Tetzaveh (5779)

Drash Cards for Tetzaveh (5779)

by Marc Mangel

• First a commercial about doing the drash.  Each day I read a book called HaYom Yom  [explain what it is].  For Thursday, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak wrote: “When someone walks the street and thinks words of Mishna or Tanya, or sits in his store with a Chumash or Tehillim – that is more valued today than when the streets were bright with the light of Torah…We must have some Torah to take with us into the street.

• So volunteer for a drash, and start working on it on Sunday, spending a little bit each day thinking about it (writing it towards the end of the week).  You will be carrying some Torah with you into the street for an entire week.


• Here are some verses from Vaeira

            “You shall say to him ‘God, God of the Hebrews has sent me to you to say “Send forth my people that they may serve Me in the wilderness” [ Shmot 7:16]

            “Come to Pharaoh and say to him: This is what God has said:  Let my people go so they may serve Me” [7:26]

            “Station yourself before Pharaoh.. and you shall say to him ‘This is what God has said: Send forth my people so they may serve me” [8:16]

            “Come to Pharaoh and tell him : This is what God, God of the Hebrews has said: “Send forth my people, so they may serve Me” [8:28]

• And from today’s reading

            “I will dwell in the midst of the Israelites and I will be their God” (29:45)

            “They shall know that I am God, their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I may dwell in their midst” (29:46)

• I want to make two points, comparing and contrasting the sets of verses.

• First point, and I am no apologist for the Israelites of the generation of the Exodus.

• Even King Shlomo cannot understand what it means for God to dwell in our midst.  Pinchas Peli notes that in 1 Kings 8:27, Shlomo plaintively asks at the dedication of the temple “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, the heavens and heaven of heavens cannot contain You, how much less this house that I have built!”. The Israelites had almost 500 (480 to be precise) years from the Exodus to the building of the Temple to figure this out and did not.

• So maybe we can better understand the Israelites in next week’s Parsha when they build the Golden Calf. They were told 4 times to serve God (and they surely had examples of what that meant when they were in Egypt) and only twice that God will dwell in their midst. 

• Second, about this notion of God dwelling in our midst.  It took until the 3-4th century for R Samuel ben Nahman in Midrash Tanchuma to make it clear (Naso 16).

• He writes “When the Holy One, Blessed be He, created the world, He longed to have an abode below just as He had on high….[After creating Adam] The Holy One, blessed be He said this to him, ‘This is what I long for, that just as I have a dwelling on high, I would like to have one below’”.  God wants a dwelling below.

• It took another 1500 years before the last Lubavitcher Rebbe made fully clear what a ‘dwelling below’ means. It is now called the theology of ‘Dirah Betachtonim’ [in modern Hebrew – an apartment in the lowerness] and is wonderfully explained and explored in the book Heaven on Earth by Rabbi Faitel Levin.

• To get the point of a dwelling below, we have to go Kabbalistic briefly.  The Kabbalah recognizes four worlds/universes:  Atzilut [that of pure Godly energy], Beriyah [Creation], Yetzirah [Formation, where the angels sit], and Asiyah [Making, our world].

• In these four worlds, the only place where physical activity occurs is in our world Asiyah.

• We may want to ‘ascend’ to one of the other worlds to get all ethereal (according to Sefer Yetzirah the highest that we can hope to climb is to the world of Yetzirah, where we will be with angels) but God wants to be down here with us because that’s where the real action is. 

• According to the theology of Dirat Betachtonim, every time we do a physical mitzvah, we elevate the physical to the next world, thus making it more possible for God to dwell in this world.

• It is kind of like a Newton’s law for spiritual activity: for every one of our actions with a physical mitzvot, there is a Godly reaction of having a bit more dwelling in the physical world.

• To paraphrase  Rabbi Levin: “Dirah Bethachtonim’s view ascribes greater spiritual value to the performance of physical mitzvot than to prayer or meditation”

• Think of it: every time we do a physical mitzvah, we help increase the dwelling of God in our physical world. And the only place to do a physical mitzvah is in this world – even the angels in Yetzirah cannot do a physical mitzvah.

• This  idea applies to obvious physical mitzvot ones like tefillin and lighting Shabbat candles, where we make leather and parchment or wax into holy (hence The Rebbe’s army).   But it also applies to mitzvot like dropping a coin into the Tzedaka box or choosing to eat a kosher item rather than a non-kosher item or ensuring that a lost item is returned or that there is no stumbling block for a blind person.  When you start to look around, the opportunities abound.

• Thus with a little bit of perception and effort, each one of us can increase the size of God’s dwelling in this world.