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Wednesday
Aug012018

GEULA: A ONE SECTIONED MENORAH

AN ENIGMATIC MIDRASH

There is an enigmatic statement in the Midrash about the opening words of this week’s parsha:

“And it will be because of your listening to these ordinances, and your observing and performing them; then G-d, your G-d, will safeguard for you the covenant…”

The Midrash often prefaces its commentary on the Torah with a Halachic discussion that pertains to the verse.

The Halachic introduction on the opening verse of this week’s parsha is enigmatic.  It appears to have no direct connection to the Biblical verse at hand.

The Midrash discusses the following question of Jewish law concerning one of the laws of the Shabbos.

“A Jewish person who has a menorah [candelabrum] that is constructed of several sections, what is the law? May it be carried on the Sabbath?

Thus have our Sages taught: One who attaches the branches of a menorah on the Sabbath is liable to a chatas-sin offering. And why is he liable?

Rabbi Abahu said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: ‘One who assembles a candelabrum on the Sabbath is akin to a person who builds on the Sabbath, and one who builds on the Sabbath is liable.’”  

Commentators ask, what is the connection between the law of putting together parts of a menorah with the verse that tells us that if we listen to G-d’s commandments we will be rewarded?

More specifically, the Midrash later explains the meaning of the word Ekev (usually translated as “because”) as referring to the “end of time,” or, the World-to-Come. At that time, we will reap the reward for the Mitzvos we perform today.

There is a similar Chassidic interpretation of this verse that “In the end of days we will listen to the commandments.”

What is the connection between the end of days – the Messianic Era – with the prohibition of putting together a Menorah made of several sections?

The Midrash continues with a discussion of how the Jewish people only kept the first Shabbos properly, that the Shabbos was given for our benefit and that we will be rewarded for its observance in the end.

How does all this tie in with the law of not assembling the sections of a Menorah on Shabbos?

FRAGMENTATION

Why, as the Midrash notes, were we so inconsistent in our observance of Shabbos in the past.

The answer lies in the law of a multi-section Menorah, which serves as a metaphor for the deficiencies in our observance of Shabbos and the Mitzvos.

The sectional Menorah is a symbol of Galus-exile and its deficiencies that are responsible for the compromised observance of Shabbos and other Mitzvos.

A Menorah is a symbol of the Jewish people. A Menorah of several detached parts can be suggestive of a fragmented Jewish nation.

The Hebrew word for section is perek. This word has the same numerical value as Mitzraim-Egypt, the source of all exiles. The very word Mitzraim denotes a state of confinement, paralysis, stifled progress and inability to relate to others or even one’s own inner soul.    

This social and spiritual fragmentation can manifest itself in several ways.

TWO FORMS OF UNITY

First, when the Jewish people are fragmented and discord prevails, they are suffering from an acute Galus affliction.  When G-d’s unity is obscured, it is negatively reflected by a lack of unity amongst us. Conversely, a lack of unity amongst us causes the concealment of G-d’s unity.

Referring back to the Menorah as a metaphor, a question can be raised that if we were to connect the parts of the Menorah to form one whole Menorah, would that remedy the problem of our lack of unity?

The answer is that it would still not be the higher unity associated with the end of Galus. Geula-Redemption requires a much more sophisticated version of unity.

Whenever unity is one constructed because each part senses its separateness, it is forbidden to do so on Shabbos because of the prohibition against building on Shabbos. In metaphoric terms, Shabbos is a model and portent of the Messianic Age. This form of unity is not a Shabbos-Geula unity. It is associated with the weekdays, i.e., a Galus tainted unity.

To be sure, even a superficial constructed unity is preferable to disharmony, but it still leaves much room for growth to reach a unity untainted by Galus.

Genuine unity is organic and intrinsic. The Menorah in the Beis HaMikdash was mikshe-made out of a single piece of gold. As long as the unity is artificial, it cannot be a remedy for the Galus which came about because of sinas chinam, senseless hatred, which can also be translated as intrinsic hatred. To remedy that, the Rebbe taught that we must engage in ahavas chinam, senseless love.

How could one love someone if there is no real reason for that love? If it just means going through the motions and acting as if we love the other, then it is not genuine. How could we possibly conflate uninspired and superficial actions with unmitigated Geula-oriented unity?

The answer is that, in truth, it is the other way around. As our Sages teach (Ethics of the Fathers 5:16): “Any love that is dependent upon a specific consideration—when that consideration vanishes, the love ceases.” The love must be intrinsic and must be based on the recognition that we are truly One notwithstanding all of our differences and conflicts. This is a love that is authentic, deep and essential. This is the pure love associated with Geula.

Perhaps this is what the Midrash had in mind when it connected our laxity in observing the Shabbos with a Menorah of parts. Shabbos, the Zohar states, is a day of utter unity in the celestial spheres and down here below. When our observance down here does not reflect the perfect unity on high, Shabbos is left deficient. It is a sign that we are still hanging on to Galus.

INNER FRAGMENTATION

Fragmentation can also occur within our own personality and behavior.
A Galus-mentality impairs our ability to see the unity in all aspects of life.

One of the casualties of exile is its dichotomous nature. For example, when we engage in prayer we can be inspired to get closer to G-d and eschew all things unG-dly. However, the minute we resume the quotidian aspects of life, we find ourselves in another place; another much lower world.

Our days, and indeed our lives, in Galus are taken up with artificially putting together essentially disparate sections.

This might also be the meaning of the statement in the Talmud which disparages one “who studies Torah intermittently.” The word the Talmud uses is l’prakim-sections. Why would the Talmud be so harsh about one who cannot devote every waking hour to study?

However, the Talmud might be referring to someone whose study of Torah is inconsistent rather than intermittent. One can study Torah and fail to act in accordance with its dictates. The problem here is not that one doesn’t study all the time; the problem is that between bouts of studying Torah one’s behavior and mindset is out of sync with what Torah teaches.

This is perhaps what our Sages meant when they spoke of a Menorah made of sections that are inconsistent with Shabbos, i.e., Geula-Redemption. Judaism is likened to a Menorah, as King Solomon states in Proverbs, “A Mitzvah is a candle and Torah is light.” When our Judaism is fragmented, dichotomous and inconsistent, it is a sign that we are still waiting for Geula.

Geula will grant us all an integrated life. In the Messianic Age, there will be no oppositional dichotomies. The inspiration and commitment that exists in the G-dly soul will be echoed by the Animal Soul. That which is comprehended by the mind will be felt emotionally in the heart and affect every fiber of our being. Moreover, this unity will not be superficial. Whether we are learning Torah, praying, performing a Mitzvah or engaged in mundane activities, we will all be permeated with a sense of Divine unity.

EVEN THE HEEL!

Indeed, Chassidus interprets the words “And it will be because of [Ekev] your listening,” to mean “And it will be when your heel listens.” The ultimate goal realized in the end of days will extend to even the heel, the lowliest part of our bodies. The totality of our being will be devoted to listening to G-d’s word. The totality of our being will be consumed with a unifying G-dly awareness and devotion.

In preparation for this unified Menorah, we must embrace this seamless unifying force that unites us as a people and instills unity in our observance and in our lives.

One of the instruments best used for finding this unity is the study of Torah. Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah is the ideal guide to finding Torah unity because it incorporates all known subjects of Jewish law, even those subjects that were not given much attention by other great codifiers. The Rebbe encouraged all of us to study Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah because of its capacity to unite all Jews with the unifying power of Halacha.  Let us go forward, together as one, and with that unifying force greet Moshiach.

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