By: Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron
Inviting the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
And I Shall Break Your Yokes and Make You Walk Upright
“May the Merciful One break the yoke of exiles from upon our necks and raise us upright to our land.” This supplication said at the end of Birkat Hamazon clearly evokes our title quote from this week’s parsha. If “yoke” in the verse is identified with exile and “upright” is identified as the return to the Land of Israel, then we should also the question, why is “exile” called a “yoke” and the return to our Land identified with “uprightness?” Many answers may be given to this question, but, in light of Lag Baomer this week, we would like here to examine one of the deeper answers to this question, based on the teachings of the Zohar and Rabbi Haim Vital on the nature of exile and redemption. According to the Zohar and Rabbi Haim Vital in his introduction to Etz Haim the primary cause of the lengthening of Israel’s exile is the lack of the study of the secrets of the Torah, known as the “Kabbalah.” Briefly explained, these sources say that the lack of study of the secrets of the Torah causes Israel’s connection to Hashem and His Torah to be superficial, and the soul-connection and devotion to Hashem and His Holy Presence is severely lacking. The Zohar continues to say that, although the “revealed” Torah, i.e halachic study and its exegesis, is crucial, nevertheless when the study of the latter overrides the esoteric side of the Torah causing the esoteric Torah to be disregarded and neglected, that is the primary cause of the prolonging of exile. The Zohar explains that the “revealed Torah,” which deals with the Torah’s relationship to the material world, is meant to serve as a primary aid and “servant” to the “soul of the Torah,” the esoteric Torah, just as the more material body is meant to act as an aid and “servant” to the internal soul that extends within the body. Ultimately, the Zohar continues, it is the esoteric Torah which enables one to more directly connect to the Holy Presence, the source of/”master over” all the souls of Israel, and therefore the esoteric Torah is called the “mistress” while the “revealed Torah” is called her “servant”. Therefore, the Zohar says, allowing the “revealed Torah” to override the esoteric Torah is tantamount to making a servant/maidservant rule over his/her “mistress,” [similar to Hagar’s mocking of Sarah her mistress], causing the prolonging of exile. The Baal HaSulam, Rabbi Y. L Ashlag, further explains this by saying that when Israel do not fulfill their spiritual potential, i.e when they are only involved with Torah that deals with the material world overriding the esoteric Torah, then in turn the nations of the world also do not realize Israel’s spiritual leadership in the world, and therefore these nations rule over and subjugate Israel through the state of exile. Here we should note that all this does definitely not mean that one must first learn the esoteric Torah and only later the revealed Torah, but rather one must first build the basic level of man, i.e halachic observance and its understanding, before rising to the higher level of soul-connection that comes with the esoteric Torah. Also, within the “revealed Torah,” the halacha, the Mishna, Talmud, etc., the secrets of the Torah are embedded, albeit in a hidden fashion so that without the “keys” of the esoteric Torah one may remain “blind” to them.
Returning to our original question we may understand that “yoke upon the neck” represents the placing of the material yoke upon the soul, i.e the person, upon which it is placed. It is in the Land of Israel where the Holy Presence rests, and therefore, this means that even if a person feels materially comfortable in exile, nevertheless he is still in exile, for he is still removed from the Light of the Holy Presence, the Light of the “Mistress” (mentioned above) which rests in the Holy Land. Also within the Holy Land, if one remains indifferent to the spiritual light present here and is not “awakened” to its light by the esoteric Torah, then still here an element of “exile,” to a certain extent, is present, i.e the superiority of the material over the spiritual. In Hebron, Beacon of the Holy Land we are awakened to the call of redemption, the call to awaken our souls, and so says the Tikunei Zohar: “at that time (the “end of days”) the three Patriarchs will adjoin with might, and Truah, Shvarim, Tkiah will be sounded, and with them the “the earth shall shake,” and this will be in the “end of days,” and all these miracles will be in the Land of Israel, for there is located Hebron where the Patriarchs are buried.” (Tikunei Zohar 13, 28b)
Real Stories from the Holy Land #317
When Ibrahim Feha conquered Hebron his army was given permission to take spoils from the city for three days and nights… Jews hid their valuables in tunnels and fled. Only R’ Yisrael Yafa could not flee for he safeguarded his daughter who was dying. The robbing soldiers found R’ Yisrael and threatened his life if he would not reveal the hiding place of the valuables. Therefore, R’ Yisrael revealed the hiding tunnel and they stole everything. Then, R’ Yosef Schmerling who served in the Austrian Consul of Hebron turned to his neighbor, coined the “black rabbi” (we told his story for the Rosh Hashana issue of this year) an Arab who had been once a ferocious robber of Jews but was transformed, over time and through a financial agreement, into a friend of the Jews of Hebron. He told him, “we have been robbed,” but the “black rabbi” became angry and said “turn aside!” When R’ Schmerling asked him twice and thrice the “black rabbi” threatened to stab him in his heart. However, R’ Scherling did not relent and said: “our master and shield! My soul is in your hands, save us!” The “black rabbi” yielded and sent a command to stop the robbing, to return the property of the Jews, and to allow the Jews to return to their houses. So it was, and all the Jews’ property was returned with no exception. That day it was the 19th of Iyar, and it was announced as a “Purim of Hebron,” and Tahanun was not said on that day thereafter.
(Background on the “black rabbi” from our issue for Rosh Hashana this year) “One story that depicts Rabbi Yosef Slonim’s cleverness was his dealing with an Arab robber who constantly robbed Jews, and who even threatened rape unless he received large sums. Only under Rabbi Yosef’s influence did this robber gradually take on Rabbi Yosef’s authority till he agreed to stop robbing entirely in exchange for receiving the regular stipend of the Jews that was customary to give in those days to the Jewish
inhabitants of Hebron. After this, this Arab received the nickname “the black Rabbi” as can be seen in the lists of the Jewish recipients of stipends in Hebron in those days…)
Source: Sefer Hebron p. 309
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