Thursday, May 5, 2016

Parsha Perspective

By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman

This week’s Parsha Perspective is dedicated by Mr. Binyomin Philipson in memory of his late mother Mrs. Ellen (Elka bas Zisel) Philipson OBM

Do we love too much?

Apparently we do. Many marriages fail for a dearth of love; an equal number are suffocated by an overabundance of the same.

So desirous are we for connection, so hungry for communion with another human being, that we forget that for love to endure it must be complemented with an equal measure of restraint. So eager are we to give of ourselves to the one we love - be it a spouse, a child or a friend - that we often give without consideration of the needs and desires of the recipient of our love.

When passion is mitigated with a degree of inhibition, when intimacy is tempered with a modicum of reserve, love flourishes. But when all limits are betrayed, love burns out.

This week's portion Acharei Mot (Vayikra (Leviticus) 16:1-18:30) opens with a review of the tragic death of Aaron's two elder sons, Nadav and Avihu.

After many months of labor and anticipation, the Sanctuary had finally been set up in the Israelite camp, and the Divine Presence came to rest within it. Amidst the joyous dedication ceremonies, “Nadav and Avihu each took his censer, and put fire in it, and put ketoret (incense) on it, and offered a strange fire before G-d, which He commanded them not. A fire went out from G-d, and consumed them, and they died before Gd” (Leviticus 10:1–2).

In his commentary on the Torah, the great sage and mystic Rabbi Chaim ben Moses ibn Attar (1696-1743) explains that Nadav and Avihu died from an overdose of love.

Once a year, on Yom Kippur, the high priest would enter the innermost chamber of the Sanctuary, the Holy of Holies, to offer ketoret to G-d. This occasion - on which the most spiritual human being performed the most sacred service in the holiest place in the world on the holiest day of the year - was the point of utmost intimacy with G-d attained by man. Nadav and Avihu were priests, but not high priests (though they would have been, had they lived to succeed their father in that office); it was a very special occasion, marked by special offerings to G-d, but it was not Yom Kippur. But their thirst for intimacy with G-d could not be satisfied by anything less than the ultimate. They wanted to get closer yet, though “He commanded them not.”

Human life is a love affair between the soul and her G-d. Our passion for life is a craving for the “spark of G-dliness” implicit within every one of G-d’s creations; ultimately, everything we do is motivated by our soul’s desire to draw closer to our Source. So powerful is this desire that it can lead us to do things that are contrary to G-d’s will - things that violate the bounds of our love and destroy it.

For our marriage to live and thrive we must feed our passion for life; but we must also know when to hold back. As in every truly loving relationship, we must learn to love in the manner that our beloved needs and desires to be loved.

(From Chabad.org - Rabbi Yanki Tauber)

A  Meaningful and Uplifting Shabbos to all!

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