Ohel Yaacob Congregation

Ohel Yaacob Congregation

Deal, New Jersey

Parasha Insight - from Rabbi Eli J Mansour

Parashat Ahare Mot: Defeating The Enemy of "Hergel"


        In the beginning of Parashat Ahare-Mot, God instructs Moshe to warn his brother, Aharon, against entering the innermost sanctum of the Mishkan: "Speak to your brother Aharon, that he should not enter the sacred [chamber] at any time…" (16:2).  It was only on the day of Yom Kippur that Aharan was to enter this chamber, as part of the special service conducted on this day.


     The obvious question arises as to why God discouraged – let alone forbade – Aharon from entering the sacred chamber whenever he wished.  Rashi explains, "For I am always seen there… And since My Shechina [Divine Presence] is revealed there, he must ensure not to grow accustomed to entering."  In other words, Aharon may not enter the chamber because that is where the Divine Presence is seen at all times.  At first glance, this seems very difficult to understand.  If that is where a person can experience the Divine Presence, then why shouldn't he visit that site every day?  If there a person can experience the Shechina to the very fullest, why not spend as much time there as possible?


     Rav Haim Shemuelevitz (1902-19789), Rosh Yeshiva of the Mir Yeshiva in Israel, explained that God did not want Aharon to grow accustomed to this experience, for if he did, the effect of this experience would diminish.  A person is awed upon beholding something grand and wondrous, but only if he beholds the sight infrequently.  Somebody who visits the Swiss Alps for the first time is awed and enamored by the majesty and beauty of the snowcapped hilltops, but the tour guide who brought him there looks at his watch wondering when they could leave.  Similarly, God did not want Aharon to become a frequent visitor to the sacred chamber of the Mishkan, so that the power and effects of this experience will always be felt, each and every time he entered the chamber to perform the annual Yom Kippur service.


     Rav Haim added that this phenomenon of "Hergel" – growing too accustomed to uplifting experiences – is the single greatest enemy of a Jew aspiring for spiritual perfection.  Human nature is such that adults don their Tefillin with mindless rote, while the new Bar-Misva boy puts on his Tefillin with intense fervor and enthusiasm.  And this is true of all Misvot.  As we perform the Misvot consistently, each and every day, we run the risk of "Hergel," of performing them mindlessly and without any emotion or feeling.  When this happens, the Misvot become a burdensome task, rather than a precious opportunity to connect with our Creator.


     How can we overcome this tendency?  How is it possible for somebody to defeat this dangerous enemy of "Hergel" and retain a constant sense of excitement and zeal in Misva performance?  It is told that the Gaon of Vilna (1720-1797) could not sleep on the night after Pesah, because of his eager anticipation of the opportunity he would have the next morning to finally don Tefillin, for the first time in a week.  How can a person maintain such an emotional bond with an activity he performs daily for so many years?


     One way is through the study of Mussar – ethical and religious teachings.  Books of Mussar act like "lighter fluid," capable of transforming the small flame inside a person's soul into a raging fire.  It directs a person's attention onto the importance and centrality of Misvot, injecting him with the passion and fervor that is otherwise lost in the day-to-day routine of religious observance.


     Secondly, a person must learn, plain and simple.  As the Sages admonish in Pirke Avot (2:5), "Lo Am Ha'ares Hasid" – "An ignoramus cannot be pious."  By engaging in intensive study and analysis of the laws and concepts of the Torah, a person becomes more sensitized and will then approach them with greater zeal and concentration.  Perhaps the most common example of the importance of study is the area of Berachot.  So many of us recite Berachot much too quickly and without any concentration or feeling.  Often, we say the words so carelessly that we mispronounce them.  A brief review of the Halachot in the Shulhan Aruch about the proper recitation of Berachot (Orah Haim, Siman 5) will remind a person of how attentive and focused he must be each and every time he recites a Beracha.


     Through the regular study of both Mussar and Halacha, we will hopefully stay attuned to the value and centrality of every Misva we perform.  We will then be able to observe the Torah with great joy and emotion, rather than through mindless rote and emotionless habit.

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Wed, 16 April 2014 16 Nisan 5774