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Shabbat Parashat Behar 5778

Ein Ayah: The Significance of a Metaphor

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 6:50)

Gemara: Why does R. Eliezer say that a sword is an adornment? It is because the pasuk says: “Fasten your sword to your waist; it is your glory and splendor” (Tehillim 45:4). But that is a metaphor for the words of Torah! A pasuk is not to be totally removed from its simple meaning.


Ein Ayah: Imagination and intellect may seem to be two separate things, and often they are indeed very contradictory. However, they do share elements and are actually of one category of existence.

A person’s internal spiritual side starts the essential development of an idea with imagination. The matter then matures until it reaches the level of a matter of the intellect. It turns out then that the intellect is but a fruit that matured from a seed that started to grow in one’s imagination.

Therefore, the whole wonderful matter of seeking truth is not intended to uproot the existence and influence of the imagination but to find how it is compatible with the intellect in one’s midst. When imagination connects nicely to the intellect, it improves the intellect and makes it more pleasant and brings to the fore great lights and the deepest treasures of the intellect. The completeness of this compatibility is seen in the most complete revelations of the human spirit, the highest of which is Divine Spirit and prophecy. In these spiritual sources, everything comes from all-encompassing completeness. Ideas are taken from the world that includes all matters and are revealed by the light of divine completeness, which appears to those who are capable of grasping divine matters.

The simple meaning of a biblical text can often be a façade that imagination allows to express an internal idea, which is much deeper than that which is displayed. Nevertheless, there will be no discrepancy between them, but there is full and internal compatibility. In the spiritual world, spiritual valor is most completely revealed when it paves a path by removing from its way difficult impediments that darken its light. This includes the impediment of intellectual mistakes that darken the light of the intellect. It also includes coarse animalistic inclinations, which lower and distort the holy desire hidden in the depth of the soul. The pure and gentle internal force, which has sanctity from Above, goes from potential to actual when it defeats the forces that stand up against it. It reaches a higher level than it could have had the path been clear without impediments.

Similarly, the defeat of enemies of Hashem, who oppose goodness and justice, is something that gives a crown of valor that acts as an adornment. The metaphorical use of a sword in spiritual matters does not only represent a practical step but hints at the presence of a human elevation of the spirit. The idea that valor in matters of Torah can be described by fastening a sword to smite spiritual impediments by increasing the light of truth and justice, is linked to the idea that divine spirit values the grandeur of valor. Thus, for this to be a good metaphor, it must be that the sword is viewed as an adornment because we are using it to describe a great thing – complementing that which is seen with the imagination with the high level of that which emerges from the intellect. That is why the metaphor must pass the test of “a pasuk is not to be totally removed from its simple meaning.” Even if the generations are improved and internal matters will be the most important thing in the broadest segments of society, there will still be some place and value for lowly imagination, which corresponds to the simple meaning of a pasuk.

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