Sunday, May 16, 2021

In relationships, many experience its beginnings to be one of tremendous excitement and vigor, happily looking forward to doing for the other. We wish things could always be that way, yet letting the course of nature fade out enthusiasm doesn’t mean one can’t institute their own approach to reinvigorate their relationships.

Parshat Acharei begins with Hashem sending Moshe to warn Aharon not to enter the Kodesh Kodashim lest he perish the ways his sons did. The pasuk stipulates, however, that Aharon not enter “at all times,” which indicates that although Aharon is to enter, he shouldn’t come too often. Why? Rashi explains that if Aharon comes too often, the concern is that he may come to a state of “hergel”—of being accustomed to coming in and getting used to being in the presence of Hashem’s Shechina. Still, what is the concern if Aharon gets used to Hashem’s Shechina?

In Yechezkel (46:9) it says that when one comes to the Beit Hamikdash on the festivals, one isn’t to leave from the same gate as one comes in. The Yaavetz (Pirkei Avot 1:4) explains based on a common phenomenon that is imprinted in the human experience: “The nature of man is to become appalled by that which he engages with on a constant basis.” Hence, if a person were to see the same gate twice he will get used to it to the point where he will despise it. Based on this, R’ Chaim Shmulevitz explains that this nature of hergel, and the concern it poses, is the same reason for the concern of Aharon getting too used to the Shechina. This, says R’ Shmulevitz, is the intention of the Navi Yeshayahu (29:13) who related Hashem’s message to the Jewish people that although they are externally going in Hashem’s ways, their internal state—their hearts—are quite far away from Him. For hergel, although it may produce action and deed, can leave the inner dimension distracted and lifeless.

We see from here how quickly one’s excitement of something new diminishes to the point where even just seeing the same gate twice can even cause one to view it with abhorrence, literally. Not only that, but even in regard to something like experiencing Hashem’s Shechina, even someone of the caliber of Aharon Hakohen can lose the original state of awe to some degree due to hergel. Therefore, being aware of this nature is imperative as it can be a significant obstacle in avodat Hashem.

When one gets rid of the chametz can be a hectic time, and many may be engrossed in being extremely careful in this. R’ Yaakov Edelstein (Chayei Yaakov, p. 93) explains that chametz is something that people deal with so often throughout the year, and thus, chametz can represent hergel. Therefore, our diligence and strictness in ridding ourselves of chametz represents the concept of putting in much effort to overcome hergel.

The Torah says that “in the month of spring make Pesach” (Devarim, 16:1), and Chazal learn from here that pesach must fall out during spring. R’ Yaakov Edelstein (p. 135) asks, why is there such a necessity that it fall out specifically during spring, so much so that we bend over backward to ensure our calendar cycle ends up having Pesach occur during spring?

R’ Edelstein explains that spring signifies a time of rebirth. It’s a new season, it’s warm, the trees are budding, the grass is growing, flowers are blossoming. Things are back to life, and therefore, spring represents the idea of hitchadshut—an attribute of refreshment, youth and newness. The insistence for Pesach to fall specifically during spring is actually bringing out a deeper idea to us, and that is the importance of living in a state of hitchadshut. Like we say in regard to Torah in the Shema, “that which I command you today…,” and picking up on the word “today,” Rashi explains that this means that Torah should be in our eyes as if it’s new for us, like we just received it today.

Hitchadshut is so important that it’s alluded to right in the first word of the Torah—בראשית. R’ Nattan Breslov (Likutei Halachot) explains that בראשית can be understood as a contraction of “ב”—for the sake of, “ראשית”—beginning. Meaning to say that the purpose of creation itself is in order for a person to live in a state of “beginning,” with hitchadshut.

Everyone knows inspiration fades, and the initial excitements we have for new experiences run out. Much of the thrill perhaps hinges upon two factors: a) The fact a person reached a milestone by receiving something they appreciate, b) the fact that one now feels that he has a new “entity” that will allow him to have a greatly enhanced life, and ultimately achieve a greater sense of wholesomeness. Says R’ Edelstein, hitchadshut can dissipate...when? Once a person feels he isn’t lacking anymore, and that he is now complete—as if “he made it,” and there’s nothing more to strive for.

R’ Shmulevitz says that “chiddush” is the key for keeping hergel at the wayside and living youthful. Chiddush is the approach of learning, creating, building, questioning, discovering, making goals, aspiring, growing, changing. Routine is foundational, but without chiddush, one might fall to hergel. When one takes an active role in his life and implements “chiddush,” a person can live like every day and every moment is new. Recognizing there is much to improve, gain and grow, a person can get “pumped up” and motivated—excitedly, yet actively approaching life and his relationships with a mindset of chiddush. In reference to the Torah, it says in Pirkei Avot (chp. 5), “Delve in it, and [continue to] delve in it, for everything is in it.” Perhaps we can explain that it may be teaching us that one may feel he’s made it in Torah, he’s reached a steady relationship with Hashem—so we say “delve and delve!”—there’s much more that you can do, and much more that can be done, “for everything is in it.”

In Tehillim (148:12) it says “young men and maidens, the elderly with lads” will praise Hashem. Aren’t “lads” already included in the category of “young men”? Say Chazal, we learn from here that the elderly can also be like lads. Hence, R’ Edelstein points out that hitchadshut isn’t necessarily dependent on quantity or even quality of years. Rather, it’s a frame of mind and a person’s initiative, and even one well on in years can live with freshness and youthfulness. Indeed, one may be well on in years, but forever young in his approach to life.

By Binyamin Benji