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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Toldos, Breishis 27:25. The Fragrance of Gan Eden

My studies in Yeshiva never included the Zohar/Arizal.  I never felt drawn to it because I have seen, among otherwise intelligent and learned people, so many heresies and stupidities and vicious fights, all stemming from absolute confidence to their version of such studies.  I always thought that faith meant accepting that others could sincerely disagree with you, because faith, by definition, is not provable.  While believing in Torah min Hashamayim is, we believe, true to any honest thinker, and only obscured by a rebellious willful blindness, I don't think the same applies to the various shittos in esoteric tradition.  The Gaon and Reb Chaim Volozhiner and Reb Tzadok, and even the Arvei Nachal, are unapproachable without learning the basics, and I don't trust anyone to teach me the basics. I know that my Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Rudderman, had a Tanya on his night table and knew it by heart.  I am told that when my wife's grandfather, Reb Moshe, visited the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Rebbe listed three issues in the Zohar that he had never resolved, and that he gratefully received Reb Moshe's interpretations of the three issues.   My erstwhile peers have become experts on Reb Tzadok.  But I've chosen to delimit my field of vision.

Still, sometimes the two worlds impinge upon each other, and I find something that seems to be subject to analysis with the tools I do have.  I predicate this discussion with two caveats that will become self evident:  that I remain confused about most of what I discuss here,  and as for the part I think I understand, I am probably completely off the track.  So this discussion is pure uninformed speculation.  It's nothing more than intellectual tourism.  I'm not de Tocqueville, and chances are that I'm saying Naarishkeit.  But if you can't say an occasional naarishkeit, if an ignorant man can't offer his opinion about things about which he knows nothing, what's an internet for?

My assessment of myself is not based on external opinions.  Even so, I am subject to some degree of embarrassment, so forgive me as I point out that an occasional naarishkeit is just what it says- occasional.  In the past I have  said   some   very   good   things   on   this   parsha.

I want to discuss the idea of historical תיקון החטא- that the commission of a sin creates a global need to fix or correct the sin, and that the sin can be rectified by the actions of someone a thousand years later.  I'm not sure what this means.  Even I have read that our behavior has powerful results in upper worlds; sins cause tremendous damage, and meritorious acts create spiritual beauty and perfection.  But how does one repair damage done in the ancient past?  Is it simply a form of Teshuva?  How does Shimon's teshuva help for Reuven?  Is it like לאו הניתק לעשה, where the mitzva undoes, is מנתק, the aveira, by curing the illness that the sin engendered?  Or is it like a לאו הניתק לעשה because Reuven's sin diminished the world's spirituality by creating greater distance from the Ribono shel Olam, and Shimon, by decreasing that distance, heightens the spirituality of the physical universe, thereby being מתקן the aveira?  Did Reuven's sin tilt the world, necessitating that someone put the world back on its axis?

But I would like to speculate that in the spiritual world, concepts can be ruined, or tainted, just as objects can be ruined in the physical world.  A Middah can be damaged if it is used in furtherance of a bad goal.  Reuven's sin creates a reality where this Middah is bad, and Shimon has to do something positive with that Middah so that the Middah itself will be rehabilitated.

So, Tikun is a means of rehabilitating the world, bringing it back to its pre-sin holiness.  How is this done?
1.  It is a form of ניתק לעשה, in that it fixes damage done to the world by the aveira.  It won't help Reuven, but it helps the world.  I personally don't get this approach.  As far as the world is concerned, it ought to be good enough to just stop doing the bad.  There should be no need to do it over again correctly.
2.  It is a form of Teshuva.  Somehow, Shimon's teshuva helps for Reuven.  One assumes that this works only when Shimon somehow embodies Reuven , or that Shimon is another version of Reuven.
3.  It is a means of rehabilitating the Middah that was damaged by misuse.  If so, it doesn't require any identity of Reuven and Shimon.

The specific relevance to our parsha is that this concept is undeniably clear in Chazal's interpretation of the story of the Brachos of Yakov and Eisav.

The Zohar here (143)
בגין כך אזדמן יעקב בחכמתא ובעקימו, דאייתי ברכאן עליה דיעקב דאיהו כגוונא דאדם הראשון, ואתנטלו מההוא חויא דאיהו שפת שקר, דכמה שקרא אמר וכמה מלי דשקרא עבד, בגין לאטעאה ולאייתאה לווטין על עלמא, בגין כך אתא יעקב בחכמה ואטעי לאבוי, בגין לאייתאה ברכאן על עלמא, ולנטלא מניה מה דמנע מעלמא, ומדה לקבל מדה הוה.

Yakov engaged in shrewdness and subterfuge so as to bring blessings to Yakov who was akin to Adam, and they were taken from that serpent who is false words, that said so many false words and did so many false things, in order to mislead and bring curses upon the world, therefore came Yakov with shrewdness and tricked his father, in order to bring blessings on the world and to take back what had been withheld from the world, measure for measure.

The Zohar says that the intention of Yitzchok in giving the brachos was to rectify the damage done through the duplicity of the Nachash in Gan Eden.  The way this was to be accomplished was by overcoming a natural predilection to deception in pursuit of a positive goal.

But even without the Zohar, the echoes of  the story of the Nachash in Gan Eden that are apparent here are simply too numerous to disregard.  Yaakov came "b'mirma" and the Nachash was described as "arum."    We know that when Yakov walked in to his father for the blessings, he was wearing the garment of Adam, as the Tanchuma says in 12, and Rashi on 27:25 says that when Yitzchak remarked about the fragrance of the field that came in with Yakov, it was the fragrance of Gan Eden that he perceived.

The bottom line is that Yakov was able to reverse the damage caused by the Nachash, and in order to do that, he had to replay the spiritual script of the story of Gan Eden.  There was an Adam Harishon, there was a Gan Eden, and there was a deception.  But this time the deception was for the benefit of mankind, not its detriment.   The story was replayed, and this time it was done right.  So the fragrance of Gan Eden wasn't simply a manifestation of the righteousness and perfection of Yaakov.  It was a foreshadowing of the opportunity to rectify what had gone wrong in Gan Eden so many years before.

So what was the machlokes between Yitzchak and Rivka?

1.  Yitzchak held that giving the brachos to Eisav would enable Eisav to bend his natural tendency towards self interest to the service of the Ribono shel Olam.  Rivka held that this does not rectify the damage done by the Nachash.  That required the use of deception by a person who was as perfect as Adam before his fall.

2.  Alternatively, let's assume that that Eisav functions as the equivalent of the Nachash in this story.  Perhaps Yitzchak held that in order to reverse the effect of the Nachash, Eisav had to get the brachos.  Yitschak held that the Nachash himself has to be rehabilitated.  Rivka held that you can't rehabilitate a Nachash.  All you can do is rehabilitate the midda, and change it from a midda ra'a to a midda tova.  Maybe that's not as wonderful as rehabilitating the Nachash would have been, but it's much, much safer.

If Yitzchak's plan had worked, it would have been wonderful.  But if it didn't, then it would have created an unprecedented disaster- it would have reinforced and multiplied the damage done by the Nachash in Gan Eden.  Rivka's plan may not have been as wonderful, but it also did not involve so great a risk.

3.  Or, that the machlokes was in the lomdus of Tikun Hachet.  Yitzchak held that tikun of a chet is a form of Teshuva, and so it had to be done by the Nachash, or someone that embodies the Nachash, or another version of the Nachash.  That would have been Eisav.  Rivka held that it is a matter of repairing a middah, changing back from a middah ra'ah to a midda tova.  This could be done just as well, and much more safely, by Yitzchak.

4.  Or, that they were arguing about Reb Boruch Ber's svara in his introduction to Gittin.  The Gemara (BK 94b) says that heirs of a thief must return their father's stolen goods because of Kibud Av.  But the Gemara asks, there is no mitzva of kibbud by a rasha! The Gemara answers that the father did teshuva but had no time to return the stolen goods.  Reb Boruch Ber asks, but teshuva for theft requires that one return the stolen object, so the fact remains that the father did not do teshuva and is a rasha!  He answers that there is teshuva for Tikkun of the sin, and teshuva for Tikkun of the act.  Tikun of the act does not require regret, and tikun of the sin does not require restitution.  He relates this to the Machlokes Rama and Bach in CM 34:29, regarding a  man that was forced by Beis Din to return what he stole, but who still intends to be a thief in the future.  The Rama holds he is still pasul to be an eid, and the Bach says he is kasher for eidus.  Reb Baruch Ber uses his distinction to explain why we don't say that every aveira in the Torah is called ניתק לעשה.  The reason is that the mitzva of Teshuva will be a tikun for the sin, but not for the act, and for nittuk, you need tikun for the act.

With Reb Boruch Ber we can say that Yitzchak held like the Bach, that tikun of the chet of the Nachash only required that the act be reversed, and for that, Eisav was fine.  Additionally, according to the Bach, it could be argued that you bichlal don't need that the malefactor does the tikkun!  As long as the act is reversed, you have tikkun of the act.  Rivka held like the Rama, and tikun of the act doesn't mean the same as tikun of the chet, and one without the other is ineffective.

1 comment:

Chaim B. said...

>>>But how does one repair damage done in the ancient past?

Another possibility: time is cyclical, so nothing is ever in the ancient past. We keep reliving the same opportunities/pitfalls in different guises. One of these times around we will get it right.