Beholding Hashem’s Glory

This coming Shabbos has a dual status: In Eretz Yisrael it is a regular Shabbos, with parashas Shemini as the Torah reading, and outside Eretz Yisrael it is the eighth day of Pesach, with a special Yom Tov Torah reading and the special Pesach reading of Shir HaShirim. Accordingly, this week’s D’var Torah relates both to parashas Shemini and to Shir HaShirim.
Parashas Shemini describes the inauguration of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). Near the beginning of the parashah, the Torah relates that Moshe announced to the people (Vayikra 9:6): “This act, which Hashem has commanded, do – and then Hashem’s glory will appear to you.” The Midrash elaborates (Yalkut Shimoni, Torah 521):
Said Moshe to the People of Israel: “Remove this evil inclination from your hearts, and let all of you have a single-minded fear of God and a unified agenda to serve before the All-Present One. Just as He is the sole power in the world, so, too, let your efforts be directly solely toward Him. … If you do so, Hashem’s glory will appear to you.”
We previously presented a selection from the Maggid’s commentaries on this Midrash [link]; we now present another.
In Shir HaShirim 1:4 it is written: “Let the King bring me into His inner chamber. We shall jubilate and rejoice in You.” The “inner chamber” is the Holy of Holies. This chamber was a place of captivating splendor. Yet, when the Kohen Gadol entered it, he did not gaze at the glorious sights there in order to enjoy their great beauty. Indeed, if he did so, he would be guilty of misappropriating sacred property. Rather, the Kohen Gadol’s intense love of Hashem eclipsed any pleasure he might derive from the beautiful surroundings. The Maggid brings out the point with an analogy. Suppose a young boy who has not seen his father in a long time gains the opportunity to see him in an extraordinarily beautiful hall. Obviously, his attention would be riveted on his father, and he would not even sense the hall’s beauty. The Kohen Gadol’s experience in the Holy of Holies was of a similar nature. This state of affairs is reflected in the following Midrash (Shir HaShirim Rabbah 1:32):
It is written (Tehillim 118:24): “This is the day that Hashem has wrought – we shall jubilate and rejoice בו.” Said R. Avin: “We cannot tell what we should rejoice over – the day or the Holy One Blessed Be He. [The word בו can mean either in it or in Him.] Shlomo came and explained it: ‘We shall jubilate and rejoice in You (בך)’ – the Holy One Blessed Be He – in Your salvation, in Your Torah, in Your awesomeness.”
When a person focuses on his love of Hashem, his feelings of love for other things dissipate.
The Midrash in Yalkut Shimoni that we quoted above describes Moshe telling us that the foundation of service to Hashem is to carry out His commands with the sole intent of serving Him, free of any other motives. Obviously we should avoid specious motives, such as performing mitzvos in order to take pride in our piety. But beyond that, although Hashem faithfully rewards us for our mitzvos either in this world or the next, we should not base our service of Hashem on the goal of receiving reward. In Devarim 6, the Torah conveys this message to us. The Torah states (Devarim 6:24): “Hashem commanded us to perform all these decrees, to fear Hashem our God, for our good, all the days, to give us life, as this very day.” Here the Torah tells us that performing the mitzvos will bring us good. But then the Torah continues (ibid. 6:25): “And it will be a merit for us if we take care to perform this entire commandment before Hashem our God, as He commanded us.” Here the Torah tells us that it will be a merit for us if we perform mitzvos simply because Hashem commanded us to do so. And conversely, it is ignoble to serve Hashem for the sake of reward; if we do so, we are in effect serving ourselves.
The Maggid draws an analogy to the laws of the red heifer (parah adumah). To be fit for the use that the Torah describes, the heifer must never have done any work. Mishnah Parah 2:3 states: “If one made for it a shoe so that it should not slip, or placed a cloak on it to protect it from flies, it is kosher. This is the rule: Whenever something is [placed upon it] for its own needs, it is kosher, and whenever something is [placed upon it] for some other purpose, it is unkosher.” Placing an item on the heifer for its own sake is not regarded as doing work with it. The same idea applies to a person’s mitzvah performance: Any mitzvah a person does to cater to his own needs is not really an act of service to Hashem.
Thus, in Tehillim 103:20, David HaMelech describes the angels as “mighty ones who do His bidding to obey the voice of His word (עושי דבריו לשמוע בקול דברו). A faithful servant of Hashem is one who does His bidding simply in order to obey His word, and not for any other reason. In this vein, the Gemara teaches (Nedarim 62a):
One should not say … “I will study so that I will be called ‘Rabbi’” … rather, learn out of love, and honor will come in the end. … Do good deeds for the sake of their Maker, and speak words of Torah their own sake. Do not make of them a crown to aggrandize yourself with, nor a spade to dig with.
In other words, whatever Hashem decides to send us will ultimately come to us of its own accord, but our job is simply to do what Hashem commands, and we have no right to direct our performance of these commands toward some personal goal. Moshe tells us that if we serve Hashem solely for the sake of serving Him, His glory will appear to us.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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