The Danger of Greatness

The High Priest's special garments are described in detail in the chapter called Tetzaveh. A fascinating ornament he wore was the interspersed golden bells and material pomegranates he wore on his hem. The Torah explains that he was to wear these so as to make a sound when he entered the Sanctuary. If he does so, he will not die. The implication being, if he fails to wear these bells that make the noise, he will die if he thus enters the Sanctuary.

That's a pretty unusual arrangement! According to the Sages, this was to avoid the jealousy of the angels, who are jealous that man has such a Sanctuary. Why do bells help?

A further question is asked by the Netziv of Volozhin: The other Kohanim (priests) entered the Sanctuary on a daily basis as well, yet they do not have bells on their hems. Why is this danger specifically for the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest?

Oznaim Latorah explains the principle that whomever is more holy or great, has a bigger evil inclination. Thus, an ordinary Kohen is not in the same danger that the High Priest is. How so? What is the danger? And how do the bells alleviate it?

I believe the danger is the most destructive of all character traits: Pride. A great person is easily tempted to become prideful, and, as King Solomon said, "Pride comes before the fall."

It is like a ladder. The higher up one goes, the less forgiving a fall becomes. From the top of the ladder, the fall can be fatal. From one step up, it's nothing. The High Priest, as the title implies, is high up on the ladder. Thus me must remember that he is on a ladder to begin with. If he keeps that in mind, he will be careful to not take chances. He will remember where he is, and act and think accordingly. God is the "Yodea Machshavot," the Knower of Thoughts.

It also reminds me of a dog's collar, where the jingling of the bells lets the master know where the animal is a any time. It symbolizes subservience, and that is exactly what is more demanded from the greater person.

So as we strive for greatness, let us remember to couple it with ever greater humility. We may be smarter, faster, richer and so forth than our neighbors, but we are no more important than them. Let us never forget that. Each soul is created in the image of God and is holy. A person's holiness cannot be measured, thus it must not be treated with disrespect.

Settlements and Peace

If, in theory, dismantling settlemets would bring about peace and a cessation of teror and hostility, most would agree that it is justified. After all, Judaism allows all Torah commandments save idolatry, adultery and murder, to be violated if it is necessary to save a life. One can certainly argue that achieveing peace is a life-saving accomplishment.

On the other hand, the Jewish People are commanded to dwell in their land. That is even obligatory if it means fighting. Otherwise, what is the difference between the West Bank and Tel Aviv? If Israel voluntarily dismantles itself and all the Jews move to the US, that may be said to bring about peace and save lives. Yet no one in their right mind would suggest such a thing.

So is one part of the Land of Israel different than the whole of the Land? I think yes, and historically we find that King Solomon gave cities in the North to the King of Tyre. So perhaps a small territorial gift that enables the rest to live in peace is justified.

The problem with all this talk is that it is based on a theoretical that is non-existent. There is no guarantee that ceding territory and dismantling settlements will bring peace. There is a guarantee that it would weaken Israel strategically. It seems to me that the "life-saving" argument actually goes the other way and forbids giving away territory.

But it's not just theory, there is precedent. Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza strip. Thousands of families in dozens of settlements were uprooted. The end result? Missile fire and terrorism. No peace.

There is no reason to think that further uprootings would have any different result.

Also, the western world does not know how small Israel is. To leave the post '67 areas would again leave Israel with a narrow belly of only 11 miles! Imagine putting enemy guns across the Hudson and trying to keep New York safe. Same deal. The heavily populated central Israel area would be only 11 miles from Arabs. If they follow Gaza precedent, all of Tel Aviv will be in and out of bomb shelters.

Nope, saving lives implies keeping the settlements and the territories. Only if there is a clear destination of peace could we even think of compromise. There is no such destination, and there is no partner ready for it. If they wanted peace, they'd have had it long ago. They want Israel to be theirs to transform into Palestine, and eliminate the Jewish State.

Read the news, the leaders can't bring themselves to recognize that Israel is a Jewish State.

Sorry to disappoint, but reality must be faced.

Judaism in a Minute

At the beginning of the section of "Pekudei" in Exodus, there is a precise accounting of the materials donated for the Tabernacle. Such an amount of gold was used for this, and so much silver was used for that, etc... Moses made this accounting so he shouldn't be a headline in the newspaper. He did not want the slightest doubt to his honesty, and made sure that the accounting was very public and very accurate.

Which is what the people demanded. And yet, by contrast, they demanded no such accounting for all the gold and silver that they had given for the Golden Calf!!! On the surface, this is an indictment! It seems they were more generous for that tragic sin than for the Holy Sanctuary! How can this be?

The answer lies in two Hebrew terms used for the creative work in the sanctuary: avodah and melacha. The former means "labor". The latter means "artistic labor". What is the difference?

My teacher, Rav Ahron Soloveichik, explains it as follows. Avodah-Labor is fulfilling the technical requirements of a job, in a manner where the work is mechanical and extraneous to the personality of the doer. Melacha-Artistic Labor is where the doer invests their personality, their soul into the work.

In practical business terms, it is a tale of two salesmen. Both have a sheet of leads to call. The avodah laborer will call the numbers, read the sales script, and probably not sell too much. It is extraneous to him, his soul is not in it. The melacha-laborer will also call the leads, but will have an enthusiasm about him that will close many sales.

With this explanation, we now see how, indeed, the demand for accounting from Moses when the people donated to the Sanctuary, and the lack of such a demand when they donated for the Calf is a great merit. Rav Sorotzkin, in his work Oznaim Latorah, explains the difference:

The people did not really connect to the Calf with their souls. It was an extraneous act that they temporarily fell into. Thus, they really didn't care where the money went. Subconsciously, they would have been happy if the Calf never happened. But the Sanctuary was dear to them, was part of their very being. Therefore, they wanted to be absolutely certain that every penny was used for its intended purpose.

Perhaps this is why the term for idolatry is "Avodah zara," a foreign Labor, as opposed to "melacha zara."

So how about the minute? When a person prays, or performs any commandment, do they do it "to fulfill the obligation?" Are they meeting the technical requirements without thyat soul connection? The test is in the minute before. If the person pauses, gathers their concentration, recites a prayer that the commandment they are about to fulfill should find favor in God's eyes, then odds are that they connect personally to this good deed.

But if they rush in, hurry to get it over with and their mind is elsewhere, they have missed a chance to grow tremendously as a spiritual person. All it takes is a minute, and a minute, and a minute.