Shabbos Parashas Tzav

Sefer HaMiddos, Shaar HaDaas (Gate of the Intellect), Chapter 14
We continue with our analysis of the blessing that follows the morning Shema:
True and certain, established and enduring, right and steadfast, beloved and cherished, delightful and pleasant, awesome and mighty, correct and accepted, good and beautiful is this word unto us forever and ever.
We examine now the term certain (יציב), which we can also render as authoritative. This term is related to the term נצבים that appears in Shmuel Beis 8:14: “He [David HaMelech] appointed authorities (נצבים) in Edom.” The term points to the rule of Torah, service to Hashem, and fear of Hashem over our bodies and souls. All our desires must give way to the Torah. We see that the observance of some mitzvos runs counter to human desire: Circumcision, cessation of work on Shabbos, avoidance of forbidden unions, avoidance of nonkosher foods, and the like. It would be impossible for us to harness ourselves and adhere to these requirements, were it not for the fact that they are imprinted upon us from birth, inculcated in us generation after generation – fathers handing down the Torah tradition to their sons, and the sons conforming to their fathers’ teachings, with the chain stretching all the way back to generation of Jews who stood at Mount Sinai and heard the word of Hashem Himself.
We see how hard it is for a person who wishes to accept a prohibition upon himself to refrain from what he has been accustomed to do. Yet the Torah imposes upon us a wide range of prohibitions, and dictates our daily conduct in the way a master dictates orders to his servant. We do not eat, drink, smell, speak, or perform any deed, great or small, except within the bounds the Torah sets for us. We see the extensive array of rules the Torah dictates in the area of eating. Not only does the Torah forbid us from eating the meat of certain animals and fowl, but even in connection with the foods the Torah permits it imposes rules: kosher slaughter, salting meat to remove blood, avoiding eating meat and milk together, and specification of various defects that renders an animal’s meat unfit for eating. In the area of clothing as well, the Torah lays down rules: placing fringes (tzitzis) on the corners of four-cornered garments and not wearing clothes made of a mixture of wool and linen (shaatnez). The Torah also lays down rules in a range of other areas: what we may and may not say, what we may look at, what we may listen to, and what we may indicate through gestures. It commands us to curb our desires and to avoid jealousy and hatred, and it imposes rules on our patterns of thought.
In the end, there is no moment of time, no location on earth, and no entity in our world that the Torah’s laws do not reach. We are not allowed to move any limb, to say any word, or engage in any thinking in a manner that runs counter to what the Torah dictates. And we may not break off from serving Hashem. Although the Torah permits us to tend to our physical needs, and earn a livelihood by engaging in labor or business, Shlomo HaMelech exhorts us (Mishlei 3:7): “In all your ways, know Him.” Thus, the activities we engage in to tend to our physical needs also come within the scope of service to Hashem. The relationship we have with Hashem is not like the relationship a person has with a neighbor or friend, whose home he may visit occasionally, and with whom he may break off relations, either because of some offense that triggered anger, or simply because he has had enough of his company. The relationship we have with Hashem is the relationship of a created being to his Creator.
The Torah does not show favoritism, neither to young nor to the old. It constantly demands of us more and more. Thus, the Gemara in Bava Metzia 31b teaches that in the case of a Torah scholar, unintentional lapses are regarded as intentional sins. In this vein, Shlomo HaMelech declares (Koheles 1:18): “For with great wisdom comes great torment, and one who increases his knowledge increases his grief.”
What we have discussed above gives us a deeper understanding of the term ויציב. There are three terms in Hebrew that signify standing: עמידה, קימה, and הצבה. These terms reflect three progressively greater levels of stature. The term עמידה signifies simply standing, with no special power. The term קימה signifies elevation. The term הצבה signifies rulership and dominion. The different shades of meaning in the latter two terms is reflected in Yosef’s dream about the sheaves (Bereishis 37:7): “Behold! My sheaf arose (קם) and stood (נצבה), and – behold – your sheaves gathered around and bowed down to my sheaf.” In a similar vein, our holy Torah arises and stands high. No one rules over the Torah except Hashem Himself.
We, the Jewish People, have been through over three thousand years. During this period, people of tremendous wisdom have arisen, but they have not been able to change the Torah one iota, to permit what the Torah has forbidden. The Torah forbids a Jewish king to have many wives, lest he stray. Shlomo HaMelech tried to circumvent this law, saying “I will have many wives and not stray” (Sanhedrin 21b). In the end, he wound up saying (Koheles 1:18): “For with great wisdom comes great torment, and one who increases his knowledge increases his grief.” And he declared further (ibid 2:12): “What can man who comes after the King do? It has already been done.” We also are not allowed to set down additional prohibitions beyond those in the Torah, except as “fences” to keep us from violating the Torah’s prohibitions.
The word ויציב is in the future tense, signifying continuing rulership. This usage reflects the great preciousness the Torah has in the eyes of those who learn and support it – to the extent that in every generation substantial new stringencies are introduced, on account of a lack of complete understanding on our part of what the Torah dictates. We see this in the stringencies observed in determining whether the meat of a particular animal is fit to eat, those observed in the area of marital relations, those observed in regard to reciting blessings, and those observed in many other areas. We observe these stringencies out of concern that our understanding of the Torah’s laws may be imperfect; we prohibit some things that the Torah permits, as a “fence” distancing us from prohibited areas, so that we do not slide into them. And we accept all these stringencies upon ourselves gladly and with love, because of the Torah’s great sweetness.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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