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Tuesday
Feb262019

ALL WE’RE MISSING IS MIYAD, URGENCY

It is G-d’s will that there should be death. It is G-d’s will there should be exile, rachmana litzlan. But G-d gave us the challenge of mortality, of exile, for us to harness its frightfully powerful energy, so that we can assert ourselves over the world and conquer it, as we see from these immortal tzaddikim – Yaakov Avinu, Moshe Rabbeinu, and Dovid HaMelech.

By Boruch Merkur

Last week we discussed the intriguing Gemara[1] enumerating four perfectly righteous men – “Binyamin son of Yaakov, Amram father of Moshe, Yishai father of Dovid, and Kilav son of Dovid” – spiritual giants, who were so great they would have been immortal, were it not for “the counsel of the serpent.” That is, the primordial snake’s enticement of Adam and Chava to commit the original sin, eating from the Tree of Knowledge, resulted in mortality for everyone, even these four tzaddikim.

How strange is this list of (relatively) obscure Biblical figures compared to their relatives mentioned, great leaders of the Jewish people who far outshone them: Yaakov Avinu, Moshe Rabbeinu, and Dovid HaMelech. Evidently, true leadership comes at the cost of self-actualization. True leaders make tough decisions, stifling their own spiritual growth. (See last week’s editorial.)

The Rebbe discusses this Gemara in Likkutei Sichos Vol. 24,[2] expanding on the significance of “the counsel of the serpent.” There[3] the Rebbe cites the Alter Rebbe’s teaching in Torah Ohr (Parshas Mishpatim, end):

They died only because of the counsel of the serpent. Although they were totally righteous, in these four tzaddikim remained “a trace of the serpent’s venom; they did not manage to expel it completely.” In terms of avodas Hashem, the serpent’s venom is “a haughty spirit that becomes established in a man’s character … being self-conscious and aware of what he lacks or of what is good for him” – in short, the concern for self.

That is, “the counsel of the serpent” means that the sin of eating from the Tree of Knowledge causes a lack in the tzaddik, resulting in mortality.

 

In contrast to these four tzaddikim who only died “because of the counsel of the serpent,” there is an even more subtle cause of mortality. In a eulogy composed for the Radak, the Arizal teaches:

“If a man commits a cheit (a sin) for which he is sentenced to death”[4] – meaning, when one lacks (“cheit” interpreted here as “lack”) a reason for being sentenced to death, for he did no evil, why should he die? [The Torah alludes to the answer in the continuation of the verse] “You shall then hang him on an eitz (“a pole”; literally “a tree”)” – [i.e., he died] because of [the original sin of] the Eitz HaDaas, the Tree of Knowledge, resulting in the decree of death [upon humanity]. It is for this reason [alone] that he died.

At this higher level, the tzaddik is subject to mortality not because he was affected by the snake, something negative, but because, “‘nora alila al b’nei Adam,’[5] because G-d established (through the Tree of Knowledge) the concept of death in the world.” Such a tzaddik dies only because it is G-d’s will that there should be death in the world.

The Rebbe explains[6]: “When death is only on account of G-d’s will that there should be death in the world, it is understood that the tzaddik perceives that the entire concept of death is only (as it is from G-d’s perspective) the advantage that results from it, a height that far transcends his own level.”

 

We began this discussion with tzaddikim who die only “because of the counsel of the serpent,” because of the evil that affects the entire world. Then we learned of tzaddikim who have absolutely no connection with the serpent’s venom, but only die because of the “eitz,” because G-d wants the Eitz HaDaas to bring death into the world for the advantage derived from the struggle of mortals. And there is a third level, alluded to in the Gemara we began with, in the names by which the four tzaddikim are associated: [7]

There are three relatives mentioned – Moshe, Yaakov, and Dovid – spelling the acronym “MiYaD.”[8] Of all the tzaddikim mentioned in Tanach, specifically these tzaddikim did not die.[9] Dovid HaMelech is cited twice, alluding to a “Second Dovid,”[10] Moshiach Tzidkeinu, who also lives forever.[11]

Now, why does all this matter to us? All we care about is fulfilling the sacred mission with which we were charged, when the Rebbe delegated us[12] to fulfill the urgent call “to do all you possibly can to bring Moshiach immediately!” The Rebbe put himself in a most vulnerable position, prophesying the immanence of redemption and depending on us to see it through. Since a positive prophecy must come true, the immediacy of the advent of Moshiach is directly related to the Rebbe’s honor and dignity.

It seems that the only way to end this brutally long exile is to appeal to G-d directly. We must scream out to Hashem from the core and demand that He relent and return us to our Father’s table. To do that, we must be fit and worthy to stand before Him and make such an audacious demand. We must perfect ourselves in every way possible to be the very best Jew we can, each with his or her unique personality.

This Gemara gives us a clue as to how to rise up to this challenge, a key to harness the particular energy available only in our times. The message is for us to strive to perfect ourselves and remove every “trace of the serpent’s venom,” transcending concern for self and instead caring about others, being a true leader.

Our emphasis must be on “MiYaD,” taking our mission seriously and with a commanding sense of urgency. It is G-d’s will that there should be death. It is G-d’s will there should be exile, rachmana litzlan. But G-d gave us the challenge of mortality, of exile, for us to harness its frightfully powerful energy, so that we can assert ourselves over the world and conquer it, as we learn from these immortal tzaddikim.

There is an energy available now that is more tangible, apparent, and real than in any other time. We live in a world whose centerpiece is the binary-driven chaos of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, a world that is a thick entanglement of good mixed with evil and evil mixed with good. There is a tree whose roots extend to every home in the world. There are fruits that appear as a “delight to behold, etc.,” and there is a snake who tries to entice and pollute the innocence of a Jew, G-d’s precious child. Our mission is to stay keenly focused on serving Hashem in His private garden, feasting together on the Tree of Life. We stand on guard there from the Eitz HaDaas, and we thereby transcend the world, mortality, and exile, and harness all of its raw energy. Our success draws on the wisdom and devotion of Moshe Rabbeinu, the wholesomeness and diligence of Yaakov Avinu, and the beloved valor and victory of Dovid HaMelech – to bring Moshiach now and forever, teikef u’miyad mamash!

 


[1] Bava Basra 17a

[2] pg. 132-136

[3] Pg. 134

[4] Ki Teitzei 21:22. The verse reads: “If a man commits a sin for which he is sentenced to death, and he is put to death, you shall hang him on a pole.”

[5] T’hillim 66:5

[6] in Footnote 28

[7] “Binyamin son of Yaakov, Amram father of Moshe, Yishai father of Dovid, and Kilav son of Dovid.”

[8] See the sicha of Shabbos Parshas Mishpatim, 27 Shvat, Mevarchim HaChodesh Adar I (Seifer HaSichos 5752, pg. 375-376): “May we experience the redemption in the real sense, v’teikef u’miyad mamash (literally this instant), with all the interpretations of ‘MiYaD’ (including the acronym that spells out the milestone generations of Moshe, Yisroel (Baal Shem Tov), Dovid (Malka Meshicha).”

[9] Moshe: The Gemara (Sota 13b) first discusses at length details of Moshe Rabbeinu’s passing, then abruptly presents an alternate view:

“Others say: Moshe did not die. […] Just as at Mount Sinai he was standing [before G-d] and serving [Him – although he was utterly removed from worldly concerns, such as eating and drinking, Moshe still was not dead, rather] so too here [at the end of Moshe’s one hundred and twenty years of life] he stands and serves.”

Yaakov: “Rav Yitzchok continued: Thus said Rebbi Yochanan: Yaakov Avinu did not die. (Rather, he lives forever ––Rashi.) … just as his descendants are alive, so is he alive.” (Taanis 5b)

Dovid:

Dovid Melech Yisroel chai v’kayam – Dovid, king of the Jewish people, is alive and lives on.” That is, even now he is “chai v’kayam,” in a manner of “Melech Yisroel.” … The leadership and rule of Dovid HaMelech stands eternally; even today he is called “Melech Yisroel” and he is “chai v’kayam” as a king of the Jewish people. That is, even now, during the time of exile, after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, etc., the Torah says that every month, at time of Kiddush Levana, one must say “Dovid Melech Yisroel chai v’kayam,” because that is the way it is even now [i.e., Dovid HaMelech lives forever]. (Sichos Kodesh 5741, pg. 17, second day of Chag HaShavuos, bilti muga)

[10] Sanhedrin 98b, end:

Rav Yehuda said in the name of Rav: In the future, the Alm-ghty will establish for them another Dovid (who is destined to rule over them as king ––Rashi), as it is said, “They shall serve G-d, their L-rd, and Dovid, their king, whom I shall establish for them” (Yirmiyahu 30:9). Here it does not say “I have established” but “I shall establish.” Rav Papa said to Abayei, yet it is written (Yechezkel 37:25), “Dovid, My servant shall be your nasi (prince) forever” [questioning the need to infer a new, different Dovid who is destined to rule over the Jewish people]. (Abayei answers) It is like the case where there are the positions of both king and half king.

[11]Moshiach: Regarding Moshiach it is taught in Maamarei Admur HaZakein – N’viim (pg. 61):

Our saying, “Dovid Melech Yisroel chai v’kayam – Dovid King of Yisroel is alive and lives on” [during Kiddush Levana] refers to Moshiach ben Dovid … Dovid’s years were borrowed from the life of Adam Kadmaa … It was not true life, for these years were [loaned] on condition to be returned, meaning that they would ultimately ascend to their source. That is why it is said about the years Dovid lived, “shaal mimcha – were borrowed from you.” But regarding Moshiach it is said, “You have given him,” a gift, for they [i.e., the years of life] are not subject to return.

Moshiach’s life is therefore eternal life, etc. That is the meaning of “nasata lo orech yamim – You have given him longevity.”

[12] On Ko’ach Nissan 5751

Boruch welcomes opportunitites to speak further about Moshiach and a variety of other topics. Please editor@beismoshiach.org for details.

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