The Mei ha-Shiloah wastes no time in jumping into the heart of the matter. He quotes the well-known Talmudic dictum of R. Natan, that when circumstance necessitates, we must violate the Torah in order to fulfill Hashem's Will. But how do we know when is such a time? How do we know when we are permitted to violate or even obligated to violate? Can we trust our own judgment in such matters? These are the questions that will be addressed in this teaching.
In the example cited here (I Kings, Chapter 18), the prophet Elijah acts of his own volition without the commandment of God. In challenging the Priests of Baal to a "sacrificial duel", he is encouraging them and the people to engage in idol worship, one of the three gravest sins of the Torah, on the same level as murder and adultery. But his purpose is to demonstrate the truth of Hashem's dominion and the folly of Ba'al worship. He violates the law, in order to prove the divinity of the law.
The Ishbitzer frames the problem as one of "rules vs. specifics." The halakhah can only give us the rules to follow. It cannot contextualize those rules into every given circumstance. But to understand what Hashem REALLY wants from us in any given circumstance, we have to be graced with binah, or Divine wisdom. At a time when we are not graced with clear binah, we must rely upon the boundaries imposed upon us by halakhah.
According to the Ishbitzer, by shedding our negi'ot - all the trappings of personal self-interest and ego (and by walking in simplicity and humility, which he mentions in other teachings of the Mei ha-Shiloah) we can attune ourselves to the voice of God that calls upon each of us to fulfill His will. When we do so, we might find that Hashem calls upon us to act in a way that SEEMS to violate halakhah. In such a case, we should not be afraid we are sinning, because that case is exactly what R. Natan meant when he declared "it is a time to act for the LORD."
The Ishbitzer further expounds upon this theme, utilizing the sojourns and the encampments of the Israelites enumerated in Numbers Chapter 21 as the springboard for his exegesis. At the very end of Chapter 20, Aharon the High Priest is laid to rest at Mount Hor. Aharon's death signifies the end of the period when the Clouds of Glory showed the Israelites when and where to journey and when to pitch camp. The clouds are representative of the period when the Israelites were graced with clear binah and could constantly ascertain Hashem's Will without the necessity of halakhic rules. Aharon's death changed all that.
We will examine this amazing teaching, iy"H, on Parashat Ki Tissa.
We have seen in previous teachings of the Mei ha-Shiloah, that the person who strives to purify his/her heart and attune his/her ear to the Will of Hashem is on a higher spiritual level than the one who constantly looks for answers in the Shulhan Arukh.
The Torah makes a point of stating that the Israelites had to travel around the borders of Edom and not to enter into that land which had been given as an inheritance to the descendants of Esav. Regarding the verse in Genesis 33:14, the midrash states (Gen. Rabbah 78:14): "So when will Jacob go to Seir [i.e. Edom]? In the days of the Messiah, as it is said (Obadiah 1:21): “And saviors shall ascend Mt. Zion to judge the mountain of Esav.”
If I'm not mistaken, the Mei ha-Shiloah is saying here that the Israelites (mistakenly) believed that Atarim was part of the Land of Edom, where the rules forbade them to go, and thus they were greatly perplexed. In actuality, Atarim was inhabited by Amalakites.
Because they were able to eliminate their own self-interest, they were privileged to hear the voice of Hashem. The rules no longer applied, as Israel was able to ascertain what Hashem specifically wanted from them in this particular situation.
There is much wordplay going on in this segment, but the key to understanding the meaning of this teaching is in the verb beireru, meaning "they clarified" or "they elucidated." The same exact letters also form the word boreru, meaning "they sifted." We will see in the next segment how the two meanings become conflated in the same word.
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