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8 Sivan 5761 - May 30, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
The Bond Of Intimacy

by HaRav Shimshon Dovid Pincus zt'l

From The Introduction To Tifferes Torah

Part II

The following is a translation of the introduction to the sefer Tifferes Torah by HaRav Shimshon Dovid Pincus. It was recently published separately as a pamphlet, upon the advice of HaRav Yisroel Elia Weintraub, to call attention to the important message that it contains.

In the first part, HaRav Pincus explained that the essence of life, its main task that we must not forget for even a moment, is establishing a relationship with Hakodosh Boruch Hu. "The essence of Yiddishkeit is our nation's establishment of a pact, or an alliance (bris), with Hakodosh Boruch Hu. . . . the meaning and purpose of each person's life in this world is to attain closeness to Hashem -- for here is where the greatest closeness can be attained -- and to live together with Him. This, and nothing else, is the sum total of man's life."

HaRav Pincus explains that we should not confuse the goal of this world with its essence: the goal of this world is Olom Haboh, but its essence is living and enhancing our attachment to Hashem, here.

What I Have Done For You

Let us return to the pesukim in parshas Yisro, which begin, "You have seen what I did to Egypt . . . " The true explanation of this posuk seems to be as follows. When entering marriage, the most fundamental thing that a woman wants to know is, "Does he care about me? Perhaps I'm not worth anything to him?"

Addressing this point, Hakodosh Boruch Hu said, "The whole world is Mine. There are plenty of bad things in it and plenty of misfortunes Rachmono litzlan, all kinds of illnesses and accidents, but there is a limit. Did it ever happen that all of a country's water turned into blood? Whatever else happens, water remains water! In Egypt, something happened that has never happened before: water turned into blood!

"Did I ever bring a plague of frogs upon an entire country, a plague that reached into their ovens and their stomachs? Or such a plague of lice, says Hashem -- has it ever happened that all of a country's dust turned into lice? Have you ever seen hordes of wild animals entering a populated region? All this is unnatural.

"I simply `went overboard,' as it were, and did things that I've never done before. Why? What for? Because they harmed you. And harming you is like harming Heaven's most precious possession."

These were Hashem's opening remarks -- "You can see how much I care about you." Imagine a sweet and gentle father, who sees someone touch his only son. He cares so deeply for his son that he's liable to reach the boiling point and do things that are really out of character, that he's never done before in his life.

So it is in Heaven -- "See how much pain I have because of what happens to you. See how much I care, to the point of madness," as it were. This was the introduction, so that we'd never look heavenward and say. "What does He care?"

He cares deeply, to the very depths of His Being, as it were. This is the alef, the first, most elementary lesson in Yiddishkeit.

"...And I carried you on eagle's wings and I brought you to Me." This is the heart of the "deal." It's not about "reward and punishment," nor is it any kind of "deal" at all. What it's about is, " `I brought you to Me', so that we should be close and attached to one another."

A Covenant is Everlasting

The Chasam Sofer (in Teshuvos, Yoreh Dei'ah #356,) expresses his amazement at the Rambam for counting belief in the coming of Moshiach among his ikrim, his thirteen principles of faith. The Chasam Sofer writes, "I cannot possibly believe that our [future] redemption can be one of the principles of our religion and that, were `the wall to collapse,' choliloh, that we would say, that if our sins chas vesholom led to His divorcing us forever, like Rabbi Akiva held about the ten tribes -- that they were banished forever -- would we be allowed to throw off the yoke of Heaven's rule, or to change even a decree of the rabbonon by the minutest fraction? Choliloh, we are not servants of Hashem just in order `to eat from the fruit of the land and be satisfied by its goodness." We want to fulfill Hashem's will. Whatever happens, in whatever circumstances, we are Hashem's servants. Let Him do with us whatever He wishes and whatever He wants. [Belief in redemption] is neither a principle, nor a foundation, upon which the building of an edifice depends.

"However, since the most fundamental thing of all is to believe in the Torah and the prophets, which speak about our ultimate redemption in parshas Nitzovim and in parshas Ha'azinu, as the Ramban writes there, and about which the prophets spoke a great deal, anyone who entertains doubts about the redemption denies the principle of belief in Torah and in the prophets."

What emerges from these words is that we certainly believe that the future redemption will take place, why does this make such belief into one of the principles of faith? Were Moshiach not to come, in what way would the last generation be different from any of the preceding ones, who did not merit to see Moshiach, yet who still served Hashem and entered Gan Eden and Olom Haboh? Why, without faith in the final redemption, is faith in Torah undermined to the point where the former becomes one of the fundamental principles?

The answer seems to be that belief in Moshiach is not an ikkar on account of its role in the future, because of the events that will take place at the end of days. It is a fundamental principle because of its role in the present! The heart and soul of Yiddishkeit, here and now, is to understand the meaning of what happens to us in the present, every single day that the golus continues.

The essence of Yiddishkeit is the covenant of love which Hakodosh Boruch Hu made with am Yisroel at Har Sinai, here, in this world. The main consummation of the covenant takes place in Eretz Yisroel, in the Beis Hamikdosh. A covenant can only be called such, if it is everlasting. Were Hakodosh Boruch Hu to chas vesholom reject Yisroel forever, then Torah and mitzvos would become a simple matter of reward and punishment, even though Hashem's will would still be that we fulfill the mitzvos. A gentile is also not allowed to throw off the yoke of Heaven's rule or to deviate in the smallest way from Hashem's word.

When the Chasam Sofer writes, "We want to fulfill Hashem's will. Whatever happens, in whatever circumstances, we are Hashem's servants. Let Him do with us whatever He wishes and whatever He wants," these are very lofty aspirations, but this is not Yiddishkeit, because Yiddishkeit means the existence of a covenant of love and attachment to Hashem.

For example, if a father throws his son out of the house, is there any difference whether he intended it as an educational measure, in order to train his son and to teach him better ways by showing him anger, or whether he threw him out completely and really doesn't want to see him at close quarters ever again? There is, of course, all the difference in the world; not only to the future but to the present.

Were Moshiach never to come, it would mean that Hashem had divorced us, that the whole covenant to begin with had only been for a certain time, and therefore not a real covenant at all. The most fundamental, the most essential element would be missing.

Owing or Deserving?

It appears to me, moreover, that the above is not only true of the foundation of Yiddishkeit, but also of the fundamental reason for the world's creation. It is well known that the purpose of creating the world was that there should be reward and punishment, so that the delights of Olom Haboh should be earned and not be "the bread of shame."

In Daas Tevunos, the Ramchal writes, "For Hashem, yisborach Shemo, is certainly the ultimate in goodness and it is the nature of Goodness to do good and this is why He, yisborach Shemo, wanted to make creations, so that He could do good to them. For if there is no recipient of the good, then there is no doing good. However, in order that this good should be complete, He knew, in His exalted wisdom, that those receiving it should earn it through their own toil. Then they are the true masters of that good and will have no shame in receiving the good, as one experiences when receiving charity from another. Concerning this they said (Yerushalmi Orloh 1:3), `Someone who eats what is not his, is ashamed to look his benefactor in the face.' " This is a well known idea that is mentioned by all the commentators.

The question can be asked however, that the Chovos Halevovos writes (in the fourth chapter of Shaar Habitochon), in discussing reward and punishment, that giving anyone reward for his good deeds is, "Kindness and goodwill and goodness on Hashem's part, as the posuk (Tehillim 62:13) says, `And to You Hashem, is kindness, for You repay a man according to his deeds.' The reason for this [being such a kindness on Hashem's part] is that were a person to have as many good deeds as the grains of sand on the seashore, they would not balance a single one of the good things that the Creator yisborach does for a person in this world. How much more so [is a person undeserving] if he has a sin. And if the Creator were to be particular about demanding thanks, then all a person's deeds would disappear and be lost in comparison to the smallest of the Creator's kindnesses towards him."

Chazal's comment in the medrash (Vayikro Rabboh 27), is also well known: "Rabbi Yirmiyoh the son of Rabbi Elozor said, `In the future, a bas kol will blast from the mountaintops and say, "Whoever has acted on Hashem's behalf, let him come and take his reward." This is the meaning of the posuk (Bamidbor 23:23), "At that time it will be said to Yaakov and to Yisroel . . . " Ruach hakodesh says, "Who preempted Me, [let him come forward] and I will pay him? Who praised Me before I gave him a soul? Who performed a circumcision for My sake, before I gave him a male child? Who built a parapet before I gave him a roof? Who made me a mezuzoh, before I gave him a house? Who built a succah before I gave him a place? Who made a lulav before I gave him money? Who made tzitzis before I gave him a tallis? Who separated pei'oh before Me, before I gave him a field? Who separated terumoh for Me, before I gave him a granary? Who separated challah before Me, before I gave him dough? Who set aside an offering before Me, before I gave him an animal?' "

Simply put, it is clear that no one really deserves reward for their good deeds. What then, is the meaning of the system of reward and punishment, by which the world operates, so that we should not eat "the bread of shame"? One way or the other, everything is a gift and whatever we achieve, our reward will remain "the bread of shame." What then, was the purpose of creating this world?

The answer seems to be that the world is certainly here so that we should not eat "the bread of shame." But the reason why our recompense will not be "bread of shame" is not because we deserve the pleasure of Olom Haboh. Of course, everything is kindness and a free gift. However, if a son is supported by his father, and the father fixes up everything in his son's life, buying him an expensive apartment and equipping it with fine furniture -- is that the bread of shame? If a millionaire takes a wife from a poor but fine family and places a hundred servants at her disposal, gives her a life of luxury, and brings her expensive gifts and jewelry -- is that the bread of shame? Where there is a close relationship, where there is love and belonging, there is no shame in receiving.

This is what we have come to this world for. Not to earn Olom Haboh as our wages but to attain closeness and attachment to Hashem to the point where Hashem calls us, "My daughter, my sister, my mother . . . " Then, when we take our place at the great, infinite banquet, we will not feel that we are eating "the bread of shame." It will be our rightful portion, on account of the closeness and the love which we attained while in this world.

This is the meaning of the mishnah (Ovos perek 6), "Whoever learns Torah for its own sake is called a friend, beloved . . . " for this is the purpose of everything. Hashem said about Avrohom Ovinu (Bereishis 18:19), "for I have known him," which Rashi explains as, "an expression of endearment like, `an acquaintance of her husband' (Ruth 2:1), `for Boaz is our acquaintance' (3:2), and `and I will know you by name' (Shemos 33:17)" [in each case, the knowledge implies closeness].

It seems that Yirmiyohu Hanovi's outcry can be understood in the same way (2:8): "And those who hold onto the Torah have not known Me!" The nation's finest, those who cling to Torah, were lacking in regard to the entire purpose of creation -- attaining love, endearment and closeness to Hashem yisborach.

I Want to Cleave to You

All this is stated explicitly in parshas Lech Lecho, where the Torah writes (Bereishis 15:1), " . . . Do not be afraid Avrohom, I am protecting you, your reward is very great. And Avrohom said to Hashem . . . `What will You give me, and I am going childless . . . ' "

The posuk's language seems very strange. How could Avrohom Ovinu ask Hashem yisborach, "What will You give me?" Hashem is unlimited, as the posuk says (Iyov 42:2), "I know that You can do anything, and that no plan is beyond You." Hashem is able to give better things than children, without any limit. Is there any limit to what He can do?

The commentators on this posuk were aware of this difficulty and they explain Avrohom's question as referring to reward in this world. However, the problem remains, for Hashem is able to give anything at all in this world as well as the next. The explanation however is, that Hakodosh Boruch Hu told Avrohom explicitly that his "reward" would be very great i.e. it would be a reward for serving Hashem. It was to this that Avrohom referred in his question.

His meaning was, "Hashem, if it is to be a reward, then the whole content is lacking. Does a father give his son a "reward?" Does a husband tell his wife, `If you prepare a good meal, you'll be paid well?' What will You give me? The whole meaning of such a gift is not what I want. The essence of Yiddishkeit is missing. I don't want reward. I want closeness, attachment. I want a son from whom Klal Yisroel will issue. They will make a covenant of love with You, because this is the meaning of life and its ultimate purpose. Nothing has value besides this. Whatever You give me, even eternal pleasures, are worthless. They are the portion of the nations. Pious gentiles who receive a portion in Olom Haboh can have eternal pleasure but for a Jew, there is only cleaving to Hashem, closeness and a covenant of love with Hashem Himself."

This was what Avrohom Ovinu, and the other holy ovos, wanted and this is the desire and the essence of every single Jew.

Torah Makes the Connection

For there to be a connection and an attachment between two parties, there must be something in the middle that holds onto both of them and through which they are connected. This is the Torah. Hakodosh Boruch Hu is joined, as it were, to the Torah and to the degree that Yisroel are connected to Torah, they are connected to Hakodosh Boruch Hu.

Torah is thus the ultimate purpose and the heart of everything. This characteristic of Torah is primarily that of Yaakov Ovinu. It is known as tifferes, splendor, for splendor is only recognized when a multitude of shades and hues unite to form a harmonious whole. The posuk (Bereishis 37:2) says, "These are the generations of Yaakov, Yosef . . . " for Yosef was the bearer of the characteristic known as "for all in Heaven and earth" (Divrei Hayomim I 29:11), which unites Heaven and earth and which brings the attachment to Hashem yisborach through learning and involvement with Torah. When this attachment exists, we are referred to as "Yisroel, [it is] in you that I attain splendor."

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