Parashas Shemini

In the opening section of this week’s parashah Moshe tells Aharon and his sons (Vayikra 9:6): “This is the procedure that Hashem has commanded you to carry out, and then Hashem’s glory will appear to you.” In the Ohel Yaakov commentary on the Chumash, the Maggid connects this verse with the following teaching (Shabbos 127a, paraphrased):
The ways of the Holy One Blessed Be He differ from those of men. Among men, one of lesser stature cannot say to one of greater stature, “Wait until I come to you.” But with the Holy One Blessed Be He it is different, for He consented when Avraham asked Him not to leave him while he took care of guests [after Hashem had appeared to him].
The Maggid explains the connection as follows. Our early teachers, including Rambam (in Moreh Nevuchim), handed down to us the basic principle that Hashem never undergoes any change of state or place. Hence, when the Bible says that Hashem appeared to a particular person, it cannot mean that Hashem moved from where He was before and placed Himself in this person’s vicinity. Rather, Hashem’s “proximity” to a person depends entirely on the degree to which the person draws close to Hashem. Thus, it is written (Shir HaShirim 7:11): “I am unto my Beloved, and upon me is His desire.” Hashem’s level of desire for a person is upon the person himself to determine. The Maggid expounds on this concept at length in his commentary on Shir HaShirim 3:11.
Among men, one of lesser stature cannot say to one of greater stature, “Wait until I come to you.” For then the lesser one is telling the greater one how to act – specifically, where to situate himself, and thus infringing on his honor. But when a person asks Hashem not to leave him, he is asking Hashem to help him maintain his connection with Him while he attends to the business encumbent on him. Such a request is perfectly in order.
We can interpret along these lines a debate about the Sabbath between the wicked Roman governor Turnus Rufus and R. Akiva (Sanhedrin 65b). Turnus Rufus asked: “What makes the Sabbath different from all other days?” R. Akiva responded: “What makes you different from all other men?” Turnus Rufus replied: “My master wished it so [that I be elevated].” R. Akiva said: “It is thus with the Sabbath too—our Master wished it so [that it be elevated].” Turnus Rufus was asking how it could be, given that Hashem is unchanging, that He could relate to us differently on the Sabbath than on a weekday. R. Akiva answered that our relationship with Hashem changes because we change. Similarly, when the Bible speaks of Hashem “dwelling” in a certain place, it means that the place has special qualities that stir a person to draw himself close to Hashem. When he does so, he then experiences the Divine Presence.
This is what Moshe was telling Aharon and his sons when he said:  “This is the procedure that Hashem has commanded you to carry out, and then Hashem’s glory will appear to you.” By perfoming the service that Hashem had commanded, Aharon and his sons would draw themselves close to Hashem. And then Hashem’s glory would appear to them.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.