By: Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron
Inviting the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
To the Mountain of God, To Horeb
One of the important steps of our People’s redemption in this parsha is Moshe Rabeinu’s approach towards the Mountain of God, Horeb, as well as his attention towards the burning bush. This step seems so crucial in light of the fact that the Torah describes Hashem’s revelation to Moshe at the burning bush to be linked to Moshe’s paying of attention to the burning bush, as it says “and Hashem saw that he (Moshe) turned aside to see, and God called to him from the bush.” It is in this revelation that Hashem sends Moshe Rabeinu to redeem His People Israel. What can we learn from this in regard to both our personal redemption and our global redemption? It seems that the Torah wishes to teach us that it is through internal speculation and “paying attention” to God’s Presence in our lives that we can ultimately notice God’s “call” to us and our life mission towards personal and global redemption. It also seems that an important step in reaching this speculation is reaching the “Mountain of God – Horeb.” The “Mountain of God” entails an ascent, as in ascending a mountain, towards a higher consciousness where one raises one’s thoughts towards Hashem and His mastery of the universe from Above. This is accomplished through “Horeb,” which means a “vacant space,” as in “harev” or “haruv.” Just as in the physical world two objects put in a vacuum, i.e a fully vacated space, are pulled together, so too one who vacates his consciousness so that only Hashem and he are present in thought ultimately pulls himself to be united with Hashem. In this way the word “horeb” and “hibur,” built of the same letters, are integrally linked, as through “vacuum” of “horeb,” “hibur” – “unity” – is accomplished. The Rambam, in his halachic work the Mishneh Torah )Yesodei Hatorah 7, 4), describes this practice of “vacating consciousness towards Hashem,” i.e “hitbodedut,” as being the practice of those who wish to receive prophecy. Even though we may not be prophets, every Jew is meant to have this practice of “vacating consciousness towards Hashem” as ruled in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Haim 98): “One who prays… should think as if the Divine Presence is before them, and remove all distracting thoughts from themselves, until their thoughts and intention are pure in their prayer… And so did the pious ones, who secluded themselves (“hitbodedut”) and concentrated on their prayers until they achieved the falling away of their corporeality and the enhancement of the strength of their consciousness, until they came close to the level of prophecy…” Another ruling in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Haim 101, 1) pertaining to intent in the Amida prayer is that one must have intent in the Blessing of the Patriarchs, and if one does not do so the prayer is invalid. Yet another ruling of the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Haim 94, 1) is the obligation to direct ourselves towards the Land of Israel in this Amida prayer. Fascinatingly, these rulings come together in Hebron, for Hebron means to “unite” (hibur) and is also considered by our Sages to be vacant/non-usable land (agriculturally speaking – in comparison to other places in the Land of Israel), befitting rather for burial ground. Also, Hebron is the City of the Patriarchs, evoking the Patriarchs’ Godly connection, through which we also connect to Hashem through our prayers. Hebron is also the Beacon of the Holy Land and the first Jewish settlement in this Land, thereby evoking the power of this Land to which we direct our prayers.
Real Stories from the Holy Land #295
“Once, the Baal Shem Tov foresaw that a decree had been decreed upon Israel to obliterate the Oral Law. Therefore, he summoned his brother-in-law, Rabbi Gershon of Kitov to pray inside Maarat Hamachpela in Hebron before the Patriarchs, so this decree would be overturned. Rabbi Gershon did as he was told, and since access to the Maara was strictly forbidden to Jews, he bribed an Arab guard for several days in order to enter. One day, this Arab guard warned him that soon the guards will be changed, and he could not safeguard his praying there. Nevertheless, Rabbi Gershon continued to pray even after the guard was changed… When an Arab officer saw a Jew praying inside the Maara he ordered him to be grabbed and thrown in jail, till his death sentence. The next day, the Or Hahaim, Rabbi Haim ben Atar (who was also living in Israel at the time), was longing to see Rabbi Gershon, but when he heard people whispering that a Jew was caught in the Maarat Hamachpela he understood that it was Rabbi Gershon who was caught, and so he cried that entire night before Hashem to save Rabbi Gershon. The next morning, Friday morning, the sentence was decreed that Rabbi Gershon was to be burned. When the Or Hahaim heard of such, he shouted and cried throughout the whole city. When he finished praying just before Shabbat, he suddenly saw the door open seeing Rabbi Gershon announcing joyfully, “Good Shabbos!” Out of joy, the Or Hahaim was wordless, and he almost fainted…”
Sources: Sefer Hebron p. 318
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