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Two into One

Be'halot'cha (Numbers 8-12 )


Make for yourself two silver trumpets – make them hammered out (Bamidbar, 10:2).

This commandment appears to have applied to the period of the Israelites' sojourn in the desert, where the trumpets were used as a signal for assemblage or at wartime. Inasmuch as the Torah is eternal, this commandment must be relevant today as well.

R' Dov of Mezeritch points out that the Hebrew word for trumpets, chatzotzros, can be divided into two words, chatzi tzuros, “half forms.” The specification that they be hammered out means that they were to be of one unit of silver, and not fashioned of assembled parts. The verse can then be read as “Make for yourself two half-forms, and make them into a single unit.” This can have several interpretations.

The human being begins his life with only one driving force: the desire to satisfy one's cravings. Many human cravings are the work of the yetzer hara, the lower self. When one reaches the age of bas-mitzvah or bar-mitzvah, one acquires a moral and ethical drive (yetzer tov). These two opposing drives are engaged in a constant struggle for mastery over the person.

In the Shema we read, “You shall love your God with all your heart” (Deuteronomy 6:5). The Talmud comments, “with all your heart means with both the yetzer tov and the yetzer hara” (Berachos 54a). The chassidic masters state that the yetzer hara, which is essentially the biologic component of the individual, is the source of human energy. The yetzer tov is the force that should provide direction, guiding the individual to harness the energy and channel it toward proper goals. The ultimate outcome should be that the yetzer tov succeeds in directing the energy of the yetzer hara to the point where doing the will of God becomes as natural as fulfilling any physiological drive.

We may think of the yetzer hara as the individual's first nature, which, by continued effort and direction to follow the dictates of the yetzer tov, can be transformed into a positive force, a second nature. When this is achieved, the yetzer hara is taken over by the yetzer tov, and both can function as a single unit.

This may be the message of the Divine commandment: Take the two “half-forms,” the yetzer tov and the yetzer hara, each of which constitute one half of an individual's character, and fuse them into a single unit.

There is only one way such fusion can occur. The yetzer hara may ignore the guidance of the yetzer tov, but it cannot transform it into anything other than what it is: a guide for proper behavior. However, by constantly channeling the energy of the yetzer hara toward commendable goals, the yetzer tov can transform it into a positive force. A successful fusion of the two “half-forms” into a single unit is the ultimate human achievement.

A second interpretation relates to marriage. The Talmud states that a person who is unmarried lacks completion. When a man and a woman marry, the Torah states, “They shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). This relates not only to their being united in their children, but that the two must form a single unit.

When husband and wife each have their own agenda, each seeking to achieve his or her own goals, the marriage is not a unit. Such relationships are vulnerable to fracture when stressed.

In chemistry, there is a difference between a “mixture” and a “compound.” Salt which had been dissolved in water is a mixture. The water can be separated off by evaporation, and the salt then emerges in its original form. Neither element undergoes an essential change in a mixture.

In a compound, the two elements combine to form a new substance. For example, when oxygen and hydrogen combine in a specific proportion, they form water, a new substance which, although comprised of the two, is an entity in its own right. As separate elements, oxygen and hydrogen have their own natures, which are very different. When they unite, they are divested of their individual natures. The new compound, water, has only one nature.

This may be the message in the verse cited. Take two “half-forms” and make them into a single unit. Man and woman are each a half-form. When they join in a way that they are a single unit, the marriage becomes a compound instead of a mixture. It is then much more stable and durable.

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