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Friday
Jun212019

BEHIND THE PARGOD WITH G-D

What compelled this distance? Is there an iron curtain between them? All that stands in his way are words of Torah, which are as delicate as a rose… * However you understand the repetition of the need for boundaries, Moshe Rabbeinu was the exception to the rule: “he is trusted throughout My home.”

By Rabbi Boruch Merkur

Just after Shavuos, the Rebbe Rayatz was not responding. He wasn’t really there. Motioning dismissively with his hand, the Rebbe finally told his secretary, Chatche Feigen, “Leave this for another time.”

The Rebbe instructed him to report later on the holy activity behind the Iron Curtain. Then, as if to explain his “absence,” his being aloof, the Rebbe added, “Ich bin noch nisht arup fuhn bargI still have not come down from the mountain.” The Rebbe was still on Mount Sinai.

***

“And you, stand here with Me” (D’varim 5:28). G-d told Moshe Rabbeinu to linger at the mountaintop – “in a state devoid of the physical” (Ha’amek Davar). He remained in a transcendent, spiritual state.

This was not the first nor the last time Moshe got VIP treatment, gaining access to the most sacred places. For example, he was permitted entry to the Ohel Mo’ed whenever he pleased. No one else had freedom of passage there. Even Aharon was warned not to go there on a whim; just when duty called. Also, although a partition was erected around Har Sinai, with dire consequences for those who trespassed, Moshe Rabbeinu stood with G-d at ground zero.

But that was Moshe. The Jewish people were cordoned off behind barriers. In fact, G-d reiterated the command about respecting boundaries, perplexing Moshe.

In a fascinating lecture titled Borders Made of Roses, Rabbi YY Jacobson outlines three approaches to explain the repetitive insistence on boundaries, beginning with the teaching of Rabbi JB Soloveitchik.

The first command for boundaries refers to an iron fence or the like, sturdy enough to block off the entry of even beasts: “Set boundaries … if beast or man [touch it] he shall not live” (Yisro 19:12-13). Since it goes where it pleases and ignores its own trespass, the animal (within us) needs a strong blockade.

The repeated warning not to breach the boundary is more subtle, more symbolic or ideological than material. If it is a fence, it is a fence made of roses.

Consider the Midrash on this evocative verse in Shir HaShirim (7:3), “Your belly is a stack of wheat, fenced in with roses”:

“Stack of wheat (chitim)” refers to a stack of sins (chata’im). “Fenced in with roses” refers to words of Torah, which are as delicate as roses.

[Delicate?!] How many Mitzvos and exacting laws are there!? …

Rebbi Levi said: When a man … spends a lot of money on his wedding and seeks to consummate the marriage, if the bride tells him, “I saw a red rose,” he maintains a respectful distance from her. What compelled this distance? Is there an iron curtain between them? … Why does he not approach her?

All that stands in his way are words of Torah, which are as delicate as a rose, for it is written, “Do not approach, etc.”

The second iteration of the need for boundaries is thus spoken to the more sensitive soul, one who can appreciate the delicate beauty of a rose, of the Torah. Its splendid fragrance alone is enough to elicit our respect and reverence.

True, “Your belly is a stack of wheat (chitim),” you have an appetite and are drawn towards sins (chata’im) – but it is “fenced in with roses.” No Iron Curtain is needed for this inspired Jew. He does not hurdle or trample over even a fence made of roses. He willfully bows to G-d’s will, respecting the delicate, nebulous fence made of words of Torah.

***

There is a higher level of reverence for Divinely ordained boundaries, taught by the Rogatchover Gaon. On the words, “The nation is unable to ascend” (Yisro 19:23):

Moshe Rabbeinu conceived that the Evil Inclination had been uprooted from their hearts, as explained in Avoda Zara 4b. He questioned the repetition of the warning because to Moshe Rabbeinu anything that is prohibited simply cannot be done. According to the restrictions of nature, they simply cannot trespass there … Moshe, however, did not know that they were destined to sin [with the Golden Calf]. (Tzafnas Paneiach)

Moshe could not fathom why Jews need reminders not to trespass G-d-given boundaries. It is against their very nature! G-d, however, saw what Moshe was too generous to see – the breach of the Golden Calf.

An even more sublime approach, taught by the Rebbe (3 Sivan 5749), resonates with Rashi: A person is prepped prior to an event and he is prepped again at show time. That is, a Jew who witnesses the glory of G-d descend upon the mountain – although he had been forewarned – is liable to breach the boundary and in the throes of Divine ecstasy, race towards the Infinite, even at the cost of his life, soul expiration. A second warning is thus required.

***

Regardless of how to understand the repetition of the need for boundaries, Moshe Rabbeinu was the exception to the rule: “b’chol beisi ne’eman hu – he is trusted throughout My home.”

All the Jewish people at least vicariously have a share in Moshe’s unique closeness and intimacy with G-d. Perhaps being like Moshe (and looking at others favorably) will awaken the spark of Moshe in us, the spark of Moshiach within us, and we too will personally realize that unique closeness.

But even as we stand to receive the Torah (throughout the year), respecting our placement, the Divinely allotted boundaries – that itself makes us proper vessels for G-d to reach out to us beyond the barriers. That is exactly what happened at Har Sinai. From all directions we heard the Divine voice, and “with every Divine utterance their souls flew out of them.”

Of course, the Jewish people will ultimately be closer to G-d than even the ministering angels, behind the Pargod (curtain) with the King Himself, with the true and complete redemption. ■

 

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