Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Absolute Separation

The Rambam zt”l writes that the mezuzah is meant to remind us of G-d’s Oneness so that we can shake off our immersion in the things of this transient world. The thought that nothing lasts forever but the knowledge of Hashem can restore us to right thinking and the proper path. But only the chosen nation, imbued by G-d with a powerful desire to focus on eternity, is so affected by the mezuzah. The Maharal zt”l explains that the mezuzah serves to separate the Jewish home from a non-Jewish one right at the doorpost, the line of demarcation between the home and the outside world. The Jewish people embody the purpose of creation—this is why we alone are called His “children,” and we are compared to fire. The non-Jews, on the other hands, are compared to water. And as we all know, fire will always succumb to water…unless an impenetrable barrier separates them. If one does, then the fire overpowers the water!

Rav Simcha Bunim of Peshischa zt”l once rented a wagon to take him to Warsaw. Although the shamash asked for an exact address, the Rebbe just waved the driver on and wouldn’t provide one. Suddenly, the Rebbe ordered them to stop and park outside, while he climbed out and entered a seedy-looking inn. Inside, he saw two Jews in conversation.

The first said, “I didn’t quite understand why we find in our parsha that, ‘they made a covenant, the two of them.’ (Bereishis 21:27) How could Avraham Avinu make a covenant with a gentile?”

His friend retorted, “I also had a question. Why doesn’t it just say, ‘they made a covenant?’ ‘The two of them,’ seems superfluous! But your question has answered both mine and yours. The verse means that although they made an agreement, they were still ‘the two of them’—totally separate. They may have made a peace treaty, but Avraham Avinu still kept his distance!”

The Rebbe turned right around and left the inn, saying, “The only reason I came was to hear those words!”

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