Freeing our inner slave.
“They [the Men of the Great Assembly] said three things: Be deliberate in judgment, develop many disciples, and make a fence around the Torah (Fathers 1:1).”
The Torah tells us that it is forbidden to break down fences, as it says, “One who breaks down a fence should be bitten by a snake (Eccles. 10:8).” So obviously, it is unwise to break down fences, even in the name of leaving Galut (Exile), even in the name of seeking G-d. But every fence has a gate; our job is to find it. And for that, we need the Levites, because they are the gatekeepers. The Levites have Moses’s blessing as the teachers and judges of Israel, as it says, “The Levites shall teach Your judgments to Jacob and Your Torah to Israel (Deut. 33:10).” And it says, “And [King Josiah] said to the Levites who taught all Israel, who were holy to the Lord…(2 Chronicles 35:3).”
There are two Levitical gates in the fences of Galut. One gate is called Metziut and the other one is called Din.
Metziut is existence, meaning how the rabbis view things that exist – time, people, names, events, etc. Metziut, in this regard, means the Talmudic and later rabbinic interpretations of the Torah. The rabbis tell us how to understand the Torah. The norm is to learn Chumash with the commentary of Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzhak, Rashi, from the age of five to a hundred and twenty. Rashi tells us what happened in the Torah, why it happened, and how it happened. In Galut, we are riveted to Rashi. But in Geulah, Rashi is, at best, a secondary source. In Geulah, we each get our portion of Torah from G-d Himself.
The question is whether we do it today, when we are in transition from Galut to Geulah? Can we depart from the rabbinic view of metziut without being apikorsim (heretics)?
For example, do I have to believe the view that Bilham (Baalam), “the man whose eye is opened” means that he had an eyeball dangling out of its socket by a sinew? I prefer to believe that his open eye means that this prophet of G-d and evil sage had an open “third eye.” And there are many, many rabbinic oddities like this, and stranger than this, and we are expected to accept them all.
So, as we rise out of the darkness to the light, but have not completely reached it yet, the question is: Is there is a Levitical gate in the fence of metziut? The answer is yes. The Ohr HaChaim hakadosh (1696-1743) writes in his commentary to the first verse of the Torah, Genesis 1:1: “Know this: Permission has been given to us to follow our own path and to disagree with the earlier sages through the principle of 70 faces of Torah. And we are not warned about leaning away from the opinions of the rabbis except when it comes to changing a din (halacha l’maaseh, i.e., how we do things).”
Much of the traditional view of existence reflects a mindset that was born in the shadow of the destruction of the Second Temple and annihilation of every soul in Jerusalem. In Galut, survival is everything; innovation, creativity and exploration are shunned. Therefore, the rabbis of Galut promoted the view that all Gentiles were idol worshippers and threats to the existence of the Jewish people. The rabbinic view was, “Either convert or stay away.”
That is not our world today, Baruch Hashem. Today, we have thousands of Noahide Gerim, righteous Gentiles who fear the Lord our G-d, love the Torah, love Israel, and observe the holy Sabbath. Ger is a worldwide movement. It is everywhere and it is growing daily. And, like all genuine l’Shem Shamayim movements, it is being defined and promoted by its critics, Baruch Hashem. It is the voices of Galut that is defining and publicizing Geulah, even though they have no share of it.
The rabbinic view that was born in Babylon 1800 years ago no longer fits, and is an impediment to Geulah. The Ohr HaChaim frees us concerning how we view things – metziut.
But how about the way we do things? What about changing the din, meaning the halacha? For example, what about the way we observe the Three Weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av? According to the Ohr HaChaim, we must obey traditional observances, even if they retard our development as a people. That means we should continue mourning the 2000 year old destruction of Herod’s House of Horrors instead of joyously learning to how build the Eternal Temple of Ezekiel’s prophecy now. I prefer to send a positive message to Hashem Yisborach, thanking Him for how far He has brought us from that dismal past.
But the Ohr HaChaim lived more than 300 years ago, when survival was our chief, and sometimes, our only concern.
According to Rav Yitzchok Hutner, ztz”l, (1906-1980), the current ingathering of millions of Jews to the land of Israel, returns us to the status of those who stood at Mount Sinai. Pachad Yitzhak calls this “witnessing.” We had it at Sinai. We had it with the Maccabees, and we have it now. Witnessing is the key that opens the locked gates of halacha.
From Pachad Yitzhak, Chanukah 16:9, “We can now understand how the salvation from the Greeks provides a basis for the creation of a new festival – Chanukah. This redemption restored to its generation the quality of “witnessing” that was possessed by the first generation in the Desert, a return to the affection of the first hour. When we have the capacity to witness, we have a source from which to create new traditions.”
The Maccabees and the people had the capacity of “witnessing.” And Chanukah was the result. According to Pachad Yitzhak, we have the capacity for witnessing today, for the third time in Jewish history. What does witnessing do? It gives us the right to terminate old traditions and give birth to new ones. It allows us to change the din.
The interface between Exile and Redemption is the realization that Galut consciousness is slavery and Geulah consciousness is freedom, and that the Shechina dwells only in freedom. To experience the freedom that G-d has planned for us, the individual must be willing to make a separate peace with some atrophied communal practices in order to seek Geulah. Doing wrong things because our brothers and sisters do them is cult mentality.
Every person who wants to grow closer to Hashem Yisborach and fulfill his mission, must seclude himself and meditate, for a protracted period of time, maybe a couple of years, maybe ten years or more. This is what Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did. This is what Moshe did. This is what David did. This is what the Arizal did. This is what the Baal Shem Tov did. “This is the gateway to Hashem that the righteous will enter (Psalms 118:20).” One who has a herd mentality is most likely a cow.
We are in the season of Passover, z’man cheiruteinu, the time of our freedom. During the Passover Seder this year, many people will alter the text of the Haggadah from, “This year we are slaves and next year we will be free men,” to “This year we are free men and next year we will also be free men, b’ezrat Hashem.”
As for the Passover matzah itself, the Chachmei Nistarim (Kabbalists) teach that the first bite of matzah at the Passover Seder contains the source of all our mitzvoth for the coming year. And they teach us that when we reach, “Nitzhak – we cried out to G-d,” in the Haggadah, it is an auspicious time to say a personal prayer and cry out for freedom, for ourselves and all Israel, and the world.
Chag kasher v’sameyach – a happy and kosher Passover. Just as G-d liberated us the first time, so will He liberate us this time and forever. Passover, the time of our freedom, is the essence of being freed from illusion and returned to reality.
* * * *
Special Pesach recipe. If you have a kosher for Passover food processor, it will take you less than five minutes to make one of the healthiest, most delicious, salt and sugar free, Passover foods. Pecan butter! And on matzah, well, let me put it this way. I had some pecan butter on a matzah last Pesach. A little crumb of it fell on the floor, and a flower sprang up where it fell.
Here is how you make pecan butter: You dump 400 grams of raw pecans into a food processor and keep grinding until you have pecan butter. Even your slow cousin Edgar could do this. You may have to open up the top of the food processor and push down the ground nuts from around the walls until it gets pasty, then it just goes on its own. When it is smooth enough for you, it is done. Or, if Edgar is a little slower than I thought, you can go on Youtube and search “how to make pecan butter.” For a high ratio of healthy to tasty, I rank this as a four knaidl food. And peanut butter is close behind for those who eat kitniyos (seeds and legumes) on Pesach.
And for those who don’t eat kitniyos on Pesach, I would remind you that simchat yom tov, which includes enjoying your food on the holiday, is a mitzvah from the Torah and kitniyos is no more than a custom. And someone who would not even use oil of kitniyot, who cares what he eats? The problem is that he cannot eat in my house and I would rather not eat in his house. That is a serious problem. It would be a benefit to Israel for everyone to eat kitniyos on Pesach. It would be a sign of freedom on the holiday of freedom. I would rely on Pachad Yitzchok’s “witnessing” to abandon the evil custom (words of Chacham Tzvi) of not eating kitniyos.
It is essential to realize that Pesach is absolutely universal. Even someone who is not Jewish, and whose ancestors were not at Mount Sinai, has a reason for celebrating Pesach. The liberation from Egyptian slavery was the basis for liberation from every kind of slavery – G-d has to grant it. And because freedom comes only from G-d, all Passover celebrations, even those of the Goyim, should be within the guidelines of halacha. If it turns into a pagan debacle, as some Messianics are doing today, it is a desecration of G-d’s Holy Name. That is why Noahides have to choose their shepherds carefully. There are wolves in shepherd’s clothing out there. Check in with Rabbi David Katz, as to the current list of Geulah-friendly, Noahide Ger rabbis, with circumcised hearts. His blog is www. getsoulstrong.blogspot.com