"Moshiach is ready to come now-our part is to increase in acts of goodness and kindness" -The Rebbe

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Where does our heart lie? I

The Talmud says[1] that the time for the Mitzvah of kindling the Chanukah lights is “from when the sun sets until passers-by cease from the marketplace.” The Talmud explains that this time extends “until the steps of the people of Tarmuda’i cease.” Rashi explains that the people of Tarmud, who would sell wood in the market-place, were always the last to leave. Every night they would wait until everyone else had gone home, in case they needed wood for their fires.

On a deeper level, the word Tarmudai is etymologically related to the word meridah, rebellion, and represents rebellion against Hashem (may He save us). This is analogous to the moredes, “insubordinate wife,” a woman who refuses to engage in marital relations. The husband-wife relationship is fundamentally one of giver and recipient; the husband is the giver, and the wife is the recipient or “vessel” for what the husband gives. In a proper marriage, through the first act of intimacy, the husband forges a deep emotional bond with his wife that makes the wife desire to act as a mekabel, a recipient from him. An insubordinate wife, however, does not desire to receive from her husband.

Likewise, the Jewish people are compared to Hashem’s wife (this is the basis of the entire book of Shir Hashirim). We are also referred to a vessel, as King David said, “I will lift a cup of salvation.”[2] The Jewish people are likened to a “cup” that receives Hashem’s blessings of salvation. This implies that they should yearn to receive from Hashem alone, from holiness, and that when they do, they are living as they ought to, as they were meant to.

This concept is not only true of the Jewish people as a collective; it also applies to each individual Jew. A Jew’s desire and yearning should be to receive only from Hashem. This means that the Jew’s bond with Hashem is not just about following the Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Jewish Law. It is about where his heart lies.

If a Jew fulfills the Shulchan Aruch meticulously, but sets his heart, dreams, and strivings elsewhere, his bond with Hashem is fundamentally lacking. Every desire that a Jew has for something independent of the framework of serving Hashem is a kind of inner rebellion against Hashem, a kind of subtle infidelity in this personal relationship with Hashem. Chanukah represents refining the inner self of the Jew to the point at which all his desires and yearnings are related to serving Hashem.
[1] Shabbos 21b.
[2] Tehillim 116:13.

Adapted from Sefer HaMa’amarim 5713, Misheteshka hachamah.
See also the follow-up post here.