For Your Eyes Only

Rabbi Wagensberg
Parshas Vayechi
For Your Eyes Only

Before leaving this world, Ya'akov Avinu blessed all of his children. Ya'akov's son Dan was blessed with a very special descendent who would serve as one of the Jewish People's judges and who would wage war against the Plishtim (Philistines). That unique individual was Shimshon Hagibor (Samson the Mighty; Gn. 49:16-18, Rashi and Bereishis Rabba 98:13, citing Rebbi Yehoshuah bar Nechemia).

The Rashbam (Rabbenu Shmuel ben Rebbi Meir; Rashi's grandson; Gn. 49:16) disagrees vehemently with Rashi's interpretation. Why would Ya'akov bless Dan with Shimshon if he was such a disappointment? At the end of Shimshon's life, the Plishtim gouged his eyes out and Shimshon died together with the Plishtim. What kind of a blessing was that?

The Rashbam offers an alternative interpretation. He says that Ya'akov blessed Dan to be the rear guard of all the camps as the Jews traveled in the desert (Nu. 10:25). This meant that Dan would defend the Jewish People from any attack that would come from behind them. Ya'akov blessed Dan with the strength to defeat any enemy that would attack from the rear. Now that's a blessing!

This leaves us with a question. How are we to understand Rashi's approach? How was Shimshon a blessing to Dan?

The Midrash (Bereishis Rabba, 98:14) says that, as Ya'akov prophesied about Shimshon, he thought that Shimshon was the Moshiach (Messiah). It was only when Ya'akov looked further, at Shimshon's death, that he realized that Shimshon was not the Messiah. What was it about Shimshon that made Ya'akov think that he was the Messiah?

Moreover, we find a tension regarding Shimshon's image. On the one hand Shimshon appears to be a Tzaddik (righteous person). After all, Ya'akov mistook him for Moshiach who is one of the most righteous people ever. Shimshon was also a Nazir (Nazarite) from the womb (Jud. 13:5). Typically, a Nazir is a holy person.

On the other hand, the Mishnah says that Shimshon was drawn after his eyes, particularly when it came to women (Mishnah, Sota, chap. 1, "Hamekaneh", pg. 9b; Jud. 14; 3). It is for this reason that the Plishtim gouged out his eyes. This implies that Shimshon was anything but a Tzaddik. Will the real Shimshon please stand up! Was he a Tzaddik or not?

The Rebbe from Rozhin, teaches us something that reveals what was going on with Shimshon. But first, we must become privy to two pieces of information.

At first, all of our souls were wrapped up together with Adam Harishon's soul. However, when Adam sinned with the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, his soul fell, causing it to splinter into thousands of sparks that were to later become the souls of the Jewish People. Some of those sparks fell to the fiftieth level of impurity, (the lowest level possible), which render them "out of reach" even for a Tzaddik to rescue. Although Tzaddikim always try to draw people closer to Hashem, in some instances, there are some people who have drifted so far off that only God Himself could ever possibly redeem them.

Secondly, in order for a Tzaddik to lift a person out of the spiritual dumps, he must cast his eyes on the person, connecting with the person's spark. Once connected to the person's spark, the Tzaddik can pull him out from his spiritual prison.

The women who Shimshon was "attracted" to, including Delilah, had souls that fell into the fiftieth level of impurity. Shimshon noticed their predicament and wanted to save them. Shimshon did "go after his eyes" in order to perform a Mitzvah!

The mistake that he made was that he had no permission to dip into the fiftieth level of impurity. That was above his "pay-grade". Since Shimshon set his eyes on doing something that was beyond his reach, his eyes were taken out.

The reason why Shimshon did not have the ability to descend to the fiftieth level of impurity is because there are altogether fifty levels of purity (Rav or Shmuel, Rosh Hashanah, chap. 1, "Arba'a Roshei Shanim", pg. 21b) and fifty levels of impurity (Ecc. 7:14). Only somebody who reaches the fiftieth level of purity is equipped to descend into the fiftieth level of impurity. However, if one has not reached the highest spiritual level, he cannot handle the lowest spiritual level. It would be too overwhelming for him and it would even be detrimental and damaging (Shela, Pesachim, "Matzah Ashirah, 1:33). Even Moshe Rabbeinu did not reach the fiftieth level of purity (Psa. 7:14). Moshe only reached the forty-ninth level of holiness. As such, he could only help the Jews if they would not sink beneath the forty-ninth level of impurity. If Moshe did not reach the fiftieth level of purity, it would be safe to assume that Shimshon did not reach the fiftieth level.

The Arizal (Sefer Halikkutim, Jud. 14:3) says that Shimshon made this mistake in a previous life. Shimshon was a Gilgul (reincarnation) of Adam Harishon. Adam went after his eyes with respect to the forbidden fruit (Gn. 3:6) and Shimshon went after his eyes with certain women.

Adam intentionally cast his eyes upon that which was forbidden in order to understand how evil operates. Once he would be familiar with the mechanics of evil, Adam intended to cross the threshold and descend into the "dark side" in order to pull any traces of holiness out of it. Even the dark side must nurse off of holy energy in order for it to exist. Ironically, holy sparks serve as the life-support system of evil. If Adam were to be successful in pulling the "holy rug" out from under the feet of evil, then it would completely be eradicated.

Adam was mistaken because God did not give him permission to descend to the fiftieth level of impurity. God knew that this was out of Adam's reach. Only God Himself could accomplish that job. This is why God forbade Adam from partaking of the forbidden fruit. When Adam disobeyed, he not only failed in ridding the world of evil, he actually made it worse. After Adam sinned, his soul fell; causing sparks to be captured into the very places that he wanted to cleanse.

Then Shimshon, (Adam's Gilgul), came along and tried to repair the damage that he had caused as Adam. Shimshon tried to rescue those sparks that had fallen to the fiftieth level of impurity. Shimshon felt guilty about those sparks because he had caused them to be captured to begin with when he was Adam Harishon. Once again Shimshon attempted to descend into the pit of darkness. Shimshon's mistake was a repetition of his first mistake as Adam. Only Hashem could liberate those sparks. Shimshon's mistake of looking into places that were off limits cost him his eyes.

The women that Shimshon was interested in were Plishtim that he had converted. Since they came from the Plishtim originally, they were hard nuts to crack. This is because the Plishtim are the fiftieth level of impurity.

The Shvilei Pinchas says that we can see it in their name "Plishtim". When divided, this name becomes two words; "Paleshes - Yam" (squatted or fallen into the sea). This does not only mean that the Plishtim had sunken to the lowest depths represented by the bottom of the sea. There is another meaning as well. The word "Yam" is spelled yud mem, which together has a numerical value of fifty! This hints to us that the "Plishtim" "Paleshes" (fell) to the "Yam", the fiftieth level of impurity.

Parenthetically, this explains why God did not lead the Jewish People out from Egypt by way of the land of the Plishtim (Ex. 13:17). Had the Jews passed by the Plishtim's land, they may have waged war with us, not just physically but spiritually as well. The Jews, who were already on the forty-ninth level of impurity, may have been pulled down to the fiftieth level of impurity, making it impossible for Moshe to redeem them. Only God can save somebody who has fallen to the fiftieth negative level (Shvilei Pinchas).

The character flaw in the Plishtim's personality which causes them to descend to the lowest of levels is "Leitzanus" (scoffing, scorning, and joking; Rav Shmuel bar Nachmeini in the name of Rabbi Yonasan, Avodah Zarah, chap. 1, "Lifnei Eideyhen", pg. 19a). Jokes can be used in the service of God. For example, a good joke can lift a person's spirits from sadness or from depression. However, when jokes are used to poke fun at everything holy and usurp the Torah's authority, it can lead to a descent into the fiftieth level of impurity, because there are no longer any scruples to abide by.

The Shvilei Pinchas says that the complete destruction of the fiftieth level of impurity will take place during the time of the final redemption, at the hands of Moshiach. This is hinted to in the name "Moshiach", spelled mem, shin, yud, ches. These four letters serve as the acronym of "Moshiach Yigaleh Sha'ar Chamishim" (Messiah will reveal the fiftieth level - of holiness). "Moshiach" also stands as an acronym for, "Moshiach Yivatel Sha'ar Chamishim" (Messiah will destroy the fiftieth level - of impurity).

The time of the final redemption was not at hand in Shimshon's days. So although Shimshon would not be able to completely eradicate the forces of evil, he was still sent by God to weaken those negative forces. Shimshon did succeed in weakening the Plishtim and the forces that they represented. This allowed the Jewish People to flourish religiously until this very day even though the Philistine mocking spirit of scoffing still exists.

Shimshon's God-like power of subduing evil is hinted to in his name. The Gemarah says that Shimshon was named after God. One of God's names is "Shemesh" (Sun or Wall; Psa. 84:12). The word "Shemesh" appears in Shimshon's name. However, two letters were added; the vov and the nun. This teaches us that Shimshon tried to "vov" (attach; the letter vov often serves as a connecting letter) himself to the "nun" (fiftieth level of holiness; "nun" is numerically fifty). In this way, he would be equipped to descend into the fiftieth level of impurity and destroy the forces of evil. This descent is also hinted to with the letter "nun" in his name, which is an "ending nun". An "ending nun" dips lower than any other letter. This shows us that he was prepared to go down to the lowest of places in order to rescue people.

Perhaps we could suggest that this is also hinted to in the name of Shimshon's tribe, Dan. Dan is spelled dalet nun. The letter "dalet" is spelled dalet, lamed, tuf. Those three letters can spell the word "delet (door). This means that Shimshon opened the "delet" (door) of "nun" (the fiftieth level of holiness) in order to draw from its power and defeat the Plishtim that are found in the fiftieth level of impurity.

The Plishtim's idol was "Dagon" (Sam. 1, 5:2). Rashi says that it was in the shape of a fish. That is why the root of "Dagon" is "Dag" (fish). Perhaps we could suggest that the reason why a "Dag" (fish) was chosen as their god was because some fish tend to swim to the bottom of the "yam" (sea), representing sinking to the lowest of levels. But the idol was not called "Dag" it was called "Dagon", with the added letters vov and nun. This shows us that the Plishtim "vov'ed" (connected) to the "nun" (fiftieth level of impurity).

This is why, out of all the nations, only the Plishtim succeeded in temporarily capturing the Aron Hakodesh (Holy Ark). This is because the Holy Ark represents the fiftieth level of purity. We can see this in its name, "Aron", spelled aleph, reish, vov, nun. When rearranged, these letters spell "Ohr Nun" (the light from the fiftieth level of holiness). The Plishtim, from minus fifty, succeeded to temporarily capture the Aron from plus fifty. When the Aron began to destroy Dagon, the Plishtim realized that they were in way over their heads, and so they sent the Aron back to the Jews (Jud. 5:1-4).

All of this helps us understand why Ya'akov thought that Shimshon was the Moshiach. When Ya'akov saw Shimshon waging war on the Plishtim, he thought that Shimshon might win the battle, which would prove him to be Moshiach, since that is the Messiah's job. It was only when Ya'akov kept watching the prophetic movie of history and saw Shimshon's death that he realized that Shimshon was not Moshiach.

Before concluding, let us share one more point. We know that there are "Seventy Faces" (approaches) to the Torah (Bamidbar Rabbah, 14:8). However, to fully grasp all seventy approaches, one needs to be on the fiftieth level of understanding. Ya'akov blessed Dan to produce a Shimshon who would comprehend all seventy approaches. This is hinted to in the first two verses of Ya'akov's blessing to Dan. In those two verses, there are exactly seventy letters! This would place Shimshon on the fiftieth level of holiness, empowering him to defeat any of the "seventy" nations on the "fiftieth" level of impurity.

This is the deeper meaning behind Shimshon "going after Einav" (his eyes). Not only did he look for holy sparks to save, but he went after "Einav", which could also translate as going after "his ayin" (his letter ayin, which is numerically seventy). Shimshon tried to obtain all seventy approaches of Torah, climbing to the fiftieth gate of holiness. Shimshon hoped that after being blinded by the Plishtim, he would have the status of a dead person (Breisa, Nedarim, chap. 9, "Rebbi Eliezer", pg. 64b) and thus deserve to taste from the fiftieth level of holiness, and use its energy to defeat the forces of evil which exist on the fiftieth level of impurity. Then he would be able to use "Einav" (his eyes) to pull the holy sparks out from those spiritual prisons.

Shimshon did not completely succeed in accomplishing what he had set out to do. The Plishtim pulled "Einav" out. This not only means "his eyes", but it also means that they prevented him from obtaining all "seventy" (ayin) approaches. Subsequently, they prevented him from reaching the fiftieth level of holiness, thus preventing him from completely eradicating the fiftieth level of impurity (Shvilei Pinchas, Arvei Nachal, Pesach, Derush 2). When Ya'akov saw that, all he could say was, "For Your salvation I hope for Hashem" (Gn. 49:18).

From this entire approach, we see how blessing Dan with Shimshon was indeed a blessing. Shimshon was a remarkable person. His death was not a disappointment. Shimshon was never sent to completely defeat the Plishtim. He was sent to weaken them and he did! Because of that, we still thrive as observant Jews Today. Now that's a blessing!

Although we may not have the ability to peak into the dark-side of people, identify their sparks, and lift them like Shimshon did, we can look into how we can help other people. So let's try an exercise that we can do. Once a week, sit down for two minutes with a pen and paper and think about how we can help another person. Try to figure out what that person needs. Write it down and then follow through. Since the help came from an observant person, the recipient might be brought a little closer to the side of light.

So, may we all be blessed with the strength of Shimshon to help others that are in need and ignite their sparks, thus lifting the world from the fiftieth level of impurity to the fiftieth level of holiness, when our Moshiach will come and build the Beis Hamikdash which will stand once again, proudly housing the Aron Hakodesh.