Thursday, December 15, 2005

CHASSIDIC DIMENSION: Alien Artifacts (Vayishlach)


Kislev 14, 5766 * December 15, 2005


Parshat Vayishlach

Alien Artifacts
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In the Torah portion of Vayishlach we read: “Yaakov said to his family and everyone with him: ‘Get rid of the alien gods that you have. Purify yourselves and change your clothes.’ ”

The Rambam notes that although the ritual impurity of idolatry is of Rabbinic origin, it is hinted at by Yaakov’s statement. The Rambam’s allusion to this verse provides us with a general understanding regarding idolatry.

One may well ask, how is it possible that idolatry is found in G-d’s world? This is something like the question that was asked of the Sages: “If G-d does not desire idolatry, why doesn’t He have it cease to exist?”

The Gemara records that the Sages answered: “They [the idolaters] serve the sun, the moon, the stars and the constellations. Should His world then be destroyed because of these fools?”

Although this is a telling response, the question remains: How does G-d permit man to even think there may be some truth to idolatry? Surely, if G-d didn’t want idolatry to exist, it would be impossible for man to entertain such thoughts?

The answer lies in the Rambam’s statement that the ritual impurity of idolatry is hinted at in the verse: “Get rid of the foreign gods.”

In other words, the fact that idolatry can exist is so that it can be eliminated — not as a natural development, but as a result of the actions of the Jewish people.

G-d desires that matters of holiness be revealed through the spiritual service of the Jews. He therefore created the world in such a manner that idolatry is possible, so that the Jewish people might reveal the true belief in the One G-d.

The Alter Rebbe states that every transgression can be regarded as a minor form of idolatry. For G-d’s unity, the antithesis of idolatry, means not merely that there is only one Creator, but that G-d is the only being that truly exists. All of existence is absolutely nullified before Him, and completely one with Him.

Therefore, when one acts in defiance of G-d’s will as expressed in the commandments, one sets oneself apart from G-d, acting as though He were a separate entity. This constitutes a denial of G-d’s unity, and the transgressor is therefore guilty of a form of idolatry.

Understandably, this extends not only to the person who transgresses, but also to the objects through which he transgresses; they too are in opposition to His unity.

Thus, just as idolatry itself is merely a fantasy in the mind of the worshipper, the sole purpose of which is to be negated by the Jewish people, so too with all forbidden matters — they exist only so that the Jews might overcome their blandishments.

The above fortifies us in our spiritual service. In the face of the numerous obstacles that stand in one’s path, a person may wonder from where he is to derive the strength to overcome the evil that surrounds him and emerge victorious?

We see from the above that all opposition to holiness is a result of the concealment of the fact that “nothing truly exists other than He” — nothing in the world can exist independently of G-d.

When a person cleaves to G-d to such a degree that G-d’s true unity is revealed within him, then all opposition to G-dliness will end, much as darkness — something that has no true existence — is dispelled before light.

(Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXX, pp. 155-159.)


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