Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Thank G-d!

In Parshas Kedoshim (the second of a double Parsha this Shabbos), we are commanded to not eat the fruits of our tree the first three years of its planting. A kabbalistic reason for this is that they generate their lifeforce from the Gimmel Klipos HaTmaiois. The fourth year's produce is holy,  as such that you must eat them only within the walls of Jerusalem. Finally, the fifth year's produce you may eat, even outside of Jerusalem, even if you are ritually impure. These are the highest level of produce, like the Alter Rebbe explains that the fruit from the first three years represent the lowest three spiritual worlds (Briah, Yetzirah, and Asiya), the fourth year represents Atzilus, and the fifth year is likened to the tip of the letter Yud, in G-d's name (each of the four letters of His name correspond to the four worlds just mentioned).

So the Rebbe asks the following simple question-
If the fifth year's fruits are the holiest, how come you don't have to eat them only in Jerusalem and only when you are ritually pure? From the psukim it is even clear that the whole reason for the laws of abstaining the first 3 (4) years, is in order to receive the abundant blessing of produce in the fifth year. How could the fifth year be so great, and yet be taken so... casually, and eaten in such a mundane way?

To address this question, the Rebbe quotes from his father-in-law, a story about the Ba'al Shem Tov.

Before he revealed himself as the great sage, Kabbalist, and revolutionary founder of the Chassidich movement, the Ba'al Shem Tov used to travel from city to city, meeting with the simple Jews, and help bring them closer to Heaven. One such mission he took on himself, was to ask every Jew (man, woman, child) how they were doing in their business, health, and prosperity, hoping to elicit a "Very good, thank G-d!"
Praising Hashem was something very important in the Ba'al Shem Tov's eyes, and he loved to help the townspeople praise and thank Hashem.
In one such village, the Ba'al Shem Tov went to the town hermit, or Parush, who had worked for the past fifty years to avoid as much of the physical world as possible. He spent day and night learning, and would only eat some bread and water late in the evening.
"How is your health, and livelihood?" the Besht asked. The Besht looked like a simple villager, and this Parush didn't even answer him. After being asking twice more, the Parush motioned with his hand for the Ba'al Shem Tov to leave at once.
"How can you deny Hashem His parnasah??" the Besht asked?
The Parush thought this man was crazy. Hashem!? Parnassah???
The Ba'al Shem Tov explained, "Dovid HaMelech says in Tehillim: 'V'Atah Kadosh Yosheiv Tehillos Yisroel', which means that Hashem 'sits', and settles into this world, on the praises of the Yidden. We get our Parnassa from Hashem, why don't you thank Him for it, and give Him His parnassa?"

The Rebbe analyzes this story. The Parush was learning Torah day and night. He specifically avoided any and all things physical, especially health and parnassa. Why would this not be good enough to 'sustain' Hashem? And why would the Ba'al Shem Tov specifically ask about such physical topics, knowing the Parush abstained from them?

The message from the Ba'al Shem Tov is that it is easy to see Hashem and thank Him for the holy things in our lives. But what about the low parts of our lives, and of the world? Hashem wants us to make for Him a Dirah Btachtonim, in these physical, low parts. We cannot live separate from the world, like this hermit tried doing. We must work to refine and elevate our bodies, our cities, and the world.

It is mainly in the low parts of the world, and in the mundane that we are meant (and able) to draw G-d's essence, His 'Atzmus', down in a Dwelling Place in this world.

Therefore, it is so important to thank Hashem and praise Him for the physical parts of our existence, as well, and it is for this that Hashem 'sits' down and we draw His Presence into the world, as King David described.

Now we can understand simply why it is the fifth year's crops, which can be eaten while impure, and in any location, can still be, and specifically for this reason be, the holiest type of produce.

(Taken from the first sicha on Parshas Kedoshim in chelek Zayin)