30 Oct Connecting with the Shechina
We know that there is no extra letter in the Torah. Everything is said for multiple reasons so when there is a glaring repetition, the commentators scramble to explain it. One such occurrence is in the beginning of parshas Vayeira. There, the Torah says, “Vayiera ailov Hashem b’alonei Mamre v’hu yosheiv pesach ha-ohel k’chom hayom. Vayisa einav, vayar, vehinei shlosha anashim nitzavim alov, vayar yayeratz likrosam – And Hashem appeared to Avraham in the plains of Mamre while Avraham was sitting at the entrance to his tent. And Avraham saw and behold there were three people standing to greet him. And he saw and he ran to meet them.” The obvious redundancy is that it repeats that Avraham saw one right after another.
The Chasam Sofer, zt”l, zy”a, gives an intriguing explanation. The verse begins with the fact that Hashem appeared to Avraham. We know that Hashem came to visit the sick for Avraham was one hundred years old, was on the third day after his circumcision, and was in pain from the surgery. The Chasam Sofer explains that while Hashem appeared, Avraham did not immediately see Hashem for the Gemora teaches us in Masechtas Shabbos 30b, “Ein haShechina shoreh lo mitoch atzvus, etc., ela mitoch simcha – The Divine Presence doesn’t rest on someone when they are sad, etc., rather only when one is happy.” Thus, while Avraham was in pain, he was not a suitable conduit to receive the Shechina. However, when he saw the three guests and realized he would be able to do the mitzvah of hachnasas orchim, hospitality, his spirits lifted. He became happy, and then he perceived that the Shechina was with him. Thus, concludes the Chasam Sofer with a flourish, the first vayar, and he saw, was referring to Avraham seeing the guests. The second vayar indicates that he was then able to see the Shechina, the Divine Presence.
While this is a nifty explanation, there is a fundamental life lesson that we need to derive from this. It says in Pirkei Avos, “Afilu echad yoshev v’oseik b’Torah, Shechina knegdo – Even one who is sitting alone and occupied in the study of Torah, the Shechina is with him.” This begs the question: The presence of the Shechina is the most exhilarating and invigorating experience possible. Why then are so many people left unaffected when they study Torah? A large percentage of those who learn find themselves watching the clock to see when the lecture is over or they feel their Torah study is a lackluster experience. How can that be when the Shechina is joining them? After all, the Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzato, zt”l, zy”a, says at the very beginning of his magnum opus, Mesilas Yesharim, that the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the ultimate reward is leihanos m’ziv Ha’Shechina, to enjoy the presence of the Shechina in the Afterlife. Using the explanation of the Chasam Sofer, we have the answer. The Shechina indeed comes to everyone who is learning, however, if they are not in the right frame of mind they won’t see it, just like Avraham didn’t see it before the three guests came. That’s why the Torah recommends to us “Ivdu es Hashem b’simcha – Serve Hashem with happiness,” because that is when we will get the full experience of the pleasure of the Shechina.
Similarly, although it says “Ish v’isha shalom beineihem, Shechina shruya beineihem – A husband and wife when there is peace between them the Shechina is in their midst,” there needs to be the extra ingredient of happiness with laughter and giggles in order for them to get the full benefit of the Shechina that is in their midst.
There is a fascinating anagram. The word b’simcha has the same letters as the word machshava, thought, for happiness is an attitude. It’s a frame of mind and it is best achieved when someone takes the sage advice of Pirkei Avos, “Eizahu asher? Ha-sameich b’chelko – Who is happy? He who is satisfied with his lot.” We pray for this all the time when we say “Sabeinu mituvecha – Satisfy us with Your goodness.”
May Hashem endow us with satisfaction and in that merit may Hashem bless us with the many blessings of the Shechina in our homes, along with long life, good health and everything wonderful.
Please learn, give tzedaka, and daven l’iluy nishmas of Miriam Liba bas Aharon.