Beit Midrash

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  • Ein Ayah
To dedicate this lesson

Transience and Purity


Various Rabbis

Why were ahalim [apparently to be read like ohalim (tents)] compared to streams (in Bamidbar 24:6)? It is to teach you that just as streams take a person from impurity to purity, so too tents [of Torah] bring a person up from a position of spiritual deficiency to a position of merit.

Ein Ayah: The fact that a person is purified from any type of impurity through the medium of water hints at a spiritual concept. The impurity of a person’s actions, attributes, and opinions all come from his failure to view himself, as an individual in the world, as a visitor and not a permanent dweller. As such, he should use things that he finds in the world only for the purpose of furthering himself in regard to his lofty, eternal goals.
This is why it is appropriate to envelop oneself in water, which shows a person that his position is to be seen as transient. After all, a person cannot remain permanently under water, but only for a short time and by means of some preparation. A person should use that realization to help him understand that also in regard to his stay on earth, which sits on top of water, he is just a visitor. He should yearn to make his main goal to obtain goodness, wisdom, justice, and straightness, which are everlasting.
This same idea applies to tents, which is a catchphrase that hints at a setting to absorb wisdom. This is a temporary structure, which brings one to lead his life in the most appropriate manner, enabling the coarse images of his permanence in this physical world to be removed. Only based on the study of Torah and the logic of wisdom will his view in this matter be perfected and will he go from a negative to a meritorious state by which he concentrates on everlasting things. In addition to the improvement of his attributes that come through study, when he uses his mind to determine what things are good for him to do, being set in "tents" brings upon whoever comes to enjoy its shade a holy natural emotion. As such, his feelings will go from being coarse to being elevated and holy, just as one who enters the water for immersion comes out pure, as the perfect Torah sets down for us as a holy rule.

Remembering the Value of Things One is Not Involved in
(based on Ein Ayah, Berachot 2:15)

Rabbi Ami and Rabbi Assi were tying together a wedding canopy for Rav Elazar. He said to them: "In the meantime, let me go and hear something in the beit midrash" ... He came back and told them [the halacha that he had learned]. They said to him: "Had we come only to hear that thing it would have sufficed for us."

Ein Ayah: From these complete words we learn the ways of righteousness in two elements. One is that even when one is preoccupied with the happiness of his heart, he should still look toward the Torah and consider even a little idea that he will be able to pick up as a great fortune. This we see from Rav Elazar’s desire to hear something and to share it with the others.
From the statement: "Had we come only to hear that thing it would have sufficed for us," we learn that even when one is busy with a good thing, even a big mitzva, it is still proper not to forget the dearness of valuable things that he cannot be involved in then and to appreciate them. For even when they were involved in the mitzva of helping others and preparing for the mitzva of a marriage, they expressed their excitement about a new Torah idea. This comes from a heart that is broad and full of the love of Hashem and His Torah. This is in contrast to "small people," who, when involved in a good deed and mitzva, say that there is no value to other things and do not recognize the good that extends over an endless expanse, for "your mitzva is very broad" (Tehillim 11:96).
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