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Shabbat Parashat Miketz 5772

Ein Ayah: Double Meaning for Different Levels

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 8:11)

[We continue with the idea of bentching at the place one ate, this time with an interesting story illustrating its importance in a great rabbi’s eyes and fascinating general lessons from Rav Kook.]


Gemara:  Rabba bar bar Chana was travelling in a caravan. He ate and forgot to bentch. [After they departed] he said [to himself]: What shall I do? If I tell them that I forgot to bentch, they will tell me that wherever I bentch I am blessing Hashem. He said to them: “Wait for me because I have forgotten a dove of gold.” He went back, bentched, returned, and found a dove of gold.


 Ein Ayah:  There is a difference regarding the nature of fulfilling mitzvot between the common person and the great thinking person who investigates the essence of everything related to the mitzva. The common person understands the mitzvot in a general type of way, as a reminder that we are servants to our Master, Hashem, but does not subscribe importance to the details. This is in line with the statement, “An ignorant person cannot be a pious person.” This is why the other members of the caravan would not have appreciated the detail of going back to the place of eating. In contrast, a wise person understands that mitzvot impact on the world and appreciates them as great natural powers, which act on behalf of those who know how to follow them properly.

[Let us understand the idea behind Rabba’s claim about losing a golden dove.] One of the techniques of a wise person is to use riddles and parables (see Mishlei 1:6) that can be understood on different levels. The same statement can impact the general populace on their undiscerning level and enable someone who has reached a higher level to uncover a far deeper message. Both benefits are significant. Rabba’s invocation of the golden dove in concealed reference to the need to bentch where he ate was able to include a double meaning, as well. In this way Rabba fulfilled the pasuk (Yeshaya 40:8), “The hay will dry and the flower will wilt, but the word of our Lord will remain forever.” Even that which corresponds to the hay and the flower, when it is in the way of Hashem, will always have meaning.

The following is what Rabba bar bar Chana intended to say, on his level, with the matter of the golden dove. The idea of returning to bentch where one ate is to bestow spiritual strength upon the matter of physical strength. Gold is something that is extracted from the depths of the ground. Gold in the form of a dove hints at the idea that the same earthen gold now has the power to fly high. So too the physical world, which can be related to very lowly things, can be spiritually elevated, when something holy like Birkat Hamazon adds its sanctity. The human spirit yearns to elevate itself above the physical world. When it is connected to the physical world and the light of sanctity shines upon it, it wants to fly like a bird to a greater closeness to Hashem. Since Rabba’s counterparts in the caravan could not understand that, it was proper that he would find an actual dove of gold [so that his statement would not be a lie from the perspective of their level].

This type of double meaning can be found regarding all the good ideas found in the words of the prophets. The ideas had to be cloaked in the lower images that simple people could understand, which themselves are valuable. There can be seven meanings to one illustration, and none is contradictory to the other but strengthens the other.

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