Monday, December 19, 2016

Tehillim Chapter 15: The World Stands on Three Loves


מִזְמוֹר, לְדָוִד: יְהוָה, מִי-יָגוּר בְּאָהֳלֶךָ; מִי-יִשְׁכֹּן, בְּהַר קָדְשֶׁךָ
הוֹלֵךְ תָּמִים, וּפֹעֵל צֶדֶק; וְדֹבֵר אֱמֶת בִּלְבָבוֹ

A Psalm of Dovid. HaShem, who shall sojourn in Your Sanctuary?
Who shall dwell upon Your holy mountain?
He who walks with simplicity/wholehearted integrity, and does righteousness,
and speaks truth in his heart

According to Chazal, the world depends on three things:

על שלושה דברים העולם עומד
על התורה ועל העבודה ועל גמילות חסדים

On three things the world stands: on Torah, Avoda (Tefilla), and Acts of Kindness

Pirkei Avos 1:2

All of these three things are connected to three fundamental “loves” as taught by the Baal Shem Tov: Love of Torah, Love of HaShem, Love of one's fellow.

This is alluded to in the above possuk:

הוֹלֵךְ תָּמִים

This is avoda, which our Sages say is tefilla- avoda of the heart.

A person who “walks with simplicity” is one who knows that there is a Ribbono Shel Olam, a Creator of the world, Who constantly wills creation into existence and watches over it, a Creator Who is the source of all blessing and Whose goal in creating the world is to bestow good (See Mesillas Yesharim Chapter 1). Such a person will go through his days, both during the joyous occasions and the painful ones, knowing that HaShem is with him, lovingly directing all the details of his life, and will take care of all of his needs at the most appropriate time and in the most appropriate way... he just needs to call out to Him.

Avoda of the heart is Love of HaShem, because through it we allow HaShem, so to speak, to give us all the good He has in store for us.

וּפֹעֵל צֶדֶק

This refers to acts of kindness. While this includes physical acts of kindness and tzedaka, there is a higher level- the chesed we do for others in our hearts and minds by being dan l'kaf zechut (giving the benefit of the doubt), by recognizing and respecting the good qualities in those around us while down playing the negative, and even by doing mitzvahs with the specific intent to uplift those around us.

There is a famous story in the Talmud about a gentile who came to Shammai and asked to be converted to Judasim on the condition that he be taught the entire Torah while standing on one foot. Shammai chased him away with a builder's rod. Subsequently, he went to Hillel who agreed to his request (Shabbos 31a)

The Maggid of Mezritch explains this incident as follows:

That gentile wanted to become a Jew, but only if he could do so without having to experience life's ups and downs. He wanted to stand perpetually “on one foot,” as it were, with none of the low points. By chasing him away with a builder's rod Shammai was hinting to him that this is not the structure of creation. We descend into this world to build and repair...

[W]hen this gentile came to Hillel with the same request...Hillel answered him “what you hate, do not do to your friend”... Really, Hillel was of the same opinion as Shammai; that in this world a person must endure downswings, but he answered the gentile in a way that the latter would understand, and in doing so, he revealed to him one of the great benefits found precisely in low times.

When a person falls to a low level, yet manages to overcome his negativity and reaffirm his faith in God, he can redeem some crushed and oppressed soul that has been lost in the very same forsaken place he himself has reached in his moment of despair. His own affirmation actually lifts up the other one...[Hillel said] “You yourself have a holy soul... but you fell and became trapped in the guise of a non-Jew. Why have you suddenly become interested in reuniting with God's people? Because some Jew, in a moment of apathy and despair, reached the very same level that you were on. Nevertheless, he affirmed God's Presence even there, and through his effort, you became motivated to come and seek shelter in the God of Israel. So, now it's your turn to fulfill the verse, 'love your fellow as yourself'... If that Jew went all the way down for your sake, why aren't you ready to go through the samesetbacks for the sake of your friend?”1

This is love for one's fellow.

וְדֹבֵר אֱמֶת בִּלְבָבוֹ

This is Torah and love for it. The goal of each Jew is to purify his or her heart. As we daven on Shabbos:

וטהר לבנו לעבדך באמת

Purify our hearts to serve You in truth

And say in Tehillim:

לֵב טָהוֹר, בְּרָא-לִי אֱלֹהִים
Create within me a pure heart, Elokim

Tehillim 51:12

Our job is to get rid of our bad inclinations and give strength to our good inclinations so that we can see ourselves, others, and world for what they truly are. Ultimately, we can make ourselves into a pure vessel so that HaShem's Presence can dwell within us and thereby shine out into the world. As it says:

וְעָשׂוּ לִי מִקְדָּשׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְּתוֹכָם

Make me a Sanctuary and I will dwell within them.

Shemos 25:8

We purify our hearts via Torah and its mitzvahs. Yet, Torah doesn't just mean, mikrei (the written Torah), Gemara, halacha, and hashgafa sefarim. It also refers to the spark of kedusha that is inherent to every created thing and experience. By tapping into these sparks of keddusha we come to greater wisdom and understanding. In fact, the word Torah is related to the word for teaching.

1. As brought in the sefer “In All Your Ways,” by Rabbi Yakov Meir Shechter  

No comments:

Post a Comment