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Shabbat Parashat Shemot 5774

Ein Ayah: Heavenly but Human

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 9:357)

Gemara: Rav Avin the Levi said: Whoever partakes of a meal in which a talmid chacham (Torah scholar) dwells is as if he partakes in the glow of the Divine Presence. This is learned from the pasuk (Shemot 18:12): “Aharon and all the elders of Israel came to eat bread with Moshe’s father-in-law before Hashem.” Did they eat before Hashem? Didn’t they eat before Moshe? Rather, this teaches us that whoever partakes of a meal in which a talmid chacham (Torah scholar) dwells is as if he partakes in the glow of the Divine Presence.


Ein Ayah: The glow of the Divine Presence is the enjoyment from the pleasantness of Hashem. This enjoyment exists according to the level of the people who are exposed to and receive the enjoyment. After all, it is impossible to fully grasp Hashem. However, even the small element that a person is capable of grasping according to his level is enough to fill him with light and eternal joy, wherever the light reaches.

An especially great talmid chacham, whose ways are lofty, whose intellect is deep, and whose heart has pure emotions, cannot be evaluated by those who are much lesser people than he is. This is because they are not able to receive the light of such a great person. The extent to which the great person is able to influence them depends on their level, and this is comparable to the glow of the Divine Presence. The simple people are able to receive something only when they have contact in a palpable physical context, such as at a meal. In that context, a great scholar and a simple person are both at least involved in the same activity of eating.

At the same time that the simple person connects himself to the great person, the simple person is connected to the light of Hashem, to the service of Hashem, and to the path of the Torah. It is specifically the connection that takes place in the context of physical interaction which has an impact that does not exist when the simple people are exposed to his great wisdom and sanctity. The latter may indeed show how the great talmid chacham is on a different plane than the simple person, but that will specifically cause the latter to give up any hope of emulating the great person, who is beyond the simple person’s grasp. In contrast, when they have a joint physical experience, it is much more beneficial in the ability to learn certain significant fine characteristics of the great scholar.

The image that the simple person is exposed to of the person who is so far beyond him, but nevertheless is a physical person who eats and has physical needs, is very instructive. Such a human being can arrive at high levels of sanctity, good characteristics, and purity of the heart and of actions. It inspires the simple person to aspire to the elements of which he is capable, according to his level. This is parallel to benefiting from the glow of the Divine Presence, which depends on the level of the perceiver.
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