Shabbat schedule - Friday - Shabbat, March 25-26, 2016


Torah Reading: Tzav (Leviticus 6:1 - 8:36)
Haftorah: Jeremiah 7:21 - 28, 9:22 &23

Shabbat Candle Lighting: 6:56 PM 
Shabbat ends: 7:56 PM

Earliest Tefillin (latest of the week): 6:02 AM
Latest Shma (earliest of the week): 9:47 AM

for all halachic times, see 

Torah for the Times
By Rabbi Heschel Greenberg

Two Hands

A the very end of this week’s Parsha—after discussing in detail the seven day initiation process Aaron and his sons had to go through before they would serve in the Sanctuary, the Mishkan in the desert — the Torah declares: “Aaron and his sons did everything that G‑d commanded through Moses (lit. “by the hands of Moses.”).

Rashi comments that the Torah here is “praising Aaron and his sons for not deviating to the right or to the left.”

Three questions have been raised:

First, whenever the Torah mentions the fact that Aaron followed Moses’ instructions it phrases it differently: “that he did not alter G‑d’s command to Moses” but here it says “by the hands of Moses.”

Second, in the other places where the Torah wishes to relate the praise of Aaron, Rashi states “that he did not alter the command,” whereas here Rashi says “he did not deviate right or left.” 

Third, why does the Torah even have to tell us that Aaron—who the Torah describes as being equal (in many respects) to Moses—should have to be praised that he followed G‑d’s commandment and that he did not stray from them? Much lesser individuals would not consider it a compliment if they were told that their greatness consisted merely in doing as G‑d has expressly commanded them.

The Chassidic work Igra d’kala provides one answer to all these three questions:

To better appreciate what was unique about Aaron and his sins in this initiation procedure we must examine what it is that motivates a person to perform a Mitzvah. Obviously, when one is raised from infancy onward to perform certain rituals etc. their compliance with the Torah rules comes naturally. Iit is the way they were brought up. When, however, a person is introduced to a new practice and told to conform to a prescribed course of action, we can discern several distinct patterns.

One individual will be motivated by a sense of duty. If they respect authority—especially if it is a Divine Authority—they will comply unreservedly.

Judaism demands that one’s commitment to the Commandments be, first and foremost, based on acceptance of an Higher Authority. But G‑d also commands us to instill all of our positive actions with affect and emotion.

But within the emotional sphere there are two distinct modes:

Some people might be motivated by a sense of fear. Either fear of retribution if one does not comply or, on a higher plane, one might be motivated by a feeling of reverence and awe. All of these three feelings—fear, reverence and awe—have one thing in common; they express the person’s emotional constriction. One who is in fear of something will recoil and “shrink” in the face of that which is feared. Similarly, when a person is overwhelmed by an awesome person or experience they will be humbled.

Yet there is a different, more emotionally expressive, mode of observance: One that is motivated by love. Love is an expansive emotional experience. It is full of life and passion as opposed to fear that is often devoid of energy.

In Kabbalah, these two modes of expression are represented by the left and right hands respectively. The right hand that is more active and energetic (for a left -handed person, his or her left hand is considered right in Jewish law). Moreover, the act of giving—done mostly through the more powerful hand—is generally motivated by love for the recipient. Hence the right and giving hand is the symbol of love.

The left—and weaker - hand is generally not involved in giving. It remains passive and is therefore the symbol of fear and reverence.

There is a third model for observance; it is the ability to synthesize both of these emotions and attitudes. Few people can maintain such a harmonious balance between love and awe, but those who can are said to be endowed with the Divine attribute of Tiferet, meaning beauty, because beauty is expressed primarily in a mosaic or symphony that blends different colors, hues or sounds.

Of all the Biblical personalities that we read about, Moses stands out as one who possessed this incredible synthesis of love and awe. Moses personified the Divine attribute of Tiferet more than any other human being.

When the Torah tells us that Aaron and his sons did exactly as G‑d commanded, the Torah wishes to convey the message that they did not just do what they were told to out of a sense of obedience and submission to authority; they invested feelings as well. To be sure, obedience to the Divine will is the primary desire of G‑d. But Aaron and his sons went further. Moreover, Aaron and his sons did not just instill one “hand,” or one emotion, in their new mission as Priests—either love or awe—but they did exactly as Moses would have done it. They did with one hand that combined the properties of both right and left.

Thus, the Torah tells us that Aaron did as G‑d had commanded “by the hand” of Moses. In this initiation process they were able to achieve the ideal of Moses; the synthesis between the right and the left, love and awe.

Rashi therefore explains that they did not deviate “to the right or to the left.” This was not meant to suggest that they did not violate G‑d’s command. That would be too obvious. Rather it means that they did not allow their observance to be mono-colored by either intense passion and love or by profound awe and reverence. They were able to transcend the right and the left by combining the two.

This explanation—based on the brief comments of the work Igra d’kalah, calls for further clarification for the inevitable question:

If Aaron always complied with G‑d’s command to him, what was unique about this particular situation—the initiation of Aaron and his sons for their work in the Mishkan—that the Torah finds it necessary to emphasize that in this case that they did not veer to the right or the left. Why specifically in this regard did they achieve this synthesis and not in all the other places where Aaron was commanded to do something? And if he achieved that goal in the other places as well, why is it only intimated in the narrative of their initiation into the service of the Mishkan?

One may suggest that Aaron certainly achieved the highest level of spiritual emotion whenever he performed a divinely commanded act. However, with regard to this case in particular one might have thought that Aaron could not possibly have invested all this energy and experienced this ultimate synthesis that was unique to Moses. This is so because this initiation process in which he was engaged a full week was precisely that: an initiation. It was not the real thing; it was merely a preparation for the real thing. As we will read in the next Parsha, the Divine Presence did not manifest itself in the Sanctuary until the “eighth” day, the day after the initiation process was completed.

One, therefore, might have thought that it would have been impossible for them to experience the love and awe that they would feel in the future. One’s love and awe is usually a response to a profound spiritual experience. When one feels the love and closeness of G‑d they will reciprocate with love. When one is exposed to the majesty and awesomeness of G‑d it inspires the feeling of awe and reverence on the part of the person to whom G‑d has revealed His majesty. But when one is merely “practicing” and “training” for the real thing, one would have concluded that it is impossible to generate either of these feelings; certainly not the synthesis of the two.

The Torah therefore tells us: not so!

\Aaron and his sons, in anticipation of what was to come, were able to generate not just one “hand,” meaning the feeling of awe and reverence, but also the emotion of love. Furthermore, they were able to integrate the two.  The rationale for this is that in Judaism, the preparation for a Mitzvah—while less dramatic, romantic and exciting than the actual Mitzvah—is no less G‑d’s will than the Mitzvah itself. For example, the same G‑d that asked us to celebrate Purim (and the upcoming holiday of Passover) wants us to prepare for those holidays. And while the preparations are more tedious and appear to lack the sense of fulfillment and satisfaction that the actual holidays contain, those preparations are no less an integral part of the Mitzvah.

It may also be suggested that they received the inspiration to achieve this from Moses under his tutelage they were being trained. Moses imparted some of his ardor and awe to his disciples.

As the Rebbe has told us numerous times, we are presently in the last moments of exile, on the heels of the final Redemption.

There are two ways we can view the period we are in:

We can feel that what we do now has no real meaning since it is only the preparation for the “real” thing, the true spiritual bliss we will experience when Moshaich arrives. This feeling is magnified when we reflect on the length and depth of the exile we have gone through. With this attitude, everything we do is devoid of emotion. We do what we have to do, but no more.  

Alternatively, we can look at it these pre-Messianic days the way Aaron and his sons viewed their preparation and initiation period. In great anticipation  of what was to come, as well as realizing how important preparing for a Mitzvah is, they were able to generate all the requisite emotions; indeed, even to approach the sublime level of Moses himself. And just as Moses instilled his own “two hands” into their preparations, so too Moshiach—who is the Moses of the generation of the final Redemption—inspires and instills within us the ability to approach our tasks with emotion and excitement.  

In these powerful days of redemption, as we celebrate the redemption of Purim and prepare for Passover, the Holiday of Freedom – holidays which both lead, as the Talmud tells us , to the Ultimate Redemption with Moshiach - may we all experience our physical and spiritual liberation and greet Moshiach with both hands, with love and awe.


Moshiach Matters:

The name of this month, Shevat, relates to the Hebrew word shevet meaning "staff" that is associated with the concept of authority and kingship as it is written, "The shevet will not depart from Judah." The most perfect expression of this concept will be in the Era of the Redemption, with the assumption of sovereignty by Moshiach. And thus on the verse, "And a shevet will arise in Israel," Maimonides comments, "This refers to the King Moshiach."