By: Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron
Inviting the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
A Man Who Gives an Offering to Hashem From the Animal
The word for man in our title quote from this parsha is Adam. The Zohar explains the difference between the term Adam versus terms such as Enosh, Ish, etc. by saying that “Adam” connotes a more complete and virtuous person than the other terms. In this verse it is said that this “man”/Adam is to bring an animal – “behema” – for an offering before Hashem. In Kabbalistic and Hasidic works it is said that “behema” is a combination of two words “ba” “ma”, which literally means “within it is essence.” According to the Kabbalists this “essence” – “ma” is identified with the concept “adam.” This teaching can be explained, in part, by saying that “adam/man” represents the more Godly-being/”spiritual essence” in this world, whereas “behema/animal” represents the more animalistic material world which receives this “essence” – “ba” “ma”, “within it is the spiritual essence of “Ma/Adam”.” The Kabbalists also note that Adam and “Ma” have the same numerical value. The fact that “Adam” and “behema” are so deeply connected in this way also explains how the animal sacrifice is the expression of “man”’s internal “essence” – “mahut.”
The Tanya explains that within every person there are two “souls,” so-to-speak, that may be “battling” each other, the “Godly soul” and the “animalistic soul”. The “animalistic soul” is characterized by the inclination towards one’s bodily needs, desires, tendency to more “earthly” matters, etc. Although the “animalistic soul” is not evil, it can take on a tendency towards evil if not harnessed or trained properly through connection to the “Godly soul.” Ultimately, a life goal is to cultivate the “animalistic soul” to such an extent, through constant connection and work with the “Godly soul,” that the “animalistic soul” not only doesn’t interfere with spiritual perfection, but actually becomes “Godly” itself, as a partner and aid in spiritual perfection.
Fascinatingly, the Kabbalists tie the concept of the “animalistic soul” – “behema/ba ma” – with the secret of Maarat Hamachpela. Maarat Hamachpela, the “Double Cave,” connotes the name of Hashem that has “double” “heh”’s when spelled out, i.e yod vav dalet, then heh heh, then vav vav, then heh heh, according to the Kabbalists. They also explain that the numerical value of this name of Hashem is equal to 52, which is also the same numerical value of “behema.” This teaching can be strengthened by the teaching in the Zohar that it is when Avraham ran after his ox, i.e his “behema,” that he “discovered” Maarat Hamchpela. What does all this mean? As we mentioned before, the “animalistic soul” represents the more “earthly” aspect of man. Since Maarat Hamachpela is a holy location we may say that this location has the special spiritual power to perfect the “animalistic soul,” transforming the more “human” facets to become Godly. Indeed, this is Hebron and Maarat Hamachpela, where our Godly ancestors are buried, our holy Patriarchs and Matriarchs who transformed their human lives to become conduits of the Divine.
Real Stories from the Holy Land #306
“The ancient custom used to be to make pilgrimage to Maarat Hamachpela on the 7th of Adar, the yahrzeit of Moshe Rabeinu, since the Midrash says that Moshe Rabeinu was brought to Maarat Hamachpela after his passing at Mount Nevo. After Tarpat, this custom ceased to continue due to the dangers involved, and Jews began to make pilgrimage to the Tomb of Rashbi in Meron since there is a soul connection between Rashbi and Moshe Rabeinu. With Hashem’s kindness, more and more Jews today come to Hebron on the 7th of Adar to renew the ancient custom. Take part in this remarkable renewal!”
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