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Do Our Hearts Have Room for God?
by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh

>>> Listen to Audio Lecture here 
 

The commandment to sanctify God's Name--even if this leads to death--is the most intense commandment in the Torah. In this week's audio meditation, Rabbi Ginsburgh explores the commandment of sanctifying God's Name and its counterpart, the prohibition against desecrating His Name. When we unlock the source of these two complementary commandments in our psyche, we can transform our hearts to shine brilliantly with God's transcendence and omnipresence.



Desecration and Sanctification

The central theme in the Torah portion of Emor reaches its climax at the end of the third section of the portion:

You shall not desecrate My holy Name, and I shall become sanctified in the midst of the children of
Israel, for I am God your God.

A pair of separate yet complementary commandments is enumerated in this verse. The first, negative commandment is not to desecrate God's Name. The second, positive commandment is to sanctify God's Name.
 
The Negative Vacuum

The Hebrew word used in the verse for "you shall not desecrate" is t'challel. Literally, challal means "a state of vacuum." A vacuum is a lack in any area of existence. (The same word is also used for "corpse," who lacks a soul). A desecration of God's Name occurs when it seems that God is absent from a particular reality. On a straightforward level, Maimonides explains that any time that a Jew, particularly a highly regarded Jew, behaves in an apparently negative manner, he has desecrated God's Name. With our understanding of the meaning of the word challel, we see that when he behaves in this negative manner, he projects that God is not present in reality.
 
Sanctification: Consciousness of God

The complementary commandment to the prohibition against desecrating God's Name is the directive to sanctify God's Name. As desecration is the projection of an apparent absence of God, it follows that sanctification of God's Name is to bring the consciousness of God to every facet of reality. The Hebrew word for "sanctify" is kodesh. The literal meaning of kodesh is "transcendent" or "separate." When a person reflects his Godly, rectified character traits as intensely as possible in all that he does, he brings God's transcendence into our immanent reality. In this way, he sanctifies God's Name.
 
The Revelation of the Divine Soul of Israel

In its ultimate manifestation, the directive to sanctify God's Name is the most intense of all the commandments of the Torah. According to Jewish law, there are three commandments that a Jew must not transgress even under the threat of death: idol worship, adultery and murder. If a Jew is being coerced to transgress any of these commandments, or if he is being publicly coerced to transgress any commandment (this applies when there is an external decree prohibiting the fulfillment of any commandment) he must choose to die rather than transgress.

Paradoxically, though, the verb for "sanctify" in our verse is written in passive form ("I shall be sanctified.") Of all 248 positive commandments, all of which are active in some way, only this commandment appears in passive form.

When a person is faced with a life threatening moral dilemma, and he chooses to die, he demonstrates the ultimate intensity of self-sacrifice. Simultaneously, though, he is negating his ego. The place that his ego occupied in his heart is now vacant and open to God's transcendence. His willingness to die reveals that God is fully present in our reality. This explains the passive form of the verb "to sanctify." When a person totally negates his ego, his heart is open for the spontaneous and natural flow of Divine consciousness. Whether in life or in death, he has revealed that only God exists. He has brought God's transcendent omnipresence into the world. More than any other commandment, this is the revelation of the Divine soul of Israel.
 
God's Name

The prophet Zecharia foresees the future when "God will Be one and His Name will be one." Just as the name of a person reflects his presence in reality, so the Name of God is the conscious awareness of Him in our reality. When Zecharia promises that God will Be one, he is referring to God's role in actively revealing Himself to the world. "His Name will be one" refers to the role of the world, which will actively seek consciousness of God in every facet of existence, both psychological and physical.

The Story of the Curser

The theme of desecration of God's Name appears again at the end of the portion of Emor. The Torah relates the story of the man who cursed God while the Jewish People were in the desert. This man was the son of Shlomit bat Divri. As her name reflects, Shlomit bat Divri (literally, "Peace, the daughter of Speech") had the unworthy inclination to speak to everyone who passed her home, speaking "hello, peace" (shalom) to both Jews and Egyptians alike. Thisimmodest habit made her vulnerable to evil input. She was eventually raped by anEgyptian who masqueraded as her husband, and gave birth to a son who cursed Godin anger at not receiving a parcel of land with the rest of his tribe. (After raping Shlomit bat Divri, the Egyptian attempted to murder her husband. Moses, who with his holy spirit perceived what had happened, killed theEgyptian, thus saving the life of the husband. This was the first time Mosesacted as the redeemer of Israel. He was subsequently sentenced to death by Pharaoh for this act, and had to flee Egypt.
 
The Connection Between Curse and Desecration

The Hebrew root for "curse" is kallel (spelled: kuf, lamed, lamed). The Hebrew root for "desecration" is challel (spelled: chet, lamed, lamed). These two words are obviously related. Both words end with a double lamed, while the letters that differentiate them are kuf (in kallel) and chet (in challel).  According to the transformation system known as Albam, the letters kuf and chet are interchangeable. The rectification of the curser (mekallel) in the desert was to become a corpse (challal).
 
The Positive Corpse

The two identical letters in  kallel and challel are the lameds. In Kabbalah we learn that the double lamed is the secret of the heart. King David writes (Psalms 109:22):

and my heart is like a corpse within me

King David had killed his evil inclination, leaving a "positive corpse." In place of his evil inclination, he had created a vacuum in his heart, leaving it wide open for God's transcendence to enter. In the Torah portion of Emor, both challal and kallel are negative. Both are states of the heart. Challal is the vacuum of God in the heart, while the curse, kallel, stems from that very vacuum. Thus we see that vacuum and curse are interdependent.

By working on the character traits of his heart with intensity, King David rectified the negative challal, transforming it to a receptacle of God's transcendence, a sanctification of His Name.
 
A New Manifestation

The antonym of challal, "sanctification," is kodesh (spelled: kuf, dalet, shin). As we have learned, the letters kuf and chet are interchangeable. If we substitute the letter chet for the kuf in kodesh, we receive a new word, chadesh, which means "new". (Chodesh also means "month," alluding to the "new moon.") The Torah commands us to sanctify the new moon. The famous Biblical commentator, Rashi, explains that God demonstrated to Moses exactly how the new moon looks in the sky, saying, "When you see this, sanctify it."

Newness is novel. When we see a totally new phenomenon, we must sanctify it. The most novel phenomenon in our world is when transcendence or something removed from our routine milieu of natural phenomena becomes intensely revealed in our consciousness. This is the secret of "I shall become sanctified." When a person is willing to give up his life for God, his ego has vanished. This creates a totally new manifestation, never revealed before in the world. God's absolute transcendence, kodesh, is newly (chadash) revealed, becoming omnipresent and immanent. Thus we see that sanctity and newness are interdependent.
 
The Perceptions of the Heart and the Mind

While challal and kallal are states of the heart, kodesh and chadash are states of mind. They are the pure perception of the inner eye of the mind, as in God's instruction to Moses, "When you see this (new moon), sanctify it. The difference between the mind and the heart is the difference between pure perception and the emotive response to what is perceived. All pure perception (sight, sound, etc.) are mental faculties. Kodesh and chodesh originate in the inner essence of the perception of the mind. Challal and kallel originate in the heart, and have to be transformed to the "positive corpse" of King David.

The Positive "Curse"

In Ezekiel 1:7 kallal means shining brilliance. The positive vacuum of the heart (challal) creates space for the new (chadash) manifestation of God's transcendent omnipresence (kodesh). This produces the shining emotive experience of the heart (kallal).

The rectification for us to concentrate on this week is to nullify our ego to allow God's transcendence to enter our hearts. Transcendence is always new, transforming the negativity of desecration and curse to rectified emotions of the heart, which will shine brightly and sanctify God's Name in all our reality.
 

 


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