Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Be All that You Can Be

Every once in a while, we are lucky enough to hear a vort that is able to touch us on many levels. With the infinite reach of Torah, one might think that this would happen more often. Sadly, though, since we are human, we aren't always able to internalize things the way we should. I happened have this luck on my side last week, on my first full day back in yeshiva, when Harav Shlomo Brevda shlit"a came to speak.

In Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs), a relationship is recorded between a man and a woman, but the true essence of the book is that it is a mystical allegory about the relationship between the Ribbono Shel Olam and Klal Yisroel. According to the Gaon of Vilna, zt"l, each statement of the man in Shir Hashirim is a statement of praise directed toward Klal Yisroel. As some of the verses seem quite strange, it might be hard to understand how such obscure statements could be so full of awe and inspiration. One such verse is, "Sarech k'eider ha'izim shegal'shu min haGilad," or "Your hair is like a flock of goats that trail down from Gilad". What a compliment! Really? Clearly, such a verse needs a little explaining. To do this, Harav Brevda used the sefer Tomer Devorah by the holy kabalist Harav Moshe Cordovero, zt"l.

In his sefer Tomer Devorah, Rav Cordovero points out that Gilad is the area of land taken by Reuven and Gad, and was coveted for the lsuh areas to graze sheep. Here enters the first part of the explanation of the words in Shir Hashirim: just as the massive flocks of sheep looked like a single unit, no spaces or breaks between, as they grazed and wandered, so too the Jewish people are one unit, completely and utterly inseparable. In expounding upon this, Rav Cordovero brings a new level of understanding to the adage from the gemara, "Kol Yisrael arevim zeh b'zeh", "All of Israel is responsible for one another." This classic definition is clearly not sufficient to explain what the Hebrew means, as Rav Cordovero points out that the souls of all Jews, originating from the same place, and being part of one another, all connect. Thus, when one Jew suffers within his soul, the soul of each Jew suffers. The same is true of success, and when one Jew has real, meaningful success spiritually, all Jews do, too, since we are "zeh b'zeh".

Now comes the second part: why specifically the goats in Gilad? When Yaakov Avinu (Jacob) fled from his father-in-law Laban, he fled to what is called Gilad (Gilead), a name that comes from the events which transpired on the location. When Yaakov and Laban come to an arrangement, Yaakov tells his sons to gather stones and create a mound as a testimony to the agreement between Yaakov and Laban. According to the Tomer Devorah, this is the first time that the Jewish people (represented by Yaakov's sons) came together to show their unity in completing a task. Thus, the mound, and the whole area were called Gal Eid, or "Mound of Witness", testifying to the ability and unity of the Jewish people.

Seen in this light, this is a wonderful compliment to the Jewish people. This is not a "butterfly effect" chaos theory type of responsibility and connection, but much deeper: the soul of each Jew is completely bound with the soul of every other Jew, inseparable in this life or the next. Not only does this speak volumes of mussar (moral discipline), but has deep Chasidus involved as well. The way we treat others is the way we treat ourselves mamash. Not only does "v'ahavta l'rei'acha kamocha" ("Love your neighbor as yourself") have importance due to communal relations, but to treat another person differently from how we treat ourselves is a complete contradiction! To harm or scoff at or ignore another person is to do the same to ourselves, since the impact it has on their soul will be the same impact that it will have on ours. When you feed someone who is hungry, part of you is also satiated...When you compliment another, you are also uplifted...When you cause strife with another person, you bring internal strife upon yourself. When such a lesson is really understood and internalized, I can't believe that it won't have Earth-shaking results. This, the "crowning glory" (hair on the head, that which is on the tip-top) of the Jewish people is that we are all completely wrapped up with one another, a reality that is sure to move all to work to be the best that each of us can be.

Now, just for my own curiosity and in light of the understanding of this verse, extra meaning and purpose is there to a married woman covering her hair?

1 comment:

  1. Very well written. Thanks for words of thought which we all can put into practice in our lives no matter how we live or what faith we practice. And also good question you close with. Words are food for thought and I have some new thoughts to think on. Thanks and G-d Bless and Be safe. Love Ya Mom