Parashas Trumah - Jews, Gerim, and Broken Idols
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Parashas Trumah Jews and Gerim: Brothers Against Evil
Rabbi David Katz
In Parashas Trumah following the Revelation of Sinai, we are immediately entrusted with the construction of the Tabernacle, the home of the Divine Presence. Amongst the various vessels in the Tabernacle, the Torah makes a special emphasis of the Spices and the Incense Altar. The Vilna Gaon stresses in his work, “Aderet Eliyahu on Shir Hashirim 5:1” that the Torah makes mention of two types [of categories] of spices: Saamim and B’sahmim [בשמים \ סמים]. As with every station of the Holy Temple/Tabernacle, each vessel has the ability to be a source of inspiration or a representation of a deeper allegorical relationship. For example the number “11” is prominent in the Temple, which stands to represent the “Vav and Heh” of Yud Kay Vav Kay, signaling the divinity within the actual standing of the building itself. One must not assume that the Jew – Ger relation is without representation God Forbid, for we see that the B’sahmim / Saamim dynamic quite clearly and accurately detail the intimacy of the Jew and the Ger.
The Torah [and the Talmud] specifies that the clearest distinction between Saamim and B’sahmim [for simplicity, let’s call them “Saa” and “B’sah”] is that Saa is the basic amount of essential spices in the Torah: four while B’sah simply are spices added for smell and other purposes and with a total of seven. It is at this junction that we can easily arrive to an understanding that just as Sah is four, this represents the Jewish People, and the four is a hint of their level of essential attachment to the Kabbalistic level of Malchus [Kingdom] and is synonymous with “Eretz” / Land, which is said to be represented by a “dalet” which in gematria is four. The Noahide/Ger is then seen as the B’sah attribute, and the association with seven is obviously the seven component often ascribed to the Noahide for a myriad of reasons aside from the super obvious Seven Laws of Noah. What comes to a bit of a surprise is that the Noahide takes on the literal meaning [from connotation of letters] of B’sah which can be taken as “Heaven(s)” and as the Vilna Gaon points out, the Ger is rooted in Heaven whereas the Jew takes his place “on Earth.” In layman’s terms: the Jew is rooted in the Land / Malchut / Kingdom [sefirah] – Physical while the Ger is rooted in Heaven / Above Malchut [Yesod] / Foundation [sefirah] – Spiritual. In the end what you have is a perfect harmony amongst the two, with equal components, i.e. physical spiritual – soul and body, just coming from different angles and perspectives.
As was mentioned concerning the Temple/Tabernacle, its construction consisted of a frequent creative usage of the number “eleven.” In fact, the Torah deviates from its normal methods of counting when detailing the schematics of the tabernacle, and in place of a normal “eleven” [echad esre], the more mystical “ashtei esre” is seen in its place; again this is a creative term for eleven, one that signifies “Knowledge” / “Daas”, it is the spiritual source of the Ger, and the Third and Final Temple is largely built around this figure, as it represents the final two letters of Hashem’s Essential Name. However for the discussion relevant here, eleven is seen as a future model of the upper world Atzilus which will expand from ten emanations [sefirot] to eleven; this is the great secret of the “Eleven Spices,” and as explained, they are contained as the union of the four of “Saa” and seven of “B’sah.” With the basic purpose of Saa being the essential four types of spices, and the seven of B’sah being that of an “addition” of seven functioning at least as an elevation of fragrance, the two are destined to join and unite into a mystical blend of eleven, which has its root in Atzilus, the World of Emanation. When seen as the union of Jew and Ger [under the grip of Torah and drawing guidance and inspiration directly from Hashem], the mystical possibilities and imagery take on a new light by the emanation coming from a Torah themed reality taking place in the lower world that mirrors Atzilus, our world, Asiah, the World of action.
The basic tenet of this union is that it is defined by just that – union [yichud in Hebrew]. Whether one wished to paint the picture with imagery as male – female, “Yesod - Malchut”, above and below, etc., the two, although being distinctly different [acting from an imposed and natural schism], serve to become a perfect complement once initiative is taken to repair and sweeten the schism. One could make a case that perhaps their greatest partnership [especially in the scope of the spices] is their joined effort in the eradication of idolatry. For this to be explained, Shir Hashirim and the Vilna Gaon maintain course with consistent vessels and themes, acting as the vehicle that drives this engine that actually repels and eradicates idolatry.
One might think that idolatry has pull over one’s soul, and thus it is an eternal dogfight between Holiness and Impurity to gain sway over people, their souls, and ultimately creation. However this is highly flawed at its onset; God has no equal, and all in the end is very good – evil will return to become good [hence “very good”], thus there must be an entirely different [and much more complex in thought] system. And there is – however we must look not to the obvious, but the revelation in the negative!
The Vilna Gaon makes us aware the impurity has NO power at all over any person or soul. This obviously begs the question then of how evil has room to exist; the answer may be a bit surprising to the uninitiated of Torah – for being without the Ger, impurity gains sway over Man.
As impurity lacks anything of substance, it is the diminishment of a “goodly fragrance within Torah” that drives man to idolatry, thus perceiving Torah as a stench. To put it simply, when Torah is in a flatlander one-dimensional universe, devoid of content, truth, creativity and imagination, life force and mysticism, any vitality and impersonated with hypocrisy, i.e. products of the depths of exile, the Torah will be internalized as having a porous smell; it is as if the soul alerts the body, “not this” [rendering Torah futile]. Once Torah has lost esteem in the eyes of man, it is only then that he can go elsewhere as find satisfaction in the cravings of the body, in efforts to repair the smell. In a sense he trades his soul for the comfort of escaping the odor. Thus the opposite condition would yield an inverse reality, where a goodly aroma will attract people to Torah, allowing idolatry to go the way of the wind.
This brings us to the remedy of the Torah based on the subtle passage of the two types of spices, consisting of the four and seven [seen as Jews and Noahides], who, as we mentioned, when they come together and join forces, produce a divine aroma that reaches the nostrils of God so to speak. Fitting enough, it is the Jewish Noahide alliance in Torah that ends idolatry and pushes evil out of the World, while making an eternal elevation of the Torah, and allowing the Torah to shine amongst men. The only difficulty of course, is doing this, and realizing what this means, and how to unite disparate parts that don’t seem to ever want to fit [in] together.
The Torah was obviously given to the Jewish People at Sinai, and in the Torah the Jews were sanctified amongst Taryag Mitzvot to Love the Ger [and do not taunt the Ger]. In fact, even on a simple reading of the Torah [ironically], if one were to count the Ger references, it may even rival that of air time given to Miriam and Aaron, etc. combined! The process of discovery of these two camps of schism is quite extensive and that of a lifelong journey and commitment in Torah, thus the answer [as we are essentially hinted at of the destination by the numbers within the spices] can be addressed with a nice Kabbalistic point of view from the Ramchal [“1705”] in his work “138 Gates of Wisdom.”
In kabbalah one can see three types of levels in a vessel [in this case, a person, or people]: the soul of souls, the soul/mentality, and the gifts of the individual, character traits. To understand this best in our context, it will work best if viewed backwards and the forwards, as a template of discovery that breeds furthering discovery. We are all different people on Earth, yet we can be broken down to two types of people: Jews and Gerim [and idolaters who are not yet decided where they stand, to be seen in a positive context]. The Jew has a certain tradition and culture ingrained in him from the Torah and direct experience of Sinai, whereas the Ger reached Sinai in a much more complicated and metaphysical fashion, and thus has an entirely different culture and way of being; each has his own Derech Eretz, proper code of conduct.
These two particular camps, while not necessarily existing within stereotype have expressions from the soul that cater to the unique experiences that each will be compelled to take, even if under the pretense of free will. This is schism at its highest, almost as if in competition; not to see who is champion, but to witness one’s own survival, while the one in opposition is not even aware of a struggle.
The reason for schism is the very fact that the two are just that: two – who are destined to function as one, while remaining with the original identity; schism, for the sake of repairing and sweetening schism. These souls are said to garment different places of what is called, “the soul of souls” – where all is one; the primal life force of Creation, i.e. revelation of God. The Torah’s secret, is that underneath all relevant Torah that a Noahide may find appealing, or a Jew may feel compelled to learn, is a consistent theme of Love, Brotherhood, achdut, etc. Point being, the two really are one, they just find individuality once the soul, mentality, traits, etc. are thrust into action.
In the end, you do in fact have two people, with different Lands, different Laws, different everything in the ultimate sense, a real schism, one that not only seeks to be repaired, but is destined to find repair, for the Torah is very good!
Both Jews and Gerim have had their bouts with idolatry, evil, disobedience, etc., yet the two possess the power of fragrance to repel idolatry, evil, and impurity off of reality’s map permanently. Just as the spices are allegorically able to contain the kashrut and authenticity of Torah, the Jew and the Ger and their mystical union of ashtei esre [eleven] are perceived and expected to join into union, one that will not only rid the world of evil attraction, but will glorify the Torah in unity that Earth will finally be able to perceive all unity. Whether it be male –female, Hakadosh Baruch Hu – Shechinah, Yesod – Malchut, all two’s becoming one, only the Jew and the Ger shall be so unique and full of life, here in the World of Action, to find the right chemistry, to form a fragrance, that will pull us all into Gan Eden; a real Tikkun Olam, by Tikkun Adam.