth anywhere, but it is easiest to achieve higher levels of spirituality in Eretz Yisrael. R’Yehuda HaLevi gives an excellent example to illustrate his point. “When an agriculturist finds a good fruit bearing tree in a wilderness, he transplants it into properly tilled ground to improve it and cause it to grow there. He changes it from a wild fruit tree into a cultivated one, from a tree which bore fruit by chance, into one which produces a regular, bountiful crop. This can happen only if done at the proper time and in the proper place.”
     Of course we can grow anywhere—but it’s an unpredictable growth. It is only when Am Yisrael, the nation we became when HaShem redeemed us from Egypt, is living in Eretz Yisrael, that we can grow to the level HaShem had planned for us to in Beresheit, and bring the world back to the level we need to be at for the era of Mashiach to be among us.

Shabbat Shalom!

6 Shpeils

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Um, that's far more impressive than my itty bitty synopsis at Jewlicious.

TM

Friday, January 07, 2005 3:34:00 PM  

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Blogger BrownsvilleGirl said...

Thanks!
Trying to develop my thought so that I can be an undercover-(I'm female)-rabbi-in-training.

Friday, January 07, 2005 3:39:00 PM  

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, you don't have to be undercover if you join movements other than Orthodox Judaism.

Friday, January 07, 2005 4:17:00 PM  

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Blogger elder punk of zion said...

there are fringe orthodox shuls with female rabbis
lol
OTD forever!!

Sunday, January 09, 2005 12:06:00 AM  

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Blogger BrownsvilleGirl said...

True, TM.
But I don't agree with the Reform movement...Reconstructionism doesn't do it for me...I like the Conservative movement's ideas, but I don't like how it's practiced...so I'll stick with Orthodoxy until I find something more appealing. :)

Sunday, January 09, 2005 12:51:00 AM  

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fair enough, undercover rabbi you are...

Sunday, January 09, 2005 1:37:00 AM  

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