Thursday, September 11, 2014

Parshas Vayelech - seeing the world through the eyes of the Torah

 The passuk says in this week’s sedrah (31:16):
וַיֹּאמֶר ה' אֶל מֹשֶׁה הִנְּךָ שֹׁכֵב עִם אֲבֹתֶיךָ וְקָם הָעָם הַזֶּה וְזָנָה אַחֲרֵי אֱלֹהֵי נֵכַר הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר הוּא בָא שָׁמָּה בְּקִרְבּוֹ וַעֲזָבַנִי וְהֵפֵר אֶת בְּרִיתִי אֲשֶׁר כָּרַתִּי אִתּוֹ. וְחָרָה אַפִּי בוֹ בַיּוֹם הַהוּא וַעֲזַבְתִּים וְהִסְתַּרְתִּי פָנַי מֵהֶם וְהָיָה לֶאֱכֹל וּמְצָאֻהוּ רָעוֹת רַבּוֹת וְצָרוֹת וְאָמַר בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא הֲלֹא עַל כִּי אֵין אֱלֹקַי בְּקִרְבִּי מְצָאוּנִי הָרָעוֹת הָאֵלֶּה. וְאָנֹכִי הַסְתֵּר אַסְתִּיר פָּנַי בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא עַל כָּל הָרָעָה אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה כִּי פָנָה אֶל אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים
“And Hashem said to Moshe, ‘Behold you will lie with your fathers and this people will arise and they will stray after the gods of the people of the land which it comes to and they will desert me and they will annul my covenant. And my anger will flare against them on that day and I will abandon them and I will hide my face from them and they will be eaten and great and oppressive evil will find them.

Then they will say, “Is it not because Hashem is not in my midst that this evil has found me.” And I will surely hide my face from them on that day for all the evil that they have done in turning to other gods.’”
  • Why would Hashem hide His face once the benei yisrael recognise that evil had befallen them because they had turned to avodah zarah? Surely this shows that they did teshuvah so that now Hashem would reveal His face to them?

The gemara says in Menachos (29b):
ומפני מה נברא העולם הזה בה"י? מפני שדומה לאכסדרה שכל הרוצה לצאת יצא. ומאי טעמא תליא כרעיה? דאי הדר בתשובה מעיילי ליה. וליעייל בהך? לא מסתייעא מילתא...
“Why was olam hazeh created with the letter heh? Because it is similar to a porch in front of a house (which is easy to go out of since it is open in all directions) so that anyone who wants to go out (whoever does not want to keep the Torah) can go out.

And why does the leg on the left hand side of the heh not reach the top of the heh? This is to teach you that if a person does teshuvah then they let him back in (through the gap between the leg of the heh and the roof of the heh.)

But why can he not come back through the bottom entrance of the heh? It will not work...”
  • Why can a person who abandoned the Torah not do teshuvah and return the same way that he left?

The gemara says in Bava Basra (3b):
הורדוס עבדא דבית חשמונאי הוה... קם קטלינהו לכולהו מרותיה... אמר מאן דריש (דברים י"ז, ט"ו) מקרב אחיך תשים עליך מלך? רבנן. קם קטלינהו לכולהו רבנן שבקיה לבבא בן בוטא למשקל עצה מניה... השתא מאי תקנתיה דההוא גברא? אמר ליה הוא כבה אורו של עולם דכתיב (משלי ו', כ"ג) כי נר מצוה ותורה אור ילך ויעסוק באורו של עולם דכתיב (ישעיהו ב', ב') ונהרו אליו כל הגוים. איכא דאמרי הכי אמר ליה, הוא סימא עינו של עולם דכתיב (במדבר ט"ו, כ"ד) והיה אם מעיני העדה, ילך ויתעסק בעינו של עולם דכתיב (יחזקאל כ"ד, כ"א) הנני מחלל את מקדשי גאון עוזכם מחמד עיניכם
“Herod was a slave of the house of the Chashmonaim, he rebelled against his masters and killed all of the family of the Chashmonaim (so he could be the king). He said, ‘Who explains that the passuk says that a slave cannot be a king, it is the chachamim. So he arose and he killed the chachamim and only left Bava ben Buta alive in order that he could ask him for advice.

[In the end, Herod asked Bava ben Buta how he could do teshuvah for having killed all the chachamim.]

Bava ben Buta said, ‘He (Herod) extinguished the light of the world as the passuk says ‘כי נר מצוה ותורה אור’ – “Because a mitzvah is a lamp and the Torah is the light that comes from the lamp”, so he should go and toil in the light of the world (and rebuild the beis hamikdash) as the passuk says ‘ונהרו אליו כל הגוים’ – “and all the nations will come to its light".’

Others say that Bava ben Buta said to Herod, ‘He (Herod) blinded the eye of the world as the passuk says “והיה אם מעיני העדה” – “and it will be if a matter is hidden from the eyes of the congregation (meaning, if beis din make a mistake)”, so he should go and toil for the eye of the world (and rebuild the beis hamikdash), as the passuk says “הנני מחלל את מקדשי גאון עוזכם מחמד עיניכם” – “Behold I will profane my beis hamikdash, the greatness of your might, the desire of your eyes.”’”
  • Why are the beis hamikdash and the chachamim are called the eyes of and the light of the world?

Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner z”l explains as follows:

The chachamim and the beis hamikdash are the eyes of the world and the light of the world since everything in the world can be looked at and understood in different ways. However, through the eyes of the understanding of the chachamim and of the kedushah of the avodah in the beis hamikdash, the benei yisrael see everything in the world in the light of the Torah.

Someone who abandons the Torah cannot do teshuvah and return the same way as he left Torah observance because once he abandons the Torah he is no longer capable of seeing anything in the light of the Torah as he did previously. He now has to forge a new way back to the Torah in order to renew his ability to see the world through the eyes of the Torah.

Therefore, when the benei yisrael recognise that evil had befallen them because they abandoned their bris with Hashem, it is not enough for them to do teshuvah by going back to their original madregah.

Instead, once they start on the path to doing teshuvah, Hashem will totally hide His face from them so that they will be forced to find a new way to come close to Hashem and keep the Torah.

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