Weekly Cycle

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Leaving Egypt (Ki Tissah): the Right Way and the Wrong Way to Connect to the Tzadik

In this series, we set aside studying about Tiferet for the time being, and now focus on the attribute of Netzach. This week's Torah portion describes a people in crisis. At first glance, the crisis seems to come about because of too close of a connection between the people and their leader, Moshe, to the extent that when Moshe is perceived to be late in descending from the mountain, the people (or at least a portion of the people) become so utterly despaired that they ask Aharon to make a god for them to worship: 

1. When the people saw that Moses was late in coming down from the mountain, the people gathered against Aaron, and they said to him: "Come on! Make us gods that will go before us, because this man Moses, who brought us up from the land of Egypt we don't know what has become of him."

In a moment of weakness and vulnerability, on which Rashi says the Satan capitalized by showing the people an image of Moshe actually being dead, the people violate one of the fundamental principles of the Torah, the second of the Ten Commandments, which had just been given to it.

Implied above is an obvious contradiction. If the people were in fact so connected to Moshe, why did they not follow the commandments he transmitted to them? Even further, we see later that when Moshe does come down from the mountain, the same people that so desperately needed him do not come to his aid:

26. So Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said: "Whoever is for the Lord, [let him come] to me!" And all the sons of Levi gathered around him.

We see here that there is a correct way to connect to the leader, Moshe, and an incorrect way. The incorrect way appears to involve a reliance on the physical presence of Moshe. If Moshe is not there physically, then there is tremendous insecurity, and in order to restore a sense of security nothing is sacred or out-of-bounds.

The correct way to connect to Moshe appears to have much less to do with the leader's physical existence, but instead it focuses on what Moshe represents, as Moshe himself states, "Who is for the Lord, [let him come] to me." The focus is on Hashem, and what Moshe teaches us about how to connect to Hashem. The Tribe of Levi maintained that connection, as Rashi comments on the above:

all the sons of Levi: From here [we learn] that the entire tribe was righteous. -[from Yoma 66b]

This difference in how to connect to the Tzadik is at the very essence of the prohibition against idolatry. It is part of human nature to try to grab on to something you can see, that you can touch. However, these things are fleeting, and are a major obstacle in one's relationship with G-d.

The above is reflected in what Lubavitcher Rebbe wrote about the idea of Hiskashrus, the bond between Rebbe and Chassid: 

So, too, my late revered father-in-law the Rebbe [Rayatz] explained in a letter that [a chassid] "is able to satisfy his strong desire for a bond [with his Rebbe] only by studying the maamarim [discourses] of Chassidus which the Rebbe delivers or writes; merely beholding his face is not enough." (emphasis added; http://www.sichosinenglish.org/books/proceeding-together-1/05.htm)

Moshe represents Netzach, victory, but also endurance, eternality. It is not a physical endurance, but a spiritual one. It is in this sense that the Talmud states (Sotah 13b), that Moshe Rabbeinu Lo Met, that he did not die. 

The Rebbe continues the abovementioned letter and concludes as follows:  

Another letter states explicitly: "You ask, what does your bond with me consist of, since I do not know you by face.... True hiskashrus is attained by the study of the Torah. If you study my maamarim of Chassidus, read the sichos, associate with my friends (the members of the chassidic brotherhood and the temimim) in their studies and in their farbrengens, and fulfill my request concerning the daily recital of Tehillim and the observance of fixed times for Torah study, -- in this lies hiskashrus."

When we will study the Torah teachings and the sichos [of the Rebbe Rayatz], and will walk in this "straight path which he has shown us," then " 'as in water, face [answers to face: so is the heart of man to man'], and 'spirit rouses spirit and brings forth spirit.' For his Ruach [spirit] remains truly in our midst...; that is, even in this world of action -- [of which it is written], 'This day: to do them' -- [the departed tzaddik] is found more [than in his lifetime]." And just as here he stood and dutifully served, there too he stands and dutifully serves.... (Ibid.)

We just came from reading a Torah portion (Tetzaveh) in which Moshe's name is not explicitly mentioned. A few days ago, the 7th of Adar, was Moshe's yahrzeit, the anniversary of his physical passing (as well as his birthday). For Moshe, and for the Moshe found in every generation, the physical passing is itself like a birthday. The leader's spiritual impact on the world is not diminished. It is actually increased. 

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