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Shabbat Parashat Vayigash 5777

Ein Ayah: Internal Recognition of Purity and Impurity

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 2:288)

Gemara: Rabbi Shimon asked: “Is there something that needs to be remedied?” They said to him: “There is a place where there is a safek (question whether there is a halachic problem) of tumah (impurity), and it causes the kohanim distress to detour around it.” Rabbi Shimon said: “Is there anyone who determined places of purity here?” An old man said: “Ben Zakkai (a great rabbi who was a kohen) did agricultural work with a turmos fruit of teruma.” Rabbi Shimon did the same thing [he did something with a turmos, although there are different opinions exactly what]. Everywhere that the earth was hard, he pronounced as pure, and everywhere that was soft, he marked [as impure because the grave that was there rose]. 


Ein Ayah: The external course of affairs needs to correspond to that which is internally desired. The internal goal at the time [that Rabbi Shimon left the cave] was to restore the stature of the generation, which had been lowered, until it reached at least the level that existed in the previous generation of Ben Zakkai. For that reason, Rabbi Shimon performed an action that resembled that which Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai had done.

The action was taken in order to have the generation elevated to the point of increased light where it was not necessary to enter into toil in order to deal with questions of halachic doubt (see Ein Ayah, Shabbat 2:286). Rather, the light would make it appropriate to focus the light of Torah on a path of certainty and clarification. The attempt to embark on such a course of removing doubt needs a lot of work to implement because of the presence of people for whom it is foreign, who cannot appreciate the depth of the strength of the new light. They may think that the goal of the ruling is to be lenient for the purpose of allowing something which was assumed to have been forbidden. This could cause people to take lightly the notion of careful concern for mitzvot.

The unique turmos fruit was thus a good metaphor for the idea being applied. Turmos requires more preparation and cooking than all other fruits. After this is accomplished, the bitter turns into sweet, and it can be served as a desert that leaves an especially good taste.

The way that the spirit of Hashem, which flows to those who fear Him, elevates the soul does not require a great quantity of miracles or philosophical inquiry. The important thing is the quality of that which is perceived with tremendous belief in the hearts of the upright upon whom Hashem’s light shines. The same inquiry that leaves in doubt one who lacks a strong spirit, will be understood clearly as correct by a man of G-d. “The path of the righteous is like the light that radiates, and it will continuously give light until the day is at its brightest” (Mishlei 4:18).

This situation of light is not only connected to logical intellectual and abstract recognition. Rather, it is connected to all ways of life and to the physical body and the spirit to the point that it brings the greatest closeness to Hashem that is humanly possible. It is so powerful to the extent that it gives the tzaddik the ability to make decrees and have them come true (see Iyov 22:28). A simple miracle is enough to demonstrate this point.

Therefore, whatever place in the ground was hard was pure, and every place that became soft he marked as impure because it connected to the quality of the internal recognition that cannot be identified with external signs. Such a state of affairs already brings about wondrous things as “the King’s word is dominion” (see Kohelet 8:4). “Fortunate is the one whose strength comes from You” (Tehillim 84:6).

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