Insight 1 – Rejoice, Oh Righteous Ones

During the Kabbalas Shabbos service (in the stanza that starts “Hashem Malach Tagel Ha'aretz”) the siddur contains the following lines:

  • Lovers of God, hate evil.
  • He protects the souls of His kind ones, from the hands of the evil He shall rescue them.
  • Light is sown for the righteous one, and for straight of heart, joy.
  • Rejoice, oh righteous ones, in God, and give thanks for the memory of His Holiness.

A lot is going on in these few lines. If we operate under the assumption that nothing is extraneous or accidental in the davening (prayer services), then we can rightfully wonder why it is the “lovers of God” who should hate evil, and not anybody else. In addition, why is that the lovers of God are charged with hating evil and not anything else?

What's interesting about the first four words is that the word “hate” is an imperative, or a command. Why are the “lovers of God,” i.e., those who love Him, being told to hate evil? If they indeed love Him, it should be their natural position to hate evil. Because they are being told to hate evil, there must be something about them that necessitates this command.

Possessing fear (pachad) of God, which is the lowest form of worship, can go very far in preventing a person from sinning. A step higher up the spiritual ladder is awe (yira), which in my mind stands out as some combination of fear and love (ahava) of God. While love of God is the highest spiritual level, it comes with its own pitfalls. One who has reached the rung of love, and has ceased to operate based on awe, might mistakenly think that God does not care about his deeds. In other words, he might wrongfully reason that the depth of intimacy he shares with God permits him to do things that others may not. Therefore, this could be a reason that the line says, “Lovers of God, hate evil,” imploring specifically those who have reached such a level of spirituality that they must nevertheless eschew evil so as not to be tricked into it.

The third sentence reads, “Light is sown for the righteous, and for the straight of heart, joy.”

Grammatically, it seems that a few words are missing from this sentence. The intent of the sentence seems to be, “Light is sown for the righteous, and for the straight of heart, joy is sown.” It is worthwhile to focus on the noun couples in this sentence. The sentence couples “light” with “righteous,” and “joy” with the “straight of heart.” Could we not say that the righteous receive joy and that the straight of heart receive light? And further, why is it sown for them?

The word “sown” refers to something that begins at one point and comes to fruition at another. Light is given to the righteous although they do not receive it now, but at a later point in time, I'm assuming a reference to the World-to-Come. Jewish sources often use the word “light” in terms of “the light of God,” which a human being much more palpably experiences after his death. Much of Jewish thought supports this suggested reading, that the righteous are rewarded for their deeds in this life during the next.

However, what do we make of the phrase that God sows joy for the straight of heart? Does this mean that their hearts are straight in this world, but that they receive joy as a reward in the next? It is certainly conceivable that God seeks to reserve their joy for them in the World-to-Come. However, if we translate the sentence literally without the grammatical supplement, as shown earlier, it reads, “Light is sown for the righteous, and for the straight of heart, joy.” In other words, “for the straight of heart, (there is) joy,” as in, those with straight hearts receive joy right here-and-now, in this world. Joy is a direct outcome of having a straight heart, while light is preserved for a later occasion.

But why don't the righteous receive joy and that the straight of heart receive light? Perhaps they do, but it seems that the sentence means to convey a particular relationship among each noun couple, that righteousness leads to light, while straightness of heart leads to joy.

The final sentence throws us for a loop by saying, “Rejoice, oh righteous ones, in God, and give thanks for the memory of His Holiness.” The line right before told us that the straight of heart rejoice (receive joy). Now it associates the righteous with joy. Which one is it? Are the righteous or the straight of heart associated with joy?

I propose the answer to be that because the straight of heart receive joy in this world, that it is appropriate for the righteous as well to receive it in such a way. Because the light is already sown for them in the World-to-Come, they are told to rejoice so that they receive good in both places. Further, and finally, their joy is associated not with passing superficialities, but “in God.”

Good Shabbos

Comment below.

No comments: