While Avraham is given the directive lech lecha “go into yourself and understand who you are” by G-d, Yaakov, out of free will, engages in a Vayetze, a leaving of his internal place to an external mindset. This is because Avraham and Yaakov had two different missions. Avraham had to build himself from the inside out to create an inner core that could take on a world of atheism and convert it to a state of monotheism, while Yaakov had to engage in external battles with his brother and the yetzer hara that is a constant force trying to thwart Torah learning.
My late relative, Rav Avrohom Genechovsky zt”l, told me a drash related to this parsha. Esav, out of need to fulfill his immediate desires in this world, surrenders the bechor rights for adashim. Rav Avrohom said that these adashim are alluded to in Rav Yehuda’s acronym on Pesach for the ten plagues in the form of detzach, adash be’achav. Rav Avrohom explained, that based on drash Rav Yehudah’s statement can be understood to mean that one who engages in detzach, symbolic of ditza rina, and chedvah – manifestations of enjoying this world for short term purposes, as evidenced by “adash” the adashim by Esav, will be in a situation of be’acah, ba chov – the debt will have to paid – meaning that this type of ephemeral happiness will ultimately be reckoned for and have to be paid back.
We say in Ashrei, Malchutcha malchut kol-olamim, umemshaltecha b’chol dor vador. The common explanation of this verse is that, “G-d’s kingdom will last forever, and You (G-d) will rule in all generations.” However, based on drash, we can understand the verse to be saying, “G-d’s kingdom will last forever, but “we” rule You (G-d) in all generations.”
In this week’s parsha, we are familiarized with the language of “dominion” as it says by the episode of Avraham’s swearing of his slave Eliezer, that Eleizer was moshel (ruled) on all of Avraham’s possessions.
This Biblical verse can shed light on the drash in Ashrei because Eliezer was labeled as Avraham’s eved – slave and the verse says that Eliezer ruled over everything. The message is that if you are a true eved you can rule over your master. So too, if we are full-fledged avadim to Hashem, G-d would have no greater pleasure then embracing our rule.
Mind Control In Elul
It’s estimated that we have 50,000 thoughts a day; some of them are unwanted. For those who wish to control their thoughts, I suggest the following:
Kabbalah teaches that the first few moments of a negative thought are not our own; they are sent from heaven. But it’s our responsibility to disregard these thoughts. As the parsha so poetically says this week, “Shoftim ve’shotrim titein lecha be’sharecha.” We must place safeguards to prevent evil from penetrating us.
First we must be shoftim and judge the thought. If it is negative, we must then be shotrim and destroy it by disregarding it.
Who doesn’t struggle with thoughts? It’s estimated that we have more than 60,000 thoughts a day. Is there a strategy and philosophy about the thinking process to adopt?
Tanach and Kabbalah address this issue. Kabbalistically, we are told that the first few seconds of “negative” thoughts implanted in our brain are not our own, but sent from our negative chamber in heavens. It’s our responsibility to disregard these thoughts. As parsha Shoftim so poetically says, Shoftim veshotrim titen-lecha bechol-she’areycha. The drash is that we must place safeguards to prevent evil from penetrating us. First, we must be shoftim, and judge the thought. If it is negative we must be shotrim and destroy it, by disregarding it.
There is also a creative thinking process. The Torah is the most creative document to date. The first verse of the Torah begins, “Breishis bara – In the beginning G-d created.” But based on drash it means, In the beginning comes brius, creativity. This is a mandate for this world, to engage in creative thought.
Addressing active thinking, we know the verse in Mishlei (19:21) says, “There are many thoughts in the heart of man, but the counsel of G-d prevails.” I have heard two interpretations of this verse. The common one is that man has many thoughts, but only the one that G-d wants to materialize will take effect. Another beautiful interpretation is to say that the many thoughts of man are “based on the counsel of G-d,” meaning all our thoughts come from G-d – specifically on the positive and creative side. If one goes with the first interpretation, then we are active, thinking individuals who are blessed to ultimately be guided by the Almighty in the right direction. According to the second path, we must celebrate the fact that G-d is leading our thought process, meaning we are being showered with thoughts directly from above; what a privilege.
Perhaps a philosophy to deal with thoughts is to try to destroy the bad one’s after a few seconds and to embrace the creative one’s either as men of ideas or as recipients of G-d’s thinking process.
Luckily for us, Shavuos is every day. The Zohar proclaims that the Torah is given anew every day. This conforms with the Mishna in Pirkei Avot that says, “A daily voice from Har Sinai proclaims, ‘Woe to the disgrace of Torah.’”
My late relative, Rav Avrohom Genechovsky zt”l, provided me with an insight that sheds light on nature and in turn the Volcano in Hawaii that has been erupting.
He said the outside of the earth is mainly covered in water, the center of earth is energized by fire and the inner core is rock-solid. Based on this he said that our behavior should be modeled after the makeup of the world. On the outside we should be malleable and flexible with our neighbors like water, our center should be guided by fire, namely the Torah, and our inner core should be rock-solid in our beliefs like the inner core of earth.
The Volcano might make for exciting news, but it also exhibits the pouring out of fire from the center of earth that symbolizes what our center should be filled with on a daily basis, the fire of Torah.
If you ever looked at a child’s scalp, you will see a wondrous phenomenon. At the top center of the head the hair swirls around in circles extending out, almost mimicking the beginning of a universe. As adults we retain the exact same blueprint, though in children we see it in greater detail.
What’s the significance? The Talmud in Sanhedrin teaches: Bishvili nivra ha’olam – “the world was created for me.” This statement applies with greatest potency to a newly born child, as his first innocent breath exists closer in time to the beginning of the universe than his elders, which is symbolized in his circular, universe-like, hair sprouting. Therefore, this world, literally, in real time was created for him. Generally speaking, the child becomes the adult who, as well, is at the center of the universe that was created for him.
We know the Gemara in Kiddushin states that there are three partners in the creation of the child, the two parents and G-d himself. Therefore, a child is not a linear birth but a circular interconnected one. This partnership leads to the growth of a child who ultimately becomes an adult.
But let’s investigate the most important lesson of this circular physical manifestation on the surface of the child’s head. The head ” mind,” represents the intellectual curve of man. We are familiar with the notion, Hakol holech achar harosh– “everything goes after the beginning.” But based on drash we may interpret the statement differently to say, “everything goes after the mind.” The intellect of man must ultimately decide the trajectory of his actions, a concept that inherently exists in the mind from birth.
Here I would like to introduce a concept my late relative, Rav Avrohom Genechovsky Zt”l, previous rosh yeshiva of Tchebin, said over to me. He said, one must look to the universe to learn how to behave. The majority the surface of the world is covered by water, the center is made up of fire and the inner core is rock-solid. Therefore, on the outside we must be like water, flexible and understanding with our neighbor, our center must be guided by fire, namely the Torah and our inner core must be rock-solid in terms of our belief system.
Approaching Shavuos we can look at models of the universe to prepare. Let us become like the circular curvatures of our mind and mimic the world which is flexible on the outside, fiery in the center and rock-solid within.