Parsha sheet: Shemini/Parah – Breakthrough or Break down

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Why 8?

“And it was the eighth day…” why is this the eighth day? What is its connection to the seven days prior? During  the seven days of the “Miluim” Moshe Rabbeinu served as the Kohen Gadol in a “white garment with no hem” and the Mishkan was taken apart at the end of every day! This “8th  day”  was Rosh Chodesh Nissan and the beginning of a new order of where the Kehuna passes to Ahron and his sons who wear the colorful Bigdei Kehuna and the Mishkan stands on a permanent basis pending when the Jewish people as a whole relocate.

Why Die

Another thing to explore is the relationship between our Parsha and Parshas Parah. These two intersect only on the occasion of a leap year which is a very special year with a special message. Regarding Parshas Parah there are three issues that beg explanation: Firstly, why is a big deal made out of the fact that it is one of the Mitzvos we don’t understand and only Moshe Rabbeinu himself could understand it. As Rashi points out, this is true of other mitzvahs as well! Why the emphasis on Parah Aduma as the not understandable Mitzva that even Shlomo HaMelech could not understand and only Moshe understood? Secondly, Rashi works through the pesukim and  shows how everything about Parah Aduma is a “Tikun” for the chet ha’egel, what is the connection? The Pasuk says “this is the Torah when a man dies in the tent…” Chazal see in this a allusion to “Ameilus B’Torah” – toil in TorahThe man should work hard  to the point that it’s like he’s killing himself for the Torah! Why the extreme metaphor of “dying” in the tent of Torah? What does this have to do with Parah Aduma?

Mishlei Mystery

The  Midrash in this week’s Parsha, in reference to the words “and it was the eighth day….” says a variety of drashos on the first three pesukim  of the ninth chapter of Mishlei which reads as follows (translated in the spirit of how to Midrash uses them): “Wisdoms built her house, carved her pillars seven (in number), she butchered her meat, poured her wine, and also set her table. She sent for her maidens and called them to a high plateau in the city. Who is the fool that strayed? For heartless she called him…”. The Midrash first interprets this as alluding to the creation of the world: “Wisdom built her house” – refers to Hashem who created wisdom created the earth. “Carved her pillars seven” – refers to the seven days of creation. “Butchered the meat” – refers to how the earth brought forth all the living creature. “Poured the wine” – refers to how Hashem said, “all the waters should gather in one place”.  “And also set her table” – refers to the land growing vegetation. “Sent for her maidens” – refers to Adam and Chava. “Called to the high plateau of the city” – refers to that Hashem lead them astray by allowing the snake to tell them that if they eat from the tree of knowledge they will be “like gods”. “After all this praise (as to the lofty the status of Adam and Chava)” –“Who is the fool that will stray” – refers to how they abandoned the “knowledge of Hashem” and went after the “knowledge of the snake” and therefore: “Heartless she called him” – refers to that Hashem said (since they went down in level) you are dust and you will go back to dust”. Seemingly the main point  is missing! where is the “eighth”? What does “eight” have to do with the failure of Adam and Chava?

Where is the 8th?

The Midrash then threads through the pesukim as referring to the giving of the Torah: “Wisdoms built her house” – refers to the Torah. “Carved her pillars seven” – refer to the seven books of the Torah. The Midrash explains Sefer Bamidbar could be divided into three. The book up to the first upside down “Nun” by “Vayehi binsoah”, then the parsha of “Vayehi Binsoah” and then everything beyond this second upside down “Nun” – making what we call “Chumash” divided into seven parts instead of five. “Butchered the meat” – refers to all the punishments that the Torah prescribes to the sinners. “Poured the wine” refers to the Drashos like “Kal V’Chomer” and “Gezeira shavah” and the like. “And also “Archa”- set  her table” could be read as “Erchim” as in the laws of “Erchim”. “Sent for her maidens” – refers to the Jewish people. “Called to the high plateau of the city” – Hashem swept them up  by calling them “divine” as it says (Tehillim 82:6) “I said that you are “E-lohim” and after all this praise… “who is the fool that will stray” – they abandoned the “Knowledge of Hashem” and told the golden calf “this is your god Israel” and therefore: “Heartless she called him” and said to them (Tehillim 82:7) “alas like man you shall die”. Here also, the critical connection to the “eighth” is missing! What does this have to do with “Shemini”?

The 8th

Finally, the Midrash relates these Pesukim to our parsha: says “Wisdoms built her house” –refers to Betzalel as pasuk says: “I filled him with the spirit from Hashem with wisdom understanding and knowledge”.  “Carved her pillars seven”  – these are the seven days of “Miluim”. “Butchered the meat” –  refers to the Korbanos. “Poured the wine” – refers to the “Nesachim”- sacraments. “And also set her table” refers to the laying out of the “Lechem HaPanim”. “Sent for her maidens to call..” – refers to Moshe who called for Ahron and his children as it’s written “on the eighth day Moshe called  Ahron and his children…”. This Midrash does not thread through the other three points of: “Called to the high plateau of the city”, “who is the fool that will stray”, and “Heartless she called him”, we will have to figure out those pieces ourselves. At least in this version of the Midrash we see that the “eighth” is the “sent for the maidens to call” and we can work backwards and reverse engineer that Hashem calling to Adam and Chava and calling to the Jewish people is the aspect of the “eighth”. But what does this all mean?                             

The revelation of integration

“Wisdoms built her house and  Carved out seven pillars…..”. Seven pillars stand separate from each other. The seven days of creation are separate days that don’t coexist concurrently. On each and every day distinct forces and creations were set up on that particular day. Do we see all the vast wisdom that went in to the creation if we look at those days and their creations separately? The “whole house” was built with “wisdoms”! When you only look at the pillars you only see one piece of the puzzle, not the mass of wisdom. When we look at the different forces of creation in a vacuum and disconnected to the “whole” we cannot see the infinite wisdom. When we look at the entirety of the cosmos we can see we could see the wisdom in the cosmic balance, the ecological system, and the system of checks and balances between the different forces of nature. If we look at the whole of the human body we will see the miracle of life, the power of DNA, and the wonders of the immune system, as opposed to  looking at an isolated finger. This is what Hashem left for us to do and this is the secret that man was created last because Man‘s job is to pull all the pieces together and reveal the Divine wisdoms in creation. An example of man’s mission is technology. We can only appreciate the greatness of  electricity and fossil fuels when we see the contraptions that we could build and power with them. When we pull pieces together We reveal  the amazing wisdom that is in  these forces of nature, which are in groups of seven. All the technology that we reveal (“invent” – by our perception) Hashem had already planned and invested in Nature – but it was hidden until man reveals it by pulling the pieces together either in his mind or with the structures and devices he assembles! We unlock and reveal the infinite wisdom by pulling the pieces together and making “whole things” out of parts – that’s our mission!

Man’s Mission

The Nefesh HaChaim explains man was created last to pull all the pieces together because he himself is a walking microcosm of all of reality his body is inclusive of all the physical forces and his soul is inclusive of all spiritual forces and that’s what puts man in the position to be the one who combines the world in different permutations that unlocks the infinite wisdom! – That’s what it means “Sent for her maidens” – refers to Adam and Chava – it was their job to complete the world, not by creating any  new mass or energy, only Hashem  can make something out of nothing. Rather they were to provide the cosmos  with a unifying form and that is the “eighth”! The “eighth” is not physical as physicality only has seven points to it: there’s the two poles of each of the three dimensions and the center. The concept of “eight” (and above) refers to the wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, that went into creation. It’s man’s job to use  his G-D given knowledge to tap in to the cosmic knowledge and reveal it by pulling the pieces of reality together in intelligent design that reflects Divine will and wisdom. This privileged position is what it means they were “Called to the high plateau of the city” – to stand above creation and imprint it with intelligent design that reveals all the potential that was invested in it and to reveal all the infinite wisdom that went into planning it. This is a man’s ability to be a creator!

Connection or Independence?

They were led astray by the snake who said “you will be like gods” Rashi says on the spot that it means “you’ll fashion worlds”! The snake was saying: “If you eat from the tree of knowledge you could make your own individual independent imprint on reality and have your own ‘New Deal’ and remake society and the world in your own image”. With this we can appreciate how the Midrash defines their sin as “they abandoned the “knowledge of Hashem” and went after the “knowledge of the snake” – meaning to say as opposed to using their intelligence to tap in to Hashem’s intelligence they went after “the knowledge of the snake” and attempted to be independent of Hashem. At that point the opposite of what was supposed to happen occurred! Man was supposed to “pull the pieces together” and the critical difference between integration and disintegration is mortality! The two pieces that need to be permanently synthesized are the body and soul.  At that point of integration man lives forever. However, going after “fake knowledge” and trying to create a “fake Newness” to connect the world in a fake way caused the exact opposite – disintegration! In man that meant death, because body and soul would fission off from each other and in the whole world it was a lack of blessing. True blessing is in supplementation. Blessing is when  all the components of creation supplement and complement each other. With the forces of creation disintegrated, “accursed is the earth because you”.

A Mitzvah from Beyond

With this we could understand why the sin of “Etz HaDaas” which caused our mentality to deviate from being an “antenna” to tap into the Divine intelligence causes death. Parah aduma takes off the impurity of death which means that it comes from the original level of “knowledge of Hashem” that we deviated from – and that’s why we can’t understand this mitzvah!! Moshe Rabbeinu who is a living vehicle of Torah, his mind is the mind of the Torah! That’s why he can understand parah aduma.

Giving Form to Torah!

The giving of the Torah was a second chance for mankind and the world. This time we were getting down to the very roots of reality itself. As we know, with Torah Hashem created the world. Even in Torah there is the written Torah which can also be in a division of seven like the laws of nature and there’s the oral Torah that pulls together the pesukim together in all types of wonderful constructs which reveal the true infinite depths of the Torah! The written law gets divided into seven like nature itself if you look at each pasuk in a vacuum or each sefer in a vacuum you don’t see the beautiful infinite beauty and wisdom of the Torah, you just see verses and their plainest meaning. In Torah she’baal peh we cross reference and because of that we also penetrate the depths!  It’s Klal Yisroel’s  job to process the written law, which is like ‘nature’, which is the secret of why the goyim were able to also steal the “Chumash” and the rest of the written law, because it’s the aspect of Torah that is parallel to nature where goyim live also…. The written law “requires assembly” and it is Klal Yisroel’s job to apply the Torah she’baal peh Torah and reveal the infinite Divine wisdom of the Torah. The truth is that man’s ability to affect the world is rooted metaphysically in the oral Torah that dwells inside of man!

Drunk with power

When we were granted the Torah on that we were called “divine” and at that point we had transcended the sin of Adam as Chazal tell us: “the contamination of the sin of Adam ceased by the Jews that stood at Har Sinai” (Shabbos 146a). On that level we were called to “come to the high plateau of the city” as we would be in charge of processing the Torah and revealing all its meaning as if we  were equal partners with Hashem in revealing the Divine wisdom to the world. We got carried away and we felt the ability to create uninhibitedly. Therefore, when we were in a quandary as to what happened to Moshe, we didn’t wait like we should have, rather we took matters into her own hands and made the Egel to replace the Mishkan that was promised (Kuzari maamar 1). We were not allowed to create things that have no basis in Hashem’s commands – you’re allowed to build the Mishkan only because Hashem commanded it – anything graven image not commanded remains prohibited as an idol. Drunk with spiritual power we abandoned the “Knowledge of Hashem” and made the Egel.

Bridging the “Death Gap”

With that mortality was restored – “alas like man you shall die” – but we merited to retain the Torah anyway, after Moshe begged for mercy for us. However, because the Torah is “Hashem’s Knowledge” that we abandoned in favor of our own way of thinking that’s why when we learn Torah we don’t naturally understand it. That’s why we have to toil and work hard at it. Even after we finally understood it, we  have to perpetually review it and review it otherwise we forget it. We lost our “natural connection” to the Torah and that’s why it requires tremendous “Ameilus” – toil to the point of death. Because the difference between when our  minds were naturally aligned with the Torah as opposed to the way our minds work now is the difference between immortality and mortality! When we were naturally aligned with the Torah we were immortal,  our current state is to be mortal hence the difference between our knowledge and the knowledge of Torah is the difference between eternal life and death. Our “Ameilus”-Toil has to make up that difference! That’s why Chazal express it as “killing ourselves over the Torah”. Parah aduma takes off the impurity of death, which makes up (Somewhat) for death’s  comeback by the sin of the golden calf. That’s why Parah adumah is a “Tikun” for the sin of the golden calf and therefore it is there that the Torah taught us what is necessary to do, “kill ourselves in the Beis Medrash”, to compensate for the ill effects of that sin.

The fresh start initiative

Then came another chance with the building of the Mishkan. It was like a miniature New World of perfection reminiscent of the time of creation. This is the secret behind what Chazal say that on this “8th day” Hashem had joy like the creation of the world! “Wisdoms built the house” – refers to Betzalel and indeed Chazal tell us that Betzalel had all the wisdom with which to create worlds (Berachos 95a) and all that wisdom went into the Mishkan!! The Mishkan‘s first seven days are like the seven days of creation – it was disassembled at the end of every day symbolize it out each day is a separate force! The Mishkan is erected on each day to fix that day to make it reminiscent of the original seven days of creation, but the Mishkan is not going to be standing from day to day to combine those forces – because the time is not right! First the original seven forces of nature need to be fixed onto their own and that’s why each day had its Mishkan. Then the Mishkan was taken down and re-directed to be the Mishkan of the next day to fix that following day. Just like at the time of creation Hashem acted alone during the first seven days, and man’s role comes after the seven are in place, so also during the seven days Moshe does the Avoda because Moshe is Hashem’s agent it’s as if Hashem is doing it! He serves in a “white garment with no hem (borders)” symbolizing infinite light as white includes all the colors and no hem means no borders.  It is parallel to the infinite power that invested in each component of creation. That infinite power has to be revealed by unleashing what that components can do when they interface with the whole – and that’s the significance of “On the eighth day he called to Ahron and his children…” they represent humanity – but not all humanity – just a chosen form of humanity. Ahron in his Bigdei Kehuna is like putting himself in the body of Adam before the sin and that’s the secret that any Kohen that does the Divine service without the Bigdei kehuna has the same halacha as if a Yisroel who wasn’t chosen did the Avoda. When the Kohen is in his Bigdei kehuna it’s like he’s in a perfect body reminiscent of Adam before the sin and the space of the Mishkan is like the perfect world as it was at that time! At this moment of tremendous “Tikun” of undoing the sin of the golden calf and bringing back the Divine presence to dwell amongst us is called “to rise to the high plateau of the city” – this moment is called the “eighth day” – the point of integration!

Nadav Avihu Eliyahu

The “8th” is also where a man can easily go off and do his own thing…… Nadav and Avihu did exactly that – “they brought a foreign fire that wasn’t commanded”. But there is a crucial difference. First and foremost, that setback only affected them, it did not ruin the Mishkan! That in of itself attests to the fact that what they did is not as bad as the sin of the golden calf or the sin  of the “etz hadaas”. The crucial difference is: they did it because they wanted to connect to Hashem even more! They didn’t want independence, they wanted to be conduits to bring the Divine wisdom into space and to reflect the divine light. They wanted  nothing more than to be “antennas” to pick up the Divine light and wisdom. They were not satisfied with the boundaries in place and then they broke the boundaries – because they wanted even more closeness to Hashem. That’s what Moshe says: “their death is not in vain. It’s a demonstration of the awesomeness of the Mishkan, and they were chosen to display that awesomeness”! That’s why they had their Tikun when they got incorporated into they went Pinchas (Zohar end of Balak see “Even shesiya” on pinchas 5778) who later became Eliyahu who himself never died and was able to get back to the level of Adam before the sin. The eventual resurrection of all the dead will be brought about by Eliyahu (shir hashirim Rabbah)! Their intent was totally pure and although they died now and made Parah aduma necessary for those who carried their corpses in their next incarnation they will bring immortality back and get beyond Parah Aduma, speedily in our days!