Shavuot, Part III
By Rabbi Dr. Meir Tamari
One of the fascinating aspects of the Shem Mi Shmuel is the teaching that
the discussions in the Talmud, even when they concern purely legal and
ritual issues, in effect present different perspectives and emphases of
religious, spiritual and ethical aspects. This is an affirmation that the
Divine Law revealed at Sinai is justice, spirituality and truth. Apart
from showing great scholarship, the approach adopted by the Shem Mi Shmuel
adds a spiritual dimension to what are usually taught as purely legal and
“ Rava said,' The third day mentioned in the Torah refers to their
encampment at Sinai. Rabbi Acha the son of Ya'akov said,' This refers to
the commencement of their journey from Refidim to Sinai'. They disagreed
concerning the Shabbat commandment given to Israel at Marah. Rabbi Yehuda
said in the name of Rava,' As I commanded you ' [in the Ten Commandments
(Devarim, 5:12)], means that they were given Shabbat laws at Mara [' There
He gave them edicts [Shabbat] and social laws' (Shmot, 15:25)]. One
scholar said that at Marah they were commanded only concerning the 39
types of work forbidden on Shabbat but not the laws regarding to techumin,
thus they were able to travel from Refidim. The other scholar taught that
at Marah they were given even Techumim, and therefore the 3rd day refers
to their encampment According to Tosaphot, here, this means that they were
now also given the laws regarding transferring from one reshut to
another" (Talmud Shabbat 86b).
There is an intrinsic difference between these two types of work. The 39
types of work all make a change in the article worked upon, whereas the
transfer from one reshut, domain, to another, makes no change in the
article. Here the change is only in the person who desires to have an
article in one area rather than in another. We know that the reason why it
is forbidden to transfer articles from reshut harabbim to that of the
yachid, and vice versa, from one domain to another, is because the
holiness of the public domain is that of materialism and the mundane,
whereas in the private domain the sanctity is that of holiness. When one
transfers into or from another domain, this causes a mingling of the holy
and the mundane in Heaven. The Baal Shem Tov taught that " The Lord is
your shade (Ps.121: 5), means that just like a person's shade follows
them, so too does HaShem and their actions have an effect above.
"Rabbi Yehushua ben Levi taught, that the 26 verses of the Great Hallel
correspond to the 26 generations that the Holy One blessed be He
maintained in this world only through mercy, since he did not give them a
Torah and judge them accordingly. The upper worlds were not affected by
the actions of people here on Earth and there was no awakening above in
response to actions below" (Talmud, Pesachim, 118a). It is obvious
therefore that before Matan Torah the movement from one domain to another
initiated by people, was not considered to be spiritually significant.
Therefore at Marah, they were only instructed in the 39 types of work. The
Seven Noachide laws as well as those given to Israel prior to Sinai were
only meant to affect and change people, as a preparation for Matan Torah.
After Sinai, it became possible for their actions and deeds to affect and
sanctify even the Heavens above. However, for this one needs to be ‘tamim’
unblemished and innocent. Avraham was told at the time of the brit milah
to walk before HaShem and be Tamim. This was necessary since Avraham
feared that after the Brit Milah, which separated him from the rest of the
world, he would no longer be able to draw them close to Heaven; which was
his whole mission and drive. By being tamim, he would be able to rise
above the satisfaction of his own spiritual needs and thereby continue to
affect the world despite the separation induced by the Brit Milah.
"When Israel said, 'we will hear and we will do', 600,000 ministering
angels came down and put 2 crowns on each of their heads; One for Na'aseh
and one for Nishmah. When they sinned with the Golden Calf, 120,000 angels
of destruction descended and took from them both crowns" (Talmud, Shabbat
18a). The Avnei Nezer questioned this, arguing that since they had sinned
by their actions only the crown of Naaseh should have been taken. They
still had retained the merit of Nishmah. However, ' crown' is a matter of
kingship that separates the king from the rest of the people, so too,
their crowns separated each individual from their own personality and own
individuality. All their actions were only for the sake of Heaven, rather
than for the spiritual satisfaction, status or good feelings that they may
bring. For such an achievement not only actions are needed but also '
Nishmah'. After the Golden Calf, their religious actions were once again
primarily for their own spiritual benefit and not primarily for the sake
of Heaven. So the angels took back both the crown of Naaseh and that of
There is a link between the 6 ears of wheat that Boaz gave to Ruth (Ruth,
3:15), and the need for an Avodat HaShem, Divine worship, that is solely
for the sake of Heaven. He gave the ears of Barley to Ruth, knowing of the
merit they would bring, even though it was not at all clear or definite
that he would be the source; there was another kinsman who had prior
claims. Nevertheless, Boaz was prepared to subject his own spiritual and
religious achievements or rewards. The sole consideration was the
fulfillment of the Avodah solely for the sake of Heaven.
Shem Mi Shmuel: Shavuot, 5670, 5671 and 5672.
Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Meir Tamari and Torah.org.
r. Tamari is a renowned economist, Jewish scholar, and founder of the Center For Business Ethics (www.besr.org) in Jerusalem.