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In The Garden Of The Torah
Insights of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Shlita
on the weekly Torah Readings


Behar-Bechukosai 5754

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Publisher's Foreword

As explained in the essays which follow, the two parshiyos Behar and Bechukosai represent opposite thrusts.

Nevertheless, they are combined together on a single Shabbos and provide us with a message that fuses together these conflicting influences.

Today, everyone who is associated with the Lubavitch movement feels pulled by conflicting influences.

On one hand, there is a cogent feeling of nearness to the coming of Mashiach. And yet, the Rebbe Shlita, Melech HaMashiach, remains confined within a hospital with no significant signs of improvement in his condition.

This creates cognitive dissonance - an inner friction resulting from the presence of antithetical ideas.

If the Rebbe is Mashiach, and will be revealed soon, our minds ask, how can he be sick? It is difficult for us to bear the two opposites, because mortal minds cannot tolerate being pulled in two directions simultaneously.

Mashiach's coming, however, will elevate the way our minds work, opening them up to a new way of understanding. And as his coming becomes a more imminent reality, we are challenged to move beyond our ordinary way of thinking.

Studying the teachings of the Rebbe Shlita, Melech HaMashiach, provides us with a foretaste of the new way of thinking which we will experience in the Era of the Redemption.

May studying these teachings enable us to come near this new approach to thought without further challenges. And may this study arouse G-d's blessings, including the blessings which are most necessary at present: the complete and immediate recovery of the Rebbe Shlita and his consummate revelation as Melech HaMashiach.

23 Iyar, 5754


Pride That Runs Deeper Than Self

Adapted from:
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. I, p. 276ff;
Vol. XXII, p. 159ff

The Inner Message of Our Sages' Debate

We find the following difference of opinion among our Sages: [1]

Rav Chiyya bar Ashi states in the name of Rav:

"A Torah scholar should have one sixty-fourth part [of pride]." [So that the lightheaded will not act arrogantly towards him and so that his words will be accepted by them (Rashi).]
Rav Huna the son of Rav Yehoshua says:

"[This small measure of pride] adorns him as the bristle adorns the ear of grain."
Rava declares:

"Whoever possesses [pride] deserves to be placed under a ban of ostracism. [Conversely,] whoever lacks [this quality] entirely deserves to be placed under ban. [If he does not possess a small degree of pride, his townsmen will not be in awe of him, and he will not have the power to rebuke them. (Rashi).]
Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak states:

"Neither it [pride] or any part of it. Is it a small matter, what is written: [2] 'All those who are proud of heart are an abomination unto G-d' "?
What is the rationale for the prooftext cited by Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak?

Pride comes from an appreciation - sometimes realistic and sometimes not - of one's achievements and potentials.

When a person feels proud of his achievements, even when his pride is justified, he denies G-d's providence to a certain degree. For by taking pride, the person is ascribing his success to his own efforts.

If he would realize the truth, that all his success is a gift from G-d, and it is He who grants him the potential to succeed, he would not be proud. [3] Instead, he would thankfully acknowledge the working of G-d's hand.

This is not to minimize the importance of a person's endeavors.

It is written, [4] "And G-d will bless you in all you do," which implies that a person's efforts are necessary.

Without them, he is lacking a medium through which G-d's blessings are to be channeled. But his efforts are no more than a medium, and the source of success is G-d's blessings. And when success comes from G-d's blessings, there is no reason for an individual to feel personal pride.

Tapping a Deeper Potential

Nevertheless, as indicated by the other Sages in the passage mentioned above, there is an advantage to having a small amount of pride, for unless a person asserts himself with confidence, his words will not be heeded by others.

And for the person him self as well, without a fair measure of self-assurance, he will not be able to persevere in the face of challenge.

Moreover, feelings of satisfaction and pride encourage happiness, which is a fundamental component of Divine service. [5]

One can, however, reap the advantages of pride without its drawbacks.

For there is, however, a deeper source of pride than one's own self, one's abilities, and one's achievements.

G-d has "made us holy through [His] commandments, and... drawn us near to [His] service," [6] endowing us with a bond of closeness with Him, and a mission to elevate and refine the world at large.

Consciousness of this bond and commitment to this mission generates inner pride, satisfaction, and fulfillment.

Synthesis, Not Conflict

This approach enables the qualities of humility and pride to be seen as complementary.

Developing selfless humility encourages a person to heighten his connection to G-d and commitment to His service. This, in turn, provides him with deeper resources of pride and esteem.

Indeed, these feelings of pride are more powerful than the pride generated by the appreciation of one's positive virtues.

Self-centered pride is limited, and can be dampened by a formidable opponent or challenge.

The personal strength derived from a commitment to fulfill G-d's will, by contrast, reflects the infinity of its objective. There is no obstacle that is able to stand in its way.

Our Sages alluded to this concept in their statement: [7] "The servant of a king is like the king himself."

A servant is not considered a separate entity from his master, rather it is as if he is an extension of his master's person. [8]

Therefore, the self-assurance manifested by the servant is not his own, it is his master's, and conveys all the power of his master's position.

In the analogue, a person who is totally committed to G-d's service uncovers far more powerful resources of inner strength than he possesses by virtue of his own self.

He radiates drive and energy and shows the mature control necessary to channel the se energies into productive endeavors.

Principles Personified

This type of self-assurance was exemplified by Moshe our teacher.

He himself told the Jewish people: [9] "It is I who stand between G-d and you" and he wrote the verse, [10] "And there never arose in Israel a prophet like Moshe." Nevertheless, he was "more humble than all the men on the face of the earth." [11]

Moshe did not see pride and humility as conflicting tendencies.

Although he knew the greatness of the mission he had been given, and he knew that he had been granted unique personal potentials to enable him to fulfill this mission, this did not lead to ego- conscious pride.

On the contrary, he knew that he had been endowed with these potentials by G-d and they were not the fruit of his own efforts.

Moreover, he believed that if these gifts had been given to another person, that person might have achieved more than he.[12]

And precisely because of this humility, he was able to make full use of the potentials he had been granted to carry out his mission.

The Symbolism of Sinai

The above concepts are reflected in the name of this week's Torah reading: Behar.

Behar means "on the mountain."

More particularly, as the verse continues, [13] it refers to Mount Sinai, the mountain on which the Torah was given.

Mount Sinai represents the synthesis of the two potentials mentioned above.

For on one hand, it is "the lowest of all the mountains," a symbol of humility, [14] and yet it is a mountain, exemplifying pride and power.

It is the fusion of these two opposites which made Sinai, "the mountain of G-d," [15] the place which G-d chose to manifest His presence and convey His teachings. [16]

There is, however, a slight difficulty.

The Torah reading is not named Behar Sinai, "On Mount Sinai"; it is called Behar, "on the mountain."

The qualities of pride and fortitude are emphasized, but not the modulating influence of the humility of Sinai.

In resolution, it can be explained that the phrase Behar Sinai, Mount Sinai, refers to a person who reminds himself of the need to subdue his self-importance.

Nevertheless, the fact that these efforts are necessary indicates that his humility does not encompass his being entirely.

When, by contrast, a person has totally sublimated his personal identity to the mission which G-d has charged him, he does not need to remind himself of the necessity for humility; self- concern is of no importance to him.

This is the intent of the name Behar, "on the mountain" - that the person stands proud, firmly rooted in the power endowed to him by the strength of his purpose.

This strength of purpose will enable our people to overcome all the challenges which confront us during these last moments of exile, and proceed to greet Mashiach. May this take place in the immediate future.

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) Sotah 5a.

  2. (Back to text) Proverbs 16:5.

  3. (Back to text) See Deuteronomy 8:17-18.

  4. (Back to text) Deuteronomy 16:17.

  5. (Back to text) See the conclusion of Hilchos Shofar, Sukkah, ViLulav in the Rambam's Mishneh Torah.

  6. (Back to text) Festival liturgy, Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 252.

  7. (Back to text) Shavuos 47b; Sifri and Rashi commenting on Deuteronomy 1:7.

  8. (Back to text) See Rashba, Kiddushin 23a.

  9. (Back to text) Deuteronomy 5:5.

  10. (Back to text) Deuteronomy 34:10.

  11. (Back to text) Numbers 12:3. Significantly, Moshe also wrote this verse in the Torah. Just as his appreciation of his other virtues did not lead to pride, so too, he was able to remain humble despite his awareness of his own humility.

    See also the conclusion of the tractate of Sotah which relates that Rav Yosef described himself as the epitome of humility.

  12. (Back to text) Sefer HaMaamarim 5689, p. 217ff.

  13. (Back to text) Leviticus 25:1.

  14. (Back to text) Midrash Tehillim on Psalms 68:17. Indeed, the very name Sinai is symbolic of humility. The name Sinai is derived from the Hebrew word sneh ("bramble", Ramban commentary to Deuteronomy 1:6), which is "more humble than all the trees in the world" (Shmos Rabbah 2:5).

  15. (Back to text) Exodus 3:1, 18:5, et al.

  16. (Back to text) See the essay entitle "The Revelation at Mt. Sinai" which develops these concepts [Timeless Patterns in Time, Vol. II, p. 109ff (Kehot, N.Y., 1994)] which focuses on these concepts.


Real Growth

Adapted from:
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. III, p. 1012ff;
Vol. VI, p. 112ff;
Vol. XVII, p. 313ff; Vol. XXII, p. 163ff

Satisfying Thirst

One of the characteristics of the human condition is the desire for growth. [1] This is a positive trait, an expression of the nature of man's soul.

For the soul of man is "an actual part of G-d." [2]

As such, no substitute for genuine meaning will ring true.

Moreover, even when a person has achieved an authentic understanding of truth, he will constantly seek to expand his level of awareness.

For G-d is unlimited, and the G-dly potential within us reflects His infinity, never remaining content with a ny given situation, but rather striving to "proceed from strength to strength." [3]

Although the desire for growth is universal, the expression of that desire varies from individual to individual. For though we all want to continue advancing, many do not know how to start, and this lack of knowledge prevents personal growth from beginning.

How does an individual enter the never-ending path to personal growth?

Answers to this question can be derived from our Torah reading which begins with the phrase: [4] Im Bechkosai Telechu - generally translated as "If you follow My statutes."

Telechu, translated as "follow" also means "proceed" and is used in several sources as an allusion to the concept of personal growth. [5]

Bechukosai, "My statutes," refers to a particular category of mitzvos, those referred to as chukim.

Implied is that personal growth depends on internalizing the lessons of the chukim.

Hewn Into Our Hearts

The word chok means "engrave."

Contrasting the difference between writing and engraving allows us to appreciate the inner meaning of the chukim, and the influence they have upon us.

Firstly, in contrast to writing, engraving involves strenuous labor.

Writing is also considered as one of the 39 categories of labor.

Nevertheless, the amount of effort required to write cannot be compared to that necessary to engrave. [6]

In this context, Rashi interprets Im Bechukosai Telechu as meaning "If you labor in Torah study," i.e., not just to study, but to arduously apply oneself to the Torah.

And when a person dedicates himself in this fashion, the words of the Torah will become engraved in his heart.

Even if his heart is rigid like stone, the water of the Torah will penetrate through. [7]

This is the first key to personal growth.

There is no such thing as spirituality without sacrifice.

A field will not yield crops unless one plows and sows.

For the Divine potential each of us possesses to blossom, an investment of hard work must be made.

Without a Dichotomy

There is another difference between writing and engraving.

When one writes, the surface upon which one writes and the ink which one uses remain two separate entities.

When, by contrast, letters are engraved in stone, the writing and the stone form a single entity; they are inseparable one from the other. [8]

This points to the importance of internalizing the Torah, making its teachings part of one's own being.

There is an advantage to compelling oneself to observe the Torah even when doing so runs contrary to one's nature. [9]

But the deepest commitment to G-d's service involves remaking one's nature, molding one's character to reflect His will. [10]

This is the second lesson of the chukim - that a person and the Torah should not be separate entities, [11] but rather a single whole. [12]

This approach leads to true growth, for one proceeds beyond the limited vistas of his own perception, and enters the unlimited horizons to which the Torah introduces him.

Above the Limits of Intellect

The above leads to a third interpretation of chukim, that the term refers to the dimensions of the Torah which surpass our understanding.

Toiling in the study of the Torah brings one to an awareness that every facet of the Torah, even those aspects which appear to be within the grasp of mortal intellect are in essence unbounded.

For the Torah is G-d's wisdom, and "just as it is impossible for a created being to comprehend his Creator, so too, it is impossible to comprehend His attributes." [13] "He is the Knower... and He is the Knowledge itself. All is one." [14]

Moreover, such a commitment to study does more than engender an awareness of the infinite dimension of the Torah's wisdom, as mentioned above, it enables this infinite dimension to be internalized.

In the process, a person's own way of thinking changes, and the infinite dimension of the Torah becomes one with his own being.

Fusing Conflicting Tendencies

Parshas Bechukosai is often read in conjunction with Parshas Behar.

On the surface, the two readings represent opposite approaches, for Behar communicates the message of personal strength and fortitude, while Bechukosai focuses on the theme of self-transcendence.

Nevertheless, as a person endeavors to apply the lessons of each of the readings in his life, he realizes that their messages are complementary.

When the strength of Behar is based on the self-transcendence of Bechukosai, one uncovers deeper and more powerful resources of strength than one possesses by virtue of one's own self. [15]

Conversely, the self-transcendence of Bechukosai is possible only when a person possesses the inner strength of purpose necessary to undertake the required efforts.

To Know G-d's Goodness

The majority of the Torah reading focuses on the rewards granted for the observance of the Torah, and the punishments ordained for the failure to observe.

One might ask: When a person has internalized the self-transcendence of Bechukosai, of what interest is reward to him?

As the Alter Rebbe would say: [16] "I don't want Your World to Come. I don't want Your Gan Eden. All I want is You alone."

In truth, however, it is only a person who genuinely "wants You alone" who can appreciate the full measure of the reward G-d has associated with the Torah and its mitzvos.

As long as a person is concerned with his individual wants and desires, he will interpret the reward received for observance in that light.

When, by contrast, a person has surpassed his individual will, instead of these petty material concerns, he will appreciate the essential good and kindness which G-d conveys. [17]

This will create a self-reinforcing pattern, for the purpose of the rewards granted by the Torah is to enable an individual to further his study and observance. [18]

As this pattern spreads among mankind, we will merit the full measure of the blessings mentioned in the Torah reading with the return of our people to our land led by Mashiach. Then "Your threshing season will last until your grape harvest.... You shall eat your bread with satisfaction.... I will grant peace in the land, and none shall make you afraid." [19]

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) At times, this desire is consciously appreciated - and therefore, systematically developed. In other instances, a person will experience undefined feelings unsettledness and a longing for change. At the core of these feelings, although he may not be aware of this, is the soul's desire for spiritual growth. Note Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IX, p. 25.

  2. (Back to text) Tanya, ch. 2.

  3. (Back to text) Psalms 84:8.

  4. (Back to text) Leviticus 26:3.

  5. (Back to text) Psalms, loc. cit., Zechariah 3:7, et al.

  6. (Back to text) Independent of the influence on an individual's personal growth, such an approach to study is of virtue in its own right as explained in Tanya, ch. 15.

  7. (Back to text) C.f. Avos D'Rabbi Nosson 6:2. This concept is quoted with regard to the story of Rabbi Akiva who was inspired to study the Torah by seeing how a water had worn through a rock.

  8. (Back to text) See also the interpretation of the phrase (Avos 3:11):

    "Even though he possesses Torah and mitzvos." The Hebrew words translated as "possesses" are ushc ah, literally, "he has in his hand." This person may observe the Torah and its mitzvos, but his observance is "in his hand," separate from his inner self [In the Paths of Our Fathers (Kehot, N.Y., 1994)].

  9. (Back to text) See Basi LeGani (Sefer HaMaamarim 5710), sec. 1.

  10. (Back to text) See Avos 2:4, and the explanation of the mishnah offered by In the Paths of Our Fathers.

  11. (Back to text) The two lessons are interrelated, for as explained above, dedicated toil in the study of Torah will enable the Torah's truth to penetrate one's heart.

  12. (Back to text) This level was personified by Moshe our teacher, as reflected in the verse (Deuteronomy 11:15): "I will give grass in your fields for your cattle," in which he speaks in the name of G-d, using the first person. This is possible, because "the Divine presence spoke from his throat (Zohar, Vol. III, p. 232a); he was totally at one with the Torah which he taught.

  13. (Back to text) Tanya, Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah, ch. 4.

  14. (Back to text) Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 2:10.

  15. (Back to text) See the previous essay in this series, entitled "Pride That Runs Deeper Than Self."

  16. (Back to text) As quoted in Derech Mitzvosecho, Shoresh Mitzvos HaTefillah. See also Rambam, Hilchos Teshuvah, ch. 10.

  17. (Back to text) See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XV, p. 312.

  18. (Back to text) Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Teshuvah 9:1.

  19. (Back to text) Leviticus 26:5-6.


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