School’s Out

A teaching of Menahem Nahum of Chernobyl, Meor Einayim, Parshat Ki Tissa.

Rabbi Yochanan said in the name of Rabbi Yose: Whoever delights in the Sabbath is granted a boundless heritage, as it says, “If you proclaim the Sabbath a delight, then you will be granted pleasure with God, and I shall mount you astride the heights of the world; and I will provide you the heritage of your forefather Jacob”…of whom it is written, “you shall burst out westward, eastward, northward, and southward.” (1)

This is like the parable of a man who has a young son. Even though the boy acts foolishly and immaturely, the father delights in his love for him, for he knows that once the boy matures he will serve God, and his future maturity will grow out of this very immaturity. The same occurs when a person serves God. Everything the person has — his mind, his personality, his very life — is a gift from God to use to serve Him, and even though the spiritually immature person acts foolishly, God still delights in him, knowing that once he matures he will return everything to God. This is why he is called “the son in whom I delight; whenever I have spoken against him, My thoughts would return to him still” (2).

All non-holy days draw from the life force of the Creator, but through a process of withdrawal and disguise (3). This is like the father who hides his face from his son, allowing him the freedom to act foolishly. On Shabbat, however, there is no withdrawal or constriction at all; the father forgets what the son has done, having nothing but compassion for him, and stands by him to make sure he does nothing foolish.

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1) Shabbat 118a; Isaiah 58:14; Genesis 28:14   2) Jeremiah 31:20   3) This is the mystical concept of tzimtzum, “constriction” or “withdrawal”: God withdraws some of the infinite divine light to make “room” for the finite world, then pours out that light through a series of “veils,” so that the (now dimmed) light can reach the finite world and sustain it without overpowering it. While God is present, that Presence is not as recognizable as on Shabbat.

Jeff says…

Shabbat is called the day of rest not only because on it we rest from our labors, but because on a deeper level on this day all things return to their divine root and rest there — hence the shared root (שב) of both “rest” and “return.” In that place of divine unity, there are no divisions and no limits, including between past and future, and even good and bad. On this day, God sees all of our actions only from the perspective of our end, which the optimistic Meor Einayim claims will be to return to God’s service. What a far cry from the image of the schoolmaster marking down our merits and demerits! Instead, every failure is seen as part of growing up, spiritually. As my own father said every time I did a knuckle-headed thing as a teenager, “Well, that’s how you learn.” So our distance from God, when He “hides His face,” is only God’s way of allowing us to grow; but, mercifully, we have one day each week when we can take a break from learning (usually the hard way), and just be, when we can have “a taste of the World to Come,” that time when we will have learned all we need to learn and can go back home to stay.

The Meor Einayim doesn’t mention a single word of the parshah in this teaching. Here’s the question: why did he include this teaching in Parshat Ki Tissa, and what’s the connection?

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This entry was posted in Divine Service, Hasidic Masters, Ki Tissa, Menahem Nahum of Chernobyl/Meor Einayim, Parsha. Bookmark the permalink.

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