Parshas Kedoshim-Likkutei Torah-The importance of praise

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Parshas Kedoshim

Vechi Savou El Haaretz

[Likkutei Torah p. 29]

 

Parshas Kedoshim discusses the Mitzvah of Arla and Neta Rivaiy, which is the commandment to abstain from eating from the fruit of a tree for its first three years. The fruit of the fourth year of the tree is considered Neta Rivaiy, similar to Maaser Sheyni, about which one is commanded to bring it to Jerusalem and eat it there. From the fifth year onwards, one may eat the fruit without any limitations. The Alter Rebbe in this Mamar addresses two points regarding this Mitzvah. The first point is regarding the three years of abstaining from the fruit and its Divine purpose and meaning. The second point focuses on the fourth year of the fruit, which we are commanded to eat in Jerusalem as praise to Hashem. What is the purpose of this praise? Why does Hashem need our praise? Are we even able to properly comprehend G-d’s greatness to the point that we can praise Him? Wouldn’t a simpleton’s praise of a king, in that king’s presence, that he has magnificent vegetables in his garden be considered as insolence before all of the king’s mighty powers? Similarly how do we have the ability to praise the King of all Kings with a mere basket of fruits? This Mamar delves into the purpose of praising Hashem and how it affects the vitality and Divine blessing that the world receives from the Sefiros above. Hidden in this Mamar is a deep lesson that each person can take to help not only his relationship with Hashem, but his everyday relationship with his friends, family, spouse, and children. This Mamar delivers the secret power of praise into the hands of each person.

 

Explorations of the Mamar:

1.       Why do we abstain from the fruits of the tree for the first three years?

2.       What is the purpose of Hallel, praising Hashem, and does Hashem truly need our praise?

3.       How does praising Hashem affect receiving Divine blessing?

4.       How do you get a favor out of someone who is in a very irritable mood?

 

Rectifying the sin of the Tree of Knowledge:

The verse states, “When you enter the land and plant fruit trees, you shall not benefit from the fruits of the tree. It shall be forbidden to be a benefit for you for three years; you shall not eat from it. In the fourth year all of its fruits shall be holy, a praise for Hashem.” The Sages discuss this Mitzvah, “Who will remove the dust from your eyes, Adam Harishon? Your children who wait three years to eat the fruit of the tree?” The Shach on the Torah explains that the purpose of this Mitzvah is to rectify the sin of the Tree of Knowledge that was performed by Adam Harishon. This Mitzvah does not only relate to this sin because the sin involved a lack of control in abstaining from eating the fruit of a tree, and here too we abstain from eating the fruit of a tree, but also regarding the amount of years that we now abstain. Adam Harishon was commanded not to eat from the fruit at the ninth hour of the day of Erev Shabbos. As the prohibition was to last until Shabbos began, Adam Harishon had to delay the eating for a mere four hours in total, in which case the fruits would have become holy and permitted. But Adam did not withstand the challenge and he partook from the fruit a mere hour after he was commanded, at the tenth hour of the day. Thus in total, Adam Harishon lacked control for the last three hours of the prohibition, and to rectify this sin we too delay eating from fruit trees for a total of three years.  

 

The fourth year-Why does Hashem need us to praise Him?

During the fourth year of the fruit tree’s life, one is commanded to bring his fruits to Yerushalayim as an act of praise to Hashem. The purpose of this thanksgiving and praise to Hashem still remains to be clarified. [Although it is self-understood that we owe Hashem our very existence and every continuous moment of our lives, its blessings and occurrences, and hence we must be grateful to Hashem and show him praise and thanks, nevertheless this is something that should come on its own, as a direct consequence of the blessings one receives. Why does Hashem need to command us to do so? Would it not sound strange if a king needed to command his servants to praise him, or a wife needed to ask her husband to praise her? What worth would such praise have if the person is not doing it on his own accord? Furthermore, although humans are in need of praise to help boost their self-esteem and self-image and as a last resort to receive this praise may command others to praise them, Hashem certainly has no lack of self-image or self-esteem. Therefore, for what purpose does He ask us to praise Him? Furthermore, Hashem is above and beyond any form of praise that we can even manage to express, and all praise is meaningless in relation to the true praise that He deserves. To understand this matter, we must first introduce the idea of how Divine blessing reaches below into the worlds.

Hashem sits on the praise of Israel:

The verse states, Veata Kadosh Yoshev Tehillos Yisrael, “And You are Holy, Who sits on the praise of Israel”. What is the meaning of this verse? The explanation is as follows: Hashem, the Or Ein Sof, is infinitely distanced from having any relation with the physical and spiritual worlds. The worlds are limited, while Hashem is infinite. [This is similar to the ratio of any number to an infinite number.] Therefore, from the level of Or Ein Sof, Hashem does not interact with the world at all, as it is as if the world is non-existent. The way Hashem operates the world is through His Shemos, His Divine names, which are also His attributes or Sefiros. It is the attributes of Hashem that create the worlds and bring it all of its blessings. The revelation of these attributes that manage the world is not automatic and is rather dependent on the praise of the Jewish people for Hashem.

Praise reveals one’s good character:

When one person is praised by another, they not only feel good about themselves, but also become naturally motivated to become even better and perform even more with regard to the matter for which they were praised. Praise reveals one’s good character and motivates its expression. For example, if one person needs to approach another for a favor, he may notice that the person whom he is approaching is in a great state of anger and rage. In such a state, this person is fairly distanced from being able to arouse the desire to do anyone a favor, and hence the chances that one’s request will get answered are slim, if not impossible. Nevertheless, if one calls this person and praises him for being such a great person and philanthropist and how he is always so kind to others and goes the extra mile for his friend, he affects the arousal of the attribute of kindness within his friend. Now that his friend’s attribute of kindness has been revealed, he can approach him and ask for the favor, as the friend will surely acquiesce to his request more easily. Although this attribute of mercy was in a state of absolute concealment only moments earlier, nevertheless praise has ability to awaken it.

 

Praising Hashem reveals His blessing in the Sefiros:

Just as praising a person has the ability to cause the attributes of a person to be revealed, similarly praising Hashem helps draw down Hashem’s attributes to reveal blessing to us in this world. As stated above, Hashem Himself is infinitely above and beyond any relation or interaction with this world, or the Sefiros, and hence does not naturally give the world or the Sefiros any blessing from this level. How then do we reveal Hashem’s attributes and cause Him to relate to us and give us the blessings that we need? This is through praising Him. When we praise Hashem with a certain attribute, we are in essence revealing that attribute within Hashem and causing Him to give us the Divine blessings that result from that Middah. For example, the praise that arouses Hashem to give us life and existence is the first words of a blessing, Baruch Ata Havayah. The name Havayah means to give life. We are thus saying, “Blessed are You Hashem for giving us life,” and this then motivates Hashem to in truth give us life. This is the meaning of the abovementioned verse that, “Hashem sits on the praise of Israel”, as naturally Hashem is Kadosh, which means aloof and separate, and in order for Him to sit and relate to us we must praise Him. Thus the sitting of Hashem that represents the Divine blessing that He gives us is a result of the Tehillos Yisrael, the praise of the Jewish people. 

                                         

 

A Maaseh Shehaya:[1]

During his extensive wandering, the Baal Shem Tov spread this custom of thanking G-d among the simple masses, encouraging them to praise Hashem verbally at every opportunity. One day, as he arrived in a village, he heard about a certain Porush, an ascetic scholar, who totally disassociated himself from the world and the people in his community. He remained secluded in a single room and spent his time learning Torah day and night, even eating his meals and taking his nightly naps in the room. This was his schedule for the past fifty years. He was known as a great saint in the eyes of the masses and was looked upon with great awe and respect for his saintly and righteous way of life. Upon hearing this impressive description, the Baal Shem Tov resolved to visit the Porush personally. Entering the quiet room, he approached the Porush and found him deeply absorbed in his study. The Baal Shem Tov, disturbing him from his study, proceeded to ask him, “How is your health? Do you have a good livelihood?” The Porush, deciding to ignore the rude intruder, continued his studies without making any response. The Baal Shem Tov, however, did not relent, and he continued to pester the Porush with his questions. When his patience finally ran out, the Porush angrily turned to the Baal Shem Tov and scolded him: “How dare you, a simple farmer, disturb me from my learning?!” He then pointed at the door, angrily motioning to the Baal Shem Tov to exit the room at that very instant. The Baal Shem Tov pleaded with the man: “Rabbi, tell me why you hinder Hashem from receiving His Parnasa?” Caught off-guard by the strange and yet cryptic question from the “simple farmer”, the Porush sat quietly trying to make sense of it all. The Baal Shem Tov then concluded: “The Jewish people receive their sustenance from Hashem. However, how does Hashem receive His sustenance to desire to give us His blessing? This is an explicit verse in Psalms: Veata Kadosh Yoshev Tehillos Yisrael, “And You are Holy, Who sits on the praise of Israel”. When we praise Hashem, in return He gives us a blessing of health and livelihood. Hence why do you keep Hashem from His due sustenance?”

 

Lessons of the Mamar:

·         When one praises Hashem, in the daily blessings and prayers, and in Hallel on auspicious days, one is in essence taking into his hands the reins of the Sefiros of the upper worlds, which bring down the Divine blessing that all the worlds receive from Hashem. Praising Hashem causes Hashem to reveal those aspects that were praised and bless the Jew with the matter that was requested.

·         Praise others: Words of praise are a powerful tool in helping others to help you! You need something from another, such as a favor from a spouse or a child? An introductory word of praise can make all the difference in the person’s reaction to your request and have him fulfill it with pleasure and desire. If even Hashem “needs” praise in order to give to us, then certainly we need praise in order to properly give. Praising another person helps you as much as it helps them.

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[1] Sefer Hamamarim Yiddish p. 138; Likkutei Sichos 7 p. 135

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