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Parshas Shmini - Resetting the World to a Higher Plane    23 Nissan 5780

05/08/20 17:14:14

May8

It has been a few weeks since my last weekly parsha message. The reason is twofold: my entire schedule, focus and structure of the day was thrown off by the world dealing with the coronavirus. The second is I felt so much has been written and spoken about that I felt I had little new to add to the already voluminous audio and video material flooding our computers and cell phones. Nevertheless, I felt that for me personally, I need to write something so as to keep the lines of communication open between you, my readers, and me.

To say the least a lot has happened over the past six weeks. The world is no longer the same place it was such a short yet long time ago, and we are not near finished before we begin to see the changes yet to come. We are in a similar situation to the time Noach and his family were in the ark. Noach and his family saw a world before, during and after the flood. So too, we knew what the world looked like before what we are currently living through, and, with Hashem’s help we should all remain healthy and those who are ill should have a Refuah Sheleima to see the world in the aftermath of Covid-19. God sent a powerful message to the world with the flood which was at the brink of never recovering, short of Noach and his family. Only those who lived to see the future are able to appreciate life as it was, is, and will be. I apologize in advance if what you about to read sounds similar to something else you’ve already heard, but I personally have not seen or read this twist on the current Matzav/situation.

Hashem created the world for us to live in a physical place while reaching ever higher for a spiritual existence. In the beginning there was natural Gashmiyus/physical beauty and pleasure. But it was there to be viewed in a natural and simple way. I surmise that Hashem felt the balance required to maintain a spiritual feeling in that kind of physical world would be optimum. As the world continues to progress, the level and intensity of this physical world increases, putting ever-greater pressure on mankind to connect to Hashem. This idea is not limited to the Jewish people; it is intended for all humankind. Hashem promised never to bring a Mabul/flood onto the world again, but we should all realize that God has a vast arsenal of the most minute microorganisms to send the most powerful messages. Perhaps the world was growing too distant from the spiritual connection and Hashem decided to awaken the world, bringing it back a number of centuries to a time when we return to our core selves.

Across the globe, cultures, religions, people of all colors and sizes have been affected. Aviation has come to a screeching halt. People have no means for travel – not by air, auto, train or even by foot without feeling the effects of the new situation. One can read articles and view videos animals roaming around in desolated areas which were only weeks ago densely populated by humans. I haven’t seen any crime statistics, but I would bet that overall crime is down. No Jew will ever forget the Pesach which we have just concluded. Some day, when we tell our children and grandchildren of this pandemic descending upon us, synchronized with the celebration of Pesach, future generations will not believe us. We are living through eerily strange, challenging times and I’m sure everyone can add to this list of strange, seemingly supernatural events and challenges.

We, the Jewish people, not only recognize the natural state of the world but that which is above the natural state. The Torah emphasizes something called L’Maalah MiDerech HaTevah - something which is above the natural law of the world. Kedusha or sanctity is something intangible that is not physical but even beyond the natural state of being. The notion how the world was created in seven days represents the natural order of the world, while anything that is above nature lies closer to Hashem. The number eight represents anything above nature, like a boy receiving a Bris on the eighth day, reaching a higher level after the seven natural days of the world. This idea is highlighted in a number of places in the Torah and Chazal.

In this week’s Parshas Shmini the Torah recognizes this transition between the seven natural, mundane days to the spiritual level of the eighth day. The Torah states in Vayikra 9:1 "ויהי ביום השמיני קרא משה לאהרן ולבניו ולזקני ישראל" : “On the eighth day, Moshe summoned Aharon, his sons, and the elders of Israel”. This was the eighth day after seven days that the Kohanim were taught the service by Moshe as was seen only a few verses before this in Vayikra 8:33. “Do not leave the entrance of the Communion Tent for seven days, until your period of inauguration is complete. This is because your installation ceremony shall last for seven days. This seven -day period began the twenty-third of Adar and concluded on the thirtieth of Adar. The following day was Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the first of the month when the Mishkan was established and the business of the Tabernacle was now up and running. This was the day that Hashem’s presence would occupy the Mishkan. The spiritual existence of Hashem would, if you could say, come down and be felt in the physical realm. The Rabbis explain the concept of ‘Tzimtzum’ as contraction, constriction or even as condensation. The Vilna Gaon and others in Kabbalah understand this to explain that Hashem began the process of creation by "contracting" his Ohr Ein Sof (infinite light) in order to allow for a "conceptual space" in which finite and seemingly independent realms could exist. This primordial initial contraction, forming a "vacant space" into which new creative light could beam, is denoted by general reference to the tzimtzum that Hashem was able to have a ‘physical ‘place in this world. According to some, after Adam and Chava sinned Hashem didn’t have a place until the Mishkan was built and inaugurated, and later this spiritual presence of Hashem would be found in the physical place of the Beis HaMikdash.

Since the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, Hashem does not have that ‘place’ in this world except when and where we bring Him in. These last few weeks have given us an opportunity to roll back the Gashmiyus/physical pleasures of the world and provided some space for that Tzimtzum of God to be welcomed back into our Mishkan. For me, some days I rise to the occasion and others I feel stifled. Sometimes I feel Hashem’s presence in a stronger, more formal way, but other times it’s business as usual.

We are still in the middle of this “miraculous time” of our lives; the jury is out as to how and when this will conclude. One question we must ALL ask ourselves is ,“Are we making the future an ordinary seven or a spiritually higher eight where Hashem will once again find Himself able to contract and be a more regular part of our daily life.

Wed, August 12 2020 22 Av 5780