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The Book of Leviticus shows us how to rectify humankind's blemished state.

Fixing an Imperfect World

Fixing an Imperfect World

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Fixing an Imperfect World
The Book of Leviticus shows us how to rectify humankind's blemished state.

Remember that if Adam had not sinned, the whole concept of areas that are sanctified and areas that are not would not have existed. The whole earth would have been like the Garden of Eden, and every place on earth would have enjoyed a state of holiness. A return to such a situation is forecast in Jeremiah (3:16-17) where the prophet says, "In those days - declares G‑d - men shall no longer speak of the Ark of the Covenant of G‑d, nor shall it come to mind. They shall not mention it nor miss it, or make another." Rashi comments on this that this means that G‑d promises that "all your entrances will be holy and I shall dwell therein as though it were the Ark of the Covenant."

Every day would have exuded the atmosphere of Shabbat….

There similarly would not have been people specially selected to perform the service in the Sanctuary since the whole of mankind would have been a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Neither would certain times have been singled out as especially suitable for festivals or as times for atonement, etc. Every single day would have enjoyed the same high status of holiness. Every day would have exuded the atmosphere of Shabbat, as promised for the future after the arrival of the Messianic age. A sign for you to remember this by are the words "olam" ["world", i.e. place], "shana" ["year", i.e. time], and "nefesh"["soul"], which are mentioned in the Sefer Yetzirah.

This means that the holiness of a particular place and the sanctity of a particular time are tied up with the concept "year". The sanctity of a specific person as distinct from people generally is connected to the concept of "soul". Man would not have been required to bring himself close to G‑d by means of an animal sacrifice; he himself would have been the sacrifice, much as is described by our sages when they tell of the archangel Michael offering the souls of the departed righteous on the Heavenly Altar. (Chagiga 12)

For the above-mentioned reasons this book commences with Adam; this is why the Torah writes: "…for when a man shall offer" [in Hebrew: "Adam ki yakriv"] (Lev. 1:2) an allusion to Adam, the first man. We can therefore view the whole of this book, Torat Cohanim, as the rehabilitation of Adam - humankind. All the laws pertaining to sacrifices, as well as those pertaining to rehabilitation from different skin diseases people are afflicted with from time to time, are all reminders of the first sin committed by Adam and the resultant diminution of man's stature in the universe. Seminal flux, i.e. vaginal discharges resulting in ritual impurity, skin eczemas, menstrual bleeding, seminal emissions both voluntary and involuntary, and how to purify people experiencing these phenomena - are all part of the legislation in this book. These laws are followed by the report of the death of two of Aaron's sons whose experience served as atonement for the failure of Original Man, as will be explained in its proper place.

G‑d's day is reputed to be equivalent to one thousand years of our calendar….

As a result of all the above, a special day of the year had to be set aside to afford man an opportunity to obtain forgiveness and cleanse himself of his sins. This too is an allusion to what happened when death was decreed on Adam, i.e. mankind; G‑d's day is reputed to be equivalent to one thousand years of our calendar, hence one day compensates for the penalty decreed on Adam that he would die on the "day" he would eat from the tree of knowledge (Genesis 2, 17).

Once this part of rehabilitation of man has been achieved, i.e. that man has succeeded in the "distancing himself from evil" part, he can strive for positive rehabilitation, the attainment of kedusha, sanctity. The second part of the Book of Leviticus commences with the imperative to become holy, an ideal to be striven for because G‑d Himself is holy. There follows the part of the book in which the sanctification of certain times of the year is legislated in Parshat Emor. This is followed by the legislation pertaining to sanctity of the land itself in the Shmita year as set out in Parshat Behar. The seven times seven year cycle described by the Torah in connection with this legislation is an allusion to the seven days of creation as will be explained in its place.

This legislation is followed by promises of blessings if we observe the commandments and warnings of progressively more severe punishments if we fail to heed G‑d's warnings and persist in our contrary and obstinate ways. The promises held out for proper observance of the commandments have not yet all been fulfilled, for we have not yet lived up to the premise which would enable G‑d to shower us with all His goodness. It is only in the messianic future that all of these promises with their beneficial impact on both our bodies and our souls can be fulfilled. At that time our bodies will achieve the same deathlessness as our souls. I have written extensively on this in the introduction to my treatise Toldot Adam.

[Translated and adapted by Eliyahu Munk.]

Eliyahu Munk, the translator, was born in Frankfurt, and emigrated to England as a young man, later moving to Toronto. After retiring from education and moving to Israel in 1978, he began an extraordinary second career as a translator, publishing English versions of the Torah commentaries of Rabbeinu Bechayei, Akeidat Yitzchak, Shelah, Alshich and Ohr Hachaim.
Rabbi Isaiah HaLevi Horowitz [5320/1560 - 11 Nissan 5390/1630] served many years as chief rabbi in Frankfurt and then Prague, his birthplace. In 1621 he moved to Israel and became the chief rabbi of Jerusalem. He is best known as the author of Shenei Luchot HaBrit, a work of Scripture commentary and Jewish Law, and is usually referred to as "the SHeLaH", the acronym of its title.
He lived the last years of his life in Tzefat although his burial place is in Tiberias, only a few meters from the tomb of the Rambam. It is a popular pilgrimage site, especially on Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan, which he himself recommended as a propitious time for saying the special prayer for success in educating one’s children that he composed.
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Discussion (1)
June 13, 2010
Fixing an Imperfect World
The Rebbe speaks on three fundamental points that are connected to Sanctification: The world, the time and the soul.
This interpretation makes sense. To get to G-d, we need to understand these three elements to achieve holiness.
Célio R. Jr.
Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
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