Shabbos Parashas Vayeilech – Shabbos Shuvah

Sefer HaMiddos, Shaar HaDaas (Gate of the Intellect), Chapter 6 (end)
The second half of Tehillim 19 speaks of the greatness of the Torah. David HaMelech declares (ibid. 19:8): “Hashem’s Torah is perfect, restoring the soul; Hashem’s testimony is trustworthy, making the simple wise.” We can explain this statement as follows. David began by stating that “the heavens relate God’s glory” (ibid. 19:2), for a person who contemplates them. Similarly, Yeshayah declares (verse 40:26): “Lift your eyes upward and see who created these – who brings forth their legions by number, He calls to each of them by name. By the abundance of His power and the firmness of His strength, not one is missing.” The wonders of creation provide is a powerful mechanism for opening a person’s eyes and heart and firmly instilling within him genuine faith. But they have this effect only on a person who stops to contemplate them, and not one who ignores them.
The holy Torah is different. The Torah’s wisdom calls out and beckons to a person from the heavens. Even if a person has in mind to shun the Torah’s path, the Torah’s sublime teachings will bring him back. The Torah will, so to speak, spread its wings and gather him in. This is what David means when he says that the Torah restores the soul and makes the simple wise. [The Hebrew verb להשיב that appears in Tehillim 19:8, which means to bring back or to restore has the same grammatical root as the verb לשוב, meaning to come back (that is, to return, in the intransitive sense) and to repent. The opening word of this week’s haftarah, שובה, is the imperative form of this verb. The same root is shared by the word תשובה, meaning repentance.] And this is the portion of the person who contemplates his own existence and the existence of everything else in the world; through such contemplation a person gains knowledge from within his own self of the existence of the Creator. A person contemplates himself and ascertains that he is a being that came into existence through an act of volition, and that did not necessarily have to exist, and this gives him a clear sign of his Creator, a being that must always have existed and must always continue to exist forever. It is just like the way a drawing testifies to the one who drew it. Further, any trait that man possesses, such as wisdom and intellect, Hashem must also possess. As it is written (ibid. 94:9): “The One who implanted the ear, does He not hear? The One who fashioned the eye, does He not gaze forth?”
Let us return to the verse from Tehillim 139 that we quoted previously (verse 14): “I acknowledge You, for I am awesomely, wondrously fashioned; wondrous are Your works, and my soul knows it well.” In addition to the idea we brought out from this verse before, we can draw from it another lofty idea. The idea is based [if I am reading the Maggid correctly] on the fact that the phrase אודך על כי נוראות נפלאתי, which in the context of the verse means “I acknowledge You, for I am awesomely, wondrously fashioned” can also be rendered homiletically as “I thank you, for I am set apart from signs of awesomeness.” The idea we wish to put forward is that Hashem, out of His great kindness, overrode man’s natural tendencies (that is, the tendencies that he would have according the general rules governing the workings of the world) and blunted the degree of fear of Him that man would naturally have had. In Avos 3:1, Akavya ben Mehalallel teaches: “Look upon three things and you will not come to sin: Know from where you came, and where you are going, and before whom you will in the future have to render an accounting.” In truth, the fear of Hashem that we naturally should have goes well beyond the fear of death. The angels have an intense recognition of Hashem’s awesomeness and power, so much so that, as the Gemara in Chagiggah 13b teaches, the sweat of the Chayos [a type of angel] forms the River Dinur. We do not have the capability to withstand this degree of recognition and remain alive. It is one of the wonders of creation that our recognition of Hashem’s awesomeness is obscured, and we have Him to thank for this. Hashem placed in each person’s hand the choice of what degree of recognition he will maintain, according to what he is able to take a grasp of and bear. The more a person expands his mind and increases his ability to withstand feelings of fear of Hashem, the more fear of Hashem he will feel.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.