Parsha Insight

Bereshis

Vayeitzei

Yaakov awakens from his prophetic vision  and made a vow “ ושבתי בשלום אל בית אבי והיה ד לי לאלוקים ”-  and I will return in peace to my father’s house and Hashem will be a G-d to me..

Rashi on this posuk comments  that His name will rest upon me from beginning to end.

The medrash  states  that Hakadosh Baruch Hu took the discussions of the Avos and  transformed  them into the key for  the geulah of his children. Said Hakadosh Baruch Hu “You (Yaakov) stated : והיה ד לי לאלוקים” by your life all the tovos and brachos and nechamos that I give to your children I will only give in this language…. And it will be on that day that  the great shofar will be blown.

The Sefas Emes offers a majestic explanation of this cryptic medrash. In reality any nechama that is in the hands of mankind is not a true consolation since its main purpose it to ensure that the tzarah should be merely forgotten,  Hashem on the other hand is the Baal Hanechamos . The reason for this is that in regards to Hashem nechama, consolation is something radically different in that He is able to console the individual by holding up a mirror and showing retrospectively that there never was a tzarah in the first place. What appeared at the time as a tzarah was in fact for the individuals ultimate benefit this is a true nechama. In the future when we will usher in the Geulah Sheleimah the  final redemption it will be revealed in  the eyes of all of humanity that  the catalogue of tragedies and persecution our darkest moments that have  beset our nation in exile  over the course of the millennia, were in fact for our ultimate benefit. In the future it will be clarified for us that Hashem never left our side and all the tzaros which appeared as bad were in reality for our long term benefit.

Rav Gedaliah Schorr avers that this notion is hinted to in the very first word that Yaakov stated in his vow. The word  והיה, the root   being “היה” refers to the past, yet with the letter vav preceding it,  the word is transformed from past to the future and therefore all the prophecies concerning the redemption are written in this form since at the time of the  future redemption it will be revealed to us the sorrow of golus was truly for our benefit.

With this remarkable insight we can understand the posuk in In Devarim ( 4/)  ki mi goy gadol asher lo elokim kerovim elav  kehahsem elokenu  bechol karenu elav- for which is  a great nation that has a G-d close to it as is Hashem our G-d  whenever we call to Him. In describing the close relationship enjoyed between the klal yisrael  and Hahsem, the posuk employs the term Elokim which is middas hadin the  attribute of strict justice, thereby  underscoring  the fact that even when Hashem is forced to exercise His attribute of strict justice in relation to our people He is still close to us and we are close to Him. It is all performed for our ultimate benefit and underlying the attribute of justice is Hashem really acting in a compassionate and merciful manner towards us despite appearances to the contrary at the time we experience the hardship. For this reason we find it expressed in Tehillim that retrospectively at the time of the redemption we will see everything in the correct perspective and appreciate it was all for our benefit and thus the idea that we suffered in exile will be reappraised and  determined as “hayinu kecholmim” it was like a dream something that is unreal that had no basis.

This principle to recognise that we are only seeing and experiencing one fragment in the cosmic  picture  being painted and cannot expect to comprehend the true chesed that Hashem performs in every aspect of our lives is reflected in an idea from Shmuel.  The  posuk says  איו צור כאלוקנו– Rashi famously commented              אין צייר כאלוקנו     there is no artist like Hashem.

Rav Shraga Feivel Mendelovitz- explained the idea of Hashem being an Artist by way of a moshul There was once a king who commissioned the greatest artist alive to create a master piece for him. The artist agreed on condition that during the six months that he would be working no one was permitted to view the canvas. After two months the king became impatient and in the middle of the night the king secretly viewed the picture but to his shock and horror it looked a mess with smudges of paint across it .The next day furious  he called in the artist and demanded an explanation. The artist explained that a true masterpiece has different shades and textures and one cannot appreciate it until it is completed. After six months the king was invited to a viewing and was amazed at its beauty he now was able to see the colours in the correct perspective and appreciate that what had appeared earlier as smudges were in fact shadows from the beautiful sun shining down on the trees and now he was able to see a true master piece in all its glory.

This is the meaning of Hashem being the ultimate Artist, we view during our lifetime’s one fragment of the master piece being created over six thousand years and like the king in the moshol we become frustrated at not understanding it.

May we be zocheh to experience the geulah shelemah when we will appreciate that Hashem is the Baal Hanechamos.

 

 

Vayeshev

And how can I perpetrate this great evil and sin against G-d?

 

Yosef   resists the advances of his master Potiphar’s wife.  He rebuts her stating that it was improper for him, on two counts firstly when bearing in mind the debt of gratitude that he owed Potiphar”. Secondly it would be a terrible sin against G-d in committing adultery.

Rav gifter  raises .an interesting question   why  when responding to Potiphar’s wife’s advances did he not  tell her why it was wrong and inappropriate for her rather than him to commit such an act? Rashi quotes a Talmudic statement that even before the torah was given, non-Jews were commanded against immorality.

Rav Gifter suggests that Yosef sensing the severity of the test, felt that he was partially responsible for the situation at hand due to some shortcoming in his own personality. If he had been living on the high level of sanctity befitting the favoured son of Yaakov, Potiphar’s wife would never have imagined that she could sway the mind of such a tsaddik, and she would thus not have tried to do so.

Yosef’s greatness here is highlighted in his open admission that the situation he found himself in was not merely a victim of circumstance but it was a gradual and subtle lowering of his own guard which resulted in him finding himself in the testing situation presented by Potiphar’s wife.

(This has relevance to us as individuals and as members of society, the response and excuse that people are just victims of circumstance and therefore had little or no choice in their unethical and immoral behaviour and personal conduct is.)Yosef’s response to the overtures of Potiphar’s wife is insightful in how we should react .find ourselves in challenging circumstances that tempt and test our spiritual and ethical values, we should reflect on our past conduct and will realise in a similar vein to Yosef that we are only finding the circumstance a challenge due to our failure to enact the appropriate boundaries and fences to protect and pre-empt such a situation ever developing in the first place

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shemos

The first encounter with the Almighty by Moshe is one we are all familiar with. Moshe finds himself alone in the desert and noticing an extraordinary phenomena of a Bush burning yet not being consumed by the fire he turns aside to examine this remarkable occurrence. On drawing closer Hashem commands Moshe to remove his shoes because it is “admat kodesh”  hallowed ground.

Rav Yosef Salant raises the question as to what was the significance of Moshe being asked to remove his shoes. He quotes a statement from the siddur of the Shlah that the blessing that we recite every morning at the start of shacharit  service “ Sheasi li kol tzarki”  is a blessing we recite on wearing shoes. King David observed that there is a hierarchical structure to creation with four levels starting with inanimate objects the next level up is foliage a higher level still is animal kingdom and the climax of creation is humans.  Humankind eat and benefit from everything in the world and therefore when a person takes the skin of an animal and makes shoes to tread on with his feet  it symbolises and demonstrates his dominion over the rest of creation. Therefore the blessing of sheasa li kol tzarki is recognition of the fact we as humans should act in a fashion that highlights that we are above all other aspects of creation. By contrast when Moshe was standing in the presence of the Almighty it was a time he was required not to recall dominion over creation but to recognise the need to subjugate himself in the presence of Hashem. It was for that reason Moshe was told to remove his shoes signalling that he would be willing to completely subjugate himself in the eyes of Hashem without any separation.

Rav Salant sees in the wearing and removal of moshes shoes  here two facets to  mankind , on the one hand an awareness that we are expected to  transcend  our physical selves and constantly be vigilant to ensure we do not lower ourselves to act in an animalistic fashion. Secondly to be mindful to remove any vestige of pride or self- worth in the service of Hashem represented by the shoes

Rav Dessler develops this approach further by suggesting that the command to Moshe to remove his shoes hinted to the notion of removing the covering which is hiding your character defects and faults from yourself. Only then says Rav Dessler will the “place you are standing “be “holy ground” and from there you begin your spiritual ascent.

This idea challenges us to strike a balance between recognising the greatness of humankind that should be manifest in the way we act in contrast to the rest of creation, but at the same time we should have a sense of humility and modesty being cognisant that we stand in the presence of the Almighty.