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Parashat Ahareh Mot- Feeling Hashem’s Presence

** Dedicated by Steven Levy & Chaby Orfali and Families In Loving Memory of Eliyahu Ben Sinbol **

Introducing the section of Arayot (forbidden intimate relations), G-d exhorts us in Parashat Ahareh-Mot, "You shall perform My laws and observe My statutes, to follow them; I am Hashem your G-d" (18:4).

The Or Ha’haim Ha’kadosh (Rav Haim Ben-Attar, 1696-1743) offers a unique interpretation of this verse, drawing upon a Kabbalistic teaching of Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yohai in the Zohar (vol. 1, 170b). Rabbi Shimon explained that each of the 248 Misvot Aseh (affirmative commands) corresponds to one of the body’s 248 limbs, and every time a person fulfills a Misva, the Shechina (divine presence) rests upon the corresponding limb. This is indicated by the very word "Misva," which alludes to the divine Name of "Havaya" (the Name spelled "Yod," "Heh," "Vav" and "Heh"). The word "Misva" is spelled "Mem," "Sadi," "Vav," "Heh," and thus the last two letters ("Vav" and "Heh") are the same as the last two letters of the Name of "Havaya." The first two letters of "Misva" ("Mem" and "Sadi") correspond to the letters "Yod" and "Heh," respectively, through the "Atbash" system, whereby each letter is associated with the corresponding letter at the opposite end of the alphabet. (Meaning, the first letter, "Alef," is linked to the last letter, "Tav"; the second letter, "Bet," is connected to the second-to-last letter, "Shin"; and so on.) It thus emerges that the word "Misva" represents the Name of G-d, with half of the name appearing outwardly ("Vav" and "Heh"), and the other half ("Mem" and "Sadi") concealed, alluded to subtly through the system of "Atbash." Rabbi Shimon explains that each Misva brings the divine presence upon a part of our bodies, and so the word "Misva" is, in a sense, spelled exactly the same as the Name of G-d, because each Misva brings Hashem close to us.

On this basis, the Or Ha’haim suggests explaining the verse in Parashat Ahareh-Mot. G-d here urges us to "perform My laws and observe My statutes" – to fulfill the Misvot, "La’lechet Bahem Ani Hashem Elokechem" – so that He will "walk with them," meaning, rest upon us through our fulfillment of the Misvot. Every time we perform a Misva, G-d draws near, and so He exhorts us to fulfill the Misvot "La’lechet Bahem" – in order that He will "walk" with us and accompany us everywhere we go.

We all want to feel Hashem’s presence and His blessing in our lives. But this is not as difficult as it might seem. The way to bring Hashem into our everyday life is simply to perform the Misvot, to obey His commands, and to constantly look for and seize more Misva opportunities. There are always more Misvot we can perform, and with each one, we bring Hashem closer and strengthen our relationship with Him.

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