Friday, January 16, 2009

Kabbalistic Cholent - Ramban's Introduction to Sefer Shemot

Did you know that the Ramban was not only a master of Parshanut of the Chumash, and a great innovator in explaining the Gemara - he was also a great Kabbalist. (There are indeed many great kabbalists lurking in the Rabbinic history of Judaism.) The Ramban was also an early lover of Eretz Israel and made aliyah to Tzefat towards the end of his life. Thus we can almost feel the electricity in the air as we turn to the Ramban to introduce Sefer Shemot.

According to the Ramban, Sefer Shemot completes the story that was started in Sefer Bereshit. Sefer Bereshit describes the creation of the world, the origins of the human race in general and the Jewish people in specific. The lives of the Avot and Imahot are paradigms of behavior for later generations, and they also create the core and foundations for the Jewish people as a nation. As a whole, Sefer Shemot emphasizes three historical events:

·         The redemption of the Jews from slavery in Mitzraim.

·         The acceptance of the authority of the Torah at Har Sinai.

·         The building of the Mishkan which becomes the physical place on Earth where there is the greatest potential for connection between human beings and HaShem.

We have previously introduced the Kabbalistic concept of Min haKoach el HaPoal (from the potential to the actual). According to the Ramban, Sefer Bereshit is the Koach of the concept of the Jewish people and Sefer Shemot is the Poal. These three historical events become three foundations of the Jewish people as a nation. The redemption from Mitzraim emphasizes the unique and special relationship between HaShem and the Jewish people. The Torah defines what the Jewish people need to do in order to be closer to HaShem. Finally the Mishkan becomes the place where people can be the closest to HaShem. These three foundations were initiated in Sefer Bereshit and are culminated in Sefer Shemot.

One final comment - (really a mini-SZP) the Ramban states that the mission of the Jewish people includes living in their proper place which is Eretz Israel. The Jewish people are not complete until they are living in Eretz Israel, observing the Torah, to bring the world closer to HaShem.

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