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Shabbat Parashat Beshalach 5778

Ein Ayah: The Time to Join the Masses

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 6:5)

Gemara: Rav was told: A great and tall man, who limps and teaches that it is permitted to wear a crown, has come. Rav said: Who is a great and tall man who limps? Levi. It is clear, then, that Rabbi Affes has died, Rav Chanina has taken on the role of the head of the central rabbinical academy, so that Levi had no one to study with and came here. Maybe Rav Chanina died, Rabbi Affes remained as he was, and Levi had no one to sit with, and therefore he came here? If Rav Chanina would have died, Levi would have made himself subservient to Rabbi Affes.


Ein Ayah: There is a “measure and weight” for everything. There is a special value for spiritual actions when an individual stands by himself and is able to make himself recognizable as a unique spiritual force. There is also a value for a great individual to be included and subsumed within a community. Even though that will cause him to somewhat lessen his unique characteristics, there are advantages to this lessening, as it allows him to join a larger whole. This allows the elevated spirituality of the lofty soul to enter inside the soul of the community and give it life and energy.  

The critical determination of which of these approaches, the growth as an individual or the joining of a group, that a great person is to take requires connection to the secrets of the world. One determining factor is whether there are facilitators within the community to enable the inclusion of the great individual. Another is whether there is anything that stands up as an obstacle to the individual growth of the great individual, which can potentially be equal to a full world.

Levi was able to use the partnership with Rav Chanina to elevate himself in the bright light of wisdom and great and holy peaks of holy emotions. When Rav Chanina became unavailable to him, this changed his plans. Rabbi Affes was of a very high level, so much so that even if he had to lower himself when he took responsibility for the broader community so that lower-level people could relate to him, he was still able to greatly elevate those around him with the great light that flowed from him.

Levi decided that if he had the opportunity to connect himself to the great Rav Chanina, this would justify his staying out of the circle of leadership of the broad community, which allowed him to be on a high level. The joining together of the two would allow them to be a unit that remained separate from the general society. However, if staying out would require being alone, then it would have been worthwhile to join the leadership – while it was led by Rabbi Affes.

However, since this was not possible, Levi came to Bavel in search of joining with the highest level of spiritual/intellectual partnership. With Rav, he could join in a manner that would elevate the community. Fortunate was the generation that had such bright lights illuminating it, who were able to influence their surroundings even more by their special characteristics than by their actions.

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