Shabbos, Pain & Forgiveness – Parashat Behaalotecha 5780
“When you are lighting the candles, the seven shall cast light toward the face of the Menorah…” ~ Bamidbar 8:2
Rashi explains that “toward the face of the Menorah” refers to the ner ma’aravi, which is the middle candle and also the westernmost candle. When the Kohen Gadol would light the Menorah he would begin by lighting this candle and he would also finish with lighting this candle. If that is so, the verse should conclude that the remaining six candles should cast their light toward the middle, seventh candle. Instead, it says that all seven candles will shine their face toward the face of the Menorah.
The westernmost candle alludes to the Divine Presence called the Sechinah which is also said to be in the west (Bava Basra 25).
The Noam Elimelech says “that one must strive to be in the state of devekus, cleaving tightly cleaving to or connecting to HaShem”. This is done with the attachment to the Divine Presence, this is the level that can be achieved on and through Shabbos. This is why all six candles, six days of the week, would point to the seventh candle, the western candle- Shabbos. Rebbe Elimelech teaches, “All seven candles shall shine, means that you should also rectify all the days of the week so that they will shine together with Shabbos as one light, thereby elevating the weekdays to the level of Shabbos”. Rebbe Elimelech is telling us that we must live a life of striving for devekus, cleaving to HaShem by connecting ourselves with the essence of Shabbos.
The Radomsker Rebbe said “I heard in the name of the Holy Rebbe Elimelech that Erev Shabbos has the same aspect as Erev Yom Kippur”.
Rebbe Elimelech said, “Every Erev Shabbos, my household was full of such awe that even the maids would fall down crying and begging each other for forgiveness and begging each other for forgiveness saying ‘forgive me, if I offended you all week long!’ they would all cry and forgive one another as people do on Yom Kippur.” This great awe on Erev Shabbos was illuminated by the “western most candle” the Divine Presence. Each individual could clearly see that acknowledgment and forgiveness was the gateway to devekus as they entered into Shabbos.
Please, open your hearts with me. Last night I went on a full moon hike through Midbar Yehuda, from Tekoa to the Dead Sea. This pushed me way past my physical limits and about a quarter of the way into the hike, because of an old injury, I began to feel immense pain. This pain became consuming, conversation with friends stopped, the joy of being out on a hike stopped, everything became about the pain. This mamash put me at a crossroads, I had to keep hiking. I was with a group of friends on an inaccessible trail and there was only one way to go- forward. My pace slowed way down as I remembered the words of one of my dear, beloved Rabbis, Rabbi Henoch Dov Hoffman of Denver. He would always say two things in these types of situations: “Rest while you walk” and “Take small steps”.
As the 10 hour hike straggled on, my mind, through the pain, turned to HaShem. I turned to tefillah. I had to look deep inside to examine both the physical pain and psychological pain I felt as I walked. My body hurt profoundly. I felt embarrassed. I felt like I had let myself down. There was a lot going on. Me, the strong man that once could accomplish so many things physically. How did I get here? How did I get to this place of profound pain?
This was exactly what HaShem wanted, this was my Erev Shabbos, this was my Yom Kippur. I had to forgive myself, I had to cry and ask mechila, I had to let my pain become a place of self-forgiveness and healing and through this I was able to feel a new level of light and devekus with HaShem. Those that were there could testify that I came off the trail nearly unable to walk, but with a full heart singing “Good Shabbos, Good Shabbos…”
I bless each one of us that we can use the experiences of our lives, our victories and our pain to open the gates of Shabbos, to open the gates of Devekus with HaShem.