Parashas Shemini

Parashas Shemini begins with an account of the inauguration of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), the forerunner of the Beis HaMikdash (Holy Temple).  Correspondingly, one of the Midrashim on parashas Shemini discusses the era of the third Beis HaMikdash in the end of days. The Midrash, expounding on Mishlei 9:1, reads as follows (Vayikra Rabbah 11:2):
“Wisdom built its house” (Mishlei 9:1) – this refers to the [third] Beis HaMikdash …. “It hewed out its seven pillars” (ibid., end) – these are the seven years of Gog. …. These seven years are the preliminary feast of the righteous before the future era, as indicated by the saying: “Those who dine at the pre-wedding feast will dine at the wedding feast.”
In a previous d’var Torah, we presented the Maggid’s commentary on this Midrash.
Afterward in his commentary on the parashah, the Maggid examines a nearby Midrash that expounds on the same verse in Mishlei in a different vein. The Midrash relates (Vayikra Rabbah 11:3):
Bar Kappara expounded: “‘Wisdom built its house’ – this refers to the Torah …. ‘It hewed out its seven pillars’ – this refers to the seven books of the Torah.” [The Midrash goes on to explain that Bar Kappara regards the Torah as composed of seven books since he considers the passage in Bamidbar 10:35-36, which is bracketed in the Torah scroll on each side by an inverted letter nun, as a separate book.]
The Maggid explains this Midrash as follows. The verse in Mishlei speaks of a house. A person needs a house to serve as his permanent dwelling. Typically he leaves his house in the morning, usually to go to work, sometimes to run an errand or go on an excursion, but in the evening he returns to his house. The house serves as a place where he can sit in contentment and as a shelter against hazards. A person who has no house, or who is temporarily outside, is subject to the elements and sometimes to attack.
Similarly, the mind of a Jew has a sturdy “house” that serves as its permanent dwelling place. This house is the Torah. Torah wisdom lays out for the Jew the proper outlook on life and provides a domain where his soul can sit in contentment. Other forms of wisdom are referred to in traditional Jewish sources as “outside wisdom,” because when a Jew engages in non-Torah intellectual pursuits he is like a person who is outside his house. In particular, certain types of non-Torah wisdom, especially in the area of philosophy, pose a hazard to the Jew’s soul. In this connection, the Maggid quotes from Sefer HaYashar, Gate 3:
Bad thought systems can devastate a person whose faith lacks firm grounding. An example is the heretics and philosophers who disbelieve the holy Torah because of their occupation with bad thought systems. When occupation with bad thought systems combines with a bad heart and lowly character traits, a person’s faith will be destroyed entirely. For a lack of love of Hashem does not result from a bad heart alone; rather, a key role is played by study of bad thought systems. Such study causes bad notions to crop up in the person’s heart, which devastate the source-point of love of Hashem within him, so that it becomes a spoiled source, a spring polluted with mire. And when a lack of love of Hashem combines with bad thought systems, all the person’s faith will be lost.
The Torah is the life force of a Jew’s soul, the sustenance that satiates it with good. The Torah straightens his soul and crowns it with wisdom and understanding, and clothes it with glory and splendor – all of the various good character traits, pure God-fearingness, and proper views on life. It purifies his soul of bad traits – of all bad views, false fantasies, and bad ways of reasoning. And when the soul is purified of all these negative elements, it is surely properly prepared to absorb all true forms of wisdom.
It is in this sense that the Midrash teaches that when Shlomo HaMelech says that “wisdom built its house” he is referring to the Torah. The Torah serves a Jew as a fortress, a solid shelter. This is not so of outside wisdom. Shlomo writes (Mishlei 1:20): “Wisdom cries out on the outside; in the squares it gives forth its voice.” When a Jew is empty of Torah wisdom and engages in outside wisdom, wisdom cries out, saying: “What place do I have here? Why am I standing outside and in the squares?” Shlomo continues (ibid. 1:21-23):
It calls out at the head of noisy throngs, at the entrances of the gates, in the city, it speaks out its words: “How long, O simpletons, will you love folly? How long will scorners desire scorning and fools hate knowledge? Turn toward my reproof! Behold, I will express my spirit unto you; I will make known my words unto you.”
When a person is engaged in outside wisdom, he can easily fall into a trap. For outside wisdom does not have the power to impose proper rule on a person’s soul. It can only address matters outside the realm of the soul, be they matters pertaining to bodily needs or other aspects of the physical world. By contrast, regarding the Torah it is written (Tehillim 19:8): “Hashem’s Torah is perfect, restoring the soul.”
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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