King Solomon writes in the book of Koheles, “G-d seeks out the pursued.” The Medrash explains this verse; whether a righteous person pursues a righteous or wicked one, or a wicked person pursues a righteous or wicked one – G-d seeks out the pursued.
The Medrash continues by stating examples: Kain continually pursued Able, and we see that G-d turned to Able and accepted his sacrifice. The righteous Noach was pursued by the wicked of his generation and G-d chose Noach to save mankind and all living creatures. Avraham was pursued by the wicked king Nimrod and was thrown into a fiery furnace, and G-d saved and chose Avraham. Yitzchok was pursued by the Philistines and they themselves came to recognize that G-d was with Yitzchok. Yaacov was pursued by his wicked brother Aisav and G-d chose Yaacov. Yosef was pursued by his righteous brothers, and G-d chose Yosef by adding the letter Hey of His name to Yosef’s name changing it to Yehosef. Moshe was pursued by the Pharoh and G-d chose him as leader. King David was pursued by King Saul and G-d chose His servant David as king. King Saul was pursued by the Philistines and G-d chose Saul as king. The Jewish people are pursued by the nations of the world and G-d chose us to be His treasured nation.
The Medrash continues and turns to a verse in this week’s Parsha. “When a bull, sheep or goat is born, it must remain with its mother for seven days. Then, after the eighth day it shall be accepted as a sacrifice for a fire offering to G-d.” G-d chose a bull as a sacrifice because it is pursued by a lion. G-d chose a goat as a sacrifice because it is pursued by a leopard. G-d chose sheep as a sacrifice because it is pursued by the wolf. G-d chose animals that are pursued for sacrifices – rather that the pursuers.
The Medrash specifically aligned these animals who are pursued with their pursuers based on the verse in Isaiah which speaks of the idyllic time of the Messiah when “The wolf will lie with the sheep, and the leopard with the goat and the calf with the lion.”
The Sfas Emes delves deeper into the mechanism of how the pursued vis a vis pursuer operates. The world at face value appears as a natural phenomenon and conceals its spiritual and sacred inner core. Things that are heavily involved in worldly quests receive more energy from nature and are pursuers. A bull, sheep and goat’s temperament are reverent making them susceptible to be pursued by the opposing forces.
The Sfas Emes continues: The soul and essential nature of each Jew is that they are attached to Olam Haba – the upper spiritual realm. Understandably, the people and forces whose lives and quests are in conflict with our spiritual core are drawn to pursue us.
This struggle of pursued vis a vis pursuer is not isolated to people and things. It applies to our inner struggle of spirituality; recognizing G-d, His Torah and performing His Mitzvos.
G-d created us with a spiritual drive and also an interest and drive to stray away. These two conflicting urges are characterized as the Yaitzer Tov and Yaitzer Harah – good inclination and evil inclination.
The decisions we make based on this inner struggle we all go through is how we receive reward or punishment.
The Talmud tells us that the more elevated a person is, his evil inclination works harder on him.
The Sfas Emes concludes with the following amazing encouraging thought: One should never be let down that his Yeitzer Hara – evil inclination is working on all cylinders to trip him up – for this is only indicative that his inner core – his Neshama/soul has so much holiness and spiritual energy that the conflicting forces wish to douse it.
Built into each of us is the ability to handle and overcome any challenge that presents itself!