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November 29, 2015 / 17 Kislev, 5776
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Parshas Yisro


It is always very inspiring to read this week’s parsha which contains the story of what makes us the Jewish People – the Sinai Revelation. For one singular time in history, G-d revealed Himself clearly to the entire nation, gave them the Aseres HaDibros and told them that Moshe is the True Prophet. This national revelation was displayed in front of millions of Jews, the only time that a revelation was not merely the testimony of one or a handful of people who claim that G-d spoke to them.

The theme of this week’s haftarah is also one of clear revelation, one of the most supreme and sublime revelations that any prophet received – Yeshaya’s vision of the workings of Hashem’s Chariot and of the malachim surrounding it singing Kedusha, announcing to all that Hashem is Kadosh.

Reading the pesukim, we find the malachim described as having six wings (Yeshaya 6:2):

“The Seraphim stand above him with six wings for each one, it covered its face with two, it covered its feet with two, and it would fly with two.”

In Novardak it was asked why it is that the angels are described as covering their feet. We can understand why they would cover their faces when standing before G-d. They feel a powerful awe before Hashem and need to cover their faces almost in shame, similar to when we hide and cover our faces when we say tachanun. But why would they be covering their feet? What is shameful about their feet?

Rav Yaakov Emden, in his sefer Sulam Beis Kel (found in the beginning of his siddur), cites an opinion that one should not sway back and forth during davening, we should not shuckel. The Rema MiPano (siman 113) says that one should not shuckel when davening; and that it is not an honorable way to stand before Hashem. He recommends standing straight while davening as in the pasuk (1:7) in Yechezkel’s description of the malachim standing “with a single straight leg.” This is why we keep our feet together during Shemoneh Esrei. However, Rav Emden says that this reasoning is not necessarily true and that we find earlier sources that encourage shuckeling, such as the Maharil.

According to the Vilna Gaon, standing with legs straight has a negative connotation. “And I will place before you movers (mehalchim) between these stationary ones (ha’omdim)” (Zecharia 3:7). The Gaon explains that the “movers” refer to human beings and the stationary ones malachim. They are stationary and can never grow as they lack free will and are essentially spiritual robots. Only man can grow spiritually and that is why he is called a mover.

We now understand why the malachim cover their feet when standing before G-d. They know that true service of Hashem can only come from free will, tests and challenges. They “serve” Hashem but only as the programmed beings that they are. They are omdim; they stand in one place. However they were created, that’s what they are and that’s what they always will be. They can never be holchim, movers in their service of Hashem and they are ashamed of that. Hence, they cover their feet from this shame.

Rav Eytan Feiner utilizes this theme to explain why the malach of Eisav attacked and injured part of Yaakov’s leg.  Perhaps he was trying to remove the spiritual greatness Yaakov had achieved as a “holeich,” someone growing in spirituality. To defeat Yaakov, the malach dealt a blow specifically to his leg. This symbolizes that Yaakov would become an omed, unable to walk well and forced to stand in one place, and/or limp. Converting his antagonist from a “holeich” to an “omed” would thereby provide Esav’s malach with a possible victory.

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