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Thursday, 4 December 2014

Do you worship or abuse the ground you walk on?

Daf Yomi Yevamos 61

The Ark-opener was putting the Torah back when all of a sudden it inexplicably slipped from his fingers and came crashing down, landing on the ground in front of the Ark.  It didn’t happen in my shul; a colleague shared the story with me and proceeded to tell of how much disdain everyone in the shul was feeling for this poor fellow who had made them fast for having witnessed the dropping of the Torah.

“It’s not his fault,” I said to him, “it’s theirs.”
“What do you mean?” he asked incredulously.  “He dropped the Torah, not them.”
“So why do they have to fast?” I asked rhetorically.
He replied nonetheless.  “That’s what the Halacha demands.  You witness a Sefer Torah falling to the ground, you must fast.”
“Remember when Moses dropped the Tablets?” I inquired, “That wasn’t his fault.  He dropped them because the assembly was misbehaving.  And that’s why he wasn’t the one that needed to atone; it was the entire Israelite nation. “
“The same is true here,” I continued, “When the Torah drops in front of a congregation, it is a sign that they are spiritually deficient.  That’s why they all need to fast. “
“It’s not him, it’s them,” I concluded.

The Torah states, “Adam (a man), when he shall die in a tent . . .”
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai taught: The graves of gentiles do not contaminate the tent, for the prophet Ezekiel declared, “For you (O Israel) are my flock, the sheep of my pasture.  You are Adam.”  We see that you (the Jewish people) are called Adam but gentiles are not referred to as Adam.

G-d gave Adam his name based upon his humble beginnings – he came from the earth, adamah.   Don’t non-Jews also come from the earth?  Why should they be denied the appellation ‘Adam’?

According to Kabbalah, the name Adam has an additional meaning.  It comes from the word adameh, which means ‘I shall be like.’  The complete phrase is ‘adameh l’Elyon’ – I shall be like the Supernal, and it refers to our ability to be G-dly.   What makes us G-dly?  It’s our ability to transform the physical into spiritual, and that’s the connection between adamah and adameh.  As a Jew, you can take the earth and make it Divine.

For example, if you take a piece of cowhide and scribble some Hebrew words onto it and then drop it, you will have to fast.  That’s right, if a Torah scroll is dropped, the entire community must fast.  Why?  It’s just a piece of cowhide!  No, it’s not.  You have taken the mundane, physical cowhide and spiritually transformed it to make it Divine.  It may still appear physical to the naked eye, but we know that it has been transformed to spirituality.

Non-Jews can be good people and if they subscribe to the noahide laws, they will be rewarded in this world and in the next.  But they don’t have the extraordinary power that was given to the Jewish people – to transform this world from adamah to adameh.  That’s a uniquely Jewish gift, and that’s why we are called Adam. 

Every time you take something physical and utilize it for a mitzvah purpose, you have elevated that mundane object and made it spiritual.  Whether it’s a palm branch that you are transforming into a holy lulav or it is a wax candle that you are transforming into the light of Shabbos, you possess this incredible Divine power!

But it’s also a huge responsibility.  The Kabbalists tell us that when you tread upon a stone and fail to think about Torah at that moment, the stone complains to G-d that it feels unfulfilled and abused.  You failed that stone.  You had the opportunity to elevate it by transforming it into a support for Torah but instead you were thinking about last night’s TV show!

Every moment on earth is an opportunity to transform the mundane and make it spiritual.  Don’t miss an opportunity – you have a uniquely Adamesque mission!