Thursday, February 11, 2010

Parshas Mishpatim/Shekalim 5770

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Mishpatim/Shekalim

28 Shevat 5770/February 12, 2010

Did you ever try to look for your glasses without your glasses on?

This past Shabbos afternoon as I was walking to shul, a cold wind was blowing. I pulled my scarf over my nose and mouth, which caused my glasses to fog up. So - as I have done numerous times in the past – taking advantage of the eiruv, I took off my glasses and placed them in my coat pocket, at least that’s what I thought I did. To my chagrin when I arrived in shul and stuck my hand into my coat pocket to retrieve my glasses, I realized that my glasses were not there. After Mincha I hurriedly retraced my steps in the hope that I would find my glasses where I had taken them off my face. Unfortunately my efforts proved futile.

[For those who remember their days in school when you would forget something, such as your glasses, homework, or a pen, the teacher invariably replied, “Did you forget your pants?” I should mention for all you scoffers that on Sunday morning when I sat down in my car to head off to shul, I realized that I had accidentally put on my Shabbos suit pants, so in a sense I did forget my pants…]

Is there a lesson to be gleaned from my experience (aside from the obvious lesson that I shouldn’t be such a klutz)?

My Rebbe, Rabbi Berel Wein shlita, would relate that when Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch zt’l was elderly he once informed his family that he planned to travel from Frankfurt (where he lived) to Switzerland to see the Swiss Alps. He explained that he wanted to make sure that after he leaves this world and G-d asks him, “Shimshi did you see my Alps?” he would be able to answer affirmatively.

The point of the anecdote is to remind us that when we view G-d’s world it should fill us with love and awe for its Creator, and we should never take its beauty for granted. But there are those who draw the wrong idea from such a story. The man who hears the story, comes home and tells his wife that they have to go on an exotic vacation, has missed the point.

Rabbi Hirsch was a Torah leader of unparalleled acumen and insight. When he left this world the only ‘complaint’ that the celestial courts would have against him was that he didn’t see the Alps when he had the opportunity. However, for most of us, the questions we will be asked will be far different. “Did you see my Tractate Arachin or Niddah? (Did you even know there is a tractate Arachin?)”

There are those who feel that there should be a greater emphasis devoted to studying the esoteric works of kabbala. “After all”, they argue, “we have an obligation to study every facet of Torah, and kabbala is an integral part of Torah!”

This is analogous to a tenth grader who gets a job helping out in the office of a prominent and renowned biochemist. One day the biochemist walks into his office to find the youngster tinkering with powerful compounds and formulas. “What in the world do you think you’re doing?” he screams as he rushes in to grab away the tubes from the adolescent. “What’s the big deal? I took chemistry this year and got an A.” The biochemist looks at him angrily, “You must be joking! You hardly know the most rudimentary basics. Perhaps after ten years of intense study, when you have mastered the most advanced levels of biology and chemistry, you can begin to watch others mix these powerful compounds.”

The holy kabbalists themselves warn that one who has not mastered all facets of Torah should not be meddling in the study of Kaballah. All of Kaballah is written in a code-like language of its own, and one who reads kaballah at face value can find many concepts blasphemous.

It is true that we have an obligation to strive to master the entire Torah, but we must follow the protocol of our sages. For the majority of us, the revealed Torah is vast enough to keep us busy for a couple of lifetimes. One who studies kaballah before he is ready, is trying to understand the intricacies and mysteries of the inner workings of the cosmos, without the proper glasses to help him see what he is looking for!

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos/ Good Chodesh,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum