Dr. Nosson Chayim Leff
Sfas Emes, Zechuso Tagein Aleinu, Teruma, 5631
The Sfas Emes begins by citing the first Medrash Rabbah on the parsha.
That Medrash poses the following question. How can one ascertain the
nature of a given business deal? (The transaction that the Medrash
has in mind is our acquiring the Torah from HaShem.)
The Medrash answers: to know the nature of a transaction, look at the
commission that the broker received for intermediating it. In the case
of the Torah, we can learn about the transaction by considering the
commission that Moshe Rabbeinu earned for brokering our receiving the
Torah from HaShem. In fact, Moshes 'commission' was truly
extraordinary. When we accepted the Torah, Moshe Rabbeinu's "panim "
(face) glowed (Shemos, 34:29). Moshe Rabeinu's panim shone with such
radiance that Moshe had to wear a face-covering when people wanted to
talk to him.
What did this shining of Moshe's panim signify? Radiance comes across
easily, as enhanced spirituality. But more is going on here.
Remember that the word "panim" has two meanings. It means both "face"
(i.e., external appearance) and "inner being" (i.e., essence).
Moshe's "commission" , then, shows what we acquired when we received
the Torah -- access to enhanced inner and external spirituality.
(Note: Sefer Koheles generalizes this real-world phenomenon -- that
being involved with Torah lishma can transform a person. The pasuk in
Koheles (8:1) says: "Chochmas ahdahm ta'ir panav, ve'oz panav
ye'shuneh". (ArtScroll: "A man's wisdom lights up his face, and the
boldness of his face is transformed".) This generalization is
crucial. Why? Because it tells us that the phenomenon of
transformation -- "ye'shuneh" -- applies to all people, each at his
own level. A person does not have to be a Moshe Rabbeinu to benefit
from this growth process.)
The Medrash Rabba that the Sfas Emes is quoting continues: "Sometimes
an item is sold, and the vendor himself is included as part of the
sale. In this instance, HaShem said to Bnei Yisroel: "I have
transfered ownership of my Torah to you. I come along too,as part of
the deal".The Medrash continues: "As the posuk says: "Ve''yikchu li"
("And they will acquire me".)
A question: How in the world do the Medrash and the Sfas Emes
understand the word "Ve'yikchu" as referring to a sale? The word's
obvious translation is: "they will take". And it comes here in the
context of collecting resources for building the Mishkan; ("Ve'yikchu
li teruma"). How can the Medrash Rabba and the Sfas Emes move us from
a collection of resources to a purchase -- and -- sale transaction?
To take us even further from the pasuk's p'shat, the transaction that
they present is bizarre: a transaction in which the seller -- in this
case, HaShem -- goes along with the item being transacted -- in this
case, the Torah.
An answer: The Medrash is working with the word 'Ve'yikchu", from the
shoresh (root) L'K'Ch'. Chazal's every day language was Aramaic. And
in Aramaic, the shoresh L'K'Ch' has the meaning of a purchase or sale.
(Some examples: "mekach umemkar" means: buying and selling; "Lekuchos"
means: customers.) Thus, for Chazal, "Ve'yikchu " -- from the root
L'K'CH' -- came across as an obvious allusion to an item being sold.
Following the Sfas Emes, we move to a new line of thought. The Medrash
quoted above has told us that when we accept the Torah, HaShem comes
along as part of the deal. This idea points to a serious potential
problem and/or a serious potential opportunity in our Avoda. The
potential pitfall: How easy it is to be a shomer Torah u'mitzvos --
i.e., an apparently observant Jew -- but one who fails to recognize
that HaShem can come along together with the mitzvos. Thus, the person
does not have a meaningful relationship (one on One) with HaShem. The
potential opportunity: To deepen our relationship. HaShem has made us
aware that He is available, by telling us that if we accept the Torah,
He can come with it, as a bonus of sorts, as part of the deal.
The Sfas Emes proceeds directly from this Medrash to say: "Ki haTorah
nitna leYisrael k'fi hachanas kabalasam". That is, the Torah is given
to us in accordance with our preparation to receive it. At first
sight, it is totally unclear how this statement fits into the flow of
the Sfas Emes's thoughts here. One possible interpretation is the
following. The Sfas Emes has been talking of our acceptance of the
Torah in terms of a business metaphor. In business transactions, a
person can buy more of what he wants if he has more money. The Sfas
Emes may be saying, by contrast, how much Torah we receive depends not
on our resources, but rather on how much Torah we really want ("k'fi
The idea is that notwithstanding HaShem's awesome majesty and distance
from us, our relationship with Him depends totally ("hakohl") on us.
The Sfas Emes recognizes that this idea is not intuitively
self-evident. For this reason, living with this reality requires
bitachon (confidence/ trust). Elaborating on this theme, the Sfas
Emes cites a pasuk in Tehillim (37:3): "Betach BaShem ve'asei tov;
shechohn eretz ure'ei emuna". (R. Hirsch: "Trust in the Lord and do
good; rest on earth and nourish faith".) To this pasuk, the Sfas Emes
appends a comment from the Zohar. The Zohar tells us that the
principal area in our lives in which bitachon should apply is in our
Avoda. That is, we should have confidence that HaShem will help us
Note that the Sfas Emes seems to have contradicted himself. Earlier,
he told us that our relationship with HaShem depends wholly on retzon
ha'adahm (the person's volition). Now he says that we should count on
HaShem, for He will help us in our Avoda. The Sfas Emes is not afraid
of apparent inconsistencies or paradoxes. Indeed, in this paragraph,
he goes on to cite more apparent contradictions. Thus, he mentions
"emes", (truth -- that which is apparent and explicitly revealed), and
"emuna" (faith -- that which we accept on trust). Similarly, "Make a
Mikdash for Me". The word Mikdash comes from "kadosh," which
indicates HaShem's separateness from us. And the pasuk continues: "And
I will dwell in their midst".
Far from viewing emes and emuna as mutually inconsistent, the Sfas
Emes sees them as having the potential for a mutually-supported upward
spiral. A person can start the process with emuna. That is, he takes
on trust the view that that all life and existence come from
HaShem. That perspective is then validated as emes, for the person is
then able to perceive HaShem's Omnipresence. In fact, the more emuna
that a person has, the more truth about the real world will he
have. Thus, as a person becomes aware that everything he has and
everything he does exist only because of the Presence of HaShem, he
recognizes the kedusha -- sanctity -- of all creation. The person is,
in effect, expanding HaShem's Presence in the world.
Unfortunately, the interaction between emuna and emes also operates on
the downside, with the possibility of a dreadful downward spiral.
That is, if a person does not take the initial step of trusting that
HaShem is the Source of all existence, his view of life will be
obscured by hester panim ....
Continuing, the Sfas Emes points out the analogy to the relationship
between weekdays and Shabbos. To handle the weekdays ("yemei
ha'avoda") , we need emuna. And to the degree that we relate to the
weekdays with emuna, HaShem will give us access to emes on Shabbos.
You see the analogy: emuna is to emes as weekdays are to Shabbos.
We conclude with one more thought of the Sfas Emes. We know that
Shabbos is "mei'ein olam haba" -- similar to olam ha'ba (the World to
Come). What does this mean? The Sfas Emes explains that the emes that
we reach on Shabbos is only a foretaste of the emes that will be
revealed to us on when we reach olam ha'ba. One implication: it would
be naive to expect much access to metaphysical emes on our own in olam
ha'zeh (this World).
Copyright © 2004 by Dr. Nosson Chayim Leff and Torah.org