Coming Down From On High
This week's parshah sheet as been dedicated in memory of Yosef ben
Reuven Shmiryahu v'Shmerel, z"l. May the merit of those who learn it be an
ilui Neshamah for him.
Listen heavens, and I will speak! Hear earth, the words of my mouth!
As Yom Kippur approaches and we consider our final plea before the
Heavenly Tribunal regarding our upcoming final judgment, it is worthwhile
to read this as well:
Where is there a warning against having a haughty spirit? Rava said in the
name of Zeiri, "'Listen and pay attention: Do not be proud' (Yirmiyahu
13:15)." Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak said: "From, 'Your heart be lifted up
and you forget the Lord your G-d' (Devarim 8:14), and it says, 'Beware
lest you forget the Lord your G-d' (Devarim 8:11)." This is similar to
what Rebi Avin said in the name of Rebi Elai; for Rebi Avin said in the
name of Rebi Elai, "Whenever it says 'Beware lest' and 'Do not' the
reference is to a prohibition." Rav Avira expounded (sometimes he said it
in the name of Rav Assi and at other times in the name of Rav
Ammi): "Every haughty person will in the end be reduced in rank, as it
says, 'They are exalted, there will be reduction of status' (Iyov 24:24).
And, in case you think that they remain in existence, it continues, 'And
they are gone' (Ibid.). (Sotah 5a)
The trouble with all of this is that most haughty people do not consider
themselves to be haughty, so the question becomes, what good is this
warning? Is it merely to assure the rest of us non-haughty people that
those annoying haughty people are going to get their just desserts in the
end? The answer comes from the continuation of the lesson from the Talmud.
If, however he changes he will be gathered in his due time like our father
Avraham, as it says, "But when they are lowly they are gathered in like
all" (Iyov 24:24), i.e., like Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya'akov in connection
with whom the word "all" is used.
Hence, though we may not be haughty like Korach, are we humble like
Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya'akov, inasmuch as we attribute all aspects of
our success to G-d and only G-d. Do we see every aspect of life as a gift
as they did, and do we devote ourselves first and foremost to the well-
being of the Shechinah, the Divine Presence? For, the main characteristic
of the Avot was that they were a "chariot" for the Shechinah, meaning that
all they did revealed the Divine Presence in life.
From that perspective, maybe we have what to work on. And work on
ourselves we must, for it says:
If not, they are cut off as the tops of the ears of corn. What does it
mean "as the tops of the ears of corn?" Rav Huna and Rav Chisda [explain
it]. One says that it means like the awn of the grain, and the other that
it means like the ears themselves. This is true according to the one who
says that it means like the awn of the grain, since it says "as the tops
of the ears of corn;" but according to the one who says that it means like
the ears themselves, what does"as the tops of the ears of corn" mean? Rav
Assi said, and it was similarly taught in the School of Rebi Yishmael, "It
is like a man who enters his field and gleans the tallest ears." (Sotah 5a)
Thus, explains the Talmud, arrogant people increase their exposure and
make themselves more vulnerable. You want to stand out in the eyes of
Heaven but not in this manner, for it brings one negative attention, even
the slightest amount of arrogance.
So, for those who are beyond repair, there is nothing to say. But, for
those of us standing there on Yom Kippur and feeling, at least for the
time being, humbled by the experience...
"With him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit" (Yeshayahu 57:15).
Rav Huna and Rav Chisda [explain it]: one says that it means "the contrite
is with Me," and the other that, "I [G-d] am with the contrite." The more
probable view agrees with him who says the meaning is "I am with the
contrite," for The Holy One, Blessed is He, ignored all the mountains and
heights and caused His Shechinah to dwell upon Mount Sinai, but did not
elevate Mount Sinai [up to Himself]. (Sotah 5a)
Thus, we could say that it is a matter of becoming a Har Sinai, a small
and humble mountain amongst the larger and haughtier ones. After all, what
difference does it make how "big" we are in this world if in the end the
Shechinah is able to dwell amongst us? Can there be anything bigger than
When I will proclaim the name of G-d, ascribe greatness to our G-d.
Speaking of G-d's greatness, the Talmud continues and says:
Rav Yosef said, "A man should always learn from the mind of his Creator,
for The Holy One, Blessed is He, ignored all the mountains and heights and
caused His Shechinah to abide upon Mount Sinai, and ignored all the
beautiful trees and caused His Shechinah to abide in a bush." (Sotah 5a)
However, true as that may be, the Tikunei HaZohar finds another important
reason as to why a bush and not a tree of greater stature (the large-type
is the Tikunei HaZohar and the small-type is the commentary, "Mitok
WHY DID HE REVEAL HIMSELF IN A BUSH and not in the form of another kind of
tree? IT WAS TO SHOW HIM THAT SHE (the Shechinah) IS OPPRESSED AMONGST THE
THORNS that is, amongst the gentiles and Chitzonim with the Jewish people
in exile; for the sake of His people She suffers. AND even though the
Shechinah is there NEVERTHELESS THE BUSH WAS NOT CONSUMED, that is, the
Erev Rav are not eliminated, BECAUSE THE ROSES WHO ARE HER CHILDREN, THE
JEWISH PEOPLE, ARE DESTINED TO BE EXILED AMONGST THE EREV RAV, WHO ARE THE
THORNS. In the future the Jewish people will be exiled amongst the Erev
Rav who are like barbed thorns to the Jewish people, imposing decrees and
destruction upon them. THIS IS HINTED TO IN THE POSUK, "I WILL BRING AN
END (kallah) TO ALL THE NATIONS - for your sake - TO WHICH YOU WERE SENT"
(Yirmiyahu 46:28), BUT YOU I WILL NOT DESTROY, since the troubles of exile
imposed by the nations will hasten the redemption. (Tikunei HaZohar, Tikun
In other words, according to this explanation the issue was not one of
humility, but of representing those who would oppress the Jewish people,
and therefore the Shechinah, in exile. Like wood should burn because of
fire, the evil of history should be eliminated because of the presence of
the Shechinah. But the bush did not burn to indicate that the "Erev Rav"
(the Mixed Multitude) would also remain in spite of the presence of the
Divine Presence, in order to facilitate the final stages of the Final
THE DIFFICULTY OF EXILE IMPOSED BY THE EREV RAV ON ISRAEL SPEEDS UP THE
REDEMPTION, since it causes the Jewish people to do teshuvah, and it
causes Holy Sparks to be separated out from the K'lipot; this speeds up
redemption. WHEN THEY BECOME LESS HARSH - if the gentiles ease up on the
oppression of the Jewish people, THEY PREVENT THE REDEMPTION because there
is a certain amount of troubles meant to be endured during exile in order
to separate out the Holy Sparks from the K'lipot. Furthermore, it is
necessary to atone for the sins of the Jewish people, and for this reason
they have been decreed. (Ibid.)
It is understandable that we feel good about being treated well when
living amongst the gentiles. Who wouldn't? Who wants to spend his life
living in fear of his neighbors, at moment's notice losing everything he
has built-up without any legal justification, and of losing everything
that is dear to him and in the cruelest of ways? For a nation that has
been running for its life now for thousands of years, a little derech
eretz from our gentile hosts is a welcome respite.
Yet, ironically, it works against us in the long run. What we really want
is the Final Redemption when we won't even have to consider the
possibility of any kind of danger from anyone. When we do well amongst the
gentile nations at this stage of history, it only delays the Final
Redemption, and more importantly, it delays the return of the Shechinah to
Tzion, which we pray for every day.
Indeed, that is what we are all about. The Shechinah has gone into golut
with us for our sake, and we are supposed to try and leave golut for its
sake. That's why all of our tefillot incorporate the theme of redemption,
and with regard to that, one of our great mashgichim of the last fifty
The Sefer Mitzvot Katan (Rabbi Ya'akov of Corbeil, 1206-1280) wrote in his
explanation of the Positive Mitzvah, "I am G-d your G-d, Who took you out
of Egypt", that it means one must know that He Who created Heaven and
Earth alone controls [the world] above and below. However, to this he
added, "This [mitzvah] is the basis for what the rabbis teach: At the time
of a person's judgment after death, they ask him, 'Did you anticipate
redemption?' (Shabbat 31a). Where is this mitzvah written? Actually, it
comes from this [same mitzvah], for just as 'I am G-d your G-d, Who took
you out of Egypt' means that we are expected to believe that G-d redeemed
us from Egypt, it also means, 'I also want you to believe that I, G-d your
G-d, will gather you in and redeem you in mercy a second time.'" According
to what he has said, belief in the future redemption is part of our faith
in, "I am G-d, your G-d", and thus is included in the first of the Ten
Commandments. However, if we examine ourselves, it seems as if we are very
far from having faith in the future redemption. Occasionally we speak
about G-d having made Heaven and Earth, and that He directs Creation.
However, when it comes to the arrival of Moshiach and the resurrection of
the dead we are quiet, as if we are embarrassed to speak about them, as if
we have given up [on them] altogether. However, the words of the Sefer
Mitzvot Katan should arouse trembling in our hearts since they are part of
the mitzvah of "I am G-d your G-d". And, anyone who is not involved with
these matters is far from having any true faith... In truth, almost the
majority of the Shemonah Esrei deals with the future redemption... And,
just as we are lacking faith in this matter we are also distant from the
essence of prayer. We lack connection to [the blessings regarding
redemption], and all of our prayers are only lip service! (Ohr Yechezkel,
Emunat HaGeulah, 1960; p. 287)
For, nothing proclaims the greatness of G-d more than the return of His
people to their land and the success of Torah to overcome the elements of
heresy, and return the world to a path of obedience to the Creator of the
Universe. If we want children who walk in the ways of G-d, it has to be
for this reason. If we want parnassah, it has to be to this end. If we
want success in our own Torah learning and mitzvot, it has to be so that
we can better contribute to this ultimate cause.
Jewish history is not about the individual Jew. The individual Jew is
about Jewish history.
For, though G-d is exalted He notes the lowly, and the High One makes
Himself known from afar. (Tehillim 138:6)
It is always fascinating how the Talmud, and even more so Kabbalah, can
find a deeper meaning for a posuk that seems to be quite different from
the original intention from the point of view of Pshat. Indeed, the Hebrew
word "gavoah" is interpreted as "High One", as in G-d Himself. However,
according to Rebi Elazar it is a reference to one who thinks highly of
himself, a haughty person.
Rebi Elazar said: "The Shechinah laments over every haughty man, as it
says, 'The high one He knows from afar' (Tehillim 138:6)." (Sotah 5a)
As to why the Shechinah laments, the Talmud continues:
Rav Chisda said, and according to another version it was Mar
Ukba: "Regarding the arrogant person, The Holy One, Blessed is He,
declares, 'I and he cannot both dwell in the world'." (Ibid.)
Look at it as if life is a continuum stretched out between two extremes,
on the far right, the Shechinah, and on the far left, the individual. From
this perspective to the extent that a person is concerned about himself is
the extent to which he does not care about the welfare of the Shechinah.
And if the person is indeed arrogant then the Shechinah is not part of his
world at all, not even close to it.
Contrary to what many think, and the Sitra Achra would have us believe,
the building of the individual does not necessarily build the Shechinah,
or at least not effectively. Whereas, the rectification of the Shechinah
automatically, by definition, builds the individual. To understand the
difference, just ask yourself the question, "Is what I am about to do
going to enhance my life? Will it also rectify the Shechinah in the world?"
You may be surprised, perhaps, if you answer each question honestly, how
the answer is not always yes for both questions. You may also be surprised
how you will find that you don't always understand what it is that
actually rectifies the Shechinah in the first place, and how often what we
think is a good personal goal according to the Torah, actually interferes
with the ultimate goal of the Jewish people. We are, after all, still in
exile, still battling the nations of the world for our very survival, and
it may get worst, G-d forbid.
Rebi Yehoshua ben Levi said: "Come and see how great the humble are in the
eyes of The Holy One, Blessed is He. When the Temple stood a man brought a
Burnt-Offering and received the reward of a Burnt-Offering, a Meal-
Offering and he received the reward of a Meal-Offering. However, regarding
a contrite person, the Torah ascribes it to him as though he had offered
every one of the sacrifices, as it says, 'The sacrifices of G-d are a
broken spirit' (Tehillim 51:19). More than that, his prayer is not
despised, for it continues, 'A broken and a contrite heart, O G-d, You
will not despise'." (Sotah 5b)
This Yom Kippur, make the Shechinah your top priority. Make its welfare
your chief concern. Whatever else it is that you hope to achieve on Yom
Kippur, make it important for the sake of the rectification of the
Shechinah. Not only will it bring benefit to you, but it will help push
history past the blocks that keeps us from achieving what we have longed
for for over three thousand years: the Final Redemption, and may it come
quickly in our time.
Nefesh HaChaim, Chapter Four
A Jew should conduct himself accordingly and never think to himself, "What
am I, and what difference can my insignificant actions make to the world?"
Rather, he should understand and be conscious that every detail of his
actions, words, and thoughts at any moment, is never meaningless, G-d
forbid. On the contrary, how many and exalted are his actions, each one
reaching up to its specific root to have its impact in the Highest Heights
in the worlds and the splendorous lights above.
Certainly the wise man who fully understands this idea, finds his heart
trembling when he considers his inappropriate actions and how destructive
their impact can be, G-d forbid, even worse than the damage done by
Nebuchadnetzar (who destroyed the First Temple in 3338 BCE).
This is because Nebuchadnetzar and Titus (who destroyed the Second Temple
in 70 CE) could not affect the worlds above, since they themselves were
not rooted in those worlds. It was because of our sins by which
we "weakened" the strength of G-d and through which we defiled the Temple
of G-d above, that Nebuchadnetzar and Titus were able to destroy the
Temples below; the Temples below corresponded to the Heavenly Temple. This
is the meaning of what the rabbis wrote (regarding Nebuchadnetzar), "You
ground already ground flour" (Eichah Rabbotai 1:43). Our sins destroyed
the Heavenly abode, the holy upper worlds; they only destroyed the earthly
This is what King David prayed for when he wrote, "It had been regarded as
bringing to the Above, the axes in the thicket of trees ..." (Tehillim
74:5). He had requested that what he (Nebuchadnetzar) did be considered as
if he destroyed on high. However, in truth, he had no such effect, as
There is also another idea that should make the heart of every man
belonging to the holy nation tremble: included in him are all of the
countless forces and worlds, as we will explain later, G-d willing, in
Chapter Six and in Part Two, Chapter Five. These forces and worlds
comprise the Heavenly Temple. The heart of man, found in the "middle" of
the body and which incorporates everything, corresponds to the Holy of
Holies, which is considered to be in the center of the world, and the
Evven Shesia (Foundation Stone). It includes all the sources and roots of
holiness just like the Holy of Holies. This idea is alluded to in the
chapter (in the Talmud in "Brochot"), "The Morning Prayers" where it
teaches "Direct your heart toward the Holy of Holies."
In the Zohar it says:
Come and see how The Holy One, Blessed is He, when He made man, perfected
him according to the Supernal plan, and imbued him with power and strength
in the center of his body, because that is where his heart is situated.
The Holy One, Blessed is He, set up the world in a similar fashion, as a
single body. For, just as the heart is in the middle of the body and
controls everything and everything is dependent upon it ... so too did the
Courtyard envelop the Holy of Holies where the Divine Presence dwelled, as
well as the ark cover (Kapporet), the cherubim, and the Ark. Here is
considered the "heart" of the entire land and world, and from here the
entire world is nourished. (Zohar, Shlach, 161:1)
See the Zohar at length.
If so, then when a person pursues impure thoughts of his heart (we should
be protected from such things), it is comparable to bringing a woman of
ill-repute, the symbol of betrayal of G-d, into the awesome Holy of Holies
in the Heavenly Temple; he strengthens the forces of impurity and
the "Other Side" (i.e., the Sitra Achra) there, far more than Titus did
when he actually committed a profane act with such a woman in the Holy of
Holies in the Temple below.
Every sin a Jew considers in his heart is considered to be a "strange
fire" whether it is a feeling of anger or an evil longing. It is to this
that the verse literally refers, "Our holy house and our glory which...
was burned in fire..." (Yeshayahu 64:10), the Merciful One should save us.
This is what G-d told Yechezkel:
"The place of My throne ... which I will cause to dwell there among B'nei
Yisroel forever; B'nei Yisroel will no longer defile My holy Name
through ... unfaithfulness ... And now, let them distance themselves
from ... and I will dwell among them forever." (Yechezkel 43:7)
Now we can understand the words, "And G-d made man from dust ... and
breathed into him a living soul, and he became a living spirit."
(Bereishit 2:7). The basic understanding is as the Targum explains it,
that man became a "speaking spirit". What he meant was, when man consisted
only of a body he was simply dust lacking any life and movement. However,
once G-d breathed into him a living soul he came alive, able to function
and speak. (See the Ramban and his commentary on the Torah.)
However, the verse does not say, "in man it became" but rather, "the man
became," which could be interpreted to mean after all that has been said
that the man with his soul became a living spirit to countless worlds.
For, just as all the actions of the body are the result of the soul within
it, so too is man the force and living soul of unlimited upper and lower
worlds, all of which respond to him.
May G-d accept our prayers and answer them sweetly. May we merit to see
the rectification of the Shechinah, and as a result, the rectification of
the world and the Geulah Shlaimah. Gmar Tov.
Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.