Shabbat Parashat Yitro| 5765
Hashem - Is He Close or Far … Or Both?Harav Yosef Carmel
Chazal chose the section describing Yeshaya’s initiation as a navi asthe haftara ofthe parasha ofthe giving of the Torah. What is the connection?
At Har Sinai, Hashem inculcated in Bnei Yisrael the fundamental belief in a single and singular G-d. For this unique moment in history, “He who sits in the hidden heights” revealed Himself to the entirety of His chosen nation. While Hashem remained beyond the ability of a human being to see (Shemot 33:20), His Presence was evident in a palpable manner to an unprecedented degree (Shemot 20:14). From that point on, the perturbing question has been echoing in the world: where does one search for Hashem? Can He be found within us (“From my flesh I shall see Hashem”- Iyov 19:26)? Or is He out of our reach (High above High- Kohelet 5:7)?
Our haftara contains the famous pasuk, “they called one to the other and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts; the world is full of his presence’” (Yeshaya 6:3). Anshei K’nesset Hagedola inserted this pasuk into more parts of the tefilla than any other pasuk. It is also found in the most central positions within the tefilla, leading up to Kriat Shma, in the midst of Kedusha, and in Kedusha D’sidra. What is so special about this pasuk?
The pasuk starts with “kadosh” (holy) to describe Hashem. This refers to distance from Him, to fear, justice, and that which is forbidden. In the framework of these concepts, the mind and cold analysis reign supreme. On the other hand, the pasuk concludes with “k’vodo.” (His glory). This refers to Divine Revelation and, with it, to closeness, love, mercy, and that which is permissible. In this realm, feeling and a warm relationship are the leading elements. The tension between these apparently competing motifs is alluded to in the pasuk, “You shall make for Me a holy place (mikdash), and I shall dwell among them.” The mikdash is a place where one must practice strict laws to preserve its sanctity, yet it is also a place that enables Hashem to enter the personal realm of every individual (“dwell among them”).
Which of these approaches to Hashem, of distance or closeness, is more Jewish? The answer is that both are. All Jews should serve Hashem in both frameworks. However, different Jews put a greater or lesser stress on one or the other. There is no absolute right or wrong. It depends on what suits the individual’s personality and enables him to serve Hashem in the most complete way he can. It is especially critical that parents choose an educational approach that suits each child’s spiritual profile. One child thrives in an open atmosphere, while another benefits from discipline, etc.
We can illustrate this concept with a geometrical example. An ellipse is a figure with two foci. All points on the ellipse share the same sum-total distance from the two foci, while one is closer to one focus, and another closer to the other focus. So too, in or spiritual life, fear of Hashem and closeness to Him are the foci. Two Jews need not be in the same location. Rather, every Jew has his place on the ellipse. We must become accustomed to respecting other Jews who occupy a different location than we are used to.
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