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Greater than all Other Gods

the.guard Sunday, 26 February 2017
Part 4/4 (to see other parts of the article, click on the pages at the bottom)

As we explained above, the Parsha of Yisro begins with the most basic prerequisite to the giving of the Torah - beleif in one, all powerful G-d. Yisro, who our sages tell us had served every idol that there was, had come to the conclusive realization that there was only ONE G-d Who controls everything.

This was also the main purpose of the great miracles of the Exodus, to bring all of the Jewish people to a tremendous level of Emunah. Because without the basic belief in One G-d, there can be no Torah.

But it’s interesting that after the awesome giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai, the Parsha winds down with Hashem saying: “You have seen that I have spoken to you from the heaven, etc.. And then the last sentence of the Parsha seems very anticlimatic:

וְלֹא-תַעֲלֶה בְמַעֲלֹת, עַל-מִזְבְּחִי: אֲשֶׁר לֹא-תִגָּלֶה עֶרְוָתְךָ, עָלָיו.

Do not go up by steps unto my alter, that your nakedness not be uncovered on it.

What secrets are hidden in this Pasuk, that G-d found it so important to end the powerful story of Kabalas Hatorah with this idea?

Don’t go up on mizbeach bi’maalos – gaivah. What is the secret here?

First know there’s only one god and serve Him. But then, don’t let personal ego/god in the way. That’s a darga that only Torah can bring us to. If we have gaivah, we push god away. Gasei ruach, sofo linof. I am the controller of my destiny, also form of idolatry. I take what I want. This is root of niuf. Mizbeach means sacrifice our desires, how? By not going up in gaivah. And ikkar sacrifice, is lo sigaleh ervascha alav.

What really is erva? In Vayikra 20:18 it says:

אֶת-מְקֹרָהּ הֶעֱרָה

“Her Fountain he has made naked”.

Rashi explains that the word he’era means:

גלה, וכן כל לשון ערוה גלוי הוא

“Revealed, and so does all instances of the word “Erva” mean ‘to reveal’.

Why should it be hidden? And why were Adam and Chava ‘ashamed’ that they were naked after the sin and try to ‘hide’ and cover themselves?

The Yetzer Hara is simply the desire to receive, which separates us from Hashem who only wants to give. The shame of nahama dechisufa, is the purpose of all the torah and mitzvos (to understand this better, see secret of happiness). Before the sin of Adam, the yetzer hara wasn’t inside him. There wasn’t any shame. But once he sinned, his ‘desire to receive’ became part of him and he felt that shame of nahama dechisufa, his desire to receive was exposed and in direct contrast to that of G-d, making him feel distant and separate from G-d. This is the root of all shame, the revelation of our desire to receive.

I have a 4.5 year old son, Motti, who was blessed b”h with a refined nature. Under him, is a 2.5 year old son named, Elimelech. I noticed that whenever Motti wants to ask me for something like a treat, or to play a game on the computer, he comes and tells me that “Elimelech” wants a treat or wants to play on the computer. Why doesn’t he just tell me that he wants to? It is human nature from the earliest age, to be ashamed of ‘revealing’ our desirs. We try to disguise it in any way possible rather than admit that we want something.

That is why there is so much shame around sexuality. Because this is an area where our ‘desire to receive’ is expressed in its strongest form. That is why Adam and Chava felt shame that they were naked when their desire to receive was internalized.

The root of tznius is keeping our desire to receive, or others desiring us, hidden. When we ‘show off’ we are revealing our desire for ‘honor’ to the whole world. And when a woman covers her body and tries not to dress provocatively, she is keeping her desires for intimacy – and the desires of the men around her – in check and in hiding. She is acknowledging the shame in ‘flouting’ our desires to the world, that which makes us separate from G-d.

Do not go up on my Mizbeach with steps, with ego. When sacrificing our desires to become one with G-d, we must hide and subjugate our desires. As it says, “For all yeast and honey thou shall not burn from it an ‘isheh’ for G-d”. Yeast symbolizes ego, and honey symbolizes the sweetness of desires. And then the Pasuk in this week’s parsha ends, ‘that you shall not reveal your nakedness on it’. Meaning, that when your desires are not subjugated and revealed, this separates you from G-d.

So before the receiving of the Torah, we had to recognize that there is only one G-d who controls everything. But AFTER the receiving of the Torah, our job is much greater than that. We are now expected to unify G-d in all our actions, in other words, everything we do should be for G-d's sake. Only through the Torah can one reach such a high level, and it is hinted to in this final verse of Parshas Yisro: Do not go up on my alter with steps and ego. Do not let your nakedness - your 'personal desires' become revealed. Sacrifice your ego and desires for G-d on my Alter. This is the ultimate unification of G-d's name, and so the story of Kabalas Hatorah ends with these divine instructions.

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