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Self Negation Equals Existence

R Pesach Siegel

Parshat Emor

May 11, 2012

Parshas Emor/BeHar 5772

In the land of Mitzrayim, among the Jewish slaves, there was a woman by the name of Shlomis bas Divri. Her husband, Nerya the grandson of Dan, was beaten to death by Egyptian taskmasters, who proceeded to force themselves upon her, producing a child.[1]

This child was among those who left Mitzrayim. He grew up disrespectful and unruly. He mocked the holy day of Shabbos.  Every Erev Shabbos, twelve loaves were baked and displayed on the shulchan in the Mishkan to be divided up by the Kohanim and eaten nine days later on the following Shabbos.


And he said, “It is the manner of kings to eat hot bread every day. Is this the proper way to honor one’s king, to serve Him cold fare?”[2]

As his mother’s husband was from the tribe of Dan, he sought a place of encampment among them. He was rebuffed by his half brother, a member of the tribe of Dan. He belongs to no tribe. He is like a convert to Judaism.[3]

He invoked the name of Hashem, the one that was revealed to the Bnei Yisroel on Har Sinai, and cursed.


Although he was not given warning (hasra’ah), he was judged to be stoned by all who heard his words.[4]

Directly following the rite of execution, Hashem commands Moshe Rabeinu to speak to the Bnei Yisroel on the topic of shmittah.[5]


Why is it specifically the service of lechem hapanim that aroused his ire?


In what way would the mockery of Shabbos be connected with using Hashem’s name in the form of a curse?


Why is it necessary, in the aftermath, to immerse ourselves in the study of the laws of shmittah?


Background/Deeper Understanding

The Medrash tells us, “The Egyptians were defilers, and they sought to defile the Israelites.”[6] The act committed between the Egyptian taskmasters and the Jewish slave woman was not one of passion. It was a deliberate act to defile the holiness of a Bas Yisroel. Causing her to bear a child from an Egyptian is the ultimate act of impregnating Klal Yisroel with impurity.


What was it about Egyptian culture and beliefs that they were attempting to forcibly influence and insert among the Jewish nation?


There are two things that stand out about Egyptian culture.


It was paradise on this earth. Every pleasure and wish was to be found therein. [7]

Through the power of kishuf, the Egyptians were seemingly able to control their own destiny by bending nature to their will.[8]

Their culture is the anti-culture of everything Hashem wishes to reveal in this world. They point derisively to those who believe that reliance on Hashem for one’s very existence is paramount. “Look at us”, they say, “We have no place for Hashem in our lives, and yet we can get whatever we want, whenever we want, through our own abilities and powers.”


They literally attempt to take the world away from its Creator, and the Jews stand in the way.[9]

The antithesis of the Egyptian belief system is Shabbos. By observing Shabbos, we attest to the mastery of G-d over all creation. We acknowledge Him as a Creator and as sustainer of all existence. By throwing off the shackles of work on the Shabbos day, we display the faith that parnassah does not come from our own physical labors. The source of our physical sustenance is beyond this world. It only appears, superficially, as if we carry and sustain ourselves.


The avoda of the lechem hapanim is the bridge that brings the life sustaining sustenance into the physical world. Each one of the twelve loaves represents a different spiritual force that sustains the twelve entities of the machaneh of Klal Yisroel. The process defies the rules of the natural world. It is above teva. Ordinary bread is confined to the laws of nature and by definition must turn stale over time. The lechem hapanim is no ordinary bread. It is connected to the source, and defies nature. It was just as fresh nine days later as it was when it emerged from the oven.[10]

On Har Sinai, it was revealed that Hashem is not only the strongest of all the powers, He is everything. Any other semblance of independent power is just an illusion. All emanates from Him, yisborach.  This is the “name” of Hashem that was revealed at Sinai.


A Ben Yisroel is capable of comprehending how he becomes part and parcel of a greater reality by nullifying his own sense of self.  He stood at Har Sinai, and it was made clear to him that the only reality is, “Anochi Hashem Elokecha.” Hashem not only taught this to the Bnei Yisroel, he actually showed them. He opened up their eyes to the reality behind the veil of Olam HaZeh. We are the only nation on earth that possesses the capability of understanding that our purpose in this world is to use our freedom of choice in order to choose to negate ourselves to the endless source of all. We understand that the pathway to attain unlimited greatness is through self negation.



An Egyptian is not capable of grasping his own non-existence. His sense of self fills his own world. Everything he sees and understands must fit into his own view of self.


This poor, unfortunate, young man was the product of the Egyptians attempt to contaminate Klal Yisroel. He failed to see the significance of the lechem hapanim. How could he? To do so, he would have to see beyond his perception of his own ability to sustain himself. He would have to look towards shamayim as the one and only source. He chose not to do so, and thus he mocked the holy day of Shabbos, and specifically treated the lechem hapanim with disdain.


When such an individual is exposed, at Har Sinai, to the name of Hashem that represents the reality that nothing else exists outside of Hashem, he reacts in a twisted manner. He cannot relate to his own self negation. He therefore applies the concept of this name of Hashem, chas veshalom, to himself. Only he is the source of his own self, his life, and his successes. All else, anything and anyone, who stands in his way must be obliterated.


The posuk says, “Vayeitzei ben isha Yisraelis,” - And the son of the Israelite woman went out. Where did he go out from? Chazal tell us, he went out of his world. He left the real world of his mother and  entered the illusion of his biological father, by espousing his poisonous world’s view.


When it became clear to him that he is not part and parcel of the twelve tribes, and he cannot camp among them, he arrived at an improper decision. He would not choose to live in the world of the twelve (tribes) who negate themselves to the one. He would be the one, and all would negate themselves to him, and thus he cursed.[11]

This is the ultimate challenge to the sovereignty of Hashem. No warning is necessary to eliminate such an individual from creation.[12]

Directly following this unfortunate occurence, Hashem saw fit to reinforce among the Bnei Yisroel the clear vision of his kindness with the world. Although it appears as if we are self sufficient and we support ourselves from the sweat of our brows, once every seven years, Hashem illuminates our eyes. We spend the entire year immersed in Hashem’s world, with our physical needs taken care of miraculously. This is the insight into the lechem hapanim. This is the covenant called Shabbos.[13]






[1] Chizkuni – perek 24, posuk 11

[2] Medrash Rabi Tanchuma – Rashi, perek 24, posuk 10

[3] Rashi, perek 24, posuk 10

[4] Meshech Chochmah, perek 24, posuk 23

[5] Parshas BeHar, perek 25, posuk 1

[6] Chizkuni above

[7] Breishis, perek 13, posuk 10

[8] Parshas Bo – Rashi, perek 7, posuk 22

[9] Parshas Va’Eira, perek 5, posuk 1

[10] Rabeinu Bachaye, Parshas Emor, perek 24, posuk 7

[11] Sefer Toldos Yitzchok, perek 24, posuk 14

[12] Meshech Chochmah, perek 24, posuk 23

[13] Netziv – Parshas Emor, perek24, posuk 8

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