Torah Fax    

Friday - Shabbat February 12 - 13

Torah Reading:  Mishpatim (Exodus 21:1 - 24:17)
Candle Lighting Time 5:08 PM
Shabbat ends 6:10 PM

Shabbat Shekalim - Shabbat Mevarchim

Liberating G‑d 

One of the most important Mitzvot can be found in this week’s parsha. It is the Mitzvah to lend money to one’s fellow. According to the Talmud, lending money to anyone in need is deemed to be an even greater Mitzvah than giving tzedakah/charity.

The Torah presents this commandment in the following manner:

"If you lend money to My people, the poor person who is with you, do not behave towards him as a lender [by pressuring him to pay]. Do not place interest payments upon him.”

(Although the Torah begins with the word “im-if”, our Sages explained that, in this context, it is not an optional Mitzvah. The Hebrew word “im” here should be understood as “when you lend,” rather than “if you lend.”)

Every verse and word of Torah contains many layers of meaning. 

The following is a rather novel way of understanding this verse based on a commentary by one of the great Chassidic Masters, Rabbi Elimelech of Dinov in his work Igra d’kallah:

Before we present his commentary it is important to preface that each word in the the Hebrew language has multiple translations that introduce us to the multiple layers of meaning.

In our context, the word kesef, which is translated as “money” in this verse, is related to another root which is “a longing desire,” or just plain “love” or “passion.”

The Hebrew word “talveh,” which is translated here as “you lend”, can also be translated as joining or bringing together.

The Hebrew word for “noshe-lender” can also mean “forget.”

And here is how he translates the entire verse in a deeper, non-literal manner:

“If you have a passion [kesef] to gather [talveh] my people who are scattered amongst the nations in exile, do not forget the Divine presence that is [metaphorically referred to as Ani] poor/suffering.”

From the time the Romans destroyed our Temple in Jerusalem close to 2,000 years ago, and the Jewish people were scattered throughout the world, subjected to persecution and misery, the Jewish people have been in the mode of finding ways of coping with exile conditions, minimizing them and most importantly, attempting to get out of exile.

What does getting out of exile mean?

It depends on how we define exile.

In its most literal sense, exile is a geographic phenomenon. It is the state of Jews being dispersed throughout the world as opposed to all Jews living as one nation in the Land of Israel as we did when the Temple stood in Jerusalem. 

This geographic dispersion is a reflection of a spiritual sense of alienation and division of the Jewish people from one another.

If we understand exile in this vein, we must direct our efforts towards reversing that state of affairs by uniting all of the Jews.

How do we unite all of the Jews?

The answer to this question is provided in this novel way of interpreting the above verse:

When we devote our efforts to bringing the Jewish people together and uniting them, our efforts will best succeed if we will focus on the fact that not only are we in exile and scattered in all directions, but G‑d Himself is also in exile! The Divine energy that gives life to the world is concealed and not seen as the unified force that it is. The world often forgets its dependence on G‑d for its very existence. Our world could not exist for even one instant if G‑d would withdraw His creative energy from it. And yet there are people who are unaware of G‑d’s presence. Some will even irrationally deny the existence of G‑d and believe that the world came to be of its own accord.

Imagine the pain a person would feel when after saving another person’s life they deny that their benefactor even exists. G‑d—in His mode as Creator and Sustainer of the world—finds Himself in a similar position.

Moreover, not only is G‑d in exile because we fail to appreciate His presence, G‑d also feels our pain as we suffer in exile. In the words of King David, G‑d says, “I am with him 9the Jewish people) in his distress.” Similarly, G‑d appeared to Moses in a thorn bush (at the revelation at the Burning Bush) as a way of expressing that just as the Jews were suffering in Egypt so too G‑d empathized and suffered with them. Our pain is His pain. In fact, G‑d feels our pain even more acutely that we can feel our own pain.

As difficult as it it is for us to theologically explain the concept of G‑d’s pain—and it certainly cannot be understood literally—the Torah conveys these images of G‑d’s pain to us to underscore the degree of G‑d’s aversion to exile.

In order for us to succeed in getting ourselves out of our morass we must work on getting G‑d out of His state of “confinement” and “distress.” To the extent that we conceal G‑d’s presence in our lives we strengthen the stranglehold exile has on us as a people.

The Torah thus informs us that if we are passionate about uniting Jewish people we cannot forget about the impoverished and constricted state G‑d is in. When we “liberate” G‑d from His exile by seeking the Divine in everything we do, that G‑dly energy—which is characterized by unity— will serve to unite all of the Jewish people and get them out of exile.

The fact that this message is transmitted in a verse which—on the surface—deals with the Mitzvah of lending money, must lead us to conclude that there is a close association between lending money, interest free, and unifying the Jewish people by focusing on liberating the G‑dly presence from exile.

When we make an interest free loan to another we demonstrate that our relationship with the other is not limited to the business benefits that a loan might generate. And while giving charity is also an expression of selfless giving, frequently we give tzedakah to alleviate the pain we have when someone else suffers. It also serves to assuage our guilt. Lending money, by contrast, lacks the sensation of magnanimity and satisfaction. And since the mitzvah of lending applies even when the borrower is not a poor person it does not do anything to remove feelings of guilt we might harbor. It is a thoroughly altruistic act.  

Moshiach Matters  

In time to come, Divinity will be revealed in this world at a level more sublime than the level at which it is revealed in the Higher Garden of Eden. This is why even the loftiest tzadikim [righteous people] such as Avraham and Moshe, whose abode is at the zenith of the Higher Garden of Eden, will become vested in corporeal bodies and will arise at the Resurrection of the Dead. (Likutei Torah)
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