Saturday, January 16, 2010

Giving Over What You Know

Every Shabbat, the women in my shul take turns teaching the Torah portion of the week to each other. I volunteered to teach this week, as a way of honoring my parents' yarhzeit. They died a year apart in the same week, 7 and 6 years ago, respectively.

The parsha or chapter was Vaera, meaning I appeared, and begins with G-d describing how He appeared to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, in answer to Moshe's question, or rebuke of His behavior, from the previous week. G-d essentially reminds Moshe that he stands on a spiritual level higher than the Avos* and that with all the their trials and tribulations (Avraham nearly sacrificing his son, Yitzchak being the son nearly sacrificed, and Yaakov with a jerk of a twin brother, just to name a few), they never questioned G-d. That's because the Avos embodied the essence of emotions (Avraham = love, Yitzchak = fear of evil, Yaakov = mercy) which led to an unquestioning acceptance of all heavenly decrees. Considering what the Avos accomplished, it's safe to say that emotional attributes lead to action.

Moshe, on the other hand, embodied the essence of knowledge, a tendency towards detachment and the need to question everything - decidedly an attribute of inaction. G-d let Moshe know that he needed to get some of the Avos' emotional strength to augment his attribute of knowledge, and get on with the business of redemption.

And Moshe did just that. Since we all know the end of the story, it's technically not a spoiler to say that the Jews left Egypt as a free nation. But only because Moshe was able to combine the detachment of knowledge (a higher attribute) with the action of emotions (a lower attribute).

What does that mean for us? It means the Torah scholar cannot reject the mundane world, and the water carrier must seek to beautify mitzvot, or good deeds. Like Moshe, we must bring the high and the low together to enable redemption. So let's get to work and bring Moshiach NOW!!!

*Avos: the Fathers, or patriarchs of Judaism - Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov

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