By: Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron
Inviting the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
“Sanctify us with your commandments…” Hashem sanctifies us with His commandments and also provides us the option of sanctifying ourselves beyond the commandments obligatory for every Jew. The distinction between obligation and behavior beyond the letter of the law is clearly described in the Mesilat Yesharim as being the distinction between the tzadik (the righteous figure who observes the law perfectly) versus the Hasid (the pious individual who behaves beyond the letter of the law). One legitimate motive for pious behavior is to taken on practices and regulations that keep one farther away from breaking the letter of the law. Yet another lofty motive in pious behavior is to take on or accentuate a practice that fits well with the spiritual direction the Torah leads us out of the love of God. For example, the Torah commands us to give tithes of one’s produce grown in the Land of Israel to the poor on the third and sixth year of the Sabbatical cycle (like this year). However, pious individuals may not be satisfied with this amount – rather, they may give a fifth of their earnings to the poor. Another example of piety can be found in this parsha which highlights the Torah-ordained path of piety of the Nazirite.
Aside of the Torah-ordained Nazirite, one of the obvious questions to be asked in regard to pious behavior is how can one ascertain the spiritual direction of the Torah when all the laws of the Torah are decrees from the Amighty and cannot be fully comprehended by the human mind? One answer to this question lies with the understanding that although we cannot fully comprehend the internal meaning of the commandments; nevertheless, we may – and should – find meaning in the mitzvot on the partial level we are capable of perceiving. We should clarify that when contemplating the mitzvot, it is best to make aid of the teachings of our Sages and rabbis throughout the generations who received a tradition in regard to the spiritual direction of the Torah (such as the Kabbalah), and/or are better equipped to ascertain the internal meanings of the mitzot through their wisdom and broad knowledge of the entire Torah.
Another important facet in contemplating the internal meaning of the mitzvot is the inspirational ‘air’ of the Land of Israel. Our Sages teach that the ‘air’ of the Land of Israel provides one with wisdom. Commentators explain that specifically the term ‘wisdom’ is used in this context since wisdom involves inspiration from a source beyond the individual while ‘understanding’, for example, involves the comprehension of the individuals within themselves. In this way, one who contemplates the meaning of the mitzvot in the Land of Israel may not be using mere personal-human understanding, but may tap into the Divine wisening ‘air’ of the Holy Land, the inspirational ‘air’ of the Holy Presence – each individual according to their spiritual stature. Therefore, pious behavior in the Holy Land is more deeply and truly inspired, to such an extent that an individual may even feel as if Hashem is personally directing them in their own personal path of self-perfection and closeness to Hashem (of course in the bounds of halacha).
Throughout the ages, Hebron, the Beacon of the Holy Land, has enlightened and inspired many of its inhabitants with the inspiration of pious behavior. One of these inhabitants was Rabbi Moshe HaLevi, the Nazirite. In 5428 (1668) Rabbi Moshe the Nazirite became the chief rabbi of Hebron. Rabbi Moshe HaNazir also was sent for a number of years as an emissary to the Diaspora on behalf of Hebron’s Jewish community. The ‘Hacham Zvi’, Rabbi Zvi Ashkenazi, describes how Rabbi Moshe HaNazir met him in Belgrade where Rabbi Moshe led a ‘zimun’ (calling of three men or more to bless after bread) at a meal they had together, but he did not bless on the wine, as is customary, due to his Nazirite vow (which forbids wine intake). His Torah is printed in the responsa ‘Mateh Yosef’, and his book ‘Yedei Moshe’ on Hoshen Mishpat remained in manuscript.
Real Stories from the Holy Land #266
“One day, my wife asked me to buy lemons. That same day, I came across a lemon tree in Hebron whose branches collapsed a blizzard, halachically rendering it as ownerless. There were so many lemons – that after taking what I needed, there were still plenty to give to my friends.”
Sources: Sefer Hebron p. 127
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