Friday, January 22, 2010

People Get Ready

In this week's Torah portion, Parshas Bo, Moshe summons the elders of Israel and told them, "Mish'chu ukichu lochem tzoin limishpachoiseichem v'shachatu haposach" ("Draw forth and take for yourselves a sheep for your families and slaughter the Pesach offering," Exodus 12:21). Rashi explains the verse to mean that those who have flocks of sheep should take from what they already own (draw forth), and those who do not have should buy one in the market (take), and use these for their families. However, since we know that the Torah has countless levels of interpretation, there is a much deeper understanding to be found regarding this verse.

The Noam Elimelech notes that since this verse speaks about the performance of a specific act commanded by G-d, it has deep explanation regarding the way in which we are to carry out mitzvos. The first level is that of "draw forth". The Noam Elimelech compares this to meditation, which was the practice of the pious of previous generations. Before doing a mitzvah, they would sit in contemplation on the mitzvah, which would bring them to astonishment (the Hebrew word for "meditate" shares a root with the word "astonish"). By doing this, the Noam Elimelech says that we draw our souls upward, and then "take for yourselves," and we are able to partake in the elevated understandings and hidden secrets behind the mitzvos. By participating in this intense type of meditation and preparation, we become able to return with a "sheep for our families," by giving over our personal insight and reflection to others, so that they may also benefit from what we have uncovered in meditation, and to be aware that we have a greater responsibility to the community as a whole. The last step is the "slaughter," which is to actually carry out the mitzvah itself, doing the great act that connects this world with the next.

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