Netzavim – The Yetzer Hara for Perfection

In this week’s Torah portion of Netzavim Moshe memorably tells the Jewish people in perek 30:

11For this commandment which I command you this day, is not concealed from you, nor is it far away. יאכִּ֚י הַמִּצְוָ֣ה הַזֹּ֔את אֲשֶׁ֛ר אָֽנֹכִ֥י מְצַוְּךָ֖ הַיּ֑וֹם לֹֽא־נִפְלֵ֥את הִוא֙ מִמְּךָ֔ וְלֹֽא־רְחֹקָ֖ה הִֽוא:
12It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us and fetch it for us, to tell [it] to us, so that we can fulfill it?” יבלֹ֥א בַשָּׁמַ֖יִם הִ֑וא לֵאמֹ֗ר מִ֣י יַֽעֲלֶה־לָּ֤נוּ הַשָּׁמַ֨יְמָה֙ וְיִקָּחֶ֣הָ לָּ֔נוּ וְיַשְׁמִעֵ֥נוּ אֹתָ֖הּ וְנַֽעֲשֶֽׂנָּה:

The Medrish Rabba extrapolates on these pesukim that Moshe told the Jewish people that they shouldn’t say another Moshe will come and bring us another Torah from heaven; I therefore am informing you “It is not in heaven” there is nothing left of the Torah that was not given, in heaven. Another interpretation, in the name of Rebbe Chanina, “It” and all its tools were given, which are: humility, righteousness, and uprightness, as well as it’s reward.

The Maharz”u clearly explains the Torah’s concern related in the medrish. “If you think it is possible to receive another Torah since Hashem can do anything, and your evil inclination will convince you to be lenient in fulfilling this Torah, to this I am informing you that all that is called by the name Torah and mitzvah is included in this Torah. And all that the prophets added and prophesied about and all that was prophesied about the future is all an explanation of this Torah which is higher than heaven and more expansive than earth, and deeper than purgatory, for it is the wisdom of The Creator who created everything and with it he keeps everything existing and there is no other way in the world except to cling to this Torah which is our life in this world and the Next World forever and ever. When the medrish writes about ‘another Moshe would get up’ it’s not literally Moshe, rather what it means is a prophet like Moshe, and just as there will be no other Torah, so to no prophet got up or will get up like Moshe. For even Moshiach will not give us another Torah, rather he will only uphold and explain this Torah. When in the Navi it says, ‘That the land will be filled with the knowledge of Hashem’ it is referring to an explanation of this Torah in our hands.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
Who would imagine that another prophet like Moshe could bring another Torah, possibly bigger and better than this one? But even if it would be true, why wouldn’t everyone still observe what is in this one until then? This Torah is the blueprints of creation and handbook for mankind right now, and Hashem promises so much reward in this world and the next for observing it, and punishment for transgressing it?! Even more so, the Maharz”u says on Rebbe Chanina’s statement, “that all instruments which are used to acquire the Torah and the Torah refines those attributes as it says in the 6th perek of Pirkei Avos, ‘It makes him fit to be righteous, devout, fair and faithful.’ ‘And the Torah clothes him in humility and fear of Hashem etc.’ And one who is crowned with these traits is literally in this world but walking in heaven…!”

If a person is able to attain such pristine character traits from learning and practicing this Torah, and Hashem says this is what will give you a well-meaning life right now, then why wouldn’t you follow it, even if there could be something better in the future?

 It must be that this is the trick of the yetzer hara, the evil inclination, that convinces a person that the next time or the next thing will be better so forget about what you have now, therefore Moshe Rabbeinu is saying don’t think Hashem created a situation like this  for the evil inclination to creep in and convince you to stop following this Torah, (which actually sounds like if He would have made another Torah for the future we would not have been able to overcome this test and Hashem does not create tests that are impossible to overcome,) therefore Moshe is informing us that this is the only Torah, which will bring you a well-meaning life in this world and take you into the next world, for eternity.

Emor – Tapping into the Miracles and Wonders of the Almighty

Our Father In Heaven, Hashem Almighty, yearns and desires to share his wonders and miracles with His children. But we are only befitting and compatible to accept and see open and direct Divine intervention when it is suited and deserving for us to receive it. The Torah in this week’s portion of Emor relates several mitzvos that are related to the sacrificial service at the end of perek 22: “And Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying: When an ox or a sheep or a goat is born, it shall remain under its mother for seven days, and from the eighth day onwards, it shall be accepted as a sacrifice for a fire offering to the Lord. An ox or sheep you shall not slaughter it and its offspring in one day. And when you slaughter a thanksgiving offering to Hashem, you shall slaughter it so that it should be acceptable for you. It shall be eaten on that day; do not leave it over until morning. I am the Lord. You shall keep My commandments and perform them. I am the Lord. You shall not desecrate My Holy Name. I shall be sanctified amidst the children of Israel. I am the Lord Who sanctifies you, Who took you out of the land of Egypt, to be a God to you. I am the Lord” (Vayikra 22:26-33).
The Sforno has a lengthy commentary on the connection of each of these mitzvos, as well as the mitzvos discussed at the beginning of the portion discussing blemishes that prevent an animal to be offered on the alter: “’A bull or sheep,’ after mentioning the various types of blemishes which invalidate sanctified animals from being offered on the alter, even though at times the perfect animal may be worth a sela while the blemished one, because of size and fat, is worth two; and at times the blemish may even be considered an advantage, as when brought as a gift to a human king; still it is invalid as a sacrifice to Hashem because ‘The Rock His work is perfect’ (Devarim 32:4). He desires the perfection and completeness of the offering and of the one who offers it; the offering must possess its natural completeness and the one offering it must possess Divine completeness, to be like his Creator as much as possible. Now the Torah says similarly, regarding the limits of time which Hashem established, that one is not permitted to add or subtract from them. (A) The Torah mentions the prohibition of sacrificing an animal without waiting the minimum [of 7 days] period from birth, (B) the prohibition of slaughtering a cow and its young on the same day, (C) and the prohibition against intending to eat the sacrifices after the allotted time (pigul), which includes even sacrifices of lesser sanctity. (D) The Torah then mentions the thanksgiving offering, for even though it is included in the category of the peace offering, its time limit for consumption is only one day and one night, not two days and one night as is true by other peace offerings. ‘You shall sacrifice it, that you may be accepted… On the same day it shall be eaten.’ It must be your will and intention at the time you bring the sacrifice that it be eaten that day, and this is because ‘I am Hashem.’ I perform My deeds with perfection and set a limit to completeness without tolerating anything more or less. ‘And you shall not profane My Holy Name.’ Since you see the completeness of My work, therefore you who are sanctified to walk in My ways, ‘do not profane My Holy Name through faulty and disgraceful deeds, similar to, ‘And when they came to the nations, into which they came, they profaned My Holy Name’ (Yechezkel 36:20). ‘And I
will be sanctified among the Children of Israel’ to perform wonders for them as I vowed, saying, ‘Behold I make a covenant, before all your people I will do marvels’ (Shemos 34:20); the reason for this is because indeed, ‘I am Hashem Who sanctifies you. Who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your G-d’ to lead you without any intermediary, as is the rule with those ‘separated from corporeality’, providing you walk in My holy ways, as it says, ‘Learn not the ways of the nations and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven’ (Yirmiyahu 10:2). ‘I am Hashem’ Who is unchangeable, and I will act towards you as in the past as long as your sins do not create a barrier between you and your G-D, as it says, ‘As in the days of your coming out of the land of Egypt I will show him marvelous things’ (Michah 7:15).” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
Hashem, who is eternal and perfect, only expects perfection to be offered to Him, which mean an animal may not have a physical blemish. Though it might be less valuable, or the blemish might even be pleasing to some human beings who are even kings. Also, a lack of perfection in time, be it late or early, can disqualify a sacrifice. Even if this is an inconvenience to the one offering it; maybe he was in a rush and felt he had to bring a sacrifice which was born a couple of days ago instead of waiting the seven days before the animal is old enough to be sacrificed, or maybe after the sacrifice was performed and the rest is eaten by him or the kohen he wanted to share his holy food with more friends who would be coming in a few days but that would be beyond the allotted time of eating the offering. Either way, adding or detracting from the exact time Hashem, with His all knowing completely Divine knowledge, calculated and set, is a sin. Because it detracts from perfection, and Hashem by definition is perfect, and our goal must be to emulate Him and strive for perfection. We have to be very careful, for even when we are not just involved in Divine Holy service but we “see,” realize, and appreciate the value of following Hashem in His perfection, we still have to be extremely careful to not fall into the trap of being attracted to foreign influences. Though they might make sense andmight even be good intentions, it still by definition falls short of perfection since they are only using their finite understandings and beliefs to live their lives. They are not being guided by the Holy and Divine principles of perfection supplemented by the Torah. What is very important to note however, is that Hashem is unchanging. He is ready and yearning to show His wonders and inner secrets with those who are on the same wavelength, so to speak, as Him. If we act within the boundaries of holiness and not sin, Hashem will reveal Himself and his miraculous deeds at greater length towards us. Indeed, the opposite is true as well, as the Chovos Halevavos in the beginning of the introduction to his chapter on Trust in Hashem says: “The benefits in religious matters: Among them, peace of mind, and trusting in G-d as a servant must trust in his master. Because if one does not place his trust in G-d, he will place his trust in something else, and whoever trusts in something other than G-d, the Al-mighty will remove His providence from such a person, and leave him in the hands of the one he trusted…” Therefore one must expect that the more holy one is, meaning the greater trust one has in
Hashem, and the more careful he is to follow Hashem’s Torah and mitzvos, the more Hashem will “reveal” Himself to that person. But if one is not careful with his holiness, and he profanes Hashem’s name by sinning and not trusting in Hashem to the utmost, then Hashem puts him, or lets him fall into, the hands of those people or ideologies he chooses to follow. If one is seeking miracles and Divine interventions, or to know his prayers are answered with crystal clear clarity then one should strive for holiness and perfection, in order to be in synch with his Creator but if not… as it says in Makkos 10b, בדרך שאדם רוצה לילך בה מוליכין אותו “along the path a person wishes to proceed, He leads and assists him.”

Tetzave – Levels of Peace in the World

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“Shalom, peace, is one of the most exalted character traits in existence, for it is one of Hashem’s names, as it says: ‘And he called to Him Hashem, Shalom’(Shoftim6:24).” The Maalos Hamiddos also says: “Any place peace is found, fear of Heaven can be found, and any place peace cannot be found, fear of Heaven cannot be found” (Maalos Hamiddos, chapter 24, ma’alas HaShalom).

If one Googles the definition of the word peace he will find: peace [pees] NOUN
1. The normal, nonwarring condition of a nation, group of nations, or the world.
2. (Often initial capital letter) an agreement or treaty between warring or antagonistic nations, groups, etc., to end hostilities and abstain from further fighting or antagonism: the Peace of Ryswick.
3. A state of mutual harmony between people or groups, especially in personal relations: Try to live in peace with your neighbors.
4. The normal freedom from civil commotion and violence of a community; public order and security: He was arrested for being drunk and disturbing the peace.
5. Cessation of or freedom from any strife or dissension.

Yet Rashi says in this week’s haftorah for the Torah portion of Tetzaveh: “I found the following: The second Aliyah to the Holy Land through Ezra was merited to be like the first entry through Yehoshua, to come about by force and through a miracle, as expounded (Berachos 4a, Shemos 15:16); ‘until…pass.’ This building [of the beis hamikdash] would then have been fit for them as of then, when they emerged from exile, to an everlasting redemption. But their sin caused this not to happen for their repentance was not suitable, i.e. they did not resolve to stop sinning. Therefore, they emerged to freedom only through the sanction of Cyrus and his son.” (Rashi on Yechezkel 43:11) (Click here and here for Hebrew text.)

According to Rashi, the world could have been a totally different place if the Jewish people would have repented 100% and would have decided with complete resolve to not sin ever again; Moshiach would have come. It would seem that the dimensions of the beis hamikdash would have been different than the way in which the second beis hamikdash was actually built. The dimensions described in Yechezkel, the Radak and others say, were that of the third beis hamikdash, may it come speedily in our days. But, in fact, if Moshiach would have come and this would have been the final, perfected version of mankind, then the architecture of the second beis hamikdash would have been, as Yechezkel describes, the third. The process of returning the Land of Israel would have been different as well; instead of Cyrus and his son peacefully allowing the Jewish people to return to their homeland after 70 years of exile and rebuilding the beis hamikdash, Ezra and the rest of the Jewish people would have conquered the land by force, presumably from the Persians, with open miracles, just as Yehoshua and the Jewish people did when conquering the land back in their day.

If peace is so important that the Mishna in Pirkei Avos says: “On three things the world exists, on judgement, on truth, and on peace” (Avos 1:18), and the Maalos Hamiddos further says: “My son, come and see how great the power of peace is, that even the enemy, Hashem says, one should offer them peace, as it says, ‘When you come close to a city to wage war upon it, and you shall first offer it peace’ (Devarim 20:10),” then why was Hashem ready to take back the Land of Israel by force with miracles in order to set the stage for the final redemption and the coming of Moshiach, if Cyrus and his son were willing to peacefully hand it over to them, as they in fact did?

It would seem that there are two states of peace, which by definition means there are two definitions, or levels of peace. One is a compromise, a state of being where there is officially no fighting, no violence, all is serene and peaceful; but it is not necessarily permanent or guaranteed.

However, Hashem in His Divine understanding and with ultimate goals, has another peace in mind, one which we in fact pray for at the end of our Shemone Esrei in Sim Shalom and conclude as we take 3 steps back: “He who makes peace in His heights, may He make peace upon us,and upon all of Israel.” Peace in Hebrew, Shalom, comes from the root ש.ל.מ., complete or full, i.e. perfection. Hashem’s ultimate state of peace is perfection, a time when the entire world will be ready to embrace Him as The Creator of the Universe, King of all Kings, The Holy One Blessed Be He.

It would seem that there are certain times in history when it is more opportune for this state to come about, though it is possible at any moment. One of these times could have been the rebuilding of the second beis hamikdash, but in order for this perfect state to exist, (A) the Jewish People had to have fully committed themselves to a state of perfection, not to sin ever again. (It would seem that at the time they reached a level possibly higher than what was reached at Mount Sinai when they reaccepted the Torah out of pure love of Hashem after the miracle of Purim as it says in Shabbos 88a, but on some tiny, tiny, minute level they must not have fully accepted to not sin ever again, therefore they were not deserving of the ultimate redemption). However, (B) hand in hand with the ultimate redemption and a state of completion in the world, everyone else, all the non-Jews would have to be ready to accept this yoke of Heaven, in their own right. It would seem that if Moshiach and a new advent in history was ready to take place then being under the control of the Persians and then being let go back to our home land to rebuild the beis hamikdash would have been a sign of their control and power, with all their viewpoints and ways that would have clashed with the ultimate state of perfection. Therefore, force and miracles would have to have been taken to annihilate any other power and to show the world that Hashem is in reality the only Truth.

It would not seem that Hashem would generally advocate violence; on the contrary, the harmony of everything in nature is run through peace, and order, night, day, land and oceans, stars, planets, galaxies even the angels all need peace in order to be unified and not to collide or swallow up each other, but this is only part of the perfection of the world which Hashem has created. Hashem is waiting for us to join this state of peace and perfection and on the contrary Hashem is very deliberate with His ways and would prefer all of humanity to acknowledge and live by the knowledge of His existence and Oneness but if the time comes and humanity as a whole is not ready to accept perfection then with calculated force and miracles, not brutal violence, Hashem’s greatness will shine and be made clear throughout the entire world, may it come speedily in our days!