by Rabbi Heshy Grossman
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The shiur this week is dedicated to the memory of my dear brother-in-law, Amram Feldman, on the occasion of his second Yahrtzeit, on the twenty-third of Adar. Yehi Zichro Baruch. May his family be comforted together with the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
A special charity fund has been set up in his memory, Keren G'Mach Amram. All proceeds are used to aid needy individuals and families. Checks can be made out to Beth Jacob Charity Fund and mailed, in the U.S.A. to: Rabbi Ilan D Feldman, Congregation Beth Jacob, 1855 Lavista Rd NE, Atlanta GA., 30329. In Israel to: Rabbi Emanuel Feldman, Rechov Cassuto 8, Jerusalem, Israel.
"There is no interruption between [Parshas] Parah and HaChodesh.....a sign
for this is: between cups [of the Seder] if one wishes to drink, he may,
but between the third and fourth cups, he may not drink." (Yerushalmi,
Megillah, 3, 5)
During a five-week span, as the month of Nissan approaches, we read four special Parshios, as a process leading to Yetzias Mitzraim. The Parshios of Parah and HaChodesh are unique in that they are read on consecutive weeks, without a Shabbos separating between them. As an allusion to this law, Chazal indicate a similar requirement regarding the third and fourth cups of the Pesach Seder, where no foreign element can be introduced.
This similarity is not a mere mnemonic device, but indicates an inner relationship binding the Arba Parshiyos with the Arba Kossos. In our shiur this week we will expand upon this theme, defining as well the redemptive process leading to Pesach night.
On a different level, the four Parshios parallel another developmental process, the three Avos, and their descendants, Knesses Yisrael.
In general, the exodus from Egypt marks the birth of the Jewish nation. Beginning with a small group of seventy planted in a foreign land, the growth and maturity of the B'nai Yisrael compares to the development of a fetus in its mother's womb.
The nation as a whole is more than the sum of its parts. 'Tzibbur' defines a new entity, a complete unit rather than individual elements. It is for this reason that prayer with a Minyan is preferred to private supplication. The congregation of Israel relates directly to G-d, sharing with Him a dimension of G-dly immutability.
Parshas Shekalim, the first Parsha, is our initial approach to this level. The coins donated by each individual became communal property, used for the purchase of Korbanos Tzibbur, sacrifices that united all Israel. Each pledge was an act of 'Nedivus HaLev', the benevolence and generosity of the children of Avraham Avinu, the original 'Nadiv'. (see Chagigah 3a)
In his devotion to Hashem, and with the desire to reach beyond his limited existence, Avraham Avinu gave all of himself; his property, family, and life. This characteristic defines him as the father of all converts, those individuals who cast away their identity in search of a higher truth.
In every relationship, one side is the first to reach out and express their wish for a closer connection. Would this be the only basis for the friendship, it would be doomed to failure. If his affections are not reciprocated, the party who gives of himself loses his dignity, having surrendered his very self in his efforts.
It is for this reason that the classic Jewish mother is the butt of comic humor. In her unceasing concern for the welfare of her family she loses her individual identity, sacrificing herself for the benefit of her children.
Hence, in the Biblical history that defines life's true relationship, G-d and Israel, our father Avraham sires Yitzchak.
Yitzchak is the force that solidifies his father's achievement, contracting within himself in recognition of inner truth. He sees only G-d, binding himself at the altar for the balance of life, forever blind to the world's evil. Avraham's love begets the fear of Yitzchak, as yearning for G-d breeds disdain for evil.
Yitzchak is the model of Parshas Zachor. He erases evil from existence in his single-minded adherence to G-d's command.
"Amar Rebbi Yochanan: Ya'akov Avinu never died. Said [Rebbi Yitzchak]: Was it for naught that he was eulogized, embalmed, and buried? He [Rebbi Yochanan] said: I am interpreting a verse.....Ya'akov is compared to his descendants, as his offspring are alive, so too, he is alive." (Ta'anis 5b)
This passage is quite puzzling. Rebbi Yitzchak questions the assertion that Ya'akov is still alive, his burial serving as ample evidence. How is this objection resolved? Does a verse in the Torah reverse the facts?
Let us explain.
Death is the ultimate defilement, a final barrier obscuring man's view of eternity. It clouds our perception, limiting this world to mortal dimensions. No man can see the world-to-come, when we will be free from the grip of death's claw. Of necessity therefore, the Mitzva that teaches of this purification lies beyond our grasp, the Chok of Para Aduma.
Ya'akov Avinu is the living embodiment of Parshas Parah. His life continues in a world beyond our reach. As the red heifer is a Mitzva that can never be fully understood, so too, the life of Ya'akov is eternally sustained, despite all logic.
Rebbi Yochanan's answer is this: Ya'akov Avinu exists as a G'zeiras HaKasuv, a heavenly decree that defies standard reasoning.
He lives through his children, Klal Yisrael. His life takes new form in a dimension that simply transforms his identity. For this reason, Klal Yisrael is referred to by his name. There can be no separation between Ya'akov Avinu and his sons. Together, they are destined to be reborn, renewed once again. As the moon waxes and wanes, disappearing in darkness only to reappear, so too, Klal Yisrael will someday return in all its glory.
Parshas Parah and Parshas HaChodesh can not be separated. The Chok alludes to the world above our own, the dimension of Rosh Chodesh. The present time-frame is subject to the dictates of a higher order. Klal Yisrael directs life according to its own calendar, in a time and place of their own.
As our lives revolve around the four Parshios that reflect our birthright, on Seder night we live with the four cups that redeem us from affliction.
Redemption has four stages.
"....V'HOTZAISI Eschem MiTachas Sivlos Mitzraim, V'HITZALTI Eschem MeiAvodasam, V'GA'ALTI Eschem B'zro'a Nituyah U'Vi'Shfatim Gedolim. V'LAKACHTI Eschem Li LaAm..." (Shmos 6, 6-7)
These are the four expressions of Ge'ulah, represented by the four cups of wine on Leil Seder.
Beginning with servitude in Mitzraim, the historical experiences of the B'nai Yisrael trace their development, from the birth of a nation to full maturity. As a child in its mother's womb, the Jewish people did not exist as an independent entity prior to the exodus.
G-d takes us out of hiding, and brings the nation of Israel to life. With the miracles of Yetzias Mitzraim, His Hand becomes visible throughout the world . As a Metziah that had been lost and subsequently recovered, 'V'Hotzaisi', G-d begins to reveal the purpose of creation. This too, parallels the discovery of Avraham Avinu, father of all those who strive to be reborn. He brings to light a new reality, the ultimate 'V'Hotzaisi, the 'Metzius Ha'amitis' - true existence, the basis of creation.
The emergence of this new dimension is not trouble-free. Threatened to be engulfed by the surrounding evil, G-d promises - 'V'Hitzalti', protection from harm. Evil will never conquer the nation. This corresponds to Yitzchak, in whose world iniquity was vanquished, at the altar where everything but the word of G-d was burnt to ash.
And further still: Loyal to the covenant of Ya'akov, Klal Yisrael merits 'V'Ga'alti'. Ya'akov is the bridge between the Chesed of Avraham and the Pachad of Yitzchak. Able to transcend the trials and tribulations of battle with his enemies, Ya'akov reveals the glory of Hashem in distant lands. The trees he planted in Mitzraim become the bulwark of the Mishkan. As his children journey through the desert, they bask in G-d's presence, which travels with them till they reach their goal. This is true redemption, a return to the level of their fathers.
It is with the Mishkan that we close Sefer Shmos. The children are united with the Avos who brought the world to a new reality. Cultivating the spark of their fathers, G-d takes them as His people, 'VLakachti Eschem Li LaAm'.
Heaven forbid that we separate between the Avos and their descendants. Any break leaves us behind in Egypt, missing the exodus that is sure to come.
The modern attempt to forge a new identity for Klal Yisrael forgets this: We exist only in the world of our fathers. Following the beat of a distant drummer, we order our lives along a tempo of our own, uninterrupted, ignoring the call of a beckoning world on our march towards eternity.
"And you, do not fear, my servant Ya'akov, and do not be broken, Israel, for I will save you, from the distant [land], and your children from the land of their captivity, and Ya'akov will return, quiet and tranquil, with nothing to cause him fear." (Yirmiah 30, 10)
Any questions or comments? Please address them to grossman @actcom.co.il
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