חנוך שלו

Hanoch Shalev
Former Shaliach in Melbourne (2003-04)
Currently Dev. Manager and Owner of Shabbat Shalev” blog

Super Heroes
 

Man is a vessel which was created to receive the divine abundance.
Hashem emanates and we collect.
So too, all creatures of creation are created as vessels collecting and gathering His plenty. 
I wonder what natural, default state of mind nature is in with a “Vessel Being” in their genes?
It seems clear that the answer is the common survivor state of mind. Gather as much as you can, defend your ground and survive. This attitude would lead to a very egocentric society and natural habitat.

This intrinsic depiction of nature contrasts starkly with the mitzvah of “Tzedaka” which is dealt with in detail in our parasha. If containing the vessel and its content is at the heart of our survival instinct, then giving Tzedaka and performing acts of Tzedaka, i.e., damaging the vessel and losing the content, are unnatural. They are abnormal to the extent of saying that a human giving Tzedaka has supernatural powers – He or She are Superheros.

The Torah itself challenges the physical muscles in the human hand. Each muscle has a resting point, a posture in which the muscles are at minimum strain. Our palm does not like to be flat and spread out (try it, you’ll tire quickly). Nor does it like to be kept as a fist. Its natural posture is a palm, a vessel, ready to collect and gather. This explains the psukim 7 and 8 in perek 15. The Torah recognizes our natural rest point as a palm and asks us to put effort in opening our hand rather then closing it. Let it go.

Well, now we are ready to characterize our superhero. Shall we consider this Tzedakaman/Tzedakawomen to be the sort of superhero who experienced a trauma and decided to be a vigilante motivated by his intent and purpose (Batman? The Arrow?). Maybe they are aliens that are not subject to our vessel-gene configuration (Superman?).They might very well be demigods, sons and daughters of mighty gods of power (Wonder Woman?). What kind of superhero do we have here?

Still in Perek 15, pasuk 10, talks incentive and motivation:
כי בגלל הדבר הזה יברכך ה' אלוקיך” – ‘for in return for this matter, Hashem, your God, will bless you in all your deeds”. The Gemara in Shabbat (151b) reads the word “בגלל” as “גלגל”, a wheel. This hints to the circle of life and circumstance in which you are at the top one day but your son or later offspring might find themselves on the other side of the coin (and I am not talking ‘Heads’ or ‘Tails’).
Experience, history, knowledge and wisdom distinguish mankind from the rest of creation. Our superhero, like Batman and The Arrow, gain their superpowers by purpose and understanding far broader than the current survivability meter.  But still, these are people, thinking like vessels, just broadening their scope to future generations…

An alternative characterization of our superhero is that of a demigod. Pasuk 9 describes a complex trio of the pauper, Hashem and me:
 “ורעה עינך באחיך האביון ולא תתן לו, וקרא עליך אל ה' והיה בך חטא
– ‘and you will look malevolently upon your destitute brother and refuse to give him then he may appeal against you to Hashem, and it will be a sin upon you’.
This is puzzling. Isn’t this a false accusation? Why would it be a sin not to give, if that is how we were created? Our natural default genes evolved a 'vessel palm', so for what do we earn a sin upon us? This accusation holds ground if, like Wonder Women and other so-called demigods, we are to discover that we are godly creatures, created in his image. As demigods, sons of Hashem, we were created with an alternative inner nature of emanating and giving. This sin is upon us if we give in to our muscle memory and not to our Nefesh memory.

So we see that our vessel is flexible and complex. It can clench and close. It can spread and open. Our muscle memory and resting posture are part of a survival kit for gathering and controlling. But our nefesh is in sync with the image of God striving to give and spread light and kindness. As sons of Hashem, we find inner superpowers to save the world for better future.

Last, but never the least, Relativity Theory pitches in. Socially, we are all a vessel towards those who can give, and demigod superheros towards vessel lesser than us who are needy.
Pasuk 10 says: “נתון תתן לו” – ‘you shall surely give him’. The double use of the verb נ.ת.נ can be understood the following way:
נתון – You were given to
so therefore, you must continue the circle of life and give to someone else.

Pay It Forward.

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