Thursday, July 22, 2004

Dvarim 2:

While reading through Midrash Rabba on Devarim this week, I saw what seemed to be a daring - perhaps even blasphemous (!) midrash:
א"ר לוי בר חמא ומה מי שעובד עבודת כוכבים הרי הוא כמותו שנאמר (תהלים קטו) כמוהם יהיו עושיהם וגו' מי שעובד להקב"ה לא כל שכן שיהיה כמותו. ומנין שכך כתיב (ירמיה יז) ברוך הגבר אשר יבטח בה' וגו'.
Rabbi Levi bar Chama said, "Just as one who serves an idols, he is compared to it, as it states, (Tehillim 115:8) 'Like them are those who make them, etc.,' one who serves Hashem, certainly that he will be like Him. And from where? Since it states (Yirmiyahu 17:7), "Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, etc."
By way of partial explanation, the full verse in Tehillim is
כְּמוֹהֶם, יִהְיוּ עֹשֵׂיהֶם-- כֹּל אֲשֶׁר-בֹּטֵחַ בָּהֶם.
They that make them shall be like unto them; yea, every one that trusteth in them.
Thus, there is an element of trust in the idol, not merely constructing it. And it is explicit that those who make (and trust) in the idol are considered like the idol. The next few psukim exhort various groups to trust, rather, in Hashem. For example, the next verse goes:
יִשְׂרָאֵל, בְּטַח בַּה; עֶזְרָם וּמָגִנָּם הוּא
O Israel, trust thou in the LORD! He is their help and their shield!
How does the verse in Yirmiyahu show that one who serves Hashem will be like Hashem (!) ? Well, without the verse, we had a kal vachomer! :) I think the derivation from the verse in Yirmiyahu actually requires a bit of the continuation:
בָּרוּךְ הַגֶּבֶר, אֲשֶׁר יִבְטַח בַּה; וְהָיָה ה, מִבְטַחוֹ.
Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose trust the LORD is.
Again we have the element of trust. But let us chop of the last word:
בָּרוּךְ הַגֶּבֶר, אֲשֶׁר יִבְטַח בַּה; וְהָיָה ה.
This would read, "Blessed is the man who trusts in Hashem, and he will be Hashem." vehaya Hashem = "and he will be Hashem." You can add the word mivtacho if you desire. Then, he will, with certitude, be Hashem.

What the meaning of this midrash is, I am not sure. (Probably something about adopting the midot of Hashem, or perhaps this is some parallel to Midrash Rabbati's discussion of Chanoch - for another time.) Here we just looked at the existence of this, as I said, somewhat daring, or blasphemous midrash, and perhaps the mechanics of the midrash.

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