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Torah From Tzvi Moshe Kantor

This week’s Parsha deals with Yaakov attempting, finally, to settle in Cna’an. The Pasuk says, “VaYeshev Yaakov B’Eretz Megurei Aviv, B’Eretz Cna’an” ‘And Yakov settled in the land where his father dwelled, the land of Cna’an.’ Contained within this Passuk are the tools we need to serve Hashem in every facet of life.

The Zohar explains that the world is in a state of spiritually disunity. It is difficult to see “Hashem Echad” in the world because there are seemingly so many different forces pulling the world in different directions. It is man’s job to pick out different aspects of physicality in the world and draw them towards the Source, thus reunifying the vastness of creation towards a common goal of the knowledge of Hashem. In much of Chasidus these bits of purity waiting to be redirected are called Nitzotzei Kedusha, Sparks of Holiness.

Based on the same idea, the Sfas Emes explains the essence of our Passuk. The word VaYeshev has the root Shav, to return. A person is only able return the holiness of every object, to elevate the Nitzotzei Kedusha if he nullifies himself to Hashem. Only when a person’s whole life is centralized around Hashem’s will is he able to fulfill the grand task of the world. He goes on to explain that the ability nullify oneself before Hashem is really the power of Teshuva. (Note the common root of VaYeshev and Teshuva)

The Maharal basing himself on a Midrash says that Teshuva is so purely spiritual that it defies all logic and would seemingly have no place in a physical world. Teshuva in its nature comes from such a high place that it surpasses and supersedes the boundaries of nature. Even though the sins themselves were physical it defies thought that feelings regret for one’s past deeds can undo their harmful effects. This is crucial to our understanding: Teshuva causes, and is in and of itself, nothing short of a miracle. Thus with the power of Teshuva, a person’s ability to unify the diversity of the world under God is empowered only by the amount he channels himself to God, which we have explained is the essence of Teshuva.

Let’s bring this all into the context of the way the Degel Machaneh Ephraim expounds our Passuk. He explains that when a person merits truly focusing on the presence of Hashem, all of the physical world bends to his will. No longer do material concerns and superficial fears plague him. When a person puts his mind totally and constantly in ‘God-Consciousness,’ picking out and elevating Nitzotzei Kedusha becomes second nature. He brings this out of our Passuk as follows:
“VaYeshev Yaakov”, When Yaakov settled his mind…
“B’Eretz Megurei Aviv” In the dwelling place of his Father (i.e. in heaven, [brought out from the Passuk in Tehilim 26:4 Shivti B’veis Hashem, To dwell in Hashem’s house. - again notice the common root between Shivti and VaYeshev.])…
“B’Eretz” - within the Artzius, meaning within the physicality of the world…
“Cna’an” - as in Lehicana - to submit, all of the material facets of the world bent to his will to draw the holiness out of them.
Our Passuk “VaYeshev Yaakov B’Eretz Megurei Aviv, B’Eretz Cna’an” now comes to mean, “When Yaakov settled his mind within the construct of ‘God-consciousness’ all of the physicality of the world bent to his will to draw holiness out of them.”

Let’s raise a totally different idea, and see if perhaps we can relate the two.

The Passuk in Tehilim 60:6 says “Nosata LiYreiacha Neis LiHitnoses.” The literal meaning of the Passuk is that Hashem gives to those who truly fear Him a banner to be waved. But we know that word for banner in Hebrew, Neis also means miracle. Thus the Passuk can mean “Nosata LiYreiacha Nes LiHitnoses.” Hashem gives those who fear him, miracles to make other things miraculous.

The Sfas Emes ties this Passuk to Chanuka. Hashem does miracles to draw the Jews out of nature. But it most fitting do be done only if we make ourselves ready for such an elevation. By tapping into ‘God-consciousness’ and seeking out purity, the Chashmonaim made themselves ready to be exposed to the miracle of the Menorah.

How is this so? We can understand based on the question of the Pnei Yehosua ( Messeches Shabbos 21:b). The topic of his question is regarding the efforts of the Chashmonaim to secure a single jug of pure oil: There are two reasons that they would not have had to put forth the effort to that they did. The first is that there is a concept of ‘Tumah Hutrah B’Tzibur.’ We can be lax on certain purity laws for the sake of the community. If Am Yisrael needs oil for the Menorah and we only have impure oil, then it may be used! Secondly, there is another concept of ‘Ones Rachmana Patrei’ The Torah lessens the restrictions on those who are forced into situations that they cannot control- If there is no pure oil, then they would not just be able to light with impure oil, it’s okay if they don’t light at all!

An answer is brought by Rav Avraham Schorr in HaLekach V’HaLibuv. The Chashmonaim were not seeking to get out of the Mitzvah! They only desired to fulfill it in total purity. So they expended and exhausted limitless efforts to locate just a few little drops of oil. (They realized the importance of taking something as physical as fuel and drawing out the Nitztotzei Kedush from it, by turning it into the light of the Menorah, the epitome of spirituality!) Because they tried so hard to tap into the will of Hashem, Hashem granted them a Neis, by making their efforts to find purity grow to the miraculous burning of the Menorah for eight days! In essence, the physical object of oil bent itself to the needs of the Chashmonaim due to their desire for Ruchnius B’Shleimus, perfection in spirituality.

So everything fits! This is exactly what we saw from the Degel Machaneh Ephraim above: “When Yaakov settled his mind within the contstruct of ‘God-consciousness’ all of the physicality of the world bent to his will to draw holiness out of them.” So too by the Chashmonaim! They tapped into the mindset of totally focusing on the will of Hashem, and nature bent to help them fulfill it. And thus their and our spirituality is raised by it (As we saw from our explanation from Tehilim) because we have merited celebrating Chanuka!

So what comes out of all of this? We have to train our eyes to see the Nitzotzei Kedusha in everything! When we fully push ourselves to make the most of every situation HaKadosh Baruch Hu will help us succeed! When we attempt to line up our desire with Hashem’s, it is a guarantee that we will be able to respond accordingly to every situation that he gives us! Everything we have said is explicit from the Mishna in Pirkei Avos 2:4 ‘”Aseh Ritzono K’Ritzoncha Kedi She’Ye’aseh Ritzoncha K’Ritzono” Do Hashem’s will like it is yours, and He will make your will like it is His. When We strive to serve Hashem, He will facilitate us doing so!

If we can open our eyes to the Nitzotzei Kedusha that are waiting for us, if we search for them, if we do our best to utilize them then of course Hashem will help us. If we begin to do this, there is no doubt we will lives of greater meaning, moving closer to the Creator and ultimately the REDEMPTION!

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About me

  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
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