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Shabbos Hagadol

   Affecting the World

The Difficult Rambam

What Does Faith Have To Do With It?

When Our Sages Speak

Yud Alef Nissan

Counting of the Omer

Pesach Sheni

 
 The Difficult Rambam When Our Sages Speak


What Does Faith Have To Do With It?

On the Tenth of Nissan, [150] four days before Pesach, each Jewish family in Mitzrayim (Egypt) took a lamb, tied it to their bedpost, thereby spurning the Egyptian idol worship and readied themselves for the first Pesach sacrifice.

The Midrash explains that the Egyptians came to the Jews and asked them to explain their actions. The Jews repeated carefully exactly what they were doing without any apologies. They disclosed that in four days there would be a plague in which all the first born would be killed.

Understandably, many Egyptians who were first born heard this information with a lack of enthusiasm.

They approached Pharaoh, demanding that he listen and let the Jews go, to the point that civil war broke out.

We know that many Egyptians died in that civil war and all of that happened on the Tenth of Nissan.

In that year, the Tenth was Shabbos; we celebrate it as Shabbos HaGadol, the Shabbos before Pesach.

Shabbos HaGadol is about the leaving of Mitzrayim (called Egypt but understood as confined, restricted - see Building Block No. 8).

It was the merit of their emunah [151] which broke down the boundaries encompassing the Jews.

Emunah is difficult to translate in English; it means, belief, faith, trust, but more than any of those terms, it connotes a form of connection, an interdependence in one's belief.

So at first glance, [152] asks the Rebbe, what has emunah to do with escape from restrictions? There can be emunah in bondage and there can be emunah in escape; one really has nothing to do with the other.

There is an important difference between the nations and Jews in relation to this question of emunah.

Whereas the nations are regarded in Jewish thought with exactly the same respect as every other facet of creation, there are the differences already discussed. (Building Block No. 6)

In addition, a non-Jew and a Jew have an important qualitative difference in their emunah.

Non-Jews believe in G-d. However, a non-Jew's belief in G-d is an intellectual accomplishment, a product of reasoning. An intelligent non-Jew observes that everything in the world is created and therefore has a Creator. They make logical connections between the fact that Nature is so staggeringly powerful, deep and wide, that there must be some kind of G-dly-force behind it. This notion is expressed differently. Various religions talk about a Force or a Power. Basically, all express the same thing despite the changes in vocabulary that they recognize that there is a G-d in the world.

This recognition is a product of intellect and reasoning. Nothing however is known about that Force.

Reason cannot take the inquiry any further.

The notion of G-dliness is recognized in what can be observed intellectually and in what conclusions can be drawn inescapably from what is observed.

A neshomah's emunah does not come from empirical observation; rather, a Jew's emunah is there first.

A neshomah is part of, and so connected to, G-d.

The emunah in G-d is unshakable and almost irrelevant to observation.

In the same way as others are connected to the world, a Jew is connected to Hashem.

This is the critically important difference and the reason the so-called dialogues between Jews and non-Jews have been such a failure in history.

One person is talking Japanese, the other, Chinese. They are both perfectly logical languages in isolation, but there is no point of conjunction.

A Jew is expressing an inescapable spiritual condition; a non-Jew is articulating an intellectual and rational position achieved.

Just as a Jew is not limited in the world by his perception of nature, he is not limited in his appreciation of G-dliness.

There are various names for Hashem.

Here it is sufficient to discuss two.

The name Yud-Hay-Vav-Hay is used to describe Hashem outside of Nature and the name E-l-o-h-i-m is G-d as concealed in Nature.

The level of Hashem described by Yud-Hay-Vav-Hay is a description of past, present and future. This is above Nature, as Nature cannot function in terms of the past, present and future all at once. This is outside the scheme of the created existence as time is a created commodity.

The name Elokim means Hashem's concealment by Nature and describes everything created in terms of the physical world.

It is logical therefore for people to function within, and be part of, that natural system. It is wrong to ask the remainder of humanity to be anything else as they simply lack the sensory perception.

A Jew, on the other hand, is connected to Yud-Hay-Vav-Hay, outside of Nature.

So it was that Pharaoh asks at one point, immediately prior to Israel breaking out of their collective Mitzrayim, "Who is this Name Yud-Hay- Vav-Hay?" He only knew Elokim.

It is a common mistake to underestimate the prowess of Pharaoh. He was a man of immense power in kelipah, heading up the most powerful nation in the world. But when he said, "I don't know who is this Yud-Hay-Vav- Hay", he was telling the truth. He was doing no more or less than making a sincere empirical observation.

Nature comes from Elokim, that which is outside Nature (miracles) from Yud-Hay-Vav-Hay.

There are two kinds of miracles; miracles which are above and beyond Nature and miracles which are enclothed in Nature. The miracles which are above and beyond Nature are, for example, the Ten Plagues. When you suddenly see hail on fire or water turn to blood, then that is an interference of Nature from outside of Nature.

Pharaoh saw and attested to all of those miracles. At the end of all of these, he says, "I don't know who is this Name Yud-Hay-Vav-Hay". He sees what is happening above Nature, but it does not compute.

Those miracles which are themselves clothed in Nature are of the kind represented by the phenomenon of Sadam Hussein's scud missiles. We all lived through this recently. We learned that forty-one missiles over a short period of time were discharged over Eretz Yisrael and not one person in Israel died directly from a hit.

The most hardened, non-observant Jew freely recognized this as a miracle. Within a month or two of the events, the world, led by the Press, agreed that the rockets were deficient, there was inadequate technology, the Russians sabotaged them - any reason that could be found was found providing that reason could be reduced to natural terms.

To this day, the world has forgotten that it really was a miracle; they chose to remember that there was something wrong with the machines. After all they were required to be buried under the sand. Maybe all the reasoned reasons play a part. There is a need among non- Jews to relate their experiences to, and support them by, Nature.

There is a need in a Jew however to look totally outside of Nature and to relate their experiences to their direct connection with Hashem.

In fact, says the Rebbe, in a Jew the position is reversed.

A Jew will come to a conclusion that first it is G-d only, then there is Nature.

The Talmud Yerushalmi says "a Jew prays to Hashem and them sows his grain." Why? he knows as a farmer that the ground will grow the grain in accordance with Nature. He knows that the exigencies of storms, pestilence or famine are the prerogative of Hashem.

So his first point of reference is Hashem. Has he behaved according to law, has he been good to his mother, did he talk Loshon Hora (defamingly)? Satisfied with his calculation, only then does he know its produce. This is the psyche of the Jewish nation.

The splitting of the Red Sea (as it mistranslated - it is actually the Sea of Reeds) is another example of an event unanimously accepted as a miracle by the Jewish nation.

Not only is the story told in the Chumash (the Written Torah) but the details are punctiliously explained in the oral law later transcribed to the Talmud and the Midrash.

The miracle was so obvious, explains the Midrash, that when the sea divided, all water that had been collected in one place, anywhere in the world, also divided.

It is interesting that nearly all geophysical accounts of the splitting of the Sea are by non-Jews. Consistently, any version always tracks along a natural explanation. It was the east wind, it was the fact that the Nile (!) dries up at that time; any possible convolution which may yield a rational explanation. Some say it never happened at all. Leaving aside such fraud, those non-Jews who seriously try and come to terms with the fact that it happened will accept it at a rational level, forcing the facts to fit into preconceived natural patterns.

The reason that Jews were afforded the opportunity to be released from Mitzrayim (bondage) was because of their emunah. It was because they, prior to Matan Torah, were connected by their choice to Hashem and of course that connection was outside of and beyond Nature.

Redemption from limitations exists at two distinct levels.

There is a level in kelipah, badness, where a person can be so limited and so immersed in the kelipah around him that he can almost forget Hashem, so descending to what is called the 49th level of Impurity, a pitifully low and miserable state. This was the point to which Israel had sunk prior to their escape from Mitzrayim.

There is however, a level of limitation in kedushah (holiness) where a Jew can be in Mitzrayim, not only some 3,500 years ago but immediately before Pesach in every year and indeed every day.

His appreciation of G-dliness becomes limited; his awareness of his connection to Hashem as being outside of nature becomes muddied and limited by the natural environment.

To this Jew, his environment seems to define him in the same way as it does a non-Jew. The progress through life and the solving of the trials and problems that a Jewish neshomah has to solve are seen as part of the natural fabric. This is real Mitzrayim.

For a Jewish neshomah, this is total jail.

What is the key to escape? Only the merit of emunah.

This is the secret of Pesach, prefaced by Shabbos HaGadol. This is the secret of the eight days of Pesach and, in particular, the two sedarim. The process of escape is no longer a physical process, our neshomos have done that in the past.

It is the recurring process of escaping that reinforced goal of spiritual limitation which is the secret of Pesach.

A Jewish neshomah must not be oppressed and goaled by its host nation in its perspective. Unless that perspective can be changed to that of a Jew outside of the constraints of his physical environment, Jewish life is wasted.

This level is difficult to attain every day when dealing with the business thieves of everyday life. Certainly, the accomplishment is greater every generation when the tests for the neshomah's in every gilgul increase in difficulty.

The merit of their emunah which did not reckon with Nature is the same merit that takes a Jew out of his Mitzrayim on Pesach and on a daily basis.

Not being concerned about looking different, having a beard, wearing a yarmulke and wearing tzitzis is the way out.

The greatest bondage for a Jew is to imagine his welfare as being dependent on the non-Jewish view of him. The greatest escape comes from not being aware of their outlook but being totally conscious of only our connection to and dependence upon Hashem.

This is why we eat matzah on Pesach.

Matzah is called the bread of emunah [153] and accordingly symbolizes our connection to Hashem.

Chometz (leaven) and matzah in Hebrew share the same letters, but reversed. Chometz connotes being puffed up and bloated and full of one's self-importance. [154]

Emunah cannot co-exist with yeshus (feeling of a persons self- importance) (See Building Block No. 4).

When a person is blown up with his own self-importance, there is no room left for emunah in Hashem. The state of emunah is a contrary state of yeshus. The more yeshus, the less emunah.

One of the secrets of Torah is that the way to reach the requisite level of emunah is to get rid of the chometz. Clean it out of the houses, cars, pockets and our system altogether. Then, when instead we eat matzah which has no leaven.

This matzah has to be scrupulously chosen matzah. The matzah, free of leaven, affords the opportunity of and space for emunah. By eating it, we take in the power to re-focus our emunah for the coming year so equipping us with the keys to break forth from spiritual bondage and limitation.

Footnotes:

  1. (Back to text) See Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch 430:1.

  2. (Back to text) See Yalkut Shimoni Hoshea, Remez 519.

  3. (Back to text) For the following explanation see Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 1, p. 239ff.

  4. (Back to text) See HaYom Yom, Entry 15 Nissan.

  5. (Back to text) See Likkutei Torah, Leviticus 13ff.
 The Difficult Rambam When Our Sages Speak



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