Gleaned from the Sfas Emes

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Parshas Re'eh

Uproot and Destroy

The Torah warns us to uproot places of idolatry: "You shall surely destroy all the places where the nations worshiped there...” (12:2). It also warns us not to uproot G-d, “You shall not do so to G-d, your L-rd.” (12:4)

While we can readily understand the act of uprooting places of idolatry, what is meant by uprooting G-d?

What kind of act uproots G-d?Rashi equates G-d’s holiness in this world to G-d Himself, and comments that the verse is prohibiting the erasure of G-d's Name, or damaging the altar built for sacrificing to G-d. Through such acts, holiness is uprooted from this world.

Another explanation is suggested from Rashi's commentary on the double expression “surely destroy”. It tells us that just destroying idols is not enough - one must uproot them, even after they have been destroyed.

It is not enough merely to destroy the tangible presence of evil in this world. All matter - including that which is evil - is rooted in a heavenly source, from which its existence is derived. The double expression “surely destroy” means to destroy evil totally, at its root, so that it cannot sprout again. By doing this mitzvah of uprooting evil with purity and sincerity, we can draw on our Source and uproot the source which allows evil to exist (Sfas Emes, R’ay 5635)

Concerning holiness, however, this is not the case. “You shall not do so to G-d, your L-rd.” Holiness, although its physical resting place has been destroyed, its root should not, indeed cannot, be eradicated. For example, though the Bais haMikdash has been destroyed, its holy impression still exists, and the Talmud states that we must keep its memory alive, and inquire about its condition (Rosh HaShana, 30a). Though almost two thousand years have passed since its destuction, we must still seek its welfare and pray for its renewed influence, speedily, in our day. (Sfas Emes, R’ay 5637)

When Rav Shmuel Weintraub, Rosh haYeshiva of the Beis Yosef (Norvardik) Yeshiva in Minsk, zt"l, was once in Vilna, he went into a shul to daven Mincha. Seeing that the congregration had already started, and not wanting to disturb anyone, he slipped quietly into an adjoining room, and began davening the Shmoneh Esrei. He became completely engrossed in prayer, overwhelmed with fervor - more than ever in his life. The mystery of his fervent praying was soon solved. After Mincha, he was told that he had prayed on the very spot where the Vilna Gaon, zt"l, used to sit studying Torah. (Heard from Rav Dovid Neuvirner)

"Gleaned From the Sfas Emes"- excerpts adapted from a soon to published book, G-d Willing, by Simcha Leib Grossbard.Rabbi Grossbard is author of "The Sfas Emes Haggadah"(Targum Press) and "Kasheleg Yalbinu", a two volume (Hebrew) work based on Sfas Emes.

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