Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Jewish Heritage
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Bo) Body and Soul

Because the Jewish first-born males were spared during the final plague against the Egyptians, G-d commanded that the first issue of a woman’s womb if it is a male is to be sanctified to G-d. The father of this first born male must redeem his son from a Kohain – Priest for five silver Shekels, after he is thirty days old.

The Seforno in his classical commentary on Torah tells us that had the Torah not prescribed the law of redemption of the first born, the first born would have been consecrated to Divine service and not permitted to be involved in mundane pursuits.

If so, asks Rabbi Yaacov Kamenetzky o.b.m., why is it customary to arrange a happy and festive meal at the redemption of a first born? After all, through the redemption, the baby is essentially losing its sanctified state, becoming allowed to be involved in the mundane.

Reb Yaacov answers by explaining a fundamental difference between the Jewish and non-Jewish belief and approach of the relationship between body and soul.

The non-Jewish belief is that the body and soul are two distinct and separate entities that have no relationship with each other despite the fact that they are contained in one person. Spiritual pursuits and involvement are only connected to the area where the soul rests, while worldly activities are associated only with the physical body.

Jewish belief is that there is a symbiotic relationship between body and soul; they are to be engaged in a partnership together in thought, action, deed and restraint. Ramban explains that when the Torah states that G-d blew a living soul into the nostrils of Adam, his body became uplifted by the infusion of the soul.

In addition, our leader Moshe, who achieved the highest level of prophecy and closeness to G-d is referred to in the Torah as an Ish – human being, who was created through the union of his father, Amram and his mother Yocheved.

This sheds light as to why a celebration is held at the redemption of a first born. Before the baby is redeemed, yes, he is in a total sanctified state; however, this is not the ultimate purpose for which G-d invested a soul into the body.

G-d created us to live in a physical and material world – in a sanctified manner, so that the spiritual components uplift and boost the physical components.

When the father redeems his son from the Kohain, he is separating him from a totally sanctified existence and inducting him into a world where he has to work to sanctify his physical life so that his total being becomes uplifted, enhanced and improved.

We celebrate because the child now has the capacity to meet his ultimate goal, potential and purpose.

If we take note and focus on the many Mitzvos we do on a daily basis we can better appreciate the concept of the integration of the physical and the spiritual.

We sanctify our speech by being truthful, praying, reciting blessings, and by not speaking ill of others.

We sanctify our limbs by performing Mitzvos.

We sanctify our minds with the study of Torah and with positive thoughts.

The 613 Mitzvos of the Torah are broken down into two categories, 248 positive commands and 365 commands to refrain from doing.

Our Sages point out that within the anatomy of a person, he has 248 limbs and 365 sinews, a total of 613. Each time we perform a Mitzvah or study Torah, it strengthens that particular component of one’s body that is involved in the mitzvah.

In addition, we can also sanctify the physical elements of the world. For example: Animal parchment can be elevated by writing a Torah, Mezuzah or Tefillin script. The leather can be elevated for the construction of Tefillin. Finally, the mere preparation of one’s meals can be transformed into a spiritual exercise when one is mindful that it is for their health, vitality and ability for the family to better serve the Almighty!

Wishing you a restful, peaceful
 and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks