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Perfection Through Milah

Perfection Through Milah

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Rabbi Yaakov Hillel on the Parasha
Rabbi Yaakov Hillel on the Parasha

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Published by: Harav Michael Elkohen on Oct 11, 2013
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05/21/2014

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1
  Parashah Insights
by
 Rabbi Yaakov Hillel 
 Rosh Yeshivat Ahavat Shalom Parashat Lech Lecha
 Perfection through
 Milah 
 
 Lech Lecha 
“And Hashem said to Avram, go for yourself (
lech lecha
) from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you”(
 Bereshit
12:1). With this commandment, Hashem instructed our Forefather Avraham to distancehimself from his native country, his hometown, and his childhood home, allinhabited by wicked, corrupt idolaters. In order for Avraham to perfect himself andcomplete his mission in this world, he had to detach himself from theseoverwhelmingly negative influences and settle in the Land of Canaan, which hisdescendents would inherit as
 Eretz Yisrael
. Only in Hashem’s Own Holy Land couldhe accomplish his mission of coming close to the Al-mighty and achieving ever-higher levels of spirituality. We know that the Torah is our eternal guide, with a personal message for all Jews, whenever and wherever they live. For Avraham, the message was to move away fromeverything that was negative in his birthplace and family home, so that he couldgrow spiritually. We may say that in our times, this verse continues to encouragespiritual growth, but from a positive starting point. We, Avraham’s children, have anaccumulated background of four thousand years of total dedication to the Al-mighty and His Torah. With this force behind us, we can take advantage of all that ispositive in our lives and use it as an impetus to propel us upward. With the words
lech lecha
, “go for yourself,” the Torah directs us to the path weshould follow in order to successfully fulfill our own life’s mission. The first step onthat path is “your land.”
 Eretz Yisrael
, the Land of our Fathers, the sanctifiedhomeland given to us by the Al-mighty, is on a higher spiritual plane than any other
 
 
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location on earth. Living there is especially conducive to spiritual growth(see
 Kelim
 1:6;
Bereshit Rabbah
16:4;
 Baba Batra
158b; and
 Radak
on
Tehillim
87:3).“From your birthplace” is a reference to the concept of community, themagnificent structure of heritage and tradition passed on from generation togeneration. “From your father’s house” refers to the education we receive from ourparents, as expressed in the verse, “Hear, my child, your father’s rebuke and do notforsake your mother’s Torah” (
 Mishle
1:8). The positive training and values weabsorb at home should continue to accompany us as we grow and developthroughout our lives.By following this path, we will succeed in reaching “the land (
eretz
) which I willshow you.” Our Sages use the term
eretz
as an allusion to the World to Come: “Allof Israel have a share in the World to Come, as it says (
Yeshayahu
60:21), “And Yournation, all of them are righteous, they will inherit the land (
eretz
) forever’” (
 Sanhedrin
100a). We should learn to utilize the assets of homeland, community, and family as toolsto help us reach the World to Come. In the words of the Ramhal, “Man was creatednot for his position in this world, but for his position in the World to Come. However,his situation in this world is the cause of his situation in the World to Come, which isthe ultimate objective” (
 Mesillat Yesharim
, Chapter 1). The path we tread in this world leads directly to our eventual reward in the World to Come.
 Perfect Numbers
The words
lech lecha
 were used to tell Avraham to separate himself from the evilaround him in order to achieve perfection. These same words encourage us to turnour many blessings into steppingstones to perfection.
 Lech
and
lecha
each have thenumerical equivalent of fifty, together totaling one hundred, a number signifyingperfection.
1
  We find an allusion to this concept in our Sages’ description of the various stagesof man’s life, and his growth in Torah and the service of Hashem. They start with “afive-year-old begins Scripture,” tracing his development over the years, and conclude with “a hundred-year-old is as if he is dead and gone from the world” (
 Avot
5:21). By the age of one hundred, man achieves such a lofty level of spiritual perfection thathe is on a higher plane, as if he is no longer in the physical world. While it is possible
1
 
In other languages, the alphabet and numbers are separate and unrelated: A,B,C is distinct from1,2,3. Hebrew is unique in that it has no numbers; the letters also serve as numbers.
 Alef 
, the firstletter, is one,
 bet
, the second letter, is two, continuing up to
 yud
, ten. Numbers higher than tenare expressed by a
 yud
with an
 alef 
(eleven),
 yud-bet
(twelve), etc. In addition to the meaning of any given word expressed by the characters read as letters, it also has a numerical equivalent(
 gematriya
) composed of the value of its letters in numbers.
 
 
3
to live longer than one hundred years, our Sages did not go any further, becauseone hundred indicates perfection.One hundred is composed of ten times ten. To better appreciate the significanceof the number one hundred, let us first understand something about the significanceof the number ten.Our Sages teach that Hashem created the world with ten Utterances, called
 Maamarot
(
 Avot
5:1). The
 Mekubalim
explain that these Utterances are ten specificrevelations of ways that Hashem relates to His created beings, in accordance withtheir deeds. The
 Sefer Yetzirah
calls them ten
 Sefirot
, ten spiritual forces through which Hashem rules the world. Each is a different level of His relationship to us, anda separate form of our connection to Him. Every one of the ten
 Sefirot
, a perfectentity unto itself, is divided into ten sub-categories.Hashem is the essence of perfection, and what He creates is perfection. Hischoice of specifically ten
 Sefirot
,
 
each subdivided into ten, as the instrument of Creation and revelation, teaches us that ten is perfection, while ten times ten isabsolute perfection.Interestingly, we find the concept of ten as perfection in the decimal system, theuniversal basis of mathematics. In this system, the highest numeral is nine. Tencompletes the cycle, with any number after nine represented by a one with theaddition of another digit. For example, one with a zero is ten, one with another one iseleven, and so on. All the numbers link up to ten, which is higher, all-encompassingperfection.The Torah tells us that man was created in the image of G-d: “And G-d createdman in His image, in the image of G-d He created him” (
 Bereshit
1:27). It is one of the Thirteen Principles of Faith that the Al-mighty has no physical image or form atall (Rambam,
 Perush HaMishnayot
,
 Sanhedrin
,
 Perek Helek
). Our Sages explainthis extremely profound statement on many levels. One explanation is that as wesaid, perfect revelation of the Al-mighty is through the ten
 Sefirot
. Man, created in G-d’s image, so to speak, also contains these same ten spiritual forces, symbolized inhis physical form (see commentary of Rabbenu Behayye on
 Bereshit
1:27;
 Shaar  Ruah HaKodesh
,
Yihud
 
 Kaf-alef 
, p. 57a,b).The
 Mekubalim
teach that man’s body has ten primary parts, corresponding tothe ten
 Sefirot
. Man’s skull is
 Keter 
(the Crown). It is the repository of the threecompartments of the mind:
 Hochmah
in the right brain,
 Binah
in the left brain, and
 Daat
in the brain at the nape of the neck.
2
The right arm represents
 Hesed
 (Lovingkindness) and the left arm represents
Gevurah
(Might), as we find in our
2
 
 Hochmah
, wisdom, is the capacity to accumulate and store knowledge.
 Binah
, intelligence, isthe capacity for intellectual depth.
 Daat
, reason, is the capacity for practical application of ourknowledge.

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