Parshat Shemini (Leviticus 9:1-11:47)
Can there be anything more fulfilling than succeeding in becoming a vessel of G-d’s presence in this world? Yet how does an individual or a collective ever achieve such a state of being? How does one develop a sense of holiness?
That desired state is not only an option to be desired it is in fact a purpose defined by the Creator.
”And Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying, Speak to the entire congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them, You shall be holy, for I, Hashem, your G-d, am holy.” (Leviticus 19:1-2)
There is much that is written in the Torah that gives us a direction and sometimes even a prescription for achieving such a state. Yet at times, the greater lesson can be learned from what is not written.
The Talmud teaches that every letter in a Torah scroll must be completely surrounded by the blank parchment (Menachot 29a) .This is not simply a description of how to write a Torah scroll but rather a spiritual hint of a deeper truth.
We are told that the words of the Torah were given in fire “from His right a fiery law to them”(Deut. 33:2). Our sages describe it actually as being created with “ black fire” being written on “white fire”.
The Black Fire is the letters of Hashem’s word.
The White Fire is what surrounds each of those letters.
The Black Fire describes the clearly delineated text and its simple revealed meaning.
The White Fire ,on the other hand, represents the more sublime “hidden truths”.
The “White Fire” in the Torah portion of Shemini we will see will be extremely revelatory.
On the eighth day after the seven days of preparation Moshe summoned Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel, and tells them to bring specific sacrifices to the tabernacle for its inauguration.
And they took what Moshe had commanded, to the front of the Tent of Meeting, and the entire community approached and stood before Hashem. And Moshe said, “This is the thing Hashem has commanded; do [it], and the glory of Hashem will appear to you.” ( Leviticus 8:5-6)
All that they had brought, prepared, created and arranged was about to achieve its greatest fulfilment,” the glory of Hashem will appear to you.”
We then read of Aaron doing all that was needed to be done on the altar.
And Moshe said to Aaron, “Approach the altar and perform your sin offering and your burnt offering, atoning for yourself and for the people, and perform the people’s sacrifice, atoning for them, as Hashem has commanded.” ( ibid ;7)
Aaron completes the service and raises his hands and the many, many people of Israel stand there breathless and waiting in in anticipation.
We read the following in the beginning of the verse but are struck by the end of the verse
And Aaron lifted up his hands towards the people and blessed them…… He then descended from preparing the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the peace offering. ( ibid:12)
What happened?!? The Glory of Hashem did not appear!
What can be learnt from “the white fire” that lay silently between Aaron’s blessing of the people and the entry of Moshe and Aaron into the tent?
Rashi explains on the beginning of the next verse “And Moshe and Aaron went into the Tent of Meeting” thusly;
Another explanation [of why Moshe entered with Aaron is]: When Aaron saw that all the sacrifices had been offered and all the procedures had been performed, and yet the Shechinah had not descended for Israel, he was distressed.
He said, “I know that the Holy One, blessed is He, is angry with me, and on my account the Shechinah has not descended for Israel.”
So he said to Moshe, “My brother Moshe, is this what you have done to me, that I have entered and been put to shame?”
At once, Moshe entered [the Tent of Meeting] with him, and they prayed for mercy. Then the Shechinah came down for Israel. —
As broken as Aaron may have felt, one could only imagine the pain and fear that rushed through the hearts of all the people still waiting outside the tent.
Yet it is out of and in the midst of that brokenness that “they came out and blessed the people, and the glory of Hashem appeared to all the people. “(ibid:23)
That is the great lesson. We in our lives can attempt to do and say all the right things. We can truly strive to create the correct vessels and tools to allow Hashem to use us and uplift us. Yet all that will come to naught if our hearts do not become a little broken.
As King David cries out to Hashem in Psalm 51;
For You do not wish a sacrifice, or I should give it; You do not desire a burnt offering. The sacrifices of G-d are a broken spirit; O G-d, You will not despise a broken and crushed heart. (Psalm 51:18-19)
Attempting to do everything correctly and getting things right is laudable and favorable. The Torah continuously praises the people for doing “ everything that Hashem had commanded”.
Yet that focus can also become a trap and stumbling block. It can be a slippery slope into arrogance and pride which is the greatest divide between us and our Creator.
It is always critical to remember as well how broken we all are.
King David also writes;
“Blessed are the people who know the Teruah sound; they shall walk, O Hashem , in the light of Your countenance.(Psalm 89:15).
Should it not have said .”Blessed are the people who blow or hear the Teruah sound; “?
The Teruah sound is one of the sounds of the blowing of the shofar. The Tekiya sound is a clear blast.
The Shevarim is a slow “sighing” sound.
The Teruah sound is a broken staccato sound.
“Blessed are the people who know the Teruah sound; means ”.”Blessed are the people who know that they are broken and know that they need to be fixed, “because they shall walk, O Hashem , in the light of Your countenance”.(Psalm 89:15).
LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved vekol Hacholim