Drosho for Ki Savo 5764

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Jan 1, 2004
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Parshas Ki Savo 5764

I have a theory about peklech at an aufruf.

ולקח הכהן את הטנא מידיך – says בעה"ט: טנא בגי' ס' רמז שבכורים א' מס', ולכם נעלם אות ס' מפרשת בכורים.

Fascinating. Because בכורים are 1/60 – that is, take 1, leave 59, so there’s no ס' – because ס' is 60 – but instead of ס' we have טנא which is 59 and one.

Take a deeper look at this symbolism.

Letter ס' has another symbolism – represents שטן. Midrash – first ס' in the Torah – ויסגור בשר תחתיה – because that’s where שטן is created.

Very strange: a) Why does the ס' represent the שטן? And why is the שטן created דוקא at that juncture of ויסגור בשר תחתיה?

Let’s start with the idea of nature. In Biblical Hebrew there is no word for nature, but the ראשונים needed a word and so the coined – טבע. Related to טבעת, a ring, and that’s appropriate because the most basic thing about nature is that it doesn’t change – the fundamental laws of physics and chemistry don’t change, and the natural word, held in the remorseless grip of immutable laws, cycles endlessly – particles spinning endlessly in fields of force, planets spinning around suns, summers passing into falls and falls into winters and winters into spring, עוד כל ימי עולם קור וחום קיץ וחורף יום ולילה לא ישבותו. There is no freedom in nature, and no escape from this ring, this cycle of טבע.

And likewise the animal kingdom is held in the grip of biology, of drives and impulses; an animal, ultimately, is a prisoner of its own instincts, and no more free than a particle of matter in a field of force.

To a degree man is part of this cycle, driven by the same drives and the same needs as the rest of the animal kingdom. And many thinkers have maintained that, in fact, that is all that man is – an intelligent animal, driven by instinct and by impulse, a prisoner of biology no less than any other animal.

But the Torah teaches that while man is part of nature he is not only part of nature – but also – a צלם אלקים, something outside nature, capable of free moral choice – part of the בריאה and at the same time in the image of the בורא – with the capacity for transcendence and of קדושה.

The human condition is a choice – to strengthen that which is transcendent in us, and make the טבע within ourselves and around ourselves subservient to it; or to give ourselves over to our animal needs, to lose our special station outside of nature, and be absorbed into the blind cycle of טבע, of biological and economic need.

What the שטן represents is the reification of those impulses and drives that connect man with the animal, and pull him into that circle of טבע. And therefore the graphic representation of the שטן is a ס' – a circle.

Take this a step further: The basic template of biology is male and female; that is the pattern through the animal kingdom and down even into the vegetable kingdom. Only man was created singular – combining within himself both male and female – and thus standing outside the order of nature entirely. With ויסגור בשר תחתיה the male and female part of man are split off from each other, and at that moment man to a certain extent joins nature, and the possibility that the שטן represents – of becoming fully a part of the natural world, is suddenly present.

And therefore the first ס' in the Torah, says the midrash, occurs here – at the point of ויסגור בשר תחתיה – because it is here that the שטן – the Satanic possibility of reducing man to animal – is created.

The new harvest represents a certain milestone in the cycle of nature. It is a time when man participates – physically and economically and emotionally – in the natural cycle. And the Torah therefore mandates that at that time we take some of that harvest and dedicated it as בכורים, giving it over to קדושה, as a reminder that for all that we participate in the cycle of nature, we also stand outside it; and our ultimate task is to press nature itself into the service of קדושה, and raise it thereby to transcendence.

Which brings us to the בעל הטורים. בכורים are 1 from 60, a kind of negation of 60, because 60 is ס' and בכורים are a kind of victory over ס', over the blind cycle of nature. And therefore there is no ס' in פרשת בכורים.

Instead of ס' we have טנא – א' from נ"ט, one from 59, one elevated from 59, and in that way the whole טנא – both the בכורים and the remaining fruit, are elevated into קדושה.

Courtship and marriage are part of nature. What is more natural than love and marriage? It is part of the circle of life which pulses all around us. Perhaps that’s why the symbol of marriage is a טבעת, a ring. But there is no area where the הלכה more insistently intervenes. Beginning with the עליה לתורה today and continuing through the חתונה and the week of שבע ברכות and indeed through all of married life the הלכה injects itself into every aspect of marriage, in order to turn nature into sacrament, and טבע into קדושה, so that the union of איש ואשה is transformed into an abode for the שכינה itself.

What does that have to do with פעקלעך? Well, maybe it’s a stretch – but I would suggest that the פעקלעך are little baskets, little טנאs. Because the symbolism of the טנא – the transformation of the ס' into טנ"א, the cycle of nature into a vehicle for קדושה – is so appropriate to this juncture.

I will close with a ברכה to the חתן and the כלה that they should together reap a rich harvest of ברכה, that they’re life together be blessed with all the good things that nature has to offer and that they have the wisdom to elevate those things into קדושה, to elevate their home into a בית ועד לחכמים and a מקום השראת השכינה, and their life together into a קידוש השם, and that they be a source of great נחת for their families and for כלל ישראל.


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peklech at aufruf

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