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Shabbat Parashat Bamidbar 5778

Ein Ayah: Sharpness and Simplicity

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 6:52-3)

Gemara: [The gemara homiletically analyzes a pasuk in Tehillim (45:5) that follows the one raised in the previous gemara. The simple context of the pasuk is in praising the king. The close-to-literal translation of the very poetic pasuk is: “Your grandeur (vahadarcha) you shall succeed and ride on the matter of truth, humility, and justice, and your right hand shall fearsomely shoot arrows.”]  When two Torah scholars sharpen each other in matters of Halacha, Hashem will grant them success, as the pasuk says in a modified manner: “you will sharpen (vachadadcha) and succeed. Furthermore, they will rise to prominence, as the pasuk says, “you shall succeed and ride.”


Ein Ayah: That which is attractive sometimes contradicts that which is good, so that there is a choice between attractive but not good and good but not attractive. This is true not only in the physical world but also in the spiritual world. Specifically, that which is good in the intellectual world is the truth; that which is attractive is the sharpness. When the attractive and the good are unified, then each strengthens its counterpart in an essential manner of repeated goodness. This is true if nothing destructive ruins the positive coexistence, as the attractive is liable to create distractions that detract from the goodness.  

When spiritual attractiveness is connected to related goodness, i.e., to truth, it is smoother than the truth itself, so that the internal truth is blessed with attractiveness. When one takes the intellectual inquiry to a faster and more distant plane, the closer and more secure truth becomes clearer, in a manner that the simple approach to truth could not attain. It is actually best when the two spiritual powers connect, with the mental creativity expanding and being glorious yet remaining within the confines of the truth. When each force has its own unique outlook, it helps ensure that the other force does not stray from its proper place. We then find that the grandeur of the power of spirituality is the intellectual attractiveness that is adorned with ideas that excite the spirit with their sharpness. They enjoy internal success from Hashem, whose signet is truth, as the gemara says that Hashem will provide success.

A person should not think that truth demands that people’s thoughts remain simple, without light, intellectual joy, and a broadening of the mind. It is true that there are many elements of truth that are limited to that which is simple, and that a heart that loves truth feels the great beauty of a truth that is short and simple. That being said, one should not depress the uplifting feeling that comes from ideas from “distant intellectual places” and a host of thoughts that are full of sharpness. When they come in the right measure, they reveal great truth adorned with bright colors that includes divinely bequeathed spiritual success.

The characteristic of shining light of truth from the midst of the complication of different opinions and distinctions, which comes along with true intellectual sharpness, forms the basis of public leadership. The leader must collect the different opinions and phenomena that are spread throughout the community and bring them to one large and orderly apparatus of orderly truth. Such leadership is most appropriate for Torah scholars who are part of an effort to connect different elements of intellectual attainment with richly shaded truth. That is the reason that such people rise to greatness.
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