Parshas Ki Sisa-Torah or-Arousing a fiery love for G-d

This article is an excerpt from our Sefer


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Parshas Ki Sisa

 

Zeh Yitnu Kol Haover

[Torah Or p. 162]

This Parsha speaks of the Mitzvah of Machatzis Hashekel, giving the half-shekel donation to the Temple treasury. Our Sages[1] explain that this half-coin donation held within its power the receiving of atonement for the sin of the Egel Hazahav. But how can such a grave sin, the greatest sin in our history, be atoned for by giving such a mere small sum towards the Temple treasury? The Alter Rebbe explains that hidden behind the half-shekel donation is a world of service of G-d that is represented within the heart of the donor. This service is the service of love. Loving Hashem is one of the basic fundaments of the Torah and Mitzvos, and on it is dependent much of our service of G-d. Love is the most fundamental ingredient that binds all relationships, including our relationship with Hashem. The purpose of religion is not just to follow G-d’s commands and obey His orders, but to create a relationship with Him. Hashem yearns for the Jew to create this feeling of love for Him and to desire to be attached to Him. Unlike a business relationship, in which the employer’s sole objective is for the employee to faithfully fulfill his tasks and not to create any emotional attachment to him, the purpose of the service Hashem gave us is specifically to gain an emotional attachment to Him. The Mamar focuses on this love that every Jew is commanded to have for Hashem. Every Jew is obligated to love Him, irrelevant of background or spiritual state. How, though, does one achieve this love?  How can one be commanded to have a feeling in his heart that he does not feel? This Mamar gives one the tools through which he can perform this great Mitzvah and achieve a loving relationship with Hashem.  

 

Explorations of the Mamar:

1.      The commandment and promise included in the Mitzvah of Veahavta.

2.      How does one achieve love of G-d?

3.      Is every Jew commanded to love Hashem-even a sinner?

4.      What is the love that Hashem grants a Jew from above?

5.      What was the meaning and purpose of the half-shekel coin donation?

The love and fear of G-d found in a Jew’s soul is given to him by G-d:

The verse from the famous hymn of Eishes Chayil, which is sung on Friday nights, states Nodah Bashearim Baalah, which translates as, “Her husband is known in the gates”. What does this mean? The term “husband” in this verse refers to Hashem, as Hashem is the husband of every Jewish soul, as just as a husband gives to his wife and is called the Mashpia within the relationship, similarly Hashem is Mashpia to each and every Jewish soul, giving it the love and fear that it contains. All the love and fear of G-d that every Neshama has comes from Hashem, and Hashem gives each soul its level and share of love and fear, in accordance with its capacity. In general, there are four gates contained within each soul; love, fear, Torah, and Mitzvos, which correspond to the four letters of the Divine name of Hashem, Yud Kei Vav Kei. It, however, remains to be understood as to what freedom of choice man has if all of the above spiritual powers are decided by Hashem. What spiritual choices are left for him to make as to whether he will love or fear G-d and whether he will learn Torah and perform Mitzvos, if it is all dependent on the predisposition of his soul? We must thus clarify exactly what measure of one’s soul’s capabilities and powers comes from above and what is dependent on one’s own choice and effort.

 

The Mitzvah of Veahavta-To love Hashem:

In the Parsha of Shema, we are commanded to love Hashem: “Veahavta Es Hashem Elokecha”. [The commandment to love G-d is one of the greatest Mitzvos in the Torah and is in fact the root of all of the 248 positive commands. Not only does loving Hashem help motivate one to perform the Mitzvos, but it is the true intent of the performance of the Mitzvah, as every Mitzvah is to be observed as a result of one’s love for G-d and desire to cleave to Him.[2] One of the great questions addressed by the Chassidic Masters is regarding how one can be commanded to love Hashem. How can one be commanded to have a feeling; either he feels or he doesn’t? Does one have arbitration in what to feel, and can one choose who to love? Is this not an embedded aspect of the soul that is beyond the navigation of man? It is this question that the Alter Rebbe now addresses.] The command of Veahavta in truth contains two aspects, one being a directive to a Jew that he should love G-d and the second being a prediction that the Jew will eventually come to love G-d. We will now focus on the first aspect of this commandment and how man can bring himself to feel love for G-d.

  

The importance of love in our lives:

Love is the most essential ingredient that binds relationships. Relationships endure setbacks and challenges, hurts and betrayals.  However, if the love they share is alive and passionate, they are widely immune to the aftereffects of such challenges, as their determination for recovery overcomes any blocking deterrent. On the other hand, a relationship that lacks love and passion can easily deteriorate, even with the lack of any real challenges or betrayals. Love is the glue that brings the two parties together and allows them to remain united, irrelevant of how hard they are thrown and how powerful the forces are that challenge to separate them. Likewise, with our relationship with Hashem and our observance of Torah and Mitzvos, it is not possible to withstand daily challenges without the arousal of this love. A Jew needs this love to bring an emotional pull and desire towards his service of G-d and hence withstand foreign temptations. Love, however, does not come on its own, and can only be achieved through the work and effort of the Jew in his contemplation of G-d, as will be explained.

Contemplation brings love:

The way in which one is able to bring himself to love Hashem and fulfill this command of Veahavta is through contemplation. There are various types of contemplation that can lead one to love G-d. The Shema prayer lends us a form of contemplation that leads towards this love and that is contemplating the unity of Hashem. Everything we see in the world appears to be a separate existence from Hashem, and hence we view ourselves as a separate entity from Him. In truth, however, all of the existences in all the worlds are completely nullified before G-d and found within His presence. Take for example the difference between words of thought and that of speech. Speech becomes separate from the person as soon as he utters the words and can be picked up and acquired by anyone who hears it. Speech in essence is a separate entity from the person. Thought, however, always remains within one’s mind and never separates from the person. The same similarly applies regarding Hashem and the world. Although to us, it appears that Hashem and the world are two separate entities and that Hashem is aloof from our existence, in truth we are like the thought found in the mind of the person, and we coexist within Hashem’s presence. Furthermore, just as no item can truly exist within the sun, similarly being that we exist within Hashem’s presence, we in truth are completely nullified to Him and are hence not a true existence.[3] When a Jew contemplates this matter that everything is nullified before Hashem, it arouses within his heart a great passionate love to attach to Him.

 

 Why contemplating our nullification leads to love:
One of the common queries asked on the above contemplation is how contemplating your lack of true existence can bring you to a feeling of love. If we don’t truly exist, then neither does our love, so why should we have love for Hashem if He never truly created us, being that we don’t exist in His presence? The explanation is as follows: There is no disagreement over the fact that we all exist, and no intellectual argument can convince a living person that he is truly dead, as he feels his existence. The above contemplation, however, emphasizes two points: 1) Hashem is infinitely greater than us. 2) We retain a close bonding with Him. Researchers tell us that a lasting love relationship between two partners is made up of one who gives and one who receives.[4] The giver must desire to be respectfully dominant and uplift the receiver, while the receiver must desire to be submissive and nullified to the giver. The passion that a submissive partner feels for a respectfully dominant giver is unprecedented in other forms of relationships. For this submissiveness to occur, the giver must prove himself to be worthy of it and to be of a higher level than the receiver. The giver must prove his hierarchy to be deserving of the awe, respect, and submissiveness of the receiver. For this reason, many marriage therapists warn of the dangers of a relationship in which the husband has a lower income job or a less prestigious career than his wife.[5] The same applies to our relationship with Hashem, in which we take the position of the submissive partner. If we do not understand or comprehend Hashem’s greatness in a very visual sense, then it is very difficult to arouse love for Him. We thus contemplate His greatness that all existence is like naught before Him in order to emotionally internalize His immense hierarchy. At the same time, however, this is not enough, as without contemplating Hashem’s desire for our closeness to Him, recognizing His greatness will not lead to any emotions. Hence we contemplate that in truth we are united and nullified to Him and Hashem made the creation in this form, as He desires our closeness.

 

A Parable:
We all know about the President of the United States, but we do not have an emotional connection to him. But imagine if the president sent you a letter in which he conveys his true liking and care for you and invites you to have a private meeting with him in the White House. Even his opponents would feel overly graced by his request, and would develop feelings of care and attachment towards him. Take, however, a co-worker who sent you the same letter. You may file a complaint and desire to find another job in response, and this letter would certainly not create any strong feelings. Hierarchy without personal attention, and personal attention without hierarchy, is lacking a key ingredient to create the passion required in our relationships, and hence both must be internalized during our contemplations that arouse the love of G-d. 

 

Alternative contemplations that lead to love:
In Tanya chapters 43-48, various other contemplations that arouse love for Hashem are delineated-See there! 

 

Freedom of choice to love:

This form of love is within the capacity of each person. Every Jew has the ability to control his mind and contemplate that which he desires. Thus, the command that Hashem is relaying to us in the Mitzvah of Veahavta is to take the time to contemplate matters that will bring one to love Hashem. Every Jew is commanded in this contemplation, and this is dependent on his choice.

The future love: 

The second meaning behind the word Veahavta is that it is not a commandment to the person to love G-d, but rather a promise and guarantee that one day one will come to love Him and that this love will consequently enter his heart without effort from his side. What form of love does this prediction refer to? It refers to the level of love called Ahavah Rabba. This form of love is given to a Jew from Hashem and cannot be achieved on its own. There is no contemplation that can lead towards this love, as this love is above any intellectual motivation. It is this love that is hinted to in the Mitzvah of the half-shekel.

 

The half-shekel:

The shekel was a silver coin. It was referred to as a “holy” shekel. The reason why it was called “holy” is because this shekel represented this very high level of love. The term for silver in Hebrew is Kessef, which is rooted in the words Nichsaf Nichsafta, which means a passionate thirst and longing, the level of Ahavah Rabba. Every Jew is commanded to donate his half-shekel, which represents the spiritual effort that he must make in order to merit to receive this great love from above. This love is granted commensurate to every Jew’s activities in Sur Meira, avoiding evil, and Aseh Tov, performing positive commandments. This is also the inner meaning behind the 400 silver shekels given by Avraham to Efron in exchange for the Mearas Hamachpeila, as it represented the 400 worlds of spiritual longing that will be experienced in the world to come.

 

Twenty geira:

The Torah states that the shekel was worth twenty geira coins [a common currency in those times]. This statement has also spiritual meaning. Each one of the two loves explained above is incorporated within the ten aspects of the soul, which is intellect/Sechel and emotion/Middos. Man is commanded to give Hashem a half-shekel, which represents him using the three aspects of his intellect [Chochmah/Bina/Daas] to arouse his emotions of love for Hashem in all his emotional aspects [Chesed/Gevurah/Tiferes/Netzach/Hod/Yesod/Malchus], hence giving a ten geira coin, which is worth a half-shekel, to Hashem; a love for Hashem that is made up of all his ten soul aspects. The other ten geira, which would complete the half-shekel, making it a full shekel, is given to the Jew by Hashem, and a Jew is not obligated or able to achieve this on his own.

Even a sinner can and must love Hashem:

The Torah stated that every Jew that was counted in the census must give the half-shekel donation. The wording for this is, “Kol Haover Al Hapikudim/Whoever was included in the census count.” However, it can also be interpreted to mean that even whoever has transgressed [HaOver] one of the 248 Mitzvos [Pikudim] is obligated to donate the half-shekel to Hashem, as even he has the ability and obligation to arouse love for Hashem from the depths of his soul and incorporate all of his soul powers within this love. His ten soul powers may not be very holy or clean due to his sins, but nevertheless he is to donate whatever he has of those soul powers to loving Him.

  

Lessons of the Mamar:

·         Many people erroneously believe that to feel a real emotion of love and passion towards Hashem and the desire to attach to Him, they must be on an elite spiritual level. Each of us is aware of the blemishes of our soul and our transgressions, and therefore we feel unconfident and unworthy of reaching such love. We believe that we are incapable of loving Hashem or being loved back by Him due to our sad spiritual state. Why would Hashem even desire my love, knowing who I am and what I have done? This Mamar teaches us that even one who is a sinner is commanded by Hashem to love Him. Hashem desires his love just as much as any other Jew’s, and Hashem is willing to grant in return for this love a much greater love that will be planted in the future in the Jew’s heart if he donates his love to Hashem. We are all capable of arousing a real and true passion and love for Hashem, irrelevant of our spiritual state, and Hashem is waiting for us to give that love to Him so that He in return can share His abundance of love with us. 

·         Take time to contemplate your relationship with Hashem and all the good He does for you. Arouse a passion for G-d, knowing that He desires you and waits for your heart to touch Him.

 

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[1] See Tosafus Chullin 42a.

[2] See Tanya chapter 4

[3] This matter is explained in greater length in Tanya chapters 21-22

[4] “Too often, we are told to view even mild dominance and submissiveness as a problem,” says Dr. Eva Jozifkova of Prague University, who led the research. “Our research results challenge the frequently held belief in equality within couples as a trademark of functional partnerships. It rather appears that the existence of some disparity, with one partner dominant, and other submissive, improves cohesion, results in better cooperation between partners, and improves the couple’s ability to face challenges. They also have more children.” In light of these results, both excessive pressures towards equality in some modern societies, and pressures towards male dominance in some traditional societies, represent a form of oppression.“If the two individuals rank at a similar degree, even minor conflicts may escalate due to competition. On the other hand, hierarchy disparity may reduce the frequency and intensity of conflicts. Smooth within-couple cooperation appears as more important than the gender of the higher-ranking individual.” The researchers emphasize that dominance does not imply violence: “Although hierarchical disparity is typical for domestic violence, a mild within-pair disparity does not imply nor incur violence per se.”

[5] Rav Simcha Cohen [one of the most famous and sought after marriage therapists in Orthodox circles, and author of the book Bayis Yehudi] claims in his research from counseling couples that the most glaring cause for increasing divorce rates in the Orthodox world is the imbalance of hierarchy now found in relationships. More men are being encouraged to spend their lives in study at Kollel, while women become the breadwinners. This creates great confusion in the natural positions in the relationship that each partner is meant to have, and leads to either a weak and submissive husband or to a wife who feels her husband is undeserving of her respect and submission.

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