Parashas Ki Seitzei
Oh Rebbi! Where Are You Rebbe Akiva!
*Note this particular article is written by david katz; in short, it should be an expression that this is a yearning for those who passed the tradition upon to this generation. To be called a rabbi in the same breath with Rabbi Akiva is like the custom of today, to praise one’s self as Gaon in light of the Vilna Gaon [in concept]. In this fashion, context in everything; if Rebbe Akiva were to hear my discourse, I highly doubt it would be appropriate to express my rabbinic title before his eyes. We are clearly not the same, and the point of distinction is peshita. If King David said, "I am a Ger" then I am simply saying, "I am me."A word to the wise is sufficient.
Four Walked into the Pardes… The Torah is repeated in Devarim… From the mouth of God we heard two...And somehow there just is the Ger, Toshav, and the Torah of the Ger Toshav. For context, let me introduce to you Rebbe Akiva, and for that matter, the Rambam, and practically every great Rabbi that ever lived – along with their righteousness and ability to emulate God. For the record, every Gadol firmly understood the Ger, and thus it can be assumed that they indeed Loved the Ger. Welcome to Parashas Ki Seitzei, which will forever in my eyes be a recollection to Rebbe Akiva and his legacy that he left us – a true Oral Torah that can’t be denied for all time, one that did not come at the expense of the Gerim. To the soul’s delight, it is quite the contrary, and a true Blessing of God to know the Ger.
Rebbe Akiva along with three others walked into the Pardes [mystical realm] of Torah; the intentions of all four men are not clearly known. The fate of each one was unique and different, paving a path of precedent for all future seekers of absolute truth. Their legacy proves the nature of a harsh reality when dealing with matters of God, as the life story of each, tells a story with a surreal ending. It is assumed that each one was a decent individual prior to his mystical experience, thus making the experience all the more powerful when the fate of each is revealed.
Of the Four, one was killed, another went mad, Acher, [Rebbe Meir’s teacher] became heretical, while only Rebbe Akiva came out unscathed. The hindered three, each had a level of revelation of the Torah’s innermost dimension that their wisdom took them to a place that measured short of its desired destination. Rebbe Akiva on the other hand was quite different, for he had the pre-requisite intellect to properly diagnose the vision that God had bestowed up on him. The irony of Rebbe Akiva however, wasn’t in his living through it, rather it was the way he died!
Moses is on record [for having his own Pardes moment so to say] of questioning Hashem how Rebbe Akiva’s reward for greatness was to end up having his skin combed from his body. This is as if to say that Rebbe Akiva himself became a proverbial Pardes of understanding, a Job to Moses if you will, as to why the righteous suffer so. The kabbalists explain that Rebbe Akiva through his experience, had his soul join with the supremely righteous in the upper realms, to the prevention of idolatry of his remains. [This is the fate of the righteous to a certain extent, and the reason why Moses’ grave is unknown; to prevent worship to the grave of the righteous, all the while the grave/death is paramount to express mortality of man while soul has its place in the will of God.] Thus all four men had a fate that is compelling to the nature of their revelation and abilities.
Rebbe Akiva was unique in other ways as well as a great Rabbi, for from his vision [or at least in conjunction with] the Talmud, Oral Torah, Kabbalah, etc. was fashioned by his hands and supervision. With all of this said, the greatest attribute of Rebbe Akiva was his style of communication, expression, and delivery of the Torah Laws and concepts. Rebbe Akiva for all intents and purposes became the master of revelation and concealment and a form of proper Torah tradition of handing over from Rabbi to Rabbi in a preservation of Torah of Sinai to this day, and until the Moshiach. This skill would serve as the benchmark of the gold standard rabbinic ordination that would define greatness and truth with Hashem, and grant the Torah its proper refinement and integrity.
Rabbis have existed [on this level] from at least of the days of Rebbe Akiva through the generation of the Rambam and onwards; only in recent generations [primarily due to the Shoa] have the disciplines of Torah been reduced to a remnant of our once dear titles of Rabbi/Rebbe, Gaon [genius in Torah], etc. Thus to focus on the Rambam, we can better understand Rebbe Akiva, the Torah, and all great Rabbinic works [such as the Zohar, authored by the student of Rebbe Akiva]. The Rambam made usage of the famous dictum, “From the mouth of God, I heard two.” This inspired the Rambam in his classic work, and we can recall a famous saying, “From Moses until Moses, there never stood another like Moses.” The basic premise is that Moses and the Rambam were both named Moses, and both employed the duality to Torah in their works. Moses called “his Book of Devarim” – “Mishna Torah” [the double Torah] while the Rambam’s codified law works on the same principles and is called “Mishna Torah” as well. Yet where the Rambam shows this hidden level of greatness buried within the Torah, is seen in his dual title to codification, as he refers to his work as “Yad Chazakah” as well [the strong hand].
The deeper meaning to the Rambam having two titles is reminiscent to our Rebbe Akiva format of revealed/concealed Torah; such is the Rambam. When the Rambam seeks to simply reveal, often to the student who plainly wishes to do, while not rocking the boat [the beinoni], he may expect a harsh flavor to the Rambam [which satisfies his inherent judgments and apparent desire to learn this way; based on merit of understanding – Gra]. Under this pretext the Rambam may be referred to as “Yad Chazakah” [strong hand]. Yet the Rambam carries the double entendre edition inside as well, a code of law that is hidden and often dormant to the uninitiated to the deeper dimensions of the Torah; this level of revelation [as opposed to concealed] may be realized as the Mishna Torah [that which is doubled, i.e. carries an additional weight and measure, drawing comparison to Moses in the Book of Devarim.]
The point of difference between the two approaches is that the former will yield judgment while the latter will express the true compassion and truth of the Torah. One can surmise that this is the proverbial shallow – depth to Torah ratios that exist in the yeshiva halls, often following suit of he who is genuinely interested in what Hashem has to say in His Holy Torah. It can be assumed that all students desire truth, while merit determines the extent that they actually reach a particular level; thus the Rambam caters to all members of Israel. This is exactly the skill brought down by Rebbe Akiva, and was his merit in successful passage of the Pardes, as he is on record of saying, “In the place of pure marble stone, do not say water water.
Rebbe Akiva, Rambam, Moses, etc. all personified the traits of a perfect rabbinic tradition – the art of giving over Torah. They may be men, and they may have had flaws, yet their style of passage and preservation was fashioned into a vessel that holds its water. The true Torah of the sages is a Torah that contains “From the mouth of God I heard Two” – and as much as our selected Rabbis of Blessed Memory [the truest Gadolei Hador] had achieved this, perhaps the best example of such depth is the Pardes itself, and her moments inside the Torah of God, the Five Books of Moses, Sefer Devarim in particular – for it was the seat of Moses’ highest communion with Hashem. Rebbe Akiva however, was the first to make this part of Jewish tradition, and the biggest step in redemption of the Ger.
It should be stated that Rebbe Akiva comes from Gerim, and it is fitting that he brings to light the Torah of Gerim, as it shines out from Pardes. Rebbe Akiva accentuates this principle in every nuance of Torah that is uttered in his name, as his most profound teachings strongly incline to the necessity of the double entendre; he may seem harsh, but within proper perspective, a whole new world opens up in Torah, the level of Sod – secret. The irony is, is that he has achieved this all within the boundary of the revealed Torah, i.e. the Torah that bears no restrictions on who is able to learn from these pearls of wisdom. Essentially, Rebbe Akiva has single-handedly taught all future students, how to identify, the Torah of, the World of the Ger, the basis of the Torah of Shem.
Parashas Ki Seitzei is the most Divine representation of such elevation in Wisdom, for the whole Parasha is literally, “From the Mouth of God I heard Two.” As much as we travel down intricate Jewish Teachings that compose the World of the Jew, when we step back, and remember the Ger and Love him, a sublime World of the Ger emerges. In short, if we are to review the whole Torah in the mold of “Mishnah Torah” of Moses, this can be achieved with one swoop of one’s focus, from Jew to Ger. As every Ger mention in the Torah needs to be examined to the nature of the Ger reference [Toshav, Tzedek, Gamor, etc.] so too does the Parasha teach and reinforce each verse, each letter, and each word must be examined carefully, as it is a Ger, for in truth it is! [Sechel is a Ger in this World – Torah intellect]
Once this is performed, our eyes become open and the World of the Ger appears, and as it says often throughout the Torah, “It shall be one law for you; the Native and the Ger.” It is my privilege to give over, a tradition that goes back to Moses, and was typified by the greatest of sages, and acknowledge that their efforts of illumination of the Ger is well received in these last generations before Moshiach. To just be able to see what the Divine hand has placed, so that there should be a Ger in the End of Days to walk his righteous path of the Ger Tzedek would be worth being created. And truth be told, from my point of view, none of this is made possible, if the Gerim don’t bring Light to my eyes like Jethro before them.
If we are to be a Light to Nations, then I strongly suggest that you first allow them to open your eyes and see this Divine Light. Parashas Ki Seitzei is here every year just before Rosh Hashana, as an opportunity to see the Light [of redemption] – and as Rebbe Akiva taught, Moses experienced, and every Ger knows – “From the Mouth of God I heard Two.” For this is the Light we hear in Parashas Ki Seitzei, and it allows us to savor the chance and blessing to see the same Torah with new eyes, as we repeat the Torah with the King as He enters the field, allowing us to finally see what was always there. Just to open our eyes, circumcise our hearts, and embrace the Ger, as the Parasha so graciously does, as an eternal example of truthfully Loving the Ger – then the World will finally reflect the truth of the King constantly in the Field.
The result is a Third Temple for all of Mankind, an eternal House of Prayer and Blessing to those who serve within His Holy Torah, and allowed themselves to finally hear From the Mouth of God of which we heard two [I am Hashem…You Should Have no other gods], symbolic of the harmony of Two Divine Worlds coming together; simply expressed as God’s Love of the many types of Gerim that echo within the halls of Ki Seitzei.
Audio Shiur On Parasha: Motzie Shabbos 11 P.M. [Tzfat Time]