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Feb152019

NOT EMPTY OR SUPERFICIAL BUT SOLID GOLD

Translated by Boruch Merkur

If the “pomegranates” adorning the hem of the m’il of the Kohen Gadol are (not functional per se but) intended for bringing out beauty, the virtues of the Jewish people, we must not emphasize the quality alluded to by pomegranates (“the empty among you are full with Mitzvos as a pomegranate”) but the inner virtue of a Jew, the fact that every Jew is like a “golden apple” (solid gold, not empty or vacuous, G-d forbid). * The inner quality of a Jew in the light of the commentary of Ramban.

[…] 6. In light of all the above we shall also understand the difference between the approach of Rashi (that on the hem of the Kohen Gadol’s [ritual garment called] m’il there must be “pomegranates” ([hollow balls, not bells] for the sake of ornamentation)) and the approach of Ramban ([who repudiates Rashi, saying] that “if they are for the sake of ornamentation…they should be made like apples of [solid] gold”):

Jews are likened to both apples and pomegranates. The difference between the two is that apples symbolize Jews as they are at the greatest heights, whereas pomegranates symbolize Jews who happen to be in a lowly state, as stated in Tractate Brachos 57a: “‘your temples are like a split pomegranate (k’felach ha’rimon rakseich)’ (Shir HaShirim 4:3) – here ‘pomegranate’ refers to the empty (reikanim, meaning shallow) among you.” However, even Jews described as being empty are filled with goodness and holiness, as the saying of our Sages continues and concludes, “Even the empty among you are full with Mitzvos as a pomegranate [is full with sweet, juicy seeds].”

Rashi – whose commentary elucidates the literal dimension of Torah, a level at which Jews are seen simply (superficially) – focuses his commentary here on the Jews connected with the “hem of the m’il,” those Jews who are described as being “empty.” Thus, the m’il must be adorned specifically with “pomegranates,” indicating that even Jews who are “empty” (including those who are even lower than that, “even the sinners among the Jewish people” (Eiruvin 19a; Chagiga, end)) enter “the Holy [the Sanctuary proper]” with the Kohen Gadol. Indeed, they are a veritable part of the Jewish body at large. Moreover, they are “full with Mitzvos as a pomegranate.”

The commentary of Ramban – which features (not only “literal interpretations” but) also “pleasant matters…for those who are knowledgeable in esoteric wisdom (chein; literally “grace,” a term used as an acronym for “chochma nisteres”)” – emphasizes the inner qualities of Jews. From this perspective, a Jew has no connection with sin: “Your nation is composed entirely of righteous people.”

(For this reason Ramban maintains that the [jingling of the bells on the hem of the m’il of the Kohen Gadol, described by the Torah as] “its din was heard,” is no more than a preparation for the subsequent service of the Kohen Gadol, not an aspect of the service unto itself, for his entrance to the Holy – even as an emissary of the Jewish people at large – is at the level of the service of the righteous, characterized by “a still, small voice.”)

Thus, Ramban’s quandary emerges (from his interpretation): “If they are for the sake of ornamentation…they should be made like apples of gold.” That is, if the “pomegranates” are (not functional per se but) intended for bringing out beauty (“for the sake of ornamentation”), the virtues of the Jewish people, we must not emphasize the quality alluded to by pomegranates (“the empty among you are full with Mitzvos as a pomegranate”) but the inner virtue of a Jew, the fact that every Jew is like a “golden apple” ([solid gold] not empty or vacuous, G-d forbid).

To that extent, the same motif, the form of the apple, is present in the design of the candelabra in the Holy Temple, whose seven branches signify (Jews as they are at) the seven levels of servants of G-d, for each branch was adorned with “ornaments resembling apples” (as discussed in Section 2 of this essay).

7. Notwithstanding the fact that simply speaking and superficially this service is characterized by the phrase, “its din was heard,” which is a lesser level of Divine service than [the more inward and intimate level of service described as] “a still, small voice,” nevertheless this service, service performed with noise, entails an advantage over the [silent] Divine service of self-nullification.

That is, “a still, small voice” is subject to limitation. True, the service is done with self-nullification [which is traditionally viewed as the loftiest level of service]. However, it is performed with contained enthusiasm (ohr b’kli), a settled temperament.

Regarding the service of “its din was heard,” on the other hand, the noisy ambiance is indicative of one escaping the confines of his faculties (keilim). He cannot contain the enthusiasm, resulting in his crying out, giving voice to his passion. In fact, this is one of the reasons why it is stated, “In the place where penitents stand, the utterly righteous cannot stand.” The boundless quality of the soul is expressed specifically in the “clamor” of the service of repentance.

8. From all the above a special directive for this generation is derived, the generation of the Heels of Moshiach [when the advent of Moshiach is so close, his “footsteps” can already be heard approaching]:

There are those who argue as follows. It is true that given the lowly state of our generation we must be involved with the dissemination of Torah and the strengthening of Judaism and so on. And it is indeed not sufficient to sit within one’s four cubits (even the four cubits of Torah [such as a yeshiva]), waiting until he is approached and asked to spread awareness about Torah, etc. Rather, we must go out, outside, and find Jews who have gone astray and bring them back to the path of Torah observance.

What, however, is the need to do this very task with a tumultuous racket? Why is it necessary to go out to the street and call out there in a loud voice that Jews should put on t’fillin, put mezuzos on their doorposts, give charity, and the like? Previous generations weren’t so intensely active in this endeavor!

The response for this complaint is as follows. According to all the signs [of the imminence of redemption] enumerated at the end of Tractate Sota, we see that we are presently in the generation of the Heels of Moshiach, at the very lowest level, “the hem of the m’il.” We have to know that the hem of the m’il must be adorned with bells, meaning that the bringing of this type of Jew “into the Holy,” beneath the wings of the Divine Presence is established in a manner of “its din was heard.” In fact, the greatest height is specifically in the “noise” of the service of repentance, as discussed above.

9. Another point:

We observe that “the noise of the crowds of Rome” is coming from “those who transgress G-d’s will” [Tractate Makos, end], that all matters of evil are not done in private chambers but [often] with great publicity and fanfare. The way to nullify the uproar of evil is “of its own kind and of its own species … ‘From the forest itself is taken the axe wherewith to fell it.’” That is, this tumultuous show of evil is eradicated by “those who fulfill G-d’s will” serving Him in a manner of “its din is heard,” and specifically in the place where “the noise of the crowds of Rome” is present.

And this brings about “If they who offend Him fare thus, how much better shall fare they who do obey Him!” [Ibid] – that Jews should “live in safety and ease” upon their land, specifically through “he shall sound the great shofar,” through the “voice [that] proclaims, proclaims and says,” proclaiming the redemption, imminently!

(From the address of Shabbos Parshas Tetzaveh 5735; Likkutei Sichos Vol. 16, pg. 339-341)

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