Home History The Light of the Crowns

The Light of the Crowns

by Meir Elkabas

Parshat Ki Tisa primarily explores the 40-day aftermath following the receiving of the Ten Commandments at Har Sinai. According to the Gemara in Shabbat (88a), when the Jewish people proclaimed, “we will do and we will listen,” Hashem allowed angels to descend. Each angel held 2 crowns, and each of the six hundred thousand men received two crowns, one for Na’aseh (we will do) and one for Nishma (we will listen).

During Moshe Rabbeinu’s initial 40-day ascent to learn the Torah, the Jews below were bathed in the radiant light of these two crowns. It’s crucial to note that even during the period encompassing the sin of the golden calf, the Jews retained access to these crowns. The turning point occurred when Moshe Rabbeinu descended and shattered the tablets on the 17th of Tammuz, 40 days after Shavuot. At this juncture, Hashem decreed that the Jews must forfeit their crowns, as indicated in the Gemara (ibid.).

Following this loss, Moshe Rabbeinu relocated his tent, called the “ohel,” outside the central hub of the camp of Israel, signifying the Jews’ technical expulsion from God’s presence. However, as the Parsha concludes, Hashem instructs Moshe Rabbeinu to reconnect with the Jewish people. Notably, the term “ohel” shares its root with “Hilo,” a Hebrew term for a type of light (halo). According to the Zohar, Moshe Rabbeinu retained the light of these crowns in his tent, contributing to the luminosity emanating from his face.

Rashi adds that anyone seeking Hashem would go to the tent where Moshe Rabbeinu was, finding Hashem there. Rashi provides two explanations: those seeking Torah, the Word of God, had to travel to the tent of meeting. The Midrash emphasizes the profound idea that to learn Torah, one often has to make a considerable effort, traveling to distant places, like a yeshiva. Moshe Rabbeinu purposefully placed his tent, akin to a yeshiva, outdoors, away from the usual dwellings, illustrating the dedication required for Torah study.

In the second explanation, Rashi notes that the verse states “kol mevakesh Hashem,” meaning all who sought out Hashem would find Him in the tent of Moshe Rabbeinu. This includes angels, seeking to praise Hashem. The angels, questioning the location of Hashem’s glory, are directed to the tent of Moshe Rabbeinu, where they can find the Divine Presence to praise. It underscores the notion that even celestial beings recognize the sanctity of Moshe Rabbeinu’s tent.

Now, delving into the concept of the two crowns bestowed upon the Jews: one for Na’aseh (we will do) and one for Nishma (we will listen). Rebbe Nachman, drawing from Kabbalistic teachings, particularly the Zohar, explains that a crown is known as Keter. In Kabbalah, Keter serves as the interface between our world and the Infinite Light of Hashem. It acts as a boundary or separation between us and the limitless Divine light. Having the Keter, or crown, grants the Jews access beyond this boundary to the Infinite Light.

The two crowns signify distinct dimensions. Na’aseh, associated with the first dimension called Asiya, represents the toil and struggle in this world of action undertaken by a Jew to ascend to higher levels. Once this level is surpassed, one can access the Keter and the higher realms. While there are three additional dimensions, they are all encapsulated in the term Nishma, implying listening with the heart. Thus, the crowns symbolize the journey from action (Na’aseh) to listening and understanding (Nishma), reflecting the profound commitment to spiritual growth and connection with the Divine.

Reb Noson, in Likutey Halakhot, elucidates that the Nishma, the “we will listen,” is intricately linked to the inner yearning of a Jew. This inner yearning, represented by Nishma, allows one to connect with higher dimensions. It enables a connection to the inner realms, but Na’aseh, “we will do,” pertains to tangible actions. The crown signifies accessibility to maximize one’s perception within the first dimension, the world of action, also known as the world of Asiya – the physical world.

The essence is a Jew’s ability to accept limitations and exercise patience in their pursuit of Judaism. The inability to wait demonstrated a lapse in patience

Now, let’s revisit the perspective of the Jews at the revelation on Har Sinai. Hashem cautioned Moshe Rabbeinu twice, warning the people not to ascend the mountain due to the overwhelming intensity of the experience. There was a need for separation to avoid being consumed by the intense light. Despite the warning, the Jews had an intense experience, and according to Midrash, they even temporarily expired, necessitating angels to revive them after hearing the first two commandments.

This initial encounter with the Infinite Light was restrained, but it laid the foundation for the subsequent 40-day period, marked by the bliss of the first crown, associated with Na’aseh. The initial light experienced on Shavuot enabled the Jews to engage in the daily Avodat Hashem, the ongoing challenge to serve Hashem and reconnect with that light. The crown of Na’aseh symbolizes the ability of a Jew to successfully navigate the stages of prayer and devotion, connecting to the first light experienced on Har Sinai. It is a practical demonstration of achieving a deeper perception of God in their daily lives, providing clarity and higher understanding through daily struggle.

Following this, the second crown, Nishma, comes into play. After successfully reconnecting with the initial light, the goal shifts to pursuing higher levels. Each day presents an initial challenge, and overcoming it exposes individuals to further challenges, facilitating experiences of higher and deeper spiritual light.

During the first 40 days, the Jews were tasked with navigating the challenges that came with having the Keter, the crown. This meant daily struggles, but it also required an understanding of accepting the limitations imposed by the Keter. The Keter is likened to the wall Hashem instructed Moshe Rabbeinu to build around Mount Sinai at the time of the revelation. This wall served to prevent individuals from rushing too fast toward the intense light. The Keter, similarly, functions as a wall that applies brakes to those running too swiftly towards the Divine light. This mechanism is essential to guide individuals on when to halt, accept the brakes, and cease their pursuit.

However, a problem arises when a person, despite being pushed back, refuses to acknowledge the message and persists in moving forward. The incident of the Golden Calf exemplifies such a scenario. Rashi highlights the miscalculation made by the Jews, a seemingly trivial error of half a day, which had profound consequences. This miscalculation caused severe and enduring repercussions throughout history, that subsequent punishments, such as the Holocaust, Inquisition, and pogroms, are intertwined with the consequences of the Golden Calf.

The severity lies in the essence of the message—a Jew’s ability to put on the brakes, accept limitations, and exercise patience in their pursuit of Yiddishkeit (Judaism). The miscalculation, indicating an inability to wait, demonstrated a lapse in the crucial quality of patience. Chur and Aaron cautioned the Jews to wait, emphasizing that it was not the right time, but the impatience and miscalculation led to the disastrous choice of creating the Golden Calf.

Rashi further explains that the Satan played with their imagination, showing an image of Moshe Rabbeinu’s coffin floating in the air. This distorted imagination, coupled with the lack of patience, contributed to the Jews’ acceptance of the Golden Calf. Initially introduced by the Erev Rav, the mixed multitude of converts, they managed to convince the Jews that the Golden Calf was now their Lord. Consequently, some Jews tragically succumbed to this illusion and fell into the trap of the Golden Calf.

However, the crucial point is that the Jews failed to engage their brakes, resisting the stoppers’ call to wait. Despite repeated messages to wait, they refused, driven by the false belief that Moshe was dead. This impatience, this rush, embodies the flaw in the Keter, resulting in a loss of time and character. The Jewish people demonstrated an inability to exercise patience; they were supposed to wait just half a day, but the lack of patience caused immense damage.

The Gemara explains the loss of the two crowns, Na’aseh and Nishma, but Rebbe Nachman introduces a Midrash suggesting that the Jews only lost the crown of Na’aseh, not Nishma. According to Reb Noson, the inner light of the second crown became deeply internalized within every Jew, transcending external removal by angels. Despite the Gemara’s assertion that angels removed the crowns, the inner light of the second crown persists in every Jew to this day.

Reb Noson beautifully explains this Midrash, emphasizing that the inner light of the second crown, representing the yearning of the heart, remains intact. Even if a Jew has fallen far and made numerous mistakes, the inner desire to be a good Jew, the subconscious basis, endures. This inner light becomes the second Keter, providing hope for a fresh start, an opportunity to reconnect and experience the Light of the Infinite, even amid personal challenges and exile.

When the Parsha concludes with Moshe Rabbeinu taking these lights and Rashi referencing the Midrash about angels seeking out the place of Hashem by Moshe Rabbeinu, it highlights Moshe’s greatness. Moshe did not lose the light of the two Ketarim; he retained full access. This signifies that through Moshe Rabbeinu, even in our personal exiles, amid challenges, we can access the higher light, maintaining hope and the ability to restart and reconnect with the divine light, with the help of Hashem.

What does this mean for us? The Zohar emphasizes that Moshe Rabbeinu’s presence transcends time, existing in every generation. The essence of Moshe Rabbeinu persists even today, manifesting through the tzaddikim in each generation who carry the light of his two crowns.

The essence of this insight is that even a Jew who may have lost much can find rejuvenation by tapping into the eternal light of Moshe Rabbeinu, accessible in the tzaddikim of each generation. This connection becomes a source of hope, providing the impetus to overcome challenges and navigate the barriers presented by the Keter. The goal is to access the Infinite Light, elevating one’s perception of God, fostering personal growth, and aspiring towards righteousness.

May it be the will of God that we utilize the potential embedded in our second crown, the light of Nishma, the perpetual yearning. Furthermore, may we successfully locate the embodiment of Moshe Rabbeinu in our present generation, serving as a conduit to reconnect with the enduring lights of these two crowns – a timeless source of spiritual illumination.

Shabbat Shalom
Meir Elkabas

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