shiur for parashas Ki Tisa 5781
“H’Shem said to Moses: Take for yourself – spices – stacte, onycha, and galbanum – spices and pure frankincense.” – Exodus 30:34
The incense was offered every day in the morning, and in the afternoon. The incense fragrance connotes the understanding that we are to serve G-d in a pleasing manner; inasmuch that we are His servants, it is our responsibility to serve Him. Yet, He would like us to develop the inward desire to serve Him. This is reflected in the two ways of obeying His commandments – out of fear, and out of love.
To observe His commandments out of fear, demands acknowledgment of H’Shem as “the L-rd thy G-d who brought you out of the land of Egypt” (Exodus 20:2). In and of itself, this is the first commandment, inasmuch that we are obligated to acknowledge H’Shem as sovereign; once we accept His authority, then the commandments follow as authorative statements; i.e., divine decrees (Baal Halachos Gedolos).
Yet, some of us are still plagued by our own personal Mitzraim (Egypt): our limitations that prevent us from excelling in our service (avodah) to H’Shem. Others are floundering along the way, in danger of being overcome by Amalek (symbolic of doubt), underappreciating the miracles that H’Shem has done for us, thereby permitting our desire for Him to “cool” down. On Purim, we recall the hidden miracle – how we were rescued from Haman, a descendent of Agag, an Amelekite; and, how we were victorious against the Amalekites who rose up against us within the 127 provinces of King Ahasueros.
Yet, do we recognize the miracles every day in our own lives? The potential for us to experience His shefa (everflowing grace) is always offered to us when we look towards Him in our struggles. We should be thankful to Him for these blessings. Additionally, we should praise Him every day, for He has given us the breath of life; each and every day is an opportunity to lift our voices to Him in appreciation, thanking Him for all that He has given us.
Lifting up our hearts to Him will help us to develop ahavah (love) for Him. In serving Him out of love, we are commanded to love him with an undivided heart (Sifrei), as is written, “thou shalt love H’Shem thy G-d with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). Moreover, Maimonides writes, “Once a person loves G-d appropriately, he will fulfill the commandments out of love” (Hilchut Teshuva 10:2).
Yet, both love and fear are necessary, like the wings of an eagle; for without fear (awe, reverence, respect), there is not the proper attitude conveyed towards Him. Without love, we may not be able to fly towards Him, higher and higher on our journey; yet, we continue climbing, as it is, for we will reach Him with dveykus: constant clinging to His Essence.