Over the past few days the northeastern parts of the US have been experiencing a haze and a strong smell of smoke which is emanating from a large forest fire in Quebec, some hundreds of miles away.
I found it fascinating that I was walking outside in Scranton PA and thinking there was a raging fire nearby, yet upon inquiry, I was told it is smoke that has been carried by the winds for hundreds of miles.
I was reviewing this week’s portion of the week and came up to the part of the portion describing the Jews celebrating the first Pesach while in the desert. The Torah relates that there were certain people who had come into contact with a human corpse and were ritually impure. Since they did not have the requisite time to purify themselves, they were therefore precluded from participating in the Pascal lamb.
In their sincere interest in participating in the Pascal Lamb, they came to our leader Moshe, and asked why should they be left out of the Pascal Lamb. Since it was no fault of their own; rather they were assisting in the Mitzvah of taking care of the dead.
Moshe saw their sincerity and told them he would ask G-d. G-d responded by inaugurating a new law that if the situation came up where a person could not participate in the Pascal Lamb offering on Passover, they have a make-up date. They can offer the Pascal Lamb a month later on the 14th day of Iyar. That night, the 15th of Iyar, they go through the regular Seder ritual. This Mitzva is called Pesach Sheini – the second Pesach.
I always wondered what significance and connection the 14th of Iyar has to do with Passover.
Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin o.b.m. quotes a fascinating Zohar – Kaballa that reveals a sublime connection between the two dates.
The Zohar tells us that the spiritual crowns that the Jews receive by participating in the Pascal Lamb and the observances associated with the Pesach Holiday, remain for thirty days, until the 14th of Iyar. On the last day that the spiritual energy of Passover is still felt, Pesach Sheini was established, so that all who couldn’t participate in the first, would be able to do so. This is how Pesach Sheini is linked to Passover.
Whether we realize it or not, the spiritual attachment to a Mitzvah that we perform remains active within us and accompanies us for a period of time.
As we are currently experiencing, through sight and smell, the residue and lingering of a forest fire hundreds of miles away, it makes it easier for us to realize how our Mitzvos and service to G-d leaves a spiritual impact on us and on the environment.
At the end of the Parsha, the Torah speaks of an incident where Miriam spoke a brief word of Lashon Harah – ill, concerning her brother Moshe. Miriam was smitten with Tzoraas – a spiritual laced malady which comes as a result of speaking Lashon Harah.
Because of this sin, G-d stated that Miriam should remain separated for seven days. For the few words of Lashon Harah that Miriam expressed she needed to be banished for a seven-day period. During this time, although the nation was ready to begin their travels toward Israel, the entire nation waited for her.
We see that words spoken negatively have effects as well.
Getting back to the positive impact when we connect with spirituality. This past Shabbos, my wife Malki shared with me something that one of her high school students quoted from another teacher.
Last week the Torah spoke about the unfortunate situation where a husband suspects his wife of infidelity. He warns her in the presence of two witnesses that she should not go in a private area with a specific man. If two witnesses testify that she was in fact secluded with the man, but are unsure if the two were intimate with each other, the Torah tells us that the husband together with his wife are to go to the Temple in Jerusalem to a Kohain. If the woman is adamant that she was not intimate, the Torah tells us of a ritual where a portion of the Torah in regards to Sotah, which includes G-d’s name, is written and then scraped off into a solution of water and she then drinks the water. If she was indeed adulterous, she dies – and her adulterer wherever he is dies as well. If she is in fact pure, the Torah tells us that she will be blessed with children!
A question asked, won’t you think it is uncomfortable for the husband and wife to reconnect? Yes, she was proven clear from infidelity, but still, she was under suspicion and went through a humiliating experience. How were this couple able to reconnect, with the Torah promising they will have children together?
The answer is that since she drank the dissolved name of G-d, the holy name of G-d’s name within her gives her a renewed perspective towards her husband and it affects her husband’s positive perception of her as well.
Based on the Zohar that we previously quoted, that the energy of Mitzvos lingers and creates a reality around a person, let’s explore the unseen spiritual impact of Mitzvos that we do on a regular basis.
King Solomon in the Book of Proverbs states, “For a Mitzvah is a candle and Torah is light.”
A Mitzvah is a source of energy and Torah illuminates. When one does a Mitzvah, he connects with G-d and in doing so, it creates an unseen spiritual aura that has an impact on him and the environment.
As mentioned before, that ingesting the name of G-d makes a positive impression, the same can be said when we recite a blessing over food. When we recite a blessing while mentioning G-d’s name over it, we and the food become elevated through the blessing and it becomes an internal source of elevation to us!
In a broader sense, when we recite a blessing on the Shabbos and Holidays, whether it be at the candles, or in our prayers or at Kiddush, we declare that G-d sanctified us and commanded us to observe and remember the sanctity of Shabbos. Our declaration sanctifies our homes, the environment we are in, and it accompanies us when we walk in the street and in Shul. In essence the air we are breathing during this time is sanctified.
When we Daven / pray, whether alone or together as a group, the sanctified words we express fill the room. This also occurs when we study G-d’s holy Torah – we become elevated and what we are doing illuminates our surroundings and the world!
Finally, when we say something pleasant to another, it can be a simple greeting – a good morning, a compliment, or a word of encouragement – the impact is amazing. If Miriam needed to be in seclusion for seven days for saying something that she perceived negative about her brother, surely a good and encouraging word can keep a person going for the same amount of time. Perhaps even longer and sometimes for their entire lives!