Friday, September 5, 2008

SHOFTIM: TWO HEARTS, ONE YEARNING

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman


Jewish DNA reflects a yearning to simultaneously ascend two figurative mountains: the universal call to serve humanity on the one hand, and the particular call to serve the Jewish people on the other hand, and in so doing preserve our culture, religion and heritage and be alone with our G*d.

Ultimately through fulfilling both yearnings we then come to serve G*d in the deepest way. For serving humanity, and serving G*d's priestly nation of Israel, G*d's servants for humanity, is the ultimate path to serving G*d Himself. After all, Kohein means servant. Lekhahein is the infinite form meaning to serve, and what is a truly lived life but one which was a life of devotion and service.

"VERACH HALEVAV YELECH VEYASHOV LEVEYTO...(Deut.20:8)

...and let the faint-hearted return home (rather than let his cowardliness demoralize the nation)."

This is the usual meaning of the verse. But really it is saying something else altogether, because RACH actually means "soft." It is saying that a soft heart is the true heart, the heart of the home, the heart we should always bring into the home. And we all have two hearts, in that the word LEVAV, for "hearts" alludes to the plural on account of the doubling of the letter vet. Their doubling is said to allude to the two inclinations- the good inclination (yetzer hatov) and the evil inclination (yetzer hara). See also the shema and veahavta prayer- "bechawl levavcha u'vechawl nafshecha u'vechawl me'odecha (with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might)."

But we have two other inclinations that are paired together as well- the Sinai inclination and the Yerushalayim inclination; the universal urge and the nationalistic urge. In truth, we should serve G*d with both urges.The call of Sinai in the wilderness, that zone of undifferentiated universality, where Israel received its charge to bring the Torah, the light of the world, to the nations of the world competes in our hearts with the yearning to be alone with G*d on His holy mountain in the city of David.

But really they don't contradict each other at all. Really the two are actually one very deep yearning- that we will one day play host to all the nations of the world who will then come up to Yerushalayim, to G*d's Holy Mountain to testify to G*d's Oneness.

And in the previous verse (Deut. 20:7) it states, "is there any man among you who has betrothed a woman and not married her? Let him go home so that he will not die in war and have another man marry her."

In the deepest sense this is an allusion to the nation of Israel who is betrothed to Hashem. Each and every year Israel renews the marriage vows of Sinai on the Festival of Shavuoth. Therefore Israel is always to seek the peaceful path, for Israel is constantly in a state of betrothal, always bringing the softness of the heart to the hearth of the home. We seek peace always, fighting only in self defense when our enemy wants war.

"oomee HAISH ASHER ERAS ISHA....." (see above)

Now this is very deep, so you have to concentrate really hard.

The verse itself alludes to the idea of two mountains. The first four words all contain the same letters-alef and shin, which spell AISH, or fire. And each of the words have additional letters: yud, raish, raish, hey, which when arranged in reverse order spell HARARI, meaning "my two mountains (two because the hey is doubled, like the doubling of the letter vet in levav)."

And ERAS can be rearranged as ROSH, and the letter sin can refer to the word simcha, bringing to mind the verse from psalms - al ROSH SIMCHATI (" I will raise Jerusalem above my chiefest joy").

The two mountains of Judaism are Zion and Sinai. With two hearts, our world/universal heart and our national/Jewish heart we are to serve G*d. But in truth they are really the same heart.

Shabbat Shalom. Good Shabbos.

Sefer Chabibi. Copyright 1999-2008 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

This Torah thought is written in honor of the blessed memory of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Yaakov Hakohen Melman.

1 comment:

Betsy said...

Jerusalem is a place like no other, G*D has put His name there, it's a city where future appointments on G*Ds calendar are yet to be fulfilled."As the mountains surround Jerusalem,so the L*RD surrounds His people from this time forth and forever." Psalm 125:2 To have a heart for G*D is to have a heart for Zion. The call for watchmen went out in Isaiah's time. "On your walls,O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; all day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the L*RD, take no rest for yourselves;and give Him no rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth." Isaiah 62:6-7. Lets not miss the divine appointment, come lets go up to the mountain and He will teach us His ways.

NEVER GIVE UP!

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When I was young I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.- Abraham Joshua Heschel
The whole world is a very narrow bridge. And the most important thing is to not be afraid.
-Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
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About Me

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I played violin with Reb Shlomo and studied under him for over nine years at hundreds of concerts and learnings. Shlomo wanted to give me smicha before he passed. Deepest influences: My father,obm, who was a great scientist and human being, and my grandfather, obm, who was a great Torah scholar who was a musmach of the Mir Yeshiva and taught in Slobodka in Russia before WW1, and was also personal friends with the Chafetz Chaim and came to America in 1914. He knew the Talmud by heart! You could stick a pin in a word and he could tell you what word was on the other side! And my mother, Esther bat Baruch, z"l, who was a scholar of classical Hebrew and Tanach and who gave me a love for the language. And her mother, Anna (Sucher) Deutsch, who was born in Horodenka, spoke six languages, and shared her aged wisdom and eternal sweetness with me. I studied at Brandeis, Hebrew College, Pardes as well as seven years at The Metivta/ITJ earning my Advanced Semicha (yoreh yoreh)under Rav Halivni. What's truly amazing is that Shlomo and Rav Halivni each received semicha from Rav Hutner! But my deepest influences of them all are my sweetest sweetest girls who have taught me the most!