August 14, 2009
Hearing the Divine –By Rabbi Hyim Shafner
This week’s Torah portion Re’eh-“See” begins “See I place before you today blessing and curse, the blessing that you will listen to the Mitzvot….” The Midrah on these verses quotes the two additional verses to bring to bear on our portion, “The mitzvah is a candle and Torah is light” and “The human soul is the candle of God.” The human’s candle is the Mitzvah and God’s candle is the human soul. What is this reciprocity?
The Sefat Emet, Rabi Yehudah Leib Alter of Ger writes on this Midrash that in everything physical there is a Divine life force from the Source of Life. (Indeed as Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi writes in the Sha’ar Ha’yichud V’haemunah, without this Divine life force nothing would exist. The state of non-existence is the status quo, therefor it takes a life force from the Divine to give all things, even inanimate objects, a “soul” which gives them existence.)
Rabbi Yehudah Leib continues to explain that our job is to raise up these Divine sparks of Divine life force that are hidden in all physicality, which we do through Mitzvot. God’s candle is the human soul means that God’s light is dependent upon us to liberate it from its hiding place within the physical, in this way God and God’s light is “dependant” upon us.
He writes that the blessing and curse the Torah speaks of at the beginning of our parsha is not a reciprocal reward and punishment, rather the inner point of Divine light in all things is itself the blessing that the Torah refers to that we will “hear” and “see” when we “listen to the mitzvoth.”
Similarly regarding Shabbat the Torah writes, and God “blessed” the Shabbat. This notion of blessing regarding Shabbat is said in the same vain as what we have explained. The Shabbat is (the most) conducive time in which to become aware of the inner Divine in all things. On Shabbat just eating, just having pleasure is holy and can reveal the Divine life force in what we enjoy. Not to separate ourselves from the world but to utilize it so we can hear the divine in all things, this is our mission on earth. Shabbat Shalom.