Mishpatim: Holy Man

(Shemot 21:1-24:18) - "And you shall be holy men to Me" (Shemot 22:30) - Why is it written "holy men to Me" instead of "holy to Me"?

8 min

Breslev Israel staff

Posted on 22.01.22

Shemot 21:1-24:18
"And you shall be holy men to Me" (Shemot 22:30).
Why is it written "holy men to Me" instead of "holy to Me"? You shall be holy, but as men — that is, you are to sanctify your human conduct, for that is the main holiness of man. God has no lack of angels in Heaven. (Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, zt"l)
No human can give up on the life of another person.
"And he shall be healed"(Shemot 21:19).
From this verse, the Talmud derives that a doctor is permitted to heal; the Chozeh of Lublin notes that a doctor only has permission to heal; he doesn't have the right to despair or be pessimistic about someone's chance of recovery since God has the final say and can bring about miracles. If this is true with medical problems, all the more so when it comes to areas pertaining to people's behavior and emotions; as long someone is alive there is always hope for improvement if s/he is motivated to make changes, and we must never give up hope. (Rabbi Zelig Pliskin)
"I (God) shall not drive them (the Canaanites) away from you (the Jews) in a single year, lest the Land become desolate and the wildlife of the field multiply against you" (Shemot 23:29).
A Balanced Approach to Life
When we attempt to come closer to God, we must be careful not to try to accomplish too much at one time. If we ascend too quickly, the counterattacks from the forces of evil will be too strong for use to handle and we might end up severely hurt.
The Torah tells us that it is not beneficial to destroy our enemies at once. Although it seems more logical to eradicate our enemies at one blow, disabling them to such an extent that they can never retaliate against us, the Torah tells us to destroy them gradually. In the following paragraphs, based on the teachings of Rebbe Nachman and his chief disciple, Reb Noson, we will explain why.
Eretz Yisrael and the Mentality of the Diaspora
Rebbe Nachman teaches that knowledge can be divided into two categories. One category is knowledge that is spiritually rooted in Eretz Yisrael and derives its essence from a chamber in heaven known as the Noam HaElyon (the upper pleasantness). A person whose thoughts are connected to this chamber draws down a form of light that, with minimal effort, helps him in his thought process, enabling him to come to conclusions that make his life more pleasant and easy. The Noam HaElyon originates and can primarily be found in Eretz Yisrael. Although the Noam HaElyon is found in Eretz Yisrael, a worthy person can also access these spiritual energies in the Diaspora.
The second category of knowledge is the mentality of the Diaspora. Conclusions derived through this mentality are arrived at with great toil and effort, often leading to arguments, fights and erroneous or unclear thinking, ultimately making life much more difficult. (2 Lekutey MoHaran 71)
To understand the difference in these two ways of thinking, we must examine the first person to be created, Adam HaRishon, both before and after his sin. Before Adam sinned, it was so easy for him to be close to God and to have a clear perception of God that he was higher than the angels. He lived a life of ease and total comfort in the bliss of paradise. Adam was able to live this way because of the spiritual energies derived from the Noam HaElyon. When Adam sinned, he damaged the Noam HaElyon, and as a result, pain, suffering, and hardships came to the world.
Jews belong in Eretz Yisrael! Therefore, throughout Jewish history, God orchestrated world events in such a way that in the future the entire nation will reach Israel, which is the geographical source of all emanations of holiness in this world. For that reason Rebbe Nachman said, "My only place is in Eretz Yisrael. Wherever I go, I am only going to Eretz Yisrael" (Chayei Moharan: 156). At the time of the final redemption every single Jew will be living in Eretz Yisrael.
The forces of evil understand that the spirituality of Eretz Yisrael, which is derived from the Noam HaElyon, can bring about the redemption. Therefore, as soon as Moshe (Moses) revealed himself to the Jews and to Pharaoh as God's chosen redeemer, Pharaoh, the instrument of the forces of evil, responded by making the Jewish slaves work even harder than before. This was Pharaoh’s attempt to make the sweet, redemptive energies of the Noam HaElyon bitter.
Pharaoh's harsh treatment of the Jews caused them to fall into the mentality of the Diaspora, which resulted in  bitter disputes and disharmony, as the verse states, "They [Dason and Aviram] said to them [Moshe and Aharon], 'May God look upon you and judge, for you [by your having requested from Pharaoh that he release the Jews] have made our very scent abhorrent in the eyes of Pharaoh and the eyes of his servants, to place a sword in their hands to murder us" (Shemot 5:21).
The forces of evil attack when they see the strength of the Noam HaElyon increasing, since this is a sign that the redemption is near. This is what occurred when Pharaoh increased the work of the Jewish slaves, counteracting the redemptive powers of the Noam HaElyon with the energies of the Diaspora, which is associated with harshness, din.
When the spiritual energies of the Diaspora increase, discord and dispute amongst the Jews also increase, as the verse states, "They [Dason and Aviram] said to them [Moshe and Aharon], 'May God look upon you and judge, for you [by your having requested from Pharaoh that he release the Jews] have made our very scent abhorrent in the eyes of Pharaoh and the eyes of his servants, to place a sword in their hands to murder us!" [Dason and Aviram wrongfully challenged the actions of Moshe and Aharon, who were emissaries of God. This verse connects the forces of evil with unwarranted disputes among the Jews.] (Shemot 5:21).
Through increasing the Jewish slaves' workload, the attacks by the forces of evil became so intense that they affected Moshe, the holiest man who ever lived. It clouded his perception to the point where he, himself, actually complained against God, as the verse states, "My L-rd, why have You done evil to this people?" (Shemot 5:22) This is consistent with the teaching of Kohelet 7:7, "Oppression makes the wise foolish."
God's response to Moshe's complaint was, "Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh [but since you complained and did not have faith, you will not be privileged to witness the later salvation, when I subjugate the Canaanites — for you will not be allowed to enter Eretz Yisrael (Rashi)]" (Shemot 6:1).
Moshe was not permitted to enter Eretz Yisrael because the forces of evil overwhelmed him, influencing him to complain against God. This demonstrated that he lacked the ability to completely neutralize this evil force. The closer an individual becomes to the spiritual treasures of Eretz Yisrael, the more intense the attack of the forces of evil. Therefore, the attacks would be even more intense upon entering Eretz Yisrael than in Egypt. If Moshe was unable to subdue the forces of evil in Egypt, he definitely would not be able to subdue them in Eretz Yisrael. In addition, spiritual damage incurred in Eretz Yisrael causes greater harm than the same damage in the Diaspora. For these reasons God saw fit not to allow Moshe to enter Eretz Yisrael.
The Dangers of Eretz Yisrael
Reb Noson asks the obvious question: How is it possible that so many very righteous and holy individuals experienced such great difficulty in reaching Eretz Yisrael, not to mention the spiritual giants who were never even able to get there, such as Moshe and the holy Baal Shem Tov, while many simple people and those on comparatively lower spiritual levels are able to get there with little or no difficulty?
Reb Noson answers that Moshe was on such an elevated level that he would have caused great harm through entering Eretz Yisrael. Each Jew is connected to the energies of Eretz Yisrael associated through the Noam HaElyon. The greater one's spiritual level, the greater one's access to the Noam HaElyon. Adam's sin damaged his mind and the minds of all of his descendants, clouding their perceptions. This damage will only be rectified with the beginning of the Messianic era, when we will use the Noam HaElyon to perceive the truth.
If Moshe had been allowed to enter the holy land, he would have activated most of the Noam HaElyon, which would have rectified the minds of everyone in the world, undoing the damage caused by Adam's sin. As each individual's mind would become rectified, everyone in the world would clearly perceive God and the deep secrets of the Torah. However, all of the other areas that needed to be rectified would still be in need of rectification, such as the suppression of the forces of evil. If that were to have happened, the forces of evil would have attacked with such power that they would have caused everyone to use their newly acquired, superhuman intelligence for destructive purposes.
As long as man has not perfected himself, he needs the resistance of these forces of evil to help him develop his spiritual muscles, just as a weight-lifter needs the resistance of weights. We need to be challenged by the forces of evil to attain spiritual growth and perfection. This is why God doesn't want evil to be destroyed at one blow. Since Moshe was unable to bring total rectification to every aspect of spirituality and physicality, it was too dangerous to allow him to enter the holy land.
Moshe's student, Yehoshua (Joshua), was able to bring the Jews into thee Eretz Yisrael because he was on a much lower spiritual level than his teacher. Because of the need to maintain the balance of free choice, the attacks from the forces of evil are always in direct proportion to the Noam HaElyon that an individual is able to access. Since Yehoshua was inferior to Moshe and therefore unable to access as much of the Noam HaElyon as Moshe, the counterattacks from forces of evil were much milder than if Moshe had led the Jews into Eretz Yisrael. The Jews were better able to handle the more moderate attacks by the evil forces that resulted from Yehoshua leading them than the greater assaults that would have occurred had Moshe led them. Everything that Yehoshua accomplished was through the power that he received from Moshe, similar to the sun being the source of the moon's light.
The forces of evil that dominate Eretz Yisrael cannot be neutralized in one fell swoop. They can only be driven out slowly, step by step. As mentioned above, defeating forces of evil depends on the strength of the Noam HaElyon. The more of the Noam HaElyon we are able to access, the more we can vanquish evil. However, when we attempt to access the Noam HaElyon, the forces of evil fiercely counterattack in their attempt to defend themselves.
The counterattack is in direct proportion to the intensity of the Noam HaElyon that is accessed. Too much Noam HaElyon at one time invites stronger countermeasures from the evil forces, which may be overwhelming and even lead to a person's destruction. Therefore, the Torah warns us, "I (God) shall not drive them (the forces of evil) away from you (the Jews) in a single year [all at once], lest the Land [of Israel] become desolate [through the destruction of the inhabitants by the forces of evil, if they were to attempt to destroy evil all at once, using too great a quantity of Noam HaElyon] and the wildlife of the field multiply against you (i.e. the counterattacks from the forces of evil would be too strong for you to handle]" (Shemot 23:29).
Therefore, we must be cautious in our attempts to come closer to God. If we ascend too quickly, the counterattacks from the forces of evil will be too much for us to handle and we might be severely hurt, as the Talmud teaches, "The greater the man, the greater his Evil Inclination" (Talmud: Sukkah 52a). And so, our verse recommends a balanced, moderate, and gradual approach to all our goals in life. (Lekutai Halachot: Orach Chaim: Hilchot Birchot Ha'Pay'rot 4:6-7)

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