This shiur is based on a Meshech Chochma at the end of Parshas Shlach. Rabbi Cooperman, whose five volume edition of the Meshech Chochma has “opened up” this perush to the masses, calls this one of R. Meir Simcha of Dvinsk’s “classics”. I did it on a Shabbos afternoon at BIAV this year and with the Quinn/Trent and Laura Daniels/David and Elaine Freidman/Shirlee Ernstein group. It was well received – and I also did it with the Kassefs and Steve Passer, so don’t use it again there.
The Torah instructs us to put fringes on the corners of our garments and somehow, through doing this, we remember all of Hashem’s mitzvos. How exactly does this work? Is it the complex Gematrios, knots, strings,etc that lead me to understanding that there are 613 mitzvos? How is this exactly going to inspire me to do the mitzvos? Is this what I am supposed to think of when I wake up in the morning? Now there is the famous Chazal that attempts to link the techeles in the tzitzis to the ocean, then Kisei Hakavod, but this is also asking a lot from a person; it also doesn’t explain why specifically the techeles was put on tzitizis – what is the symbolism of the mitzvah?
The answer involves studying the persona of Avraham Avinu in depth.
Chazal darshen the word “BiHibar’am” that appears a couple of places in pesukim summarizing the creation of man. If you flip around the letters (see midrash) it spells “B’Avraham” – ie in the merit of Avraham, He created Adam and Chava – and the world. This is very difficult to understand! Avraham, as far as the Torah narrative is concerned, is selected when Hashem’s initial “plan” for the world doesn’t materialize due to the immorality of man. So how is it that creation is finalized “Bzchus Avraham?”
This requires an analysis of who Avraham Avinu was. In the story with the four and five kings, AA rescues Lot along with Eliezer and 318 men. Now the midrash also says that the Gematria of Eliezer’s name was 318, and that the rest of the soldiers whom Avraham had trained, bailed out at the last second. But, however, you loook at it, this was an amazing feat – for Avraham and Eliezer to succeed in recapturing Lot by outsmarting these kings. Rav Nebenzhal notes elsewhere that AA does not seem to operate by the normal rules of nature. What exactly are we supposed to learn from this concept – ie that AA has a major nes done for him (compare to the midrash about being thrown into the Kivshan Ha’esh by Nimrod, who is his arch nemesis here, as well in the form of “Amrafel” (see Rashi in Chumash, who darshens his name, based on a midrash, to refer to Nimrod)
We see in the next pesukim (source 5) that Malchizedek understands AA to be special and blessed. Malchizedek is himself a monotheist; Chazal understand him to be Shem ben Noach and Melech Shalem, is really Melech of Yerushalayim..He is a Kohen L’Kel Elyon…
Anyhow, the term “Koneh Shamayim Va’aretz” is clearly a reference to Hashem, who owns Heaven and Earth by virtue of having created it. But Chazal – in source 6 – the Midrash Tanchumah, darshen “Koneh Shamayim Va’aretz” as a reference to AA!! In other words, once Malchizedek saw that AA, the monotheist, is ready to battle for his beliefs against the Ovdei AZ, he notes that the world is being given over into AA’s hands – ie he is not bound by the regular rules of nature since he directs his energies to fulfilling HKBH’s plan for the world. Now, they didn’t mean that this was the pshat of the pasuk. But the penetrated the Omek Hapshat of what “Baruch Avram L’Kel Elyon Koneh Shamayim Va’aretz means” – someone who is Baruch L’Shem gains this status by virtue of him fulfilling Hashem’s will. Who is Hashem? He is Koneh Shamayim Va’aretz – He created a world and had an agenda for that world. Avraham’s behavior is in sinc with that plan for the world. Therefore, his type of personality will be given a leadership role in that world. SEE SIFSEI CHAYIM, SOURCE 7. This can supplemented with sources 8 and 9 – where Am Yisrael, when doing Hashem’s will – even benefits from having the rain fall on the most convenient night of the week!! (Shabbos) See inside actual Meshech Chochma in Vayikra, where rain falls on leil revi’i as well, when a particular demon was known to be wandering about….
Sources 10 and 11 focus on the famous conversation between R. Akiva and Turnusrufus, are ma’asei Bnei Adam or Ma’asei Hashem better? Rabbi Akiva drives home his point that G-d gave man a physical world but the world is the raw material which man has to be mashlim. Bris milah is a bit of a paradox, in which the hashlama of man comes through removal of a part of the body.
To deepen our understanding of this yesod, we have sources 12-13. The MC and Rabbi Cooperman explain that when Hashem contacts AA prior to the Bris, he appears in the name of Elokim. Elokim denotes Hashem as the Boreh Olam, the being that sets nature in motion. Elokim is Midas HaDin, Din involves a framework
and set rules, Teva. But after Avraham does the Bris on himself, source 15 – HKBH appears to him as Yud Heh Vav Heh – ie Hashem who transcends time. Haya, Hove, Viyihiyeh. Hashem as not bound by Teva. See source 16, where he contrasts Hashem as the mikayem hateva vs Hashem who changes Teva. AA, once he does the Bris, shows that he can be mishaneh the Teva ie his own Teva – he takes the Teva (denoted by Elokim – pre-Bris) and is mishaneh and thereby mashlim it (Yud Heh Vav Heh). This would be an opportunity to introduce the famous Maharals about the number 8, and how the Jew’s role in the world is to transcend Teva (denoted by the number 7). Bnei Noach have sheva mitzvos, by which they justify the world’s creation – ie the world was saved due to Noach, but AA is the next stage – the world must be perfected, not just sustained.
It turns out that we as Jews have a chance to create like Hashem, to truly be shutafim with Hashem in Ma’aseh Bereishis. The next couple of sources point out this theme when it comes to Dayanim who are Dan cases in accordance with Torah law.
See now the final sources, as we wrap up our discussion and turn from this backdrop of AA as a Mashlim Habriah to the mitzvah of Tzitzis.
In Barchi Nafshi, we have Hashem putting on a garment of light. The following midrash asks where light came from, and answers that Hashem clothed himself in light and shone from one end of the world to the next. What does this mean? Don’t know, but we do know that Hashem wears “clothes” so to speak – what is the chief function of clothing? To cover. Clothing can also be deceptive – Beged is Boged!
Hashem, by clothing himself in nature, provided man with the opportunity to mistakenly see nature as a self-sustaining phenomenon. And this is just what the fool will do, if he chooses so (see source 21). But the religious perspective is to see that nature is just a masking of Hashem’s presence in the world.
Now let’s turn to the mitzvah of Tzitizis; we put fringes on the four corners of our garment. MC implies that the four corners may represent the four corners of the earth (see Birchos Krias Shma) – and the Beged is symbolic of Hashem’s world – as we said. The fringes are the yet unwoven threads of Hashem’s world. Each morning, when we wake up , we have to understand that like AA, it is incumbent upon us to continue the weave, and be mashlim Hashem’s world
This is very inspiring and this is the immediate message conveyed to us when we arise in the morning. Now Bris Mila is the most extreme way in which this hashlama occurs. But equally important are all of the mitzvah opportunities that we have to take the physical world given to us – and, still using the tzitizis imagery – tie it back to Hashem. eg fruit (brachos) if you own a field in EY – Peah, ma’aser etc
everything about our world, we can be mashlim by using it for the purpose for which it was created, and join AA in being a Koneh Shamayim Va’aretz. See source 24 and English selection at the end.