Judging By The Situation
By Rabbi Pinchas Winston
Judges and law enforcers you must establish in all your communities
which G-d, your G-d gives to you throughout the tribes; they must
judge the people fairly. (Devarim 16:18)
This verse, in a sense, is a disappointment. The Torah, supposedly,
represents an ideal state of existence and level of life. The need
for judges and law enforcers seems to speak to us on a lower, far
less ideal level of living. If the Torah is eternal, should it not
reflect that eternity by speaking in ultimate terms?
The difference is the difference between the first set of Tablets
that Moshe Rabbeinu originally came down from Mt. Sinai with and
subsequently broke, and, the second set of tablets that he later came
down with eighty days later after achieving forgiveness for the
golden calf. The first set of tablets were carved out by G-d and
written on by G-d, but the second set were carved out by man (Moshe
himself) and then written on by G-d.
This is also the reason why the Jewish people were only commanded to
conquer seven nations of Canaan upon entering the land, as opposed to
the original ten that G-d first spoke about; we didn't merit a
complete acquisition of Eretz Yisroel, due to our sins in the desert.
The ten nations, of course, correspond to the Ten Sefiros, and the
seven nations we did have to fight against represent only the lower
seven Sefiros, indicating our lack of spiritual ability to bring
complete perfection to creation.
Even if all of this is true, and it is, how can the Torah, which is
eternal and perfect, speak in terms of a "temporary" situation and
The answer is because there is something called "Toras Atzilus" and
"Toras Beriyah," something which can be explained through an analogy.
There is a mitzvah to honor the Shabbos and to enjoy oneself, for the
sake of Shabbos. Does that mean that one can stir a pot of food on
the "blech" (stove top covering as per Hilchos Shabbos) on Shabbos to
make sure that it cooks evenly and not burn? No, and doing so is
like cooking on Shabbos. If you want to stir it on Shabbos, it must
already be completely cooked, and away from the source of heat.
What if someone did not know the law, and stirred the pot of food
anyhow? Now what? Can the food be eaten on Shabbos, or do we say do
without it and wait until Motzei Shabbos before enjoying what you
were intending to enjoy on Shabbos itself?
It can often depend (and one should clarify with a competent rabbi if
the situation occurs), if the food was completely cooked to begin
with, it was stirred accidentally, and it is a main course for the
Shabbos meal, then the food remains permissible because of the
mitzvah to take pleasure on Shabbos for the sake of honoring it. It
becomes the "l'chatchilah" (ideal) way in a "bidieved"
In other words, ideals can change their appearance in different
situations. In their ideal situation they are sublime and pristine.
However, in their less-than-ideal situations, their applications can
"disguise" their true natures. Toras Beriyah is just Toras Atzilus
with layers of coverings called "applications for a less-than-perfect
period of history."
However, traced back to their roots - Atzilus is a perfectly sublime
level of reality from Beriyah emanates - even mitzvos such as the
appointment of judges and law enforcers have a very sublime message
to communicate about life in This World. And, they are messages that
will still be relevant even after Moshiach comes, the yetzer hara is
no more, and mankind ceases to sin.
After you enter the land which G-d, your G-d gives to you, and
possess it and live there and say, "I will make a king over me, just
like all the surrounding na-tions" ... (Devarim 17:14)
Strange words for the Jewish nation: "Just like all the surrounding
nations." In fact, they sort of seem to fly in the face of the
concept of being a "light unto nations." This is not to say that
there is not plenty of wisdom to learn from the non-Jewish nations;
there is. However, important concepts like the appointment of kings
should have an original source in the Torah.
It is like the whole episode with Yisro. When Yisro came to convert
while the Jews were camped at Mt. Sinai, he was astonished to find
people lined up all day to ask Moshe Rabbeinu legal questions. This
prompted him to "suggest" that Moshe set up a hierarchy of legal
deciders to ease the burden on Moshe himself and the people.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. However, in Parashas
Devarim, Moshe Rabbeinu lets the Jewish people have it for that one.
He reveals that he knew back then that the quarrelling Jewish people
were only too happy to take Moshe out of the picture in everyday
matters, which is why they were lined up day and night in the first
If the Torah had been effective and the Jewish people had been
sincere, then when Yisro arrived at "Camp Sinai," he would have found
Moshe and his colleagues sitting in the Bais Medrash discussing the
intricacies of pre-Sinai law. This would have been because the rest
of the nation would have been resolving all but the most serious
cases on their own, and not trying to always win for the sake of
However, it seems, though you can take the Jew out of Egypt, it is
not so easy to take Egypt out of the Jew. And, that's what Yisro
found when he came to meet Moshe and the Jewish people, though he did
not quite understand the problem with it at the time, and he just
went on suggesting like everything he said was new to the greatest
leader of all time. "After all," Yisro might have asked, "what's
wrong with being like all the surrounding nations?"
The answer is bobbing around today like a florescent sign on a dark
night. This is, after all, the struggle at the heart of the Jewish
nation today, especially in Eretz Yisroel. On one side of the
struggle you have the main stream of Torah Judaism that has existed
for over 3,000 years now, and on the other side of the spectrum you
have the secular population which is fighting tooth-and-nail to be
"just like all the surrounding nations" (at least to the West of the
It is amazing. The religious see following after the ways of the
non-Jewish nations as a regression, no matter how advanced they
become technologically. Western society has not perfected morality,
indeed, they are quite distant from it, having become so liberal in
their views that it is starting to backfire on them, whether they are
willing to admit it or not.
On the other hand, the "other side," the so-called "Left" of the
nation sees religion as being regressive, oppressive, and obsessive.
By deciding to be "separate" from the rest of the nations, Judaism,
the Left feels, holds them back from being able to "fit in" with the
rest of the nations of the world (read: have fun like the rest of
And they are right, for that is the way it is supposed to be. For
"fun" is what the Western world falls into when we stop teaching the
world about pleasure, when we stop being a light unto nations. And,
if that is what happens when we stop teaching the world about
pleasure, then certainly following after THEIR definitions and THEIR
values doesn't help the matter at all!
Furthermore, and worse of all, not only does it NOT help the
situation any, but, eventually the situation turns on us, as it is
now. And it will take some time because we're not so willing to take
the bull by the horns, but Heaven is trying to re-ignite our light
once again. It is hard to see now, but a process has begun to
separate us once again from the nations around the world, with the
objective of restoring Jewish pride in being a light unto the nations
If in the land which G-d, your G-d gives you to possess, you find a
dead body fallen in the field, but do not know who killed him . . .
This is another example of the Torah addressing a less-than-ideal
world. That murder can exist at all is troubling enough; that the
murderer can get away with it brings into the question the whole idea
of Divine Providence and how involved G-d actually is in the affairs
of man on a daily basis.
There is a midrash that says that Moshe Rabbeinu once asked G-d to
show him how He runs the world, so that he could better understand
the events of daily life that do not make sense. So G-d showed him a
scene in which some poor children stole a money pouch from off the
horse of a wealthy man, and then fled with it to the local lake while
the rich man enjoyed himself inside the inn.
By the time the man came out and realized what he had lost, the poor
children were long gone and swimming in the lake, thinking there was
no way for the man to find them. In the meantime, a beggar, walking
along the beach, found the money pouch hidden behind a rock, and
thinking that Heaven was showing him mercy, he made off with the
money unbeknownst to the swimming children.
In the meantime, the wealthy man had gathered some others to
accompany him in search of the money, and it wasn't long until they
came across the children without the money, and the beggar with the
money. Judgment was swift: the wealthy person did not accept the
beggar's plea of innocence, and beat him to the point of death, and
then rode off.
Moshe was horrified. Knowing that G-d is forever just didn't help
him to understand the justice of the "tragedy" that had just unfolded
before his very eyes. Until, that is, the Master of the Universe
Himself provided the explanation.
"The wealthy man once extorted money from a widow, and needed to
suffer somewhat for his sin. The children were simply poor and
innocent. They should not have stolen the money, but in their
situation of poverty, it is understandable that they did. The beggar
who found the money had murdered another beggar down the beach just
yesterday for a piece of bread. However, there were no witnesses to
testify against him in a court of law. Thus, justice was exercised
from all sides."
Moshe understood from this small example of Divine Providence just
how G-d orchestrates each and every event with fairness, though such
fairness is not readily apparent to man who is not omniscient.
Hence, when it comes to life's events, we are like people who walk in
at the middle of the film, unable to properly figure out the
direction of the plot until the end.
Sometimes, the reason for good or bad events is recent, though we may
have forgotten them or fail to make the connection. Sometimes, the
reason for an inexplicable episode may go beyond one's present
lifetime, into previous gilgulim (reincarnations).
In fact, in Shaar HaGilgulim, Rav Chaim Vital discusses his own past
history of gilgulim. There he explains that, in his first gilgul, he
did an accidental sin that caused his second gilgul to do a sin that
was more intentional. Sent back into a third gilgul to make amends,
he instead committed a fully intentional sin that required the
punishment of dying early (kores). He died in that life as a young
14-year old boy. But, when they buried the young 14-year old
Avraham, did anyone know why he had died so early, especially since
he was probably a normal child? How could anyone have known, unless
they were prophets?
Nevertheless, even though to our eyes justice would have seemed quite
distant and question marks would appear all over the place, in the
context of the bigger historical picture, all the pieces fit
together. In the meantime, the hand of G-d remains hidden, that is,
why events happen as they do remains obscure, leaving room for
believing and trusting people to have faith in G-d and His justice.
The Eglah Arufah - the mitzvah to which the posuk refers to above, is
just another reminder of this central and fundamental point of Divine
History & Beyond: The Soul World & Beyond
"... It is for this reason that G-d prepared a Soul World. When a
soul leaves its body, it enters this Soul World and remains there in
a state of rest while the body undergoes what it must. During this
period, the soul experiences sublime delight, very much like that
which will be bestowed on the individual later in the period of
genuine reward. Its level in the Soul World is also determined by
its accomplishments, just as the ultimate reward . . . Besides being
a place for the soul to await resurrection, the Soul World also
provides another benefit for the soul, and ultimately for the
resurrected body as well . . . When the soul leaves the body and
enters the Soul World, however, it can then radiate freely with a
brightness that befits it as a result of its good deeds [while
associated with the body]. Through both this and what it can attain
in the Soul World, the soul is able to regain the power that it lost
while associated with body. This in turn makes it more qualified for
the its ultimate function after the resurrection, namely, the
purification of the body . . ." (Derech Hashem 1:3:11-12)
The first time I learned this section from Derech Hashem, it was
prior to my having any knowledge of the Zohar's version of Techiyas
HaMeisim, and the Leshem's commentary on it. I just assumed, like
many, that the Ramchal was referring to the period of time after the
year 6000, since, I assumed, the resurrection would only occur after
However, within the context of the Zohar's time table for Techiyas
HaMeisim, the Soul World will be a reality only UNTIL the year 6000,
by which time Resurrection of the Dead must be over. If so, then,
what happens to history and mankind from the year 6000 and onward?
As we have said before, the Ten Sefiros that act as spiritual filters
for G-d's light to make reality and ultimately, our lives possible,
also contain the "data" for distinct periods of time in history.
Thus, the sefirah of Chesed governed the first one thousand years of
history, Gevurah the second, and so forth until the sixth millennium,
which is rooted in the sefirah of Yesod.
Now, the first thing to know is that time is relative, as physicists
themselves teach. If this is so during the six thousand years, how
much more so is this the case after the year 6000. So, even though
we may talk in terms of 1,000 year periods of time, it is only a
In other words, the period between Year 6000 and Year 7000 - 1,000
years - is not made up of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks,
months, and years. There is a passage of time because there is
development, there is spiritual movement upwards towards the Source
of all existence.
To appreciate this, as I have mentioned earlier, some fundamentals of
Kabbalah must be discussed.
In the beginning (and I don't mean the one referred to in the first
verse of the creation story but far earlier than this), there was the
light of Ain Sof (literally, "Without End"), the name used to
describe the light of G-d, which is infinite. It was everywhere,
perfect and sublime.
When the will of G-d determined to create a world that could support
mankind, the concept of free-will and eternal reward, Kabbalah
teaches that He pulled back His light from within the "center" of Ain
Sof, and, as a result, left a "hollow" in the shape of a large sphere
that was devoid of the same level of light. The future universe with
which we are familiar, wouldn't even be a pin's head in size compared
to the hollow within which it would later exist.
The result was a spiritual void that was surrounded by the light of
Ain Sof in such a way that it could not collapse the vacuum within.
However, that was only stage one, for just as man could not exist
within the non-filtered light of Ain Sof, so he could not exist
within an absence of light of Ain Sof either.
Therefore, G-d allowed the light of Ain Sof to pour back into the
void from which it was constricted, but in a controlled and regulated
way. This would allow for the creation of different levels of
reality without destroying them in the process, eventually making
possible a physical creation that could support human life.
The process of the light coming down was one of reducing its
spiritual intensity through an extremely intricate and sophisticated
system of spiritual "transformers." Each one was designed to hold
back a Divinely-ordained level of light, which resulted in a
"weaker" light for the lower levels that followed. Eventually, this
would result in a light so weak that it could allow for evil, sin,
Hence, the process of creation is really one of light moving through
time, G-d's time, and history is just the record of what that light
has, is, and will do along its path from its Source - Ain Sof -
towards the center of the "hollow." It will continue along its path
until it reaches a point at which time the light is to begin changing
its direction, a point that only G-d knows and pre-determined when He
first thought to make creation.
In other words, at a point in time, the light will begin to
back-track, and rather than move away from Ain Sof, it will begin to
return back in the direction of Ain Sof, and with it will go the
levels of reality that it created on the "way down." The final
destination of the light: the Malchus of Ain Sof.
What does this mean? That is a question that can only be answered
once we get there, G-d willing, because there is nothing in human
experience and consciousness to compare it to. However, it does mean
that "creation" will never completely reverse itself, because then
nothing would have ever really been accomplished in the big scheme of
things, and according to tradition, G-d did all of THIS so that we
should enjoy the World-to-Come-FOREVER.
This idea does create some philosophical dilemmas that result from
our inability to relate to such high levels of spiritual
consciousness and sublime Divine light. But, suffice it to say that
such dilemmas exist only to us, and not to G-d, and even we'll
resolve them at the proper time. However, in the meantime, I have
introduced this concept of the "returning light" in order to speak
about the concept of the World-to-Come, the final destination of this
Have a great Shabbos,