Friday, June 04, 2010

Parsha and Relevance

I'm experimenting with a new feature which I hope to post on a weekly basis before Shabbos. It will deal with Divrei Torah on the weekly Torah portion and it's relavence to the issues of our day. The following is Dvar Torah is by Rabbi Yosef HaLevi Soloveichik.

פרשת שלח

וימאסו בארץ חמדה לא האמינו לדברו.

This week's parsha opens with the tragic story of the meraglim, the spies. It is difficult to understand what went wrong, in light of the fact that we are told that, at the outset, the spies were all righteous men.

וישלח אתם משה ממדבר פארן על פי ה', כולם אנשים ראשי בני ישראל המה.
רש"י: כלם אנשים – כל אנשים שבמקרא לשון חשיבות, ואותה שעה כשרים היו.

The Zohar HaKadosh states the following:

וישלח אותם משה וגו'. כלם אנשים. כלהו זכאין הוו ורישי דישראל הוו אבל אינון דברו לגרמייהו עיטא בישא אמאי נטלי עיטא דא אלא אמרו אי ייעלון ישראל לארעא נתעבר אנן מלמהוי רישין וימני משה רישין אחרנין דהא אנן זכינן במדברא למהוי רישין אבל בארעא לא נזכי ועל דנטלי עיטא בישא לגרמייהו מיתו אינון וכל אינון דנטלן מלייהו:

The meraglim were concerned, for they knew that when the nation would enter the land, they would no longer be in positions of leadership. They, therefore, devised an evil plan to stay in the desert and hold on to their positions.

Is the Zohar, one of the most esoteric sifrei Kabbalah, merely saying that the meraglim were concerned about holding onto their jobs?! Let us contemplate...

Eretz Yisrael, in its full capacity, belongs to the עלמא דאתכסיא , the Concealed World, represented by Leah Imeinu. The Revealed World, עלמא דאתגליא is represented by Rachel Imeinu. When Moshe Rabbeinu endorsed the mission of the meraglim, he did so, with the intention of their reaching the aspect of עלמא דאתכסיא of Eretz Yisrael, as is hinted in the words:

(וישלח אתם משה לתור את הארץ.. (אותיות לא"ה)

The meraglim, however, had other intentions. They were only interested in the עלמא דאתגליא. This is hinted in the words:

(ויעלו ויתרו את הארץ ממדבר צין עד רחב לבא חמת. (אותיות רח"ל

(based upon the Megaleh Amukos)

The essence of Eretz Yisrael is unlike that of any other land. All the other lands are governed by mundane and natural rules. When you work, you see predictable results. When you make the proper natural, physical effort, your effort will be rewarded. It is familiar. It feels secure. It is predictable.

When you step into the Land, into Eretz Yisrael, you enter into a completely different realm. It is the geographical gateway to Kedusha.. It is a place of an unknown, unfamiliar, unpredictable, mysterious and inexpressible reality. This is the Concealed World. Moshe Rabbeinu belonged to this category. He was of an altogether different essence. His prophecy was of a whole different essence. Miriam misunderstood. She erred and thought that she, too, was a great prophetess like Moshe, and therefore, she could apply the standards she knew to Moshe. She mistakenly regarded Moshe as belonging to a similar class, and that she was in a position to express her opinion.

The essence of Eretz Yisrael, too, is different than any other place on earth. Eretz Yisrael belongs to the Olam d'Iskasia, the Concealed World. Here is the wondrous and mysterious place of Hashgasha Pratis. And in this place, existence is inexorably intertwined with closeness to Hashem. Here, in order to succeed and to achieve security and peace, the regular rules of human endeavor do not suffice. Here, one must delve into and exert the deeper part of the personality to maintain a life of G-dliness.

והיה אם שמע תשמעו... ונתתי מטר ארצכם בעתו - And it will be if you hearken to My commandments.. And I will give the rain of your land in its time..

This is very different from the rules and structure of the rest of the world.

This is more demanding. This is more challenging. To some, it is frightening.

The Zohar expresses this as the Meraglim being preoccupied with holding on to their jobs. A person tends to define himself by all kinds of externals – the type of yamulkah he wears, his job or career, his status in the community, his physical attributes, his family connections. These are all the comfortable symbols of the Revealed World. But there is a deeper world, the עלמא דאתכסיא, in which these externals fall away. And a deeper and more authentic reality reigns. It is a mysterious and marvelous place, a place where Heaven and earth intersect and intertwine in a most dynamic and creative way. Here, in order to maintain functionality, a person has no choice but to access the deeper resources of his soul.


Someone who was searching for a suitable shidduch for his child made the following interesting observation: He noticed that there was a disproportionate percentage of very gifted children in marriages where one parent was Ashkenazi and the other Sefardi. And the very prestigious families, who are regarded in such high esteem and given preferential treatment in the communities, and a great fuss is made about them, generally do not have the very gifted children.

How can this phenomenon be explained?

Here, again, we go back to the same issue. What makes people xenophobic and racist? People like to stay with the familiar and the secure. It is soothing to be in home-territory where everything is cozy and known. To reach out and to communicate and interact with someone who is spiritually different and unfamiliar (ashkenazi vs. sefardi, chassidish vs. litvish, working vs. learning, F.F.B. vs. Baalei Teshuvah, etc.) is to step out into the unknown. It is unpredictable and frightening. Who knows where such an encounter will take the person?! It shakes the person up existentially. Here, the person must delve deeper into the resources and wellsprings of his neshama in order to navigate and function.

But this very same place of the unknown and mysterious is also the place of a dynamic and creative reality. And it is the deeper recesses of human consciousness that are the rich wellsprings of human creativity. Creativity is not to be found in a familiar and monotonous environment and not in a superficially complacent security.

The issue of the day in the chareidi community in Eretz Yisrael is racial prejudice. The high court of justice has ruled that the existing segregated setup in one school is unacceptable and illegal. This sets a precedent that will be applied to all kinds of situations, in all kinds of places. It is obvious that significant changes will have to be made in the existing structures. However, the main change will have to be in the mindset of the chareidi community.

Hashem is bringing His People closer and closer to the ארץ חמדה, to His Promised Land. Closer to a sublime place where all trivial, wasteful and harmful preoccupations with externals will fall away,

ועלו מושיעים בהר ציון לשפט את הר עשו והיתה לה' המלוכה


לעלוי נשמת הגאון הר"ר אהרן בן הר"ר משה הלוי סאלאווייציק זצ"ל