Parashat Shofetim- Our Connection to Hashem
The Torah in Parashat Shofetim presents the prohibition against trying to make use of any sort of magical powers: "For these nations whom you will be dispossessing listen to diviners and magicians; but you – Hashem your G-d did not give you such" (18:14).
Numerous different explanations have been offered for the unusual expression at the conclusion of this verse – "Ve’ata Lo Chen Natan Lecha Hashem Elokecha" ("but you – Hashem your G-d did not give you such"). One explanation is given by the Hid"a (Rav Haim Yosef David Azulai, 1724-1806), in his work Nahal Kedumim. The background to this explanation is the Torah’s command earlier in the Book of Debarim, "U’bo Tidbakun," which requires us to attach ourselves to Hashem. This command gives rise to the obvious question of how this is done. G-d is infinite and a purely non-physical Being. How can we possibly attach ourselves to Him?
Kabbalistic teaching explains that we connect ourselves to Hashem through the observance of Misvot, a concept which is alluded to in the word "Misva." The last two letters of this word are "Vav" and "Heh," which are the last two letters of the Name of "Havaya" ("Yod," "Heh," "Vav" and "Heh"). And the first two letters of the word "Misva" are "Mem" and "Sadi," which, according to the "Atbash" system, whereby each letter of the Hebrew alphabet is associated with a different letter, correspond to the letters "Heh" and "Yod." Hence, the word "Misva" is associated with the letters "Yod," "Heh," "Vav" and "Heh" – the Name of Hashem. This indicates that by committing ourselves to the performance of Misvot, we connect to the Almighty.
Moreover, the Name of Hashem consists of two pairs of letters – "Yod" and "Heh," and "Vav" and "Heh" – which correspond to the two basic categories of Misvot. The pair "Yod" and "Heh" corresponds to the Misvot Aseh – the Torah’s affirmative commands, the Misvot that we are to actively perform. The second pair of letters, "Vav" and "Heh," correspond to the Misvot Lo Ta’aseh – the Torah’s prohibitions, the forbidden actions from which we are required to abstain.
On the basis of this principle, the Hid"a suggests a novel explanation of this verse. The other nations of the world are not commanded to perform the Misvot, and, this is why they resort to magic, witchcraft and sorcery – because they do not have the Misvot, and so their only source of spiritual power is the forces of impurity. We, however, "Lo Chen Natan Lecha Hashem Elokecha" – have been given "Lo" and "Chen" – literally, "no" and "yes." Meaning, we have the Torah’s commands, the Misvot Lo Ta’aseh and the Misvot Aseh. We have no need for the mystical powers to which other nations resort because we have been given the Misvot, through which we gain access to G-d Himself.
There is no possibility of connecting to G-d, of being holy and spiritual, without the scrupulous observance of the Misvot. We have been given "Lo Chen" – the Misvot of the Torah, which link us directly to Hashem. Let us, then, devotedly commit ourselves to the Misvot, down to their last detail, as this is the only we way we can create a special connection to Hashem and be truly sacred people.