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Parshas Behar-Bechukosai 5759

Outline Vol. 3, # 21

by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein

Mind and Will -- Body and Soul

We have often discussed the Rabbis' statement, that the Jews were coerced into receiving the Torah, and that, only in the days of Esther did the Jews willingly accept it.

Rav Yerucham Halevi questioned the simple understanding of these words. The implication is that the generation of Esther was "greater" than the people who stood at Mt. Sinai. This is certainly difficult to say. The generation which received the Torah was the most intellectually fit of all, and is referred to as "dor deyah" -- the generation of knowledge. There is no question about their desire to receive the Torah. Rather, say the following: Precisely because of their great knowledge, it was considered as if they were forced into receiving the Torah. Their intellectual awareness was so keen, that their minds allowed them no other choice than to accept the Torah.

The generation of Esther, however, was quite different. They were far removed from such intellectual ecstasy. They walked blindly in the darkness, but, nonetheless, willingly accepted the Torah.

Rambam, in the "Sh'mona Perakim" (The Seven Chapters) quoted the Philosophers. One who controls himself, forcing himself to act properly, is not as great as the chasid -- one who desires to act correctly.

Imagine two people who perform the same mitzvos identically, to such a degree that you cannot praise one's performance over the over. Nonetheless, one of them has coerced himself to act, and the other spontaneously desired to act. The second one is better off.

Years go by, and we are unfulfilled -- because we are acting under coercion...

We think that we must be unhappy, but it is not so. Nothing could be farther from the truth. If only we would train ourselves so that the mind does not have to force the body to act, but the body itself acts with spontaneous energy, knowing that to do so is in its own best interest...

This is the main service -- to train the body... (From Da'as Torah, Parshas Emor)

The Yismach Moshe noted that the Yomim Tovim are each called "zecher l'yitzias mitzraim" -- a reminder of the exodus from Egypt. Yet, it is difficult to describe how Rosh Hashanah is reminiscent of the exodus.

In Parshas Behar, the Torah describes how the shofar shall be sounded on Yom Kippur of the Yoveil (fiftieth year). At that point, servants are set free. Here is the connection between Rosh Hashanah and the departure from Egypt. The Shofar sound at Rosh Hashanah beckons us to set ourselves free from the tyranny of our own personalities. This was the true meaning of the exodus -- the freedom of the spirit.

Torah gives us our freedom

In Parshas Emor, we are taught that a Kohein must not be involved with the burial of the dead under normal circumstances. Burial of the dead is one of the greatest mitzvos; yet, the important level of the Kohein does not allow him to profane himself in this way.

Similarly, one who is involved in Torah learning, does not interrupt in order to perform a mitzva (that someone else can perform in his place). Even though performing a mitzva is important, Torah affects the soul. We must not profane the power of the soul, even for the performance of a mitzva... (See Da'as Torah, Parshas Emor)

Just as the selection of the Kohein over other people seems arbitrary -- yet must be respected -- so, too, the selection of Shabbos and Yom Tov over the other days seems arbitrary. What is intrinsically different between one day and another? Yet, Shabbos and Yom Tov must be respected. In a similar manner, the moments of Torah study must be respected, and not profaned. (Ibid.)

Rav Yerucham said that the honor given the Kohein teaches us regarding the honor that must be given to each person. Do not profane your friend's honor!

The counting of the Omer teaches us about time. Each day is an accomplishment, if we make it so. Respect the significance of time -- do not profane time...

Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
11 Kiryas Radin
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: (914) 362-5156

Good Shabbos!

Text Copyright © '98 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.



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