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Parshat Vayeira (5762)
This week's torah portion tells the strange and sordid story of Lot and his two daughters, how they escaped their wicked hometown Sodom and finally begot two illegitimate sons; Amon and Moav.
The Torah is not a history book. The word Torah means "teaching", and every word and idea has a purpose. What then, is the purpose of this story? What is it coming to tell us? And what connection does it have to this week's section?
To understand this, here is a story.
About two hundred years ago, there lived a great tzadik called Rab Mair Permishlianer. His holiness and Torah knowledge were renowned, but because he was a "Chassid" (follower) of the Baal Shem Tov, he was ridiculed by The Misnagdim (Jews who opposed the Chassidim).
Rab Mair lived on the top of a very high and dangerously steep hill. Early every morning he would descend, stop half way down to immerse himself in a spring of living water that flowed there (the Chassidim did this claiming it increased their purity) and then descend the rest of the way to the town.
The remarkable thing was that he would do this same thing every day, even in the winter when snow and ice made his descent seemingly impossible.
At the foot of this hill was a Yeshiva (Talmudic academy) of the "opposers" whose pupils viewed Rab Mair's daily ritual with scorn.
Their first objection was, who told the old fellow to live on the top of a mountain? Secondly, why did he have to dunk himself in a pool every morning like a madman? And as far as the descent through the snow, they were certain that it was some sort of a trick.
Gradually there formed a group of them that were determined to expose him. They got a hold of a pair of binoculars, watched carefully where he put each foot, and after a few weeks when they were sure they "had it" they decided it was time to do it themselves.
But despite their preparations and supple strong bodies, they slipped, and seconds later found themselves bruised and broken, moaning and groaning at the bottom of the hill.
Several months later, after they had sufficiently recovered, they decided to go up the mountain to the Tzadik and ask him how he did it.
Rab Mair was pained to see how they had hurt themselves for nothing, and said, "I'm sorry that you got injured, and even more so that you did it because of me. Why, if you had asked I would have told you my secret. It's simple!"
"Simple?" they exclaimed. "It doesn’t look so simple to us, what is it?"
Rav Mair became serious, cleared his throat, looked at them deeply and said, "The secret is that when you are tied above spiritually, you don't fall below physically."
What he meant is; "above", namely in the spiritual worlds, everything is pure and harmonious. But down here "below" the world can be deceiving and the same exact harmonies can be dross and evil.
For instance, Lot and his daughters; because they were not "tied above" they fell.
But the Zohar seems to take a different view.
In the Zohar (1:109) it says that the elder daughter lay with her father because she sensed that this strange relationship would eventually result in Moshiach (hence the dot written over the work "uvKuma" in the Torah 19:33). Her illicit son, Moav would be the progenitor of Ruth from whom would issue Dovid, and generations later the long-awaited Messiah, may he speedily arrive.
Furthermore, both Amon and Moav have another connection to the era of redemption:
Rashi pointed out in last week's portion (15:19) that when G-d promised Avraham that his seed would inherit ten nations, He intended that seven of them would be conquered by Yehoshua when the Jews entered the land of Cannan for the first time.
But the last three; Edom, AMON and MOAV would be conquered only thousands of years later - by the Moshiach.
So we see that although Lot fell below, it wasn't final. Something like how the young mens' broken bones in our story were able to heal after their fall.
But the commentary M'or Vshemesh on the Torah (Written by a Chassid and great Tzaddik Rabbi Kalonimus Kalman of Krakow) gives even a deeper explanation: The forbidden unity of Lot with his daughters is really simulated by us (albeit in a holy way) every time we pray with emotion and longing, especially in the prayers of Shabbos. Then the lowest aspect of G-d, called in Kaballa (mystical) books, "daughter" (Malchus) is united with the highest called "Father" (Chochma).
Something like how the boys ascended the mountain to the Tzadik after their bones healed.
But in a book called "Derech Mitzvosecha" written by the third Lubavitcher Rebbe ("The Tzemach Tzedek") he explains yet a deeper level.
In the upper worlds, he explains, there are certain unifications and harmonies between different aspects of G-d (The Kabalists call them the "ten Spherot") which are too holy and pure for this world as the world is now.
In this world these unities manifest themselves as forbidden unions and are called "GILUI Araiyous" i.e. "REVEALING nakedness" because they cannot be REVEALED here (except according to the limitations of the Torah and after much soul preparation) but must be hidden in the spiritual realms.
But there are two outstanding exceptions.
The first was when G-d gave the Torah. He then united His highest trait, Wisdom, with His lowest, speech, (Chochma in Malchus) and revealed it in this world.
The second will be when Moshiach arrives. Then G-d's Wisdom (Chachma) will again fill the world (Malchut) (See Rambam, Melachim 12:5).
But the difference is that then, unlike at the giving of the Torah, the world will become permanently refined and elevated. Only then will Lot's (and everyone elses') deeds be fully corrected and these upper unities can be fully revealed.
That is why the Baal Shem Tov and all his pupils through the generations reminded us in all their works that it is our job to not just remain at the bottom of the hill and improve ourselves, but to improve the entire world around us as well.
In other words, it is up to us to prepare the world for Moshiach. And the only way to do it is with joy.
That is why the story of Lot appears in this week's portin. Here is related the miraculous birth of Yitzchak whose name implies joy and hints at the coming redemption (Psalms 126:2).
And the word VaYaira itself means Revelation. Namely the Revelation of G-d and all the upper unities in this physical world as it will be only in the days of....
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