MAKE A RIGHT TURN
February 24, 2017
Rabbi Gershon Avtzon in #1058, Ha’yom Yom & Moshiach, Mishpatim

Dear Reader sh’yichyeh, 

This week is Parshas Mishpatim. The Parsha focuses on the societal laws of the Torah. The laws are Divine, as Rashi writes in the beginning of the Parsha, “Wherever it says, ‘these’ [in the Torah,] it [(this word) is used to] separate from what has been stated previously. [Where it says,] ‘And these’ [it means that] it is adding to what has been previously stated. [Thus] just as what has been previously stated [namely the Ten Commandments] was from Sinai, these too were from Sinai.”

This idea is emphasized in the HaYom Yom of 22 Shevat: “There are two types of statutes: a) statutes that create life and b) statutes created by life. Human laws are created by life so they vary from land to land according to circumstances. The Almighty’s Torah is a G‑dly law that creates life. G‑d’s Torah is the Torah of truth, the same in all places, at all times. Torah is eternal.”

This special HaYom Yom is a quote from a Yiddish Maamer of the Frierdike Rebbe (printed in Seifer HaMaamarim Kuntreisim Volume 1 page 108). The Maamer is based on a seemingly puzzling Gemara, where the Avoda of Davening seems to be devalued in comparison to learning. The Gemara (Shabbos 10a) tells us the following: “Rava saw Rav Hamnuna praying at length. He commented to his colleague: ‘They neglect Chayei Olam (eternal life, i.e. Torah study) and occupy themselves with Chayei Sha’ah (temporal life, i.e. prayer)!’”

In this Maamer, the Frierdike Rebbe explains that we should not merely translate the words “Chayei Olam” and “Chayei Sha’ah” as eternal life and temporary life, rather we ought to understand them on a much deeper level.

Torah is called “Chayei Olam” because Torah creates the world. Chazal tell us that “Hashem looked into the Torah and created the world.” Torah is not created by the circumstances of the world; rather it is the architect of the world. It also gives us “Olam,” eternity. Every Mitzva that we do has an eternal positive effect on the world, and it connects us to Hashem for eternity.

Another meaning implied by the term “Chayei Olam” is in reference to Torah being our life in the world. The Torah guides us and gives us clear directives about every part of our lives. These laws start with family purity before a person is born and fill a person’s life until it ends with the laws of burial and mourning after a person passes away. There are Halachos that give us guidance for how to connect with Hashem at almost every opportunity. The Torah instructs us how to sleep, get up, get dressed and even how to tie our shoes.

I heard the following story while I was spending a summer in Budapest, Hungary, which illustrates this idea well.

One of the most beloved kings of Hungary was the famous Emperor Franz Joseph. He was very respectful and open-minded and he agreed that the parliament should have a representative from each religion.

When it came to the Jews, an argument arose. The enlightened Jews of Hungary wanted to have their own representative and did not want to be represented by a “primitive” orthodox Rabbi. They petitioned in front of the Emperor, who asked them what was wrong with the Orthodox view and way of life. The petitioner started laughing, saying that these Rabbis are so old-fashioned and crazy that they believe that there are certain rules of Hashem that govern them and dictate to them how they should behave in the bathroom!

Instead of laughing and dismissing the Orthodox Rabbi, the emperor sat with a very thoughtful look for some time. Finally, the emperor said that he is so impressed with these laws and the belief system that there is a G-d that really cares about each aspect of the life of His people.

“Chayei Sha’ah” means a life of turning towards Hashem. The Torah tells us (B’Reishis 4:4): יְהֹוָה אֶל הֶבֶל וְאֶל מִנְחָתוֹ וַיִּשַׁע, and Hashem turned to Hevel and to his offering.” Through davening, we turn away from our physical life and pursuits and we turn towards Hashem. It is a time devoted to working on our animal soul and to really connecting with Hashem. “While engaged in Torah study, the person is devoted to the subject that he wishes to understand and comes to understand. During davening the devotion is directed to what surpasses understanding. In learning Torah, the Jew feels like a pupil with his master; in davening, like a child with his father.” (HaYom Yom, 26 Tammuz)

There is a beautiful Chassidishe vort based on this interpretation of the word “Sha’ah.” In Avoda Zara 17a, the Gemara tells the story of R’ Eliezer ben Durdaya. After a totally degenerate life (the Maharal points out that even his name, Durdaya, means “dregs”), Eliezer was inspired to do t’shuva. Looking first outside himself to the mountains, to the earth, to the sun, the moon and ultimately the stars for help in attaining forgiveness and realizing that they cannot help him, he turned inward. He understood that if he were to do t’shuva, he must take responsibility for himself.

Eliezer put his head between his knees and cried until his soul left his body. So profound was his remorse and so powerful the t’shuva it produced, that a Bas Kol came from the heavens and declared that Eliezer, now called Reb Eliezer ben Durdaya, is invited to Olam HaBa. On hearing of this event, Rebbi cried and said, “There are those who acquire their World (to Come) only after years (of Divine Service) and there are those who acquire their World (to Come) in an instant (Sha’ah Achas)!”

Chassidim have explained this last statement as follows: There are those that acquire their world with one turn (Sha’ah Achas). Every Jew has unlimited potential. The only thing that holds a Jew back from growth and the realization of that potential is his feeling that he is alone and that nobody cares for him. But when another Jew turns to him and shows personal interest in his welfare, he can save his decline and inspire fantastic results. Whole worlds, for every person is a world, can be built with one “turn,” i.e., a show of interest.

We can now truly understand the comment that Rava made about the Davening of Rav Hamnuna. He was not making a negative remark about the Davening of Rav Hamnuna; rather he was explaining to his students the reason why Rav Hamnuna was investing so much time in his davening. He was not asking for his personal needs. He was really working on himself and turning to Hashem.

This HaYom Yom is explaining to us that Torah is the foundation and blueprint of the world and the life in the world. It helps us understand how Moshiach is so fundamentally connected to the world. The Rambam writes (Hilchos Melachim 11:2) that “There is no need to cite proofs about the validity and importance of the belief in Moshiach from the works of the Prophets, for all their books are filled with mention of this matter.”

On Shabbos Acharei-K’doshim 5751, the Rebbe explained in a deeper way the words “for all their books are filled with mention of this matter.” This doesn’t just mean that there are many places in Tanach that speak about Moshiach; rather it means that every single Pasuk speaks about Moshiach. The only difference between P’sukim is that some speak openly about Moshiach, while in others the idea is more concealed and one needs to look into the various mefarshim. As a matter of fact, Rabbi Nissan Dubov (Shliach of the Rebbe to Princeton NJ) has committed himself to a project of this nature. He has put out the series of S’farim entitled “Yalkut Moshiach U’Geula Al HaTorah,” a digest of hundreds of different mefarshim in each Parsha which discuss Moshiach.

We know that “the Almighty’s Torah is a G‑dly law that creates life” and that each part of Torah is connected to Moshiach. Thus, each part of the world, which is created by Hashem through the holy Torah, is inherently connected to Moshiach. We don’t have to bring Moshiach to the world. We need to reveal the Moshiach that is inherently part of the creation of the world. The more we reveal Moshiach in the Torah by learning those mefarshim that explain the Moshiach’dik content of each pasuk, the more Moshiach will be revealed in the world.

In the words of the Rebbe (Tazria-Metzora 5751): “‘Tiferes’ refers to learning Torah, and ‘Malchus Sh’b’Tiferes’ refers to learning the Torah concerning King Moshiach and Redemption that is explained in many places.

“These places are: the Written Torah (particularly ‘the words of the prophets… for all their books are filled with this matter’); the Oral Torah, the Gemara (particularly the tractate Sanhedrin and the end of tractate Sota) and the Midrashim; and especially the Inner Teachings of the Torah, beginning with the Zohar (‘with this book of yours, the book of the Zohar, they will leave their exile in mercy’), through Toras Chassidus (that through the spreading of the wellsprings outward the master, king Moshiach, will come), to the Torah of our Rebbeim, our Leaders, and principally the Torah (Maamarim and Likkutei Sichos) of the Leader of our generation. Learning this material is a sample of and preparation for learning the Torah of Moshiach, ‘For a new Torah shall go forth from Me,’ meaning he will teach to all the people the Inner Teachings of the Torah (the reasons of the Torah) and knowledge of G-dliness (‘know the G-d of your fathers’). This is in accordance with the halachic ruling of the Rambam that ‘in that time… the Jews will be great sages and know hidden matters, attaining knowledge of their Creator, etc.’

“This increase in learning the Torah concerned with Moshiach and Redemption (‘Malchus Sh’b’Tiferes’) is the straightforward path to actually cause the revelation and coming of Moshiach and Redemption.”

Rabbi Avtzon is the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Lubavitch Cincinnati and a well sought after speaker and lecturer. Recordings of his in-depth shiurim on Inyanei Geula u’Moshiach can be accessed at http://www.ylcrecording.com

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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