The Weekly Sedra – Parshas Shoftim

The Rebbe says:

1. In this weeks Torah portion the Torah says “Because the man, tree of the field”.

2. The Rebbe brings two opinions on how to understand this verse:

The first opinion: In the Sifri (Halachic Midrash on the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy) our Sages understand that this verse is telling us that man is only sustained from trees.

The second opinion: In the Talmud , our Sages understand that this verse is telling us that man is compared to a tree.

3. The Rebbe now begins explaining each opinion and shows how they are actually not arguing:

The first opinion: When the Sages in the Sifri say that the meaning of our verse is that man only lives from the tree, they meant this:

We know that this world is made up of four different types of creations:
1) A speaking thing (a person).
2) A living thing (an animal).
3) A growing thing (vegetation).
4) The inanimate (for example, rock).

When a person, which is the highest type of creation, eats from the lower categories (animals or vegetation), he is elevating that lower category to the category of a person.

Question: How is it that a lower category of creation can sustain and give life to the highest category of creation, to a person?

Answer: We know the rule that “the higher something truly is, the lower it can fall”. Therefore, the sources of animals and vegetation are higher then a human’s source. And more specifically, the source of vegetation is higher then the source of animals.

So, when a person eats from vegetation and not from an animal, he is eating and gaining strength from the highest possible source.

Now we can understand what the Sages in the Sifri meant when they said that man only lives from the tree:

The main source for a man to gain strength from is living things, not animals, because it has a higher source. (And the verse uses the tree as a representative for all vegetation because trees are the greatest form of vegetation ).

4. The Rebbe now explains the second opinion:

When the Sages in the Talmud said that man is compared to a tree, they meant this:

Our Sages tell us that a person is a microcosm of the world . Therefore, just like the world at large has four types of creation, so-too, within every person there are four categories:

A person’s intellect is his greatest tool and this would be compared to the highest level of the world at large- a person.
A person’s emotions, which grow from his intellect , would be compared to the level of vegetation in the world at large.

The greatness of a person is that his intellect controls his emotions; he can use his intellect to suppress or encourage his emotions.

Now we can understand what our Sages in the Talmud meant when they said that a person is comparable to a tree:

When looking at a tree you will notice that there are leaves, branches, a bark, and its roots. The bark grows from the roots, the branches grow from the bark, and the leaves grow from the branches. In other words, they are all connected to and come from the roots. The same goes for man; his emotions must be connected to and subservient to his intellect.

5. The Rebbe now finishes up explaining how the Sages in the Talmud in the Sifri are not arguing:

The Sages in the Sifri and the Sages in the Talmud both agree on how things work. They both agree that there are four levels of creation, and that we are to use the lower levels of creation to help us in our Service to Hashem. The only difference is that the Sages in the Sifri are discussing the world at large and the sages in the Talmud are discussing “the small world”- man.

6. Through all of Hashem’s Children, the Jewish People, making this big world and their own small world a dwelling place for Him by utilizing all the forms of creation which are allowed to be used in the service of Hashem, Moshiach should come now!

Translated and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Goldberg. Taken from Likutei Sichos Volume 4.

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