Friday, June 15, 2012

Shem: The Priestly Master Of Truth

Parashas Shelach: Forward Progress and Without Looking Back

                             Rabbi David P. Katz

In the Torah Portion of Shelach, The Jewish People make a classic repetitious shortcoming of wanting to retreat and reverse course back to Egypt. If it was not bad enough with the episode of the spies in the beginning of the Parsha (which led to Tisha B’Av [9th of the Jewish month of “Av”], of which the Jewish People have been agonizing over for thousands of years trying to reverse the grieving into a celebration of joy; Moshiach is said to be born on [the reversal] of Tisha B’ Av [9th of the month of “Av”]) and the speech of slander that they spoke against the Land, now they immediately fall directly into pure exile mentality of, “Let’s return to Egypt!” The audacity of such crimes is premised on the fact that until now, they were practically upon the threshold of Moshiach and the 3rd Temple! Once this opportunity is spoiled with negativity, it becomes the destruction of the Temple (1st and 2nd) and we now rely not on Moshiach, but the prophetic and future-based “Birth of the Moshiach.” (Talmud Yerushalmi)
The basic lesson to be learned from the doubt of progression is the Forward Movement of pure “אמנה” / Emanah (a derivative of “Emunah” – Faith). Emanah is stronger than faith, in that it contains the basis of service of God, all in one concept; Faith is an offspring of Emanah. [Emanah can simultaneously mean any of the following: Loyalty, Truth, Covenant of Truth, Confident, Amen, Faith, etc.] One important fact to keep in mind is that the entire Torah is made of this Emanah! [Talmud Makkos based on a verse in “Habbakuk” in Tanach states that the entire Torah is comprised within one Commandment: “צדיק באמונתו יחיה” – “The Righteous Lives by his “Emanah-ness!”] If the heart of exile is the lack of this Truth [Emanah translated as Truth – Targum Yonaton on the word: Emunah, which is a derivative of Amanah], to the extent that the Jewish People have living within this fallen state for thousands of years, where in the Torah (or World for that matter) do we find the solution? Being that the verse in Habbakuk speaks of the Righteous and the Truthful (of Amanah/Emunah); perhaps we should turn to Noah and Shem, who the Torah defines under these two terms. Noah is termed Righteous by God Himself, and what may be seen as a surprise to some, the Torah states that Noah was short in his Truth. However there is not to worry, as where Noah is limited, Shem shines forth as the excellence of Truth and serves to the Honor of his Righteous father Noah! Where the Jewish People have stumbled and Noah just missed the cut, as expressed by retreat and a hesitance to enter the Ark right away (which was the seat of Noah’s lack in Truth), Shem ran with the baton of progression, Truth, and Righteousness into the Ark at the first possible moment, thus equating into the polar opposite of this reiterating sin and basis of shortcoming. It is exactly for this reason that Shem was elected to be one of the four Craftsmen of Redemption. [Talmud Sukkah 52b] Shem was the better fit based on his craft even more so than Noah. As ironic as it may seem that Shem would be identified by craftsmanship within the Ark more than Noah, is testimony to his eagerness to fulfill the Command and hasten the Redemption by rushing into the Ark, and thereby earning the merit to take part in the final craftsmanship: the Third Temple in the End of Days!
The Ramban states [Noah 7:7; 7:1] that Noah was of what Rashi states as “Small Faith” [Small Truth] and that Midrash Rabbah on the same selection of Torah explains this as “Lacking Faith” in Noah’s association with the Flood Waters and the Command of entering the Ark. To see the Greatness of Shem amongst the Chaos, let’s now quote Rashi [7:7] and then the Ramban [7:7/1]; [7:7] – “And Noah came and his sons came and his wife, and the wives of the sons, with him, to the Ark, because of the floodwaters.”… [Rashi] – “even Noah was of “Small Truth”; he was however full authentic levels of Truth[!] (Which begs the question, where was the shortcoming?!) – he didn’t believe that the floodwaters would come, and he didn’t enter the Ark until the waters forced him.” Noah erred on a major philosophical point, that Hashem’s greatest miracles are when Hashem grants the miracle in nature rather than superseding it! The answer was not to miraculously end the Flood, but rather work Redemption through the Flood. [Ramban] Through this hesitancy, Noah did not rush into the Flood, and the scar of such a minute mistake was eternally being deemed as one without Faith! It is said that the punishment of the Righteous is far more severe than anyone else; Noah was one of two Men in the Torah to be called Righteous! King Solomon suffered similar fate, when the Torah called him an idolater for not being the promised Messiah son of David; Noah also was tasked with the salvation of the World, and he succeeded! – Just not to the par excellence that Hashem desired and saw from him. The Midrash states that Noah was held accountable for from him would come Moses, and of course the entire Torah! Just as Hashem looked into Moses and saw nothing but the image of God (From Moses’ perspective, he saw only God in the World, and when Hashem looked into Moses, Hashem “saw Himself” through Moses’ gaze - Ramban), in Noah too, Hashem saw the Final Redemption, Torah, and God filling the World with Knowledge of God! Thus the margin of error was ZERO! Noah feels the pain of the scar of shortcoming until this day, but we can be sure that the bitterness of lack, is the fuel that burns within the eternal soul of Noah, that will eventually bring the Final Redemption, as Moses is the final redeemer, and he is a direct Re-incarnation of none other than Noah! From the pain of his failure, (“Noah lacks Faith”) will be the means of his “Chassidut” – in making bitter waters sweet with the powers of “Higher Intellect”, for Noah will finish his job in the End of Days, when it will be said that Noah is the Man of Faith! (Moses and Noah are one, and the inverse of Moses in Gematria is 102: Emunah/Faith!)
The Ramban on 7:7/1 thus states the following: “Noah was lacking in Truth, for the waters began to reach his upper ankles and he still had not entered the Ark. [Thus only with a height of the waters did he enter the Ark, as opposed to Rashi who explained that he did not believe that the waters would even reach his ankles!; here, he waited to see.] The Ramban then comes with a very interesting suggestion [understood in the manner of “Secrets”, which is the style of the Ramban – Medieval commentator]…”if so, then we must say, that Shem did not enter until the waters strengthened and covered the face of the entire earth, and he saw this was Nature! [As in, the Miracle was being worked through Nature!] We see here that where Noah was weak (and we can interpret 7:7 as the whole family had to influence Noah to get into the Ark, as it says, “… they all came ‘with him’” – which one can induce also that perhaps “with him” was a reference to Shem, who perhaps according to the Ramban was already in the boat! And when it said, “and his wife” this was not a reference to Noah’s wife, but Shem’s! – for according to the Zohar, we already know Noah’s wife entered, as she is allegorically compared to the Ark itself!)
The Verse 7:1 states, “and God said to Noah come! You, and your entire House to the Ark, for you I see as the Righteous before Me in this generation.” Rashi states that this was partial praise as to not embarrass Noah, yet if it was partial praise, there must be another worthy of the remaining Praise! Shem would be the other Righteous Soul, and he expressed merit in entering the Ark of which rewarded him a direct aspect of the End of Days as a Craftsman of Redemption. Noah would see it too, but through reincarnations of Moses and Shem. With this said, what was the source of merit from Shem?
The commentators state that this declaration of God to Noah was specifically for him and no other. It was Noah’s merit that the World was saved. Thus in the Ark, Shem had learned the powers of Redemption, yet still maintained honor for his father, even after the evil of Cham upon Noah! Shem let his father’s merit carry him to its natural seat: as the merging of the First and Final redeemers, expressing the unity of God. Thus even with the flaw of Noah, coupled with Shem’s knowledge of the repair, he allowed his father’s merit to endure; by doing so, he brought Redemption to himself, his father, and the World – all in the realization of Honoring his Father, and subsequently Honoring God. This was the righteousness of Shem, and this was the zeal (a Priestly trait, presumably the merit of Shem becoming a Priest – “Malki Tzedek!”) of which Shem ran into the Ark before evil could latch onto his soul. For this Shem was not short in Amanah / Truth, rather he is the Teacher of this Amanah, notable to Abraham when Abraham found the Priesthood from Shem. Thus context of the debate between Abraham and Noah is missing content that effects connotation, for the meaning between the two opinions of Noah in regards to Abraham, is the open expression of Praise of Shem! But like Rashi says, it is not Derech Eretz to Praise too much to a Righteous Soul. However, Shem received all of his praise in secret, and it is Shem that progresses forward with the secrets of the Redemption, as he is one of the Four Craftsmen termed “the Righteous Priest” along with the two Messiahs. An interesting observation, is that the word for Messiah, “משיח” = שם חי = “Shem Lives!”
In the Parsha of Shelach, the tendency of Man is seen to want to retreat, or at best stay idle; the consequence is exile and the lack of redemption. Shem teaches us the opposite, for even though the guardianship of his father’s merit is seemingly keeping us in exile (for if Shem’s merit would begin, redemption would ensue), it will be Shem’s Truth (that by the nature of Truth allowed the World to endure for 6000 years – so people could share the World to Come with him! Hence, the nature of Shem’s Torah predicated on his righteousness) that will eventually usher in the Messianic Age. When the World wants to relent or waster time idly, think of Shem, the opposite of evil and exile; it was Shem who ran into the Ark, it is Shem who we can run after into the Messianic Age, and learn the Righteousness and Truth from his actions and Torah, something that the Spies Joshua and Caleb, perhaps were searching for, when they prayed at the cave of Machpela and the forefathers. Abraham had a tremendous level of Amanah, as he should, he learned it directly from the mouth of Shem, and where the 9th of Av is the depths of exile, it will one day acknowledge its antidote: Shem ben Noah, who came from a world where there is so much wrong, he is the one Man who got it right; for that he truly is the Righteous Priest.

שבת שלום


Anonymous said...

Praise Be Unto the L-RD!!! Thank you Rabbi Katz for the excellent Teaching you do for all of us. Exposing the hidden Truths. Truth is still in full tact! People have not destroyed it like they thought they could do. HaShem is bringing Truth to Light... so wonderful! We long to hear of the journey of this Truth.

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