Torah Portion

Shmini 5779

shmini2At the end of this week’s parsha there is a chapter which talks about the laws of kashrut, which types of animals are kosher to eat and which are not.  This chapter also discusses which objects become contaminated due to contact with a non-kosher small, creeping animal: “And if its carcass will fall upon any edible seed that has been planted, it remains pure.  But if water has been placed upon a seed and then their carcass falls upon it, it is contaminated to you.” (Chapter 11, Verses 37-38)

Rebbe Noson teaches that water, in general, represents our faith in Hashem as the creator of the world, this is called אמונת חידוש העולם.  The Sages teach in the Talmud Yerushalmi, as does Rashi on the first verse of the book of Bereshit, that water preceded the creation of the physical world- plants, animal life, human life, etc.  The main aspect of believing in the renewal and creation of the world, Rebbe Noson says, is to believe in the beginning of creation which was the water, which means to believe that Hashem created the world something from completely nothing.  Afterwards from the water he created the rest of creation.  The main part where we need to strengthen ourselves to believe in Hashem’s creation of the world is the beginning, because the rest of the world which Hashem created after the beginning is not as much a wondrous thing for people, we see the wonders of creation each day.  We see every day and every moment the renewal of Hashem’s creation.  For example, we see that the sun sets in the evening and it becomes dark, and in the morning God renews the light of the sun and the sun rises.  Another example of the wonder of creation, Rebbe Noson says, is how from one grain of wheat there can grow from it many high stalks with several hundred grains of wheat… Because water has this special quality that it was created before all the other physical creations, it purifies somebody or something from impurity.  It’s impossible to enter into any aspect of holiness without water, without immersing in a mikveh or washing your hands or your body in water.  For example, the Kohanim need to wash their hands before they bless the congregation at shul.  On the other hand, we find that water can also receive impurity, and food does not receive impurity unless it comes in contact with water first.  The main aspect of holiness and purity comes from belief in Hashem’s renewal of creation.  Emunah (faith) is the main vessel to achieve holiness and purity, and the opposite is true, the main aspect of impurity and strict judgement comes from heresy.  They are both connected to water.  Someone who merits to have true faith will receive all of the levels of holiness and purity, and these levels are drawn from the beginning of creation, when Hashem created water something from nothing. (Likutei Halachot, Laws of Blessings on Smells, 4th teaching)

This teaching caught my attention this week I think because of how Purim was for me last week.  On Purim it’s a mitzvah to drink more than you usually would and become drunk until you can’t tell the difference between Mordechai and Haman.  I took things too far this year, drank too much at the festive meal and by the time we got home from the family’s house who hosted us, I was vomiting in our parking lot.  The next thing I knew I woke up the next morning at 6:15am in our reclining chair in the living room in a bad state.  I was sick all day that day, Friday, and still felt very weak on Shabbos.  My family was scared that I had lost control and gotten so sick from the drinking.  I felt terrible both physically and emotionally.  I knew that I had messed up.  I thought to myself however- ‘all that I can do is to start over and make teshuva (apologize and take responsibility)’.  Despite feeling so terrible I wanted to begin again.  The only way that I can explain this is faith.  Faith is above our understanding and our feelings.  Faith is believing that even if today was (really) bad, tomorrow can be completely different, because tomorrow is a different creation.  We believe that Hashem renews creation every day.  I’m thankful that Hashem gave me the strength and the good thoughts to begin again, from the beginning.  When we are trying to grow and change and improve ourselves and we turn to Hashem to ask for help, even if we fall down, Rebbe Nachman says that in the end everything will turn around for the best and we will reach our goals.  This teaching means on a practical level that we can always renew ourselves, we can truly change and we don’t need to stay stuck in all kinds of bad behaviors and thinking patterns which we feel we have no way of changing.  We can change things for the better in our lives and begin again.

(The image is courteous of Jpost.com)

1 thought on “Shmini 5779”

  1. Thank you Moshe.
    Your sharing Torah from Rebbe Nachman together with your personal experiences and personal growth are a powerful one two punch. We all have our learning moments but they don’t all teach us the important lessons you’ve shared: we can pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off and do better next time, because God loves us and wants us to do better.

    In the daily morning service we read “He (God) renews the act of creation each day continuously
    הוא מחדש בכל יום תמיד מעשה בראשית
    Since we humans are created in the image of the Almighty, i.e. with the capacity to recreate ourselves each and every day…the Master of the Universe, lovingly awaits our personal growth and self improvement to actualize our divine given abilities.
    Shabbat Shalom!

    Like

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