- yehoshua steinberg
Vayeishev: Born to Fly/Break on through to the Other Side ~ Tzvi Abrahams
Born to Fly/Break on through to the Other Side
פִּרְחֵי כְּהוּנָה: young kohanim
וּבַגֶּפֶן שְׁלֹשָׁה שָׂרִיגִם וְהִיא כְפֹרַחַת עָלְתָה נִצָּהּ הִבְשִׁילוּ אַשְׁכְּלֹתֶיהָ עֲנָבִים On the vine were three branches, and as it was budding, its blossoms shot forth with clusters of ripe grapes.1
The theme that connects these words is one of breaking through the boundaries. Just like a fledgling cracks through the shell from a constricted world to a much more expansive world, so too regarding humanity; when we leave the restricted space of our bodies and pass through to the next world, Chazal use the lashonof flying: פָּרְחָה הַנֶפֶשׁ. When we leave this world, Hashem gives us our wings and we fly, no longer confined to the limitations of the body; we soar to the heavens like a bird.
We learn from the Gemara in Brachosthat once a year we say a special brachahwhen we see the trees in bloom: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’אֶ-לֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁלֹא חִיסֶר בְּעוֹלָמוֹ דָבָר וּבָּרָא בּוֹ בְּרִיוֹת טוֹבוֹת וְאִילָנוֹת טוֹבוֹת לֵהָנוֹת בְּנֵי אָדָם Blessed are you Hashem King of the universe Who did not lack in His world anything, and Who created in it good creations and good trees to benefit the children of man.2
The nature of this brachahis that Hashem could have easily created a world without the need for the trees to blossom, and the universe would have lacked nothing. It is only because Hashem wished to bestow His goodness on man in creating such a magnificent display of beauty within nature that once a year the trees blossom with breathtaking colors and exotic smells, giving pleasure to man.
The nature of a flower is to blossom forth from a tree, opening up to give its fruit — a new life is born.
No wonder women like flowers, as it represents the potential for new life. Deep down inside every woman, there is a strong need to nurture new life. Her children are her flowers.
בִּפְרֹחַ רְשָׁעִים כְּמוֹ עֵשֶׂב Therashaflowers in this world, but like grass he has no fruits.3
צַדִּיק כַּתָּמָר יִפְרָח…שְׁתוּלִים בְּבֵית ה’בְּחַצְרוֹת אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ יַפְרִיחוּ Thetzaddikflowers in the Next World. He is compared to a palm tree that grows straight up to Shamayim. Since he is planted in the House of Hashem, his roots are strong and he is not blown over in the strong winds. His whole essence is to break through to the Next World, בְּחַצְרוֹת אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ יַפְרִיחוּ/there in the courtyards of Hashem he enjoys the fruits of his labor.
פִּרְחֵי כְּהוּנָה: Young Kohanim
Theפִּרְחֵי כְּהוּנָה, the young kohanim, are young flowers and young fledglings, which, after a period of nurture, blossom into fully developed fruits, the highest role attainable by human beings, which is to serve their Creator in the Beis HaMikdash.
Hashem created the concept of בֵּיצָה. The egg is the symbol of אַבֵילוּת/mourning, representing the circle of life. Much deeper than that, though, the egg hints to us at the idea that the whole of life is like one big egg, with an incubation period of approximately seventy to eighty years. We are the אֶפְרוֹח, where the alephdenotes the future tense, אֶפְרוֹח, a lashonof “I will flower, I will break through, my neshamahwill lift off and fly.” All the time we are אָדָם, we are grounded to the אַדָמָה, and our job is to become airborn. Born to fly!
Life begins with the fertilization of the egg. A lonesome sperm, one in a million, heads upstream and breaks through to the egg. From this comes the עוּבָּר/embryo, which also means passing through. This world is like the עוּבָּרwhere we are not only passing through — we have to be the ones who break through to the other side. And just like an egg, we are breaking into something much bigger than ourselves.
Avraham was the first Ivri/עִבְרִי/Hebrew because he crossed over to the other side of the river. He was one in a million; he was like the lonesome sperm that broke through to the other side. We all have Avraham’s spiritual DNA, and therefore we all have the potential to flow upstream, against the current, against all odds, and smash through the kliposof this world and connect to Hashem.
Hashem planted us in the Garden of Eden, where our essential purpose was to work and guard the garden. Once we tasted the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of good and bad, good and bad became part of us. Hashem threw us out the Garden lest we partake from the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life is offlimits to us. Instead, Hashem planted us in this world, where we are compared to a tree, where we have to unearth the roots to the secret to life, to choose life, rather than to have life just handed to us on a plate.
Our job in this lower world is still to work and guard the garden, however the work is much harder since now we have to separate the good from the bad. In order for our garden to grow, we have to get rid of all the weeds and thorns.
In this world we are just a rose among thorns, where we are constantly striving to return to Eden. Our purpose is to be a flower in Hashem’s garden, to make Hashem’s garden beautiful. The tachlisis not the flower, but the overall garden, to be a flower among flowers.
This parshah regularly coincides or preceeds Chanukah, and therefore we must mention the flowers that decorated the golden Menorah. It is easy to see how the Menorah is compared to a tree, a golden tree with its six branches and a central shaft, numbering seven, which denotes this world, the world of nature (e.g., seven days, seven musical notes, and seven colors of the rainbow).
וְזֶה מַעֲשֵׂה הַמְּנֹרָה מִקְשָׁה זָהָב עַד יְרֵכָהּ עַד פִּרְחָהּ מִקְשָׁה הִוא This is the making of the Menorah, solid gold until its base until it’s flower, solid it should be.
Thispasukin Parshas Beha’aloschateaches us that there was a flower toward the base of the Menorah. If we continue with the analogy of the Menorah being like a tree, then the flower at the base, from which the rest of the tree grows, represents the origins of the tree that indeed come from a flower, because the flower leads to the fruit, which produces seeds, which contain the whole tree.
Rabbeinu Bechaya compares the twenty-two גְבִיעִים/goblets to the twenty-two letters of the Aleph-Beis(which come from out of this world), the כַּפְתּוֹרִים/buttons to the world of the angels, and the פְּרָחִים/flowers to this world, the world of growth and vegetation.4
So we can say that the flower at the base of the Menorah signifies the beginning of life, breaking through from the womb into this world, producing fruit and seeds from which our tree grows. If we, the gardener, do our job correctly by working and guarding the garden, then our tree will branch out into seven, symbolizing the full utilization of this world. The flowers at the top of each branch represent our breaking through into the Next World, the world of eight, symbolized by the שֶׁמֶןfromשְׁמוֹנָה/eight. And, finally, the fire, which flies free from the constraints of this world, symbolizes the פְּרִיחַתהַנֶפֶשׁ/flight of the soul. With wings we fly and return to Eden, Hashem’s Garden, not as a rose among thorns but a flower among flowers.
Yosef HaTzaddik is the flower of Egypt. Not only was he extremely attractive, but he alsocaused Egypt to flourish and blossom. He was צָפְנַת פַּעְנֵח/the one who reveals hidden things. So too the flower through its fruits bears hidden things.
Not only is a flower’s appearance beautiful, it also gives off a beautiful fragrance. So too the tzaddikgives off a beautiful fragrance by his good deeds. For this reason the caravan of the Yishma’elim was carrying fragrant spices.
The flower is one of Hashem’s beautiful creations, specifically designed with beautiful smells and arrays of colors, giving of its sweet pollen to the bees so it can in turn be cross-pollinated, which causes the flowers to reproduce and spring forth fruit.
בֵּן פֹּרָת יוֹסֵף בֵּן פֹּרָת עֲלֵי עָיִן Yaakovblessed Yosef to be fruitful, and indeed Yosefbore many fruits, symbolized by אֶפְרַיִם/Ephraim.5
In order to bear fruits, we must first have the necessary tools to make our flower attractive — to attract the one who will come and cross-pollinate us, namely our spouse, who will help us bear fruits.
Yosef is known for beauty. He is the יִסוֹד/foundation of beauty in the world, for he was shomerthe brisin that his flower was only pollinated in kedushah.
However, we have to make sure that we don’t exploit our beauty, for by doing so, we could end up attracting a nasty bug like Potiphar’s wife.
The real battle of Chanukah was the fight to recognize the true beauty of the world. The outside beauty of the Greeks, which was only skin deep, produced a פֶּרַח/flower that bore no fruits and instead led to a פּוֹרַחַת/skin outbreak. The beauty that lies within every Jew is much deeper — the beauty of Shabbos, the beauty of chodeshand hischadshus/renewel, and the beauty of being shomerthe bris— pollinating in kedushah. When we are in touch with our inner beauty, we shine from within, we light up the darkness and bring Hashem’s Shechinah to rest upon us, giving Hashem a place to dwell in the world. This is the true beauty that produces a flower that bears fruits in the world.
4Rabbeinu Bechaya in Parshas Terumah.
5See Bereishis 49:22.