Tevilas Keilim

Rabbi Wagensberg
Parshas Vezos Haberachach - Parshas Bereishis
Tevilas Keilim

Many connections between the Torah's conclusion and its beginning have been skillfully crafted by various commentaries. One approach by the Admo"r Reb Meir Yechiel Molgenitzer (cited in the Iturei Torah by Rabbi Aharon Ya'akov Greenberg) is as follows.

The Torah ends with the words, "Moshe L'einey Kol Yisrael" ("Moshe (performed) before the eyes of all Israel"; Deut. 34:12). When you take the acronym of those four Hebrew words (Mem, Lamed, Kaf, Yud) and unscramble them, they spell the word "Keilim" (vessles).

Interestingly enough, towards the beginning of the Torah it says, "Vichoshech Al P'nei Tehom" ("With darkness upon the surface of the deep"; Gen 1:2). When you take the last letter of each of those four Hebrew words (Kaf, Lamed, Yud, Mem) they spell, in order, the word "Keilim" (vessles).

The coded word "Keilim" found at the end and start of the Torah hints at a Mishnah at the end of tractate Keilim which says, "Fortunate are you Keilim that you entered in impurity, and you have exited in purity" (chap. 30, "Klei Zechuchis", Mishna 4, the opinion of Rebbi Yosi).

The simplistic understanding of this Mishnah is that Rebbi Yosi was addressing the tractate of Keilim itself. Rebbi Yosi said to it that you are fortunate because although you began by discussing matters of impurity ("Avos Hatumos", the highest levels of impurity, such as insects, semen, corpses, a Metzorah etc... chap. 1 Mishnah 1), nevertheless, you have concluded discussing matters of purity (i.e. glass vessels that are pure).

This pattern is found in the Torah itself. Although the Torah begins with matters of impurity ("darkness"), nevertheless; it concludes with matters of purity ("Moshe and Israel"). This is why the word "Keilim" is coded into the beginning and end of the Torah, to show that the Torah and the Mishnah share this commonality.

Perhaps we could add to the Molgenitzer Rebbe by suggesting that the word "Keilim" refers to the Jewish People. The Jews are meant to be the "Klei Shareis", ministering vessels that are dedicated to the service of God. There is even a hint in the word Keilim that submits that the Jews are indeed considered to be the vessels under discussion.

The singular word for Keilim (vessels) is "Kli" (vessel). This word is spelled with three Hebrew letters (Kaf, Lamed, Yud). These three letters stand for three other Hebrew words. The Kaf stands for Kohanim (priests), the Lamed stands for Leviim (Levites), and the Yud stands for Yisraelim (Israelites).

These are the three classes that make up the constitution of the Jewish People. Since the Torah begins with the word Keilim in connection with darkness and impurity, it teaches us that we enter the world from a place of and surrounded by impurity. We are formed by a putrid drop and we are born surrounded in blood.

However, since the Torah closes with the word Keilim in connection with Moshe and Israel, it teaches us that by the time we leave this world we can be completely transformed into something pure and holy.

What ingredient is necessary in order to make this change? Well, between the first coded "Keilim" and the last coded "Keilim" is the Torah itself! This shows us that the study of Torah itself can convert something impure into something pure.

Torah study accomplishes this in two ways. Firstly, it teaches us how to behave in a dignified fashion. Secondly, Torah study itself has a magical power that simply alters the person involved in its learning.

This message is very fitting for this time of year. Over the last month and a half we have been involved in so many different types of Mitzvos, for example, Selichos, Shofar, Simanim, Tashlich, Kaparos, fasting, Vedui, Teshuva, Tzedakka, Succah, Lulav, Esrog, Ushpizin, Simchas Beis HaShoeiva, and Aravos. When the holiday season ends, one may begin to feel saddened and alone, wondering how we will be able to grow spiritually and stay connected to God.

To alleviate this concern, we have Simchas Torah and Shabbos Bereishis where we finish one cycle of Torah and begin a new round. This adjacency draws our attention to the end of Vezos Haberachah and to the beginning of Bereishis, in which HaShem is teaching us that we Keilim can make the greatest spiritual transformation just by engaging in the study of Torah alone.

This would be a good time of year to secure a solid slot in our busy schedules to learn Torah. This could be accomplished by attending a regular class or by establishing set times to study with a partner. However, during these learning sessions, make sure to include the study of one area of darkness in which we know that we need to improve in. Not only will the Torah serve as a guide in how to deal with these issues, but the mere study itself will empower us with the strength to persevere.

So, may we Keilim all be blessed to learn, to grow, and to be transformed into the purest vessels that will overflow with blessings for us and our entire families.