Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Vayikra
To dedicate this lesson

The Secret Love

...There are things that must be kept in Sod (Secret), and if someone reveals them, he thus abuses and wastes their greatness. One who has no secrets is one who is shallow and external - but 'Israel was redeemed from Egypt in the merit of not having revealed their inner secrets' (Midrash Tehillim 114,1)...


Rabbi Netanel Yossifun

Nissan 2 5783
Translated by Hillel Fendel

A friend of mine told me that he was once traveling on a bus, and his seatmate happened to be a Hassidic Jew who was "speaking pearls of Torah" nonstop. At a certain point, my friend learned that the man was actually a certain Hassidic Rabbi - no less. He thereupon asked the Rebbe for a blessing, but the Rebbe answered: "I'm sorry, blessings are not given incidentally, just 'along the way.' If you want a blessing, you are invited to come to my home and I will bless you happily."

A blessing stems from a deep part of the soul. When one wants to delve deeply into a matter, he must stop the race of life for a short while and turn inwards. We all know that we would not hold an important conversation just "by the way;" we rather make time for it, set a meeting, and give it our full attention so that we can concentrate on the details of the matter.

In a somewhat related item, I once heard from the Dean of Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav, the late saintly Rabbi Avraham Shapira, that a Hassid asked his Rebbe this question: "We know that every generation has 36 hidden tzaddikim, in whose merit the entire world stands. This means that the great tzaddikim that we know about and who are not hidden, such as you, are really not the great tzaddikim! Could that be?"

The Rebbe answered, "Oy vey! Woe unto us if we were only what you think we are!" Meaning, the known tzaddikim have secret layers of righteousness, rendering them hidden tzaddikim.

This brings us to the idea of "concealment." The Rebbe's answer expresses the inner feeling that we all sense: that while the outer world is shallow and superficial, true depth is found in the "inner" world. The ultimate depth is found in the Kabbalistic sphere of Sod (secret), which remains concealed and hidden from that which is merely external. Like the story of the 36 tzaddikim, great righteousness is found in a hidden place, and it is that which gives the "moisture of life" to the world. There are things that must be kept in Sod, and if someone reveals them, he thus abuses and wastes their greatness. One who has no secrets is one who is shallow and external - but "Israel was redeemed from Egypt in the merit of not having revealed their inner secrets" (Midrash Tehillim 114,1).

Usually, in this secret depth are also found great strengths. In a lovers' relationship, a great and deep power of love will be formed only if they retain their secret only between them.

The Book of Leviticus

Vayikra (Leviticus) - the book of the Pentateuch that deals with the Temple and the Sacrifices, and that which we begin reading in synagogues this very week – begins very strangely. The opening verse states that G-d "called to Moshe and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting." Why did He both "call" him and "speak" to him?

In addition, the word for "called" is Vayikra, a very uncommon word. Why is this the first word of Leviticus?

And thirdly, why is the last letter of the word Vayikra, the letter aleph, half the size or less of the other letters? It's as if the word is not Vayikra, but vayiker!

What is the difference between these two words? Rashi explains that the former is a form of affection; G-d calls to Moshe before speaking to him. But vayiker, which refers both to a chance event and impure emission of seed, is a description of the transient and impure manner in which G-d appeared to the Gentile prophets, as the Torah states regarding Bil'am.

G-d speaks to the non-Jewish prophets in a haphazard manner, just "along the way," where the external and impure matters are. But when G-d spoke to the Master Prophet of Israel, He first called him and set a meeting with him in the Tent of Meeting. Moshe had to first stop the rushing stream of life and the external world, and enter the internal life – that of inside the Tabernacle. Only in this way can the deep, great secrets be revealed. First G-d called Moshe, and only afterwards did He begin to speak with him.

The Hebrew word kedusha, sanctity, actually refers to "separation." Jewish holiness can be revealed only via a separation from the externals of life and entry into an inner, hidden place. Only in such a place will be revealed strong dosages of love and affection. And in fact, Rashi explains that the Divine voice that came to Moshe's ears was a very strong voice – as is written in Psalm 29, verses 4-5 – and yet still it was heard only in the Tent of Meeting, and not outside it. Again: Great strengths are concentrated inwardly.

This is the very essence of the name Ohel Moed, "Tent of Meeting," for the Tabernacle: It is where time and place are set and determined – from the same root as moed – for an "inner based" meeting. This is why the word vayikra has a small letter aleph; it is equal to 1 in gematriya (numerology), standing for the small, inner point that is the root of all.

We have just begun the month of Nissan, the first month of the year, following Adar. In the month of Adar, the Jews of the Tabernacle and Holy Temple periods would contribute a half-shekel of silver per person, in honor of the coming year that was about to begin – the best time to arouse our longing for the Holy Temple.

Given the external, shallow world surrounding us – the world in which "ratings" and other externals take up the main stage – we will pray for the construction of the Beit HaMikdash, the site of the little aleph, the place where the deep and secret love between ourselves and our Father in Heaven is revealed.

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