Friday, April 20, 2007
A Ma'aseh Re: The Ohev Yisroel and Adding Holiness
I heard the following shiur as it relates to Parshas Tazria. It connects three parallel disputes about whether the main avodah for a person is mainly to completely and directly remove the bad from within himself, or focus mainly on being mosif kedusha, adding holiness instead.
The first of these three dichotomies arises out of the beginning of the parsha, which relates to a woman’s nida status after giving birth. Consider the difference between a nida and a zava; A nida’s purification can be after only seven days from the time her nida status begins. She continually removes and removes the source of the tumah, the dam, until immediately after the 7 days, on the night of the 8th day, she immerses and is puified. The entire process is one of removing the source of the tuma, and nothing else. On the other hand, a zava, in addition to her days of removing the tuma, always has 7 clean days, 7 days of purity/tahara following the tuma. The zava, then, represents the idea of overcoming tuma by being mosif tahara, adding holiness. That is the significance of her 7 days of tahara/purity. We’ll come back to this at the end.
The second example of the okair tuma v. mosif kedusha dispute can be found in relation to the days of sefira that we find ourselves in at this time. During this time, we mourn the deaths of the 24,000 talmidim of Rebbi Akiva. They died in a plague because “מפני שלא נהגו כבוד זה לזה,” they didn’t accord each other the requisite honor (Yevamos 62b). Rav Moshe Wolfson explains, based on the words of the Ari Z”L, that these 12,000 pairs of students were the gilgulei neshamos, reincarnations, of the 24,000+ members of the tribe of Shimon who sinned with the daughters of Midian. When Moshe Rabbeinu was about to judge them, Zimri, the nasi/prince of the tribe of Shimon, intervened, arguing that Moshe was like an interloper judging them. Rather, he, Zimri ben Salu, should judge them himself. Because of this attribute of ga’avah, arrogance, one thing led to another until Zimri himself was mezaneh publicly with the Midianite princess, Cosby bas Tzur, necessitating the intervention of Pinchas. The students of Rebbi Akiva, these gedolei Tana’im, wanted to be mesakain, repair this trait of ga’avah/arrogance from within themselves as a result of the fact that they were gilgulim of these members of the tribe of Shimon who also suffered from ga’avah. To do that, they all made a pact with each other that they would not treat each other with even an ounce of honor, in order to make themselves humble and thereby accomplish the tikun to their neshamos’ sin of ga’avah. However, perhaps due to their being spread out all over Eretz Yisroel, they perhaps took their approach too far and thereby suffered the plague. This represents the danger of this very direct, to the heart, approach to uprooting evil directly, as opposed to being mosif kedusha, focusing on adding holiness.
The 3rd example of this dichotomy: There is a ma’aseh regarding the Ohev Yisroel of Apt and the Kotzker. The Ohev Yisroel put together a Bais Din to judge whether or not they should place the Kotzker in Cherem for the way he was conducting his Chassidim. The Kotzker did not come to this hearing, but some of his talmidim did, including the Chidushei Harim. After the hearing, the Ohev Yisroel told the Chidushei Harim that he was not going to put his Rebbe into Cherem, but that when he becomes Rebbe, he shouldn't conduct the Chassidim the way his rebbe, the Kotzker does. And how did the Kotzker conduct his Chassidim that was so problematic in the eyes of the Ohev Yisroel? They were so committed to obliterating ga'avah from within themselves and from within their midst, that they went to exteme lengths to take the bull by the horns, and remove ga'avah in all of it's forms. Two examples: They would all stand up out of respect for anyone they considered a true anav, humble person, even if that person was ignorant, poor, and without Yichus, in order honor anava, and break their own egos. Also, if anyone came into the Bais Medresh wearing fancy clothing, they would take it away from him, and embarass him with words, as a tough-love way of oliterating ga'avah. This direct approach was not approved-of by the Ohev Yisroel, who felt that it was too sharp and direct a form of avodah for our generation.
The Ohev Yisroel held that the avoda of our generation is not so much to focus on attacking the evil within us. Often times that approach has disasterous side effects in the form of giving up, depression, and internal separation. The proper approach is to pile onto ourselves so much good, kedusha, avoda, tefilla, mitzvos, and hosafas kedusha, that the evil within us will "be batel me'eilav," nullified automatically. This can be compared to "חמץ שנפלה עליו מפולת הרי הוא כמבוער," Chametz on which a building has fallen, is considered destroyed automatically [thereby exempting a person from destroying it directly] (Pesachim 31b). When a person piles on so much kedusha, the evil within him is simply crushed under it's weight and is nullified in that way.
Returning to Nida/Zava; Perhaps that is why we are noheg b'zman hazeh Dirabanan, that all women are machmir to be metaher like a Zava, adding 7 days of tahara, purity, onto the D'oraisa 7 day requirement. As explained above, that is a reflection of the avoda of our generation, which is to focus more on adding kedusha, than on obliterating the bad within us in a direct way, which most of us are not ready for.
May Hashem help us add kedusha, mitzvos, Torah, tefilla, and Avoda, and thereby wipe out the evil within us automatically!
Artwork: "The Utterance" by Yorem Ra'anan