Shoftim: The Dark Side
Have you ever felt that there really is, maybe, a dark side? Like, that in life there’s something that pulls you- experiences/things/people that seem to promise excitement, tantalization, like “wow, THAT would make me happy.” And maybe you’ve followed it/him/her/that. And when you were done, you were left feeling… not really happier, as in more fulfilled and more whole, more satisfied with your lot… but rather more empty, disappointed, disillusioned, depressed. To use an example which most people can relate to- when that pull, that experience we’re talking about is masquerading/camouflaging itself in the form of food- It promised you comfort and contentment, and then it just left you… more chubby and hence less happy with yourself. You’re not happy with how you now look, but more so you’re angry that it ruled over you versus you ruling over it. Nobody likes knowing they failed and/or were fooled. Sometimes it takes the form of a job, or career, or person, or a certain house, or car, or vice, or experience, or…
Now, there are two categories of people with regard to this point. Those who know exactly what I’m talking about, and those who are lying to only themselves. Because there’s a name to going through this experience. It’s called ‘life.’ Welcome to it.
This week’s Torah portion speaks to this point. Chapter 18, verse 10. It speaks of the very, very dark side. “And it shall not be found in you one who passes his son or daughter under torches.” There was- and guess what, still is- an ancient pagan ritual of symbolically passing your children under torches of fire. The idea was to feed the power of the dark side. It was called Molech. It is amongst the filthiest things you can do before Hashem’s eyes and we’re going to speak of why.
By the way, remember just two lines ago I said, “and still is”? Guess where? Northern California. There’s a place called Bohemian Grove- ’nuff said. Google it if you want. Only those that are in a position to make decisions that affect millions of people, like presidents, governors and billionaires are allowed in though. There’s video documentation of them burning a human effigy to Molech.
Anyway, here’s the thing. Rav Shimon Schwab says… ok, wait, let’s back up a sec because before we can appreciate what Rav Schwab saw through his “Torah glasses” we need to understand some premises. What is ‘tahara’? In English, because there is no real parallel concept, hence no word, for it in secular, we default to using words like ‘purity’ or ‘cleanliness.’ Yeah, whatever. It means none of that. Actually, just to illustrate, a woman, or man, or vessel has to be ‘pure’ and ‘clean’ BEFORE going into a mikvah to become tahor.
So… what DOES it mean then? It means that every single living thing, from a sunflower to an eel to a person, tree or cat, is constantly receiving that life force, and that consciousness, from an infinite source, and to the extent that that life/consciousness force is flowing through unblocked- umm… ok fine, ‘pure’ and ‘clean’- that is the presence of ‘tahara.’ Now, inversely, when there is an absence, a vacuum, where that life force, and consciousness, used to be, that vacuum, that absence, is called ‘tumah.’ (hence, so called: ‘unclean’) It’s not an entity in and of itself, but it is a reality that is created in the absence of tahara. Like a black hole in the universe.
Whew… ok, if you’re scratching your head, that’s fine, cause I did too in trying to think how to articulate this concept.
Ok, so now, where were we? So Rav Shimon Schwab says- in context now of this understanding- that this is why tumah needs tahara to exist. He says, “tumah is yanuk (breastfeeds) from tahara.” Only where we find tahara can we find tumah. But that vacuum is real. Google about a black hole in the universe and you’ll see just how real. So Molech is about feeding death- the absence of life and awareness and consciousness (i.e., tumah.) This is why it is the… well… ‘gravest’… of sins. (c’mon, that wasn’t so bad!)
Because Hashem, the Torah, the Source, can I say “The Force” is about light and life. It’s about awareness. It’s about being un-blocked that there is a Source and a Force and a super-consciousness. It’s not about death and darkness. It’s about connecting to nitzchiyus, something that is everlasting. That transcends death. It’s about source. It’s about every single one of us- everybody who is reading this, and everybody you can tell, that it’s about being a source- of life, of goodness, of awareness and nitzchiyus to everybody you can touch.
That lure embedded in the wrong foods, in the wrong person, in that house of wood and cement and glass, in that wrong experience, in that picture, in that… whatever, that lure is Satan, is emptiness, is the absence of the life force, is tumah.
And pursuing it is so addictive, and hypnotic, and rabid. It’s what Molech was, and still is, all about. In the Talmud, one amorah (Talmudic era sage) told another, “if you would have tasted it (the lure of idol worship), you would have tripped over your robe running after it.” Just like we all do every day. True? Don’t lie. True?
-Yehudah Schwab, volunteer TorahMate and grandson of Rav Shimon Schwab, zt”l