The two Divine names which appear in this letter are Hashem and Elokim. The term Hashem - which literally means, “the Name” - is a respectful way of referring to the most sacred Divine Name which was only pronounced (as it is spelled) in the Holy Temple by the Kohanim - Ministers. As we discussed previously, this sacred four-letter Name expresses the Divine attribute of compassion, and the name Elokim expresses the Divine attribute of justice. This is why we have often referred to these two Divine names as, “the Compassionate One” and “the Just One.” An awareness of the Divine attributes associated with the various Divine names is helpful to our Torah study; however, we need to also be aware that the Infinite One is beyond the limited understanding of our finite minds.
As we shall begin to explore in this letter, the following verse reveals a way to achieve happiness:
“The mandates of Hashem are upright, rejoicing the heart” (Psalm 19:9).
In his commentary on this verse, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains that the human being was given the Divine mandate to serve and preserve the world, as it is written, “Hashem Elokim took the human being and placed him in the Garden l'avdah u'leshamrah - to serve it and preserve it” (Genesis 2:5). Rabbi Hirsch adds, “All the mitzvos that regulate our private and public acts are simply directions for the proper discharge of this mandate of serving and preserving.”
The idea that all the mitzvos of the Torah enable us to fulfill the original Divine mandate concerning the Garden can be found in the following ancient teaching:
The Divine mandate to “serve” the Garden is a prototype for all the mitzvos of the Torah which enable us to improve and elevate the world – including ourselves. And the Divine mandate to “preserve” the Garden is a prototype for all the mitzvos of the Torah which prevent us from damaging and degrading the world - including ourselves (Tikunei Zohar 55).
We can therefore fulfill the original Divine mandate which was given to us in the Garden through all the mitzvos of the holistic Torah path. In this way, we also discover the following secret: When we find the way to fulfill the purpose of our creation, we find joy. As Rabbi Hirsch writes:
“Therefore they (the mitzvos) rejoice the heart. They give us that joy of life which nothing can ever dim, that satisfaction which comes from a task well done. There can be no substitute for this feeling of quiet joy and serenity, secure in the knowledge that we have done what was expected of us in life, however, small or limited the sphere in which our lives are lived.” (Commentary on Psalm 19:9)
I know people with difficult and painful life-challenges who somehow manage to maintain a connection to their wellsprings of joy. Their secret is that they have found a way to keep “serving and preserving.” They therefore experience the natural sense of joy and accomplishment that human beings can experience when they realize they are fulfilling the purpose of their creation. The fulfillment of mitzvos can therefore bring the human being lasting joy - even in the midst of life's sorrows and challenges.
In the messianic age, all human beings will discover the joy of fulfilling the purpose of their creation, as it is written:
“A Psalm of thanksgiving: Call out to Hashem, everyone on earth. Serve Hashem with joy, come before Him with joyous song.” (Psalm 100:1,2).
Rabbi Hirsch, in his commentary on the above verse, explains that humankind will achieve the following realization concerning a life devoted to Divine service:
For it is such a life, and such a life, only, that can give us true joy – the feeling of steady and constant spiritual and moral growth, the continuous growth of all that is truly human in us - a blissful joy of life that is not subject to change in any manner by the outward circumstances which life may bring.
The new month of Adar has begun, and regarding this month, our sages say, “When the month of Adar enters, we increase joy” (Ta'anis 29a).
Have a Chodesh Tov – A Good Month!
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen