This week’s parsha begins outlining the idyllic blessings that await us if we live up to our covenant with Hashem and are worthy of a close relationship with Him. The material blessings of bountiful crops, luscious harvests, peace and security in the land and the ability to repel our enemies, are augmented with the spiritual blessings in which Hashem promises us (chapter 26 verse 11) “I will place my sanctuary among you and my spirit will not reject you.”
The commentaries are perplexed by the blessing that Hashem will not reject His people. Surely if we are obeying G-d’s will, what possible reason could there be for Him to reject us?
In response to this question, the commentaries cite the truth about human nature that ‘familiarity breeds contempt.’ Perhaps being so close to Hashem carries with it the liability that Hashem sees our shortcomings and foibles in a magnified way, and may come to repel us. In any deeply developed relationship there lurks a fear that perhaps we should not be totally open with our counterpart; for if they discover our hidden weaknesses and imperfections, they may reject us.
Hashem reassures us that he will never reject us even though we will be far from perfect.
In the blessings that we give to a chosson and kallah we delineate four levels of friendship and closeness, exhorting the chosson and kallah to rise to the highest level possible. We talk about ahava (love) achvah (brotherhood) shalom (peace), and rayus (total bonding). The highest level of friendship surpasses even a blood relationship such as brotherhood. It is even higher that a relationship where peace unites people. This kind of kinship is defined by the word rayus. What is rayus and why is it a more rarified expression of closeness than all other forms of friendship?
The commentaries explain that the word rayus is connected to “rah,” meaning evil, which only compounds the mystery. If this is the most valuable friendship of all, why is rooted in the word rah– evil?
The answer, I believe, lies in a deeper understanding of the highest form of interpersonal relationship. There is a human tendency to cultivate a façade around oneself to promote a flattering self-image and stave off criticism. Even with our closest friends we are sometimes loathe to share our darkest secrets, lest they would no longer respect us and want to remain on the same terms as before.
The word “rayus” is connected to the word “poruah” which means being totally open, to the point where we can even reveal the “rah”-the unsavory aspects of our inner self. We do not have to fear rejection for the relationship is marked by unconditional acceptance and love. Thus the word “rayus” connotes the highest level of friendship and closeness imaginable.
It is for this reason that the word “raya” -meaning friend-is found for the first time in the Torah in connection with Raiyai Ho’adulami, Yehudah’s confidant to whom he revealed his illicit encounter with Tamar and asked Raiyai Ho’adulami to resolve his outstanding debt to her. A true friend is one in whom we can confide without any reservations.
Thus the ultimate relationship we have with Hashem is one in which we are secure, even while acknowledging our shortcomings, that we are beloved and accepted by Hashem unconditionally-in return for our own unconditional acceptance and devotion to Him.
Hashem assures us, “v’lo sigal nafshi eschem,” my spirit will never revile you. It will never reject you and it will never repel you, for under all circumstances, you and I are one.
Wishing you a wonderful Shabbos,
Rabbi Naftali Reich Text Copyright © 2013 by Rabbi Naftali Reich and Torah.org.
Rabbi Reich is on the faculty of the Ohr Somayach Tanenbaum Education Center.