And these are the ordinances that you shall set before them.… (Shemos 21:1)
THIS SHABBOS IS Parashas Shekalim, because next week is Rosh Chodesh Adar, b”H. We are now heading in the direction of Purim (and Pesach), and these “extra” parshios are designed to help us.
On a simple level, Parashas Shekalim is a reminder of Temple times, when we gave, at this time of year, our yearly contribution for the communal Temple sacrifices. On a deeper level, it is an allusion to something far more personal and personally essential: Da’as.
Da’as just means knowledge. But as it has always been clear, Da’as can vary from person to person. Man’s very first test was with regard to the Aitz HADA’AS Tov v’Ra, and the Talmud says that the illicit eating of it resulted in the origin of Haman (Chullin 139b).
A central mitzvah of Purim is the Mishteh, the drinking feast, during which we are supposed to drink to the point of no longer recognizing the difference between “Blessed Mordechai” and “Cursed Haman” (Megillah 7b). But it is with respect to such drinking that the Talmud says:
Anyone who becomes SETTLED through wine has the knowledge—DA’AS—of his Creator . . . has the knowledge—DA’AS—of the 70 Elders. Wine was given with 70 letters (Rashi: the gematria of yai’in—wine—is 70), and the mystery (of Torah) was given with 70 letters (sod—mystery—also equals 70). When wine goes in, secrets go out. (Eiruvin 65a)
THAT’S profound. It’s one thing to have the “da’as” of the 70 Elders, and that’s ALREADY a very high level of knowledge. But the da’as of GOD? Because a person becomes “settled” from drinking wine? How? Why?
The truth is, this is really what Purim was all about. On one hand, it was just exile and redemption. The Jewish people lost the right to remain on the land, so the Temple was destroyed and they were exiled to Babylonia. Eventually the time came for redemption, so Haman arose to compel the Jews to do teshuvah and thus merit redemption, and we celebrate this each year.
On the other hand, there was a certain amount of Divine Providence behind all of it designed to direct the Jewish people in the direction they went, just to get something important along the way. All the events of the exile were set in motion because something had to be added to the nation, and apparently, it is this higher level of Da’as.
It would help to know exactly what Da’as is, because as Shlomo HaMelech wrote, it is not the easiest thing to find:
If you want it like money and pursue it like treasures, then you will understand fear of God, and Da’as Elokim you will find. (Mishlei 2:4-5)
Da’as Elokim? Da’as of the Creator? It’s obviously all the same thing, but what is it? Kabbalistically, it is a sefirah, one of those spiritual entities that God uses to filter His light so that free will can exist. But it is also a sefirah that can ascend and descend based upon what man is doing.
When the Da’as is down low, it is accessible to the Klipos which, in short, are the corrupting influence in the world. They are behind man’s abuse of Creation, behind his ability to use something meant for good for selfish reasons.
When the Da’as is up, it is out of the reach of the Klipos, and man doesn’t think like that. Believe it or not, he gets more pleasure from using the world meaningfully, than meaninglessly or for unnecessary personal gain. He resembles the angels more than he does the animals.
Needless to say, Haman is what the Da’as looks like when it is down among the Klipos. Evil geniuses are still geniuses, inasmuch as they can be very clever about how they plan and carry out their evil. They even learn how to use good stuff for their bad stuff in very innovative ways, making it that much more evil.
Mordechai, of course, was the good Da’as. He looked at the world through God’s eyes, and wasn’t interested in using any aspect of Creation in a distorted manner. He knew what that meant, because he watched how people like Achashveros and Haman raped the world for their own personal gratification. It didn’t interest him in the least, because His da’as was the ultimate Da’as.
Thus, they were worlds apart, Mordechai and Haman. To see them both was to see night and day together. They were clearly cut from completely very different cloths, which is why they were at such odds with each other.
True…and false. Recall that the Aitz HaDa’as Tov v’Ra, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was only ONE tree. It was, in essence, just an Aitz HaDa’as. It was how a person chose to use its da’as that determined the goodness or badness of the da’as. One da’as, two approaches, two very different people and two very different approaches to life.
This is important to know because people don’t realize how easy it is to slide in the direction of the wrong version of Da’as. They also don’t realize how important it is to work at moving their da’as to higher levels and out of the realm of the Klipos.
So what about Purim, wine drinking, and yishuv hada’as—settled da’as?
A person is the sum total of their da’as, of what they know and what they think. If their da’as is Haman-like, they will be Haman-like inside. If they are Mordechai-like, they will be Mordechai-like at their core. And there is nothing like some wine to reveal on the outside what a person is like on the inside.
If a person reaches a higher level of yishuv hada’as from their drinking, they it reveals their Mordechai-like core. If they become “abusive,” then it reveals that they are more Haman-like inside, even if they act differently while sober. When wine goes in, secrets go out.
The word “shikol,” which shares the same root as “shekel,” means to weigh something. A “mishkal” is a scale, and “shikol hada’as” means to intellectually weigh ideas for the sake of coming to a correct conclusion. A shekel, once upon a time, was the weight of certain coin.
All of this is just to make the point that all of life comes down to one’s da’as, and how important it is to make sure it is da’as tov, and not da’as ra, Da’as Mordechai, which is blessed, and Da’as Haman, which is cursed. because they are just two extremes on a single continuum, making its perilously easy to slide in the wrong direction, as so many Jews had begun to do in Mordechai’s time.
Because, at the end of the day, it is one’s da’as that determines how free they really are. Freedom IS the correct da’as. Just having it is liberating, but getting and refining it is a lifetime project. And now that we’ve entered the four parshios of Purim, we should consider how to up our investment.