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Wednesday
Jul262017

DOUBLE RECOGNITION

From Menasheh to Mishneh [Torah] to hashemen to neshama.

MACHIR TOOK GILAD

Moshe, in his final soliloquy to the Jewish people, recounts events of the past. Moshe gently rebukes them for the things they did wrong in several of the places where they camped. Moshe also recounts the miracles G-d did for them and the areas they had conquered before their crossing over the Jordan River.

Moshe recounts the battle against the two kings, Sichon and Og, and how the conquered lands were given to the tribes of Reuven and Gad. However, part of the area known as Gilad was given to half of the tribe of Menasheh.

The Torah then states “I gave Gilad to Machir.”

We know that every detail of Torah contains within it infinite wisdom and depth. Most importantly, however, are the lessons we must derive from each and every word, and certainly verse, of the Torah.

What then is the deeper meaning of the words “I gave Gilad to Machir?”

One can find many levels of meaning to this verse by analyzing the name Machir and the place called Gilad.

KNOWING YOUR PLACE

Machir can be translated as “one who recognizes.” An acquaintance is called a Machir in Hebrew because he or she recognizes the other.

We can go through life, meet many people and never recognize who these people really are and what life’s events mean to us.

There is a Talmudic statement: “Who is a wise person? One who recognizes [Makir] his place.” The simple meaning of this saying is that we should not delude ourselves about where we are in terms of our intellectual, emotional and spiritual development. We should know our qualities as well as our shortcomings.

A deeper understanding of this statement is that a wise person recognizes and appreciates his or her place in the world, and learns from, and contributes to, it.

Machir therefore symbolizes the person who is keenly aware of his or her surroundings, knows its challenges and its benefits, and realizes that his or her G-d given mission is to both learn from and contribute to that location.

The psalmist (37:23) states, “G-d directs the footsteps of man.” This means that if we find ourselves in a certain geographic location, we were put there by G-d, contrary to what we may think was our own choice.

Does that mean we don’t have free choice? The answer is that while it was preordained by G-d that we would end up in a certain location, we have the choice as to what we will do in that location. Will we recognize the place’s needs and benefits? Will we avail ourselves of the opportunity to grow as a result of our connection to our new location? Will we see the challenges this area possesses and work to find the inspiration to meet those challenges? Will we resist absorbing the negative energies of the place and contribute positive energy to it?

RECOGNIZING THE DIVINE

Machir also includes the person who recognizes the Divine in everything. The Midrash states, “If you want to recognize (Makir) the One who spoke and the world came about, study Agada [the non-legal aspects of Talmud and Midrash, which focus on stories of the righteous and spiritual matters, among other inspirational topics]. For this will enable you to recognize the Holy One, blessed is He and you will cling to His ways.”

Machir thus symbolizes both knowing our place in this world and knowing the role G-d plays in our lives.

WHY NO MENTION OF MENASHEH?

Let us consider why the Torah does not mention the name of Machir’s father, Menasheh? In earlier verses it mentions that Yair was the son of Menashe. Why does the Torah omit Menasheh’s name with respect to Machir?

One may start to answer this question by analyzing the name Menasheh itself. Joseph fathered his first child not too long after he had been imprisoned by Potiphar, sold into slavery by his brothers and suffered from their jealousy and hatred from an early age. Joseph had lived a life of much pain and anguish. So he named his first son Menasheh, because “G-d made me forget all my travail and all that was in my father’s house.”

In other words, Menashe relates to forgetting and pain. These two characteristics are, not coincidentally, hallmarks of Galus-exile.

In exile, we forget where we should be; we are confused about life’s experiences and we often don’t know our place, our mission in life.

Galus is also characterized by a lack of awareness of G-d’s role in our lives. We don’t see the Divine in everything; we tend to forget G-d’s many miracles. Often after reciting our prayers and meditating about G-d, we can go on to engage in behavior that is unG-dly. It is not a sign of insincerity; it is as sign that we have a Galus-Menasheh-forgetfulness mentality.

Thus, Machir, although he is the son of Menasheh, breaks out of the Galus mode into a Geula-Redemption mode, where recognition of both G-d’s and our roles are clear.

TIED TO ELIJAH THE GILADITE

This is why Machir was given the place called Gilad. Gilad is the symbol of Geula-Redemption because that is the place with which Elijah the prophet is identified: “Eliyahu Hagiladi.”

Thus the verse here says when we work on becoming a Machir, those who recognize both the Divine and our place in the world, we are hereby connected to the future Redemption to be heralded by Elijah.

Why is Elijah hinted here instead of Moshiach?

STAGE ONE OF REDEMPTION: FROM MENASHEH TO MISHNEH [TORAH]

One may suggest that the Messianic Age will come in two stages. The first stage is to break out of the forgetfulness-Menasheh mode; this will happen through the intervention of Elijah. Concerning Elijah, it is stated that his role is to bring parents and children together. The area where our forgetfulness is most acute is remembering the teachings of our fathers. With the passing of each generation, the following generation forgets the teachings and traditions of the earlier generations.

It is interesting that the first Torah work designed to prevent forgetfulness, the so-called “Menasheh syndrome,” was the Mishnah, which is an anagram of Menasheh. This suggests that when we study the Mishneh, which today refers not only to the actual Mishneh but all collections of Jewish law, particularly the comprehensive work of Maimonides entitled Mishneh Torah, we hasten the final Redemption. Mishneh “rearranges” our priorities and mindset from Menasheh to Mishneh.

Indeed, our Sages tell us that it will be in the merit of the study of Mishnah that the exiles will be gathered together in the Messianic Age.

Why Mishnah in particular? Why not just any part of Torah?

The answer may lie in the fact that the Mishnah’s function is to reverse the Menashe-forgetfulness exile syndrome that occurs with the passage of time and the succession of one generation to the next.

STAGE TWO OF REDEMPTION: FROM MENASHEH TO NESHAMA

However, there is another dimension to the Messianic Age connected to Machir. If Machir means, as stated, the ability to recognize the Master of the World, that recognition comes through the study of the inner dimension of the Torah, specifically the teachings of Chassidus as revealed in the last two centuries as a preparation for the Messianic Age when Moshiach will teach the deepest secrets of Torah.

Thus, the Midrash cited above states “If you want to recognize the one who spoke and the world came about, study Agada. For this will enable you to recognize the Holy One, blessed is He and you will cling to His ways.” The study of Agada is related to the study of the inner dimension of the Torah because, as the Alter Rebbe asserts in his Tanya, “most of the secrets of the Torah are embedded in the Agada.”

The study of Agada is the gateway to uncovering the spiritual and mystical levels of Torah, which introduce us to the dimension of Torah that Moshiach will fully reveal.

Interestingly, the word Menasheh, when rearranged, spells both the word ha’shemen-the oil, a metaphor for the mystical teachings and the word neshama, which means soul. Machir, which through the study of the inner precincts of Torah [Ha’shemen], unlocks the hidden recesses of our souls [Neshama] thereby totally reverses the name Menasheh.

THE SECOND MEANING OF GILAD

This ties in with yet another meaning of the word Gilad, which is a composite of two words, gal and eid. Gal means “to expose” and hints at the words of King David (Psalm 119:18) “Open my eyes [Gal einai] so I can see wonders in Your Torah.” The word eid, in turn, means witness. When we study the hidden aspects of Torah, which touch the hidden layers of our soul, we testify to G-d’s presence in our lives and in the world. Moreover, we are able to reveal as a witness even the hidden aspects of G-d.

In effect, the word Machir has two meanings: recognizing who we are and our place in the cosmos and recognizing the Divine in our world.

Galus is the antithesis of both senses of Machir. It obscures our understanding of our purpose in this world and it blocks G-d out of the picture.

Paralleling these two aspects of Machir are two meanings of Gilad as well. Elijah from Gilad is the one who removes the Menashe-forgetfulness aspect of Galus and brings the generations together.

To help facilitate and hasten this process, the study of Mishneh (Menasheh rearranged) and Mishneh Torah is most suited.

However, Moshiach, who performs the Gal einai-opening-of-our-eyes aspect of Gilad to allow us to see the wonders of Torah, benefits from our study of the inner dimension of Torah, that part of Torah which is entirely Geula-oriented. This is the rearranged letters of Menasheh (into Ha’shemen and) the neshama of Torah that enables us to recognize [Machir] the role of the Divine in our lives.

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