Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The SEFAT EMET on Parashat Vayechi

One of the greatest religious problems is that people fear having a relationship with God and consequently distance themselves from Him. Just as angels serve God without fear despite their lower status in comparison to God, so too human beings should take their model (walk amongst them) and not be afraid of developing a relationship with God and serving Him. This represents a wholeness that we as human beings are capable of only if we think of ourselves as walking amongst angels. (Sfas Emes, Parshat Beha'alotecha 5636)


One of my favourite Torah commentators is the Sefat Emet, Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter, 1847 - 1905. He gives an amazing insight into this week's Parashat Vayechi:

"Yaakov lived in the Land of Egypt" (Gen. 47:28).
With the quality of truth you can live even in the land of Egypt. Yaakov was truly alive there, meaning being attached to the root and source from which the life - force flows. Nothing in this world, not even suffering, should keep us away from clinging to the creator. No matter where we are.

Even though he was in Egypt, he knew that the entire country was just a hiding "shell", inside which there was nothing but that divine life - force. This is why the sages say that the wicked are called dead in their lifetimes. Because they are separated from the source of life.

Rashi says that Yaakov was about to reveal the end; the time when Meshiach is arriving. Yaakov was in his height of prophecy when he spoke to his sons before he died. But in the end, all those further prophecies were hidden from him.

Yaakov wanted to make it clear that exile (Galut) is just a matter of hiding, and that the power within comes only from G - d. But had this been revealed, there would have been no exile at all, so it was hidden. The kabbalistic Zohar tells us that Yaakov revealed what he wanted but in a hidden way.


"The Language of Truth"
The Torah Commentary of the Sefat Emet
Translated and interpreted by Arthur Green


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