The Weekly Parsha: A New Dimension

by Rabbi Heshy Grossman

Back to this week's parsha | Previous Issues



PARSHAS V'ESCHANAN

"And lest you lift your eyes towards the heavens, and you will see the sun, and the moon, and the stars, all the heavenly hosts, and you will stray, and you will bow to them, and worship those [sun, moon, etc.] that G-d divided to the nations below the heavens." (Devarim 4,19)

This verse warns the B'nai Yisrael not to direct their eyes towards the heavens, lest they be swayed by the forces of nature, abandoning Hashem, and substituting His sevants as the focus of their prayers.

The Haftorah of this week seems to end with precisely the opposite message.

"Se'u Marom Eineichem U'R'eu Mi Bara Eleh" - "Lift your eyes towards the heavens, and see, who created these, numbering each of the hosts, assigning each a name.... (Isaiah 40, 26)

Here, man is encouraged to contemplate the grandeur of nature, assured that doing so will fill him with wonder and awe for the works of the Creator.

In our shiur we will try to resolve this contradiction, explaining the proper relationship of the Jewish People with the world of nature.

1

The Pasuk describes the sun and stars as the 'Chelek' of the nations. "V'Nidachta V'Hishtachavisa Lahem VaAvadetam Asher Chalak Hashem Elokeicha Osam L'Chol HaAmim Tachas Kol HaShamayim". Rashi, commenting on the words, 'Chalak.. L'Chol HaAmim', says, "L'Ha'ir Lahem'- 'to illuminate for them'.

This comment of Rashi requires an explanation. The sun and stars light up the entire world, do they not belong to the B'nai Yisrael as well?

The Maharal explains. The sun and stars are allusions to the natural world. Hashem created the forces of nature and gave them to the nations as their portion in creation. Though the B'nai Yisrael also derive benefit from the stars, they are not the direct beneficiaries. The good that they receive is a secondary by-product of the world given to the nations.

The Jewish People are citizens of another world, "V'Eschem Lakach Hashem VaYotzi Eschem MiKur HaBarzel, MiMitzraim, Lihyos Lo LaAm, Nachala KaYom HaZeh" (Devarim 4,20). As opposed to the nations, the B'nai Yisrael were removed from the physical world of Egypt. They do not need the sun for light, "V'Hayah Lahem Hashem L'Ohr Olam" (Isaiah 60,19). They benefit from G-d directly, without any natural intermediaries.

Rashi alludes to this idea in Sefer B'reishis. The Torah delineates the benefits of the stars created on the fourth day. "L'Havdil Bein HaYom U'Vein HaLayla" - "To separate between day and night". "V'Hayu L'Osos U'L'Moadim U'L'Yamim V'Shanim" - "As celestial signs, for the holidays, for a day, and calendar year". Only afterwards, as an aside, is mentioned the ancillary benefit of "V'Hayu L'M'Oros B'Rakia HaShamayim L'Ha'ir Al Ha'Aretz". Rashi comments, "V'Od Zos" -"And this too". The light brought to the world by the sun is not its primary role. The natural world is not the purpose of creation, but could only be of service to those who would use it for spiritual good. The Tzaddik has all the light he needs, the Ohr HaGanuz, created on the first day.

2

The Shulchan Aruch prohibits one from entering a business partnership with Gentiles, "perhaps he [the non-Jew] will be obligated to make an oath [to his God], and you will violate 'Lo Yishama Al Picha' [not to precipitate the mention of Avoda Zara]". The Rama permits such dealings in modern times, "since the non-Jews of today don't swear in the name of Avoda Zara. Even if they do mention Avoda Zara, their intent is the Creator of Heaven and Earth, but they are 'Mishatef' [collaborate] G-d with something else. For this, there is no violation of 'Lifnei Iver', since non-Jews are not prohibited from 'Shituf'. (Orach Chaim,156)

The prohibition against idolatry is one of the seven Noachide laws incumbent upon all human beings. Yet, 'Shituf', which would be considered Avoda Zara for a Jew, is permitted for Gentiles. Analysis of this double standard will grant understanding of the inherent differences between Jew and non-Jew, and the distinct way they each relate to the world around them.

The primary goal of creation is the revelation of G-d's unity. It is this Mitzva that we fulfill daily with the recitation of K'rias Shema.

Let us try to understand what we say each day.

"Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad"

We mention two different names of G-d. Hashem, the 'Yud' 'Hey 'Vuv' Hey', is referred to as the 'Shem HaEtzem', the ineffable name uttered only by the Kohen Gadol in the Kodesh HaKodashim. Hashem is 'Hayah, Hoveh, V'Yihyeh', He encompasses all. 'Elokeinu', in contrast, is G-d as Our Lord, master of our destiny, in control of all life. The proper Kavanah for recitation of this Name is 'Adon HaKol'. This is 'Adnus', Hashem manifests Himself as King of the world.

We read the Shem Hashem as 'Ad-nai', the written name being unknown to modern man.

A well-known Talmudic passage explains why.

"BaYom HaHu Yihyeh Hashem Echad U'Shmo Echad" - However, today He is not One?! Said Rebbi Acha bar Chanina, 'This world is not as the world-to-come. In this world, for good tidings one says, 'Boruch HaTov V'HaMeitiv, and for bad tidings he says, 'Boruch Dayan Emes'. In the world-to-come, all will be 'HaTov V'HaMeitiv'.

'And His Name will be One' - What is One? However, today His Name is not One?! Said Rebbi Nachman bar Yitzchak, 'This world is not as the world-to-come. In this world, it is written as Yud, Hey, and read with Aleph, Daled. In the world-to-come, it will be all one, read with Yud, Hey, and written with Yud, Hey." (Pesachim 50a)

Man can recognize himself without a name. A name is merely a designation enabling others to relate to him. Similarly, the names of Hashem do not define His essence. They are the method by which He relates to the world.

The true name of G-d is unknowable in this world.

In order to enable the existence of an 'other', it was necessary for Hashem to conceal Himself, lest his Unity overpower all else. In our world, therefore, evil appears as an independent entity. It is allowed for as a concealment of G-d's will. It enables us to discern truth from falsehood. Hence, we make the blessing accepting evil for what it is.

Ultimately, it will be revealed that even suffering was for the best. It served the absolute good, the will of Hashem.

Someday soon, the truth will be told. Other than the will of G-d, nothing truly exists.

G-d's name, then, is not read as it is written.

Our Sages refer to Creation as a 'Sefer'. Unlike speech, the written word remains silent without an active reader. The world was not created to be a closed book. Truly, from every corner, the world expresses the Unity of the One G-d. But, this Unity quietly hides beneath the evil that cloaks G-d's plan. In the meantime, G-d waits for man to learn how to read.

We can only speak of what we know of. In our world we fail to see the essence of G-d's will. We know only 'Ad-nai', to subjugate ourselves before His dominant control. By subsuming our will to His, we too, can achieve a limited unity. 'Ad-nai' is also one of His Names, reflecting His essence into our lives. We can harness the forces of nature to His service, unifying creation towards one goal. This is our K'rias Shma. 'Hashem' - 'Hu Elokeinu'. Though the essence is hidden, our words spread the yoke of Heaven throughout the world.

3

We have explained that the essence of G-d is one. He is unknowable in this world, for were His Unity to be revealed, all existence would be swallowed within. The G-dly Name that we utter is only part of the truth, a function of our mortal state of being.

The test of man is how he relates to this temporal existence.

v Let us explain.

We have stated that the physical world exists only as a relative truth. Its existence is a transient by-product of G-d's concealment. The man who identifies himself with material objects loses touch with the reality of eternal life.

Here we are faced with a problem.

There are two sides to every human being; his inner self, and his connection to the reality beyond. Each of man's deepest thoughts contain these two elements. For example: 1) 'I' am 2)'walking', 'eating', 'talking', etc. How then is he not to identify with his surroundings?

It is at this point that the difference between Jew and non-Jew becomes clear.

Upon hearing of a tragedy, the initial response of most people is to inquire about the pertinent details. How did it happen? Was he sick? Whose fault was it?

This is because people feel threatened when confronted with evidence of their own mortality. Putting every horror in a measured cubicle of cause and effect gives man the security of understanding, the illusion that he is in control.

The man who fears G-d, however, has no need to conquer the world. He has long since learned that many things in life are beyond his grasp. He relates to a G-d whose Name he doesn't know. He has negated his will before that of Hashem, and has no difficulty subjecting the tools of nature in his quest for truth.

The non-Jewish world is that of the sun, moon and stars. They HAVE conquered the world. They are 'Mishatef' the unknowable G-d with things they can see, touch, and understand.

But it's not true. To the Jew, 'Shituf' is Avoda Zara, for his world is above the heavens.

True existence is the world of the One G-d. The heavens can be utilized in His cause, by the man who has risen above them. Now, he looks to the stars and understands what they say. Unfooled by the bright sunlight, he knows that the stars are mere creations, "Se'u Marom Eineichem U'reu Mi Bara Eleh". Chazal explain that the righteous man is he who lifts his eyes towards heaven and recognizes that 'Mi' created 'Eleh'. Connecting 'Mi' and 'Eleh' reveals 'Elokim'. Or, in other words, 'Shma Yisrael', - 'Listen, Israel', 'Hashem Elokeinu'. The G-d of Unity is revealed as our Lord and Master, the controller behind all forces of nature.

In contrast, the man who sees the stars as part of his world is destined to worship them. It is to them that he ties his life. He is blinded by the sun which hides the word of G-d.

"Va'YiDaber Hashem Aleichem MiToch HaEish, Kol Devarim Atem Shom'im, U'Temunah Einchem Ro'im, Zulasi Kol" (Devarim 4,12)

Here lies the difference.

The man who hears the word of G-d sees no pictures. He has no need to read the Sefer of Creation. He understands that looking to the stars may provide physical sustenance, but still, he looks away. He recognizes something deeper. The still, silent voice of G-d cannot be discerned among the cacaphony of the natural world.

Unlike the written word, the spoken word of G-d waits not for man's translation. As at Har Sinai, all creation stands as one, unified in silence when He delivers His Word.

As we read in our Haftorah, "V'Niglah Kavod Hashem, U'R'eu Kol Basar Yachdaiv Ki Pi Hashem Diber".

"V'Hayah Bayom HaHu, Yihyeh Hashem Echad, U'Shmo Echad"

Have a good Shabbos!

Any questions or comments? Address them to: grossman@actcom.co.il


Back to this week's parsha | Previous Issues

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
info@shemayisrael.co.il
http://www.shemayisrael.co.il
Jerusalem, Israel
972-2-532-4191