In “Making It Count, Part One,” we discussed the necessity and actual essentiality to acquaint oneself with the inner meaning of the mitzvos we perform. That is not to say we will ever attain anything close to a full understanding of the depth and profundity of the commandments, but at least we will avoid the trap of it becoming mere “ritual,” almost disassociated from our personal growth (and, truth be told, almost disassociated from Hashem and what He wants from us — besides, of course, the basic idea that we are listening to Him).
And we asked why the mitzvah of sefiras ha’omer, ascribed to the anticipation of Bnei Yisroel towards Matan Torah as the purpose of Yetzias Mitzrayim, is established as a time of counting from the bringing of the omer (a barley meal offering brought on day two of Pesach) to the bringing on day fifty of the shtei halchem (a wheat-mincha-offering).
In Part Two, we introduced the aveilus of the sefirah period, the tragedy of the deaths of talmidei Rabbi Akivah, and the cause of their deaths — the lack of respect shown one to another, which apparently made them unfit to be conveyors of Torah. This stamped the days of sefirah as days of working on self-improvement, as expressed by the seven middos we enumerated: chessed, gevurah… up until yesod and malchus, together with all of their modifications and permutations and intertwinings (e.g, chessed sheb’gevurah, yesod sheb’malchus). This has become part of our preparation for kabalas HaTorah, as we also find in Rabbi Akivah’s (!) statement that “love your fellow-Jew as you love yourself” is a guiding principle upon which the entire Torah rests! We asked: what does that mean, and how is it true? And of course, we all know the famous dictum of Chazal, that the encampment at Har Sinai had to have a singularity of purpose and unity amongst all of Klal Yisroel (vayichan Yisroel) in order to result in Matan Torah.
How do these ideas all mesh?
As explained by many sefarim, spirituality, or G-dliness in this world (i.e., in all of existence) exists through the medium of the seven middos that are enumerated in various places, including during sefirah. These seven middos (and three aspects of seichel, which we will forgo talking about for now) are the way in which Hashem emanates His presence in this world — in all of creation. But they are, so to speak, only the tools. The actual realization of His presence is, in this world of chomer and physicality, the six hundred and thirteen mitzvos. (In other realms, the Torah also exists, though in other, spiritual, forms. For example, mezuzah and matzah have their counterpart in more ethereal worlds. This of course explains how the avos and others kept certain mitzvos, even those which seem to be based on historical events which had not happened yet!)The Torah exists in all worlds, for it is how Hashem has chosen to exist and to be found in anything else which seems to be not He, Himself. In the physical world, that becomes matzah and mezuzah — and that is so even before Yetzias Mitzrayim! In fact, as Beis Halevi explains, Yetzias Mitzrayim was orchestrated to conform to the mitzvah of matzah, not vice versa!
And so we “meld” into G-dliness as we perform the mitzvos, and as we exhibit the middos with all of their various interlockings when we relate to things — i.e., how do we relate to things outside of ourselves? Through chessed, through gevurah, tiferes… But what exactly do I do? I need guidance as to when I use chessed, when gevurah, when malchus. I am not Hashem, I don’t know what to use, and where it is appropriate and where inappropriate?
Aha! Torah holds all the answers! That is precisely what the Torah is! It runs the gamut of life, of existence, and teaches us what G-dliness translates into in this physical world (that is, the Torah in the form which we have it). And if we are able to, we understand the inner meanings and aspects of the mitzvos, which middos they represent, how they affect our G-dly souls. We become more spiritual, we are actually bonding with Hashem as we do the mitzvos, for the mitzvoss are G-dliness in the beri’ah; and the more we understand what they are, what they represent, how they make me a better person, a better Jew, a more spiritual being, the more it affects our neshamos.
And so the guidebook to living a life of G-dliness, of emulating the way Hashem relates to the beriah, is the Torah, which teaches us how the middos translate into daily life.
The Rambam writes in Hilchos Dei’os, (perek 1), that emulating Hashem is actually one of the mitzvos, and refers primarily to the way He conducts the beriah in being kind, merciful, slow-to-anger, just, fair…
The primary middah of Hashem, if we may talk that way, is of course chessed. In fact, the entire creation is the most singular act of chessed, and embodies the idea that Hashem, since He needs and lacks nothing, could only have created the world as a materialization of chessed, in order that there be things which can be imbued with His essence (through fulfilling Torah and thus acting out the middos Hashem).
Emulating Hashem actually requires that we look outward, as caring individuals, as Hashem would act, and deal with our fellow man with the full respect, love and sensitivity that we would normally reserve for ourselves. That indeed is the foundation of Torah: be other-person-centered, not self-centered; be like Hashem! If you can do that, you are ready to be the abode and the home-base of Torah.
(My editor is telling me that my word allotment has run out. Mindful of the Chofetz Chaim who says that every person has a word allotment for their life-span, I think I had best be mindful of such rules and be meticulous in my adhering to them. Well, next week is another day…)
Keep those e-mails coming, folks! In other words — is anybody out there?