For he had given from his offspring to Molech in order to defile My
Mikdash and desecrate My holy name.
Rashi: The mikdash that is defiled here means Knesses Yisrael – the Assembly
of Israel - which is sanctified to Me.
Gur Aryeh: Rashi tells us that we must understand “mikdash” in this pasuk to
mean Knesses Yisrael, because the ordinary understanding of mikdash as the
Mishkan or Temple simply cannot apply here. The transgression of Molech
does not impact the Temple or detract from its holiness. Therefore, Rashi
looks for an alternative understanding of “mikdash,” and finds it in the
collective identity of Klal Yisrael, which is sanctified ( = mikdash) to Hashem.
Ramban explains Knesses Yisrael as the Shechinah. You might ask how the
aveirah of an individual can defile the Divine Presence. We can, however,
point to a well-known source that illustrates this principle. Chazal tell
us 2 that one who benefits from this world without making a
berachah is as if he “steals from HKBH and from Knesses Yisrael.” Ramban
indicates that it is the berachah that is stolen from Hashem and Knesses
Yisrael. The very purpose of Creation is Man’s acknowledgment and
recognition that Hashem is our Creator. When we do that through reciting a
berachah, we in effect provide a justified place for the Shechinah. The
Shechinah, in turn, continues the flow of Divine berachah to Man. When Man
does not acknowledge Hashem by reciting a berachah before taking from this
world, the Shechinah withdraws to its source in Hashem’s full Name.
We could, however, explain very differently. When Man fails to make a
berachah, it is the food he eats which he steals, not the berachah. At first
this seems unreasonable. While it is technically true that Hashem owns
everything by virtue of having created all of existence, upon further
thought, we realize that we cannot call this ordinary theft. Hashem has no
use and no need for the physical stuff of Creation. What we have “stolen” by
illicitly taking without a berachah is no more theft than taking an
absolutely worthless item from a human.
While such thinking is tempting, it is inaccurate. Nothing Hashem creates is
worthless. To the contrary, all things exist to give honor to Him, by
accentuating His greatness. All things, therefore, are sacred items, playing
a role in His service.
We have no trouble recognizing that misappropriating any vessel or
sacrificial item in the beis hamikdosh is a serious transgression, because
those things are actively employed in Divine service. On the larger scale of
things, everything that exists is supposed to play a role in the Divine
service, and must be seen as consecrated and holy.
Our difficulty should rather be in understanding why and how we are
permitted to take anything from a world in which everything is consecrated
to G-d’s service. Enjoying anything should be not only theft, but me’ilah,
which is theft from the Divine estate.
The answer is that consecrated items can become deconsecrated. Many items in
the beis hamikdosh, for example, can lose their holiness designation through
a process of redemption. In the greater universe of the general holiness of
all things, the process of redemption involves nothing more than reciting a
berachah. In reciting the berachah over a food item, it becomes ordinary,
profane material that may be enjoyed by Man. Without the berachah, however,
we have stolen a valuable, holy object from Hashem.
Just how does a berachah “decommission” the natural holiness of all things?
A berachah relates to a different aspect of Hashem (or at least the way
humans grasp Him). The holiness of all things stems from the reality that
all phenomena are part of Him. All things are within Him; nothing lies
outside of Him.
A berachah, however, places Hashem in a different relationship with us. The
berachah in a sense creates the space in which there is something apparently
outside of Him. When we say that Hashem is baruch, we mean that He stands
ready to shower us with berachah, with an abundance of things. This
presupposes that there are two entities, rather than one! There is G-d the
Giver – but there is also Man the receiver. There cannot be any giving
unless there is also receiving. Hashem’s giving requires that He reach
across from a realm that is close to Him to one in which we reside, with our
weaknesses, needs, and the things that fill them. In this realm, there are
things not as holy as He – and hence allowable to us for our needs and
We have explained so far why the mundane things of this world can be
“stolen” from Hashem. We understand their inherent worth – and therefore,
their inherent holiness. We have explained how relating to Hashem in
reciting a berachah places things in a realm that – from a human standpoint
– stands outside the immediacy of Hashem, and thus leaves room for them to
be utilized by human beings. The gemara, however, teaches that when we fail
to recite a berachah, we steal not only from Hashem, but from Knesses
Yisrael as well. How could that be?
To answer that, we must first understand what we mean by Knesses Yisrael. It
is the entity in which all of Klal Yisrael is subsumed – not as different
parts, all adding up to a large collective, but in an opposite manner.
Knesses Yisrael is a single, undivided entity, in which all the components
of Klal Yisrael find their source. In a sense, the unity of Knesses Yisrael
is to the physical world what the Unity of G-d is to the spiritual. In the
ultimate sense, at the spiritual root of all things, everything – including
Knesses Yisrael – is part of the Unity of Hashem. But seen just from the
standpoint of the material world, all things are placed under the dominion o
Knesses Yisrael. It is the collective receiver of what is given by Hashem
the Giver. When we fail to recite a berachah, we ignore the relationship of
Giver and receiver which allows things to be treated as properly belonging
to the human consumer. We steal from both Giver, and Knesses Yisrael, the
1. Based on Gur Aryeh, Vayikra 20:3; Nesiv HaAvodah chapter 14
2. Berachos 35B