Exchange Rate

“…And he shall not substitute for it. If he shall exchange it, then it will be and its exchange will be holy…” – Vayikra 27:33

וְלֹא יְמִירֶנּוּ וְאִם הָמֵר יְמִירֶנּוּ וְהָיָה הוּא וּתְמוּרָתוֹ יִהְיֶה קֹּדֶשׁ – ויקרא כז, לג

According to the teachings of the Arizal, there are twelve configurations of the four letters of G-d’s name, Yud-Hey-Vov-Hey, each configuration representing a distinct Divine illumination.

One of these combinations “derives” from the verse in Torah prohibiting the exchange of an animal that was sanctified to be a sacrifice with a non-sanctified animal. If one attempts to do so, both animals must be offered as sacrifices, as the Torah states, “If he shall exchange it, then it will be and its exchange will be holy.” The initial letter of each of the four words, המר ימירנו והי’ הוא, “he shall exchange it, then it will be,” spell out one of the twelve configurations of G-d’s name.

However, the suggestion that these four words are a distinct phrase that formulates a name of G-d seems to contradict the actual meaning of the verse. The context of this verse is the prohibition of exchanges. Conversely, these four words form a phrase that implies that such an exchange is permissible and even obligatory: “He shall exchange it, then it will be!”

The unlikely use of these four words as a phrase of their own teaches us a remarkable lesson. The law of exchanges as it eternally applies it in our service of G-d refers to substituting our personal pursuit of spirituality with an attempt to transform the mundane world outside of us into holiness. Under normal circumstances, “exchanges” are prohibited; one may not leave the shelter of a holy Torah environment, risking his own spiritual sensitivity, in an attempt to “confer sanctity” on the outside world.

There are circumstances, however, where such exchanges are not a crime but a virtue; where the Torah instructs us, “He shall exchange it!” When so many of our fellow Jews are at risk of assimilation and spiritual death, we are obligated to trade in the security of our Torah environment in order to seek out those at risk and to draw them to the life-giving waters of the Torah.

And what of your personal pursuit of spirituality? To this, the phrase continues and guarantees, “Then it will be!” You will succeed not only in revealing holiness in others, but even your own spirituality will remain intact and as strong as ever.

—Likkutei Sichos, vol. 26, pp. 90-92


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