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Shabbat Parashat Teruma 5776

Ein Ayah: Protection from Below and/or From Above

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 2:151)

Gemara: [In this piece, the convert who had wanted to be a Kohen Gadol thanked Hillel for his faith in him.] He said: Hillel, the anvatan (humble and patient), may blessings rest on your head, for you have brought me close, under the wings of the Divine Presence.


Ein Ayah: The foundation of tolerance, to treat with warmth even those who, based on their actions, deserve to be distanced, is rooted in the attribute of modesty, which is built upon the nature of the spirit and the emotion of the heart. Actually, in the case of the prince of Hashem that Hillel was, this attribute was combined with the great wisdom of anticipating the future, as his great and true humility helped him remove the screen that keeps one from seeing the future. This is because one with sensitive emotions can sense by looking “in the mirror” of a person whom he meets how he will act in the future. This is the content of the convert’s praise for Hillel, who had taken his natural characteristic of humility and had perfected it.  

The convert said that blessings should rest on Hillel’s head because this is the place of his intellect and intuition. If not for Hillel’s great intellect, which enabled him to reach a deep analysis of his counterpart’s spirit, he could not have grasped the hidden element of goodness in the convert’s spirit. This is because at the time, it was clouded over by confused imagination which came from a lack of development and education.

The convert thanked Hillel for bringing him under the wings of the Divine Presence. This is relevant in relation to the idea that a person needs two protections from things that take him away from divine service and love of Hashem. One is to protect him from physical desires that are beneath man’s natural level and drag him down to the lower level of the desire. The second is actually protection from things that are loftier than his level, because they too can cause him to stray from the path of the intellect based on unrealistic perceptions of divine service.

Bnei Yisrael, who come with the merit of their forefathers and the sanctity of the ancient legacy, need protection only from below, from human base inclinations. When one is saved from this lowliness, he will already cleave naturally to Hashem because the true philosophical perceptions are close to his heart and his nature. A convert who joins us from outside is different, in that the inner characteristics that bring true perceptions that are hidden in the light of the Torah, do not come to him by means of preparation or inheritance. Even if he has overcome the base desires by means on free will, he is still susceptible to mistakes from above, from misconceptions that are as dangerous as thoughts of forbidden desires. On the other hand, the fact that the sincere convert took upon himself to enter the divine covenant is a merit that protects him, as Hashem bestows upon him wisdom to appreciate the greatness of his clinging to Torah and mitzvot.

The Torah says that Hashem will have Bnei Yisrael ride on top of His wings (Devarim 32:11), to illustrate the protection from the dangers that are below. From above, Bnei Yisrael do not need protection because whoever has extricated himself from the problem of desires is connected to the seal of truth. But a convert needs protection from above by being under the wings of the Divine Presence, as his decision to accept the yoke of mitzvot provides for him a special protective spirit, even though it is not natural for him, until the point that he is like any other Jew. This is what the convert meant by thanking Hillel for enabling him to make it under the wings of the Divine Presence.


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