Clouds of Glory
ELUL – MAXIMIZING UNTAPPED POTENTIAL
I recently heard the following insightful thought.
Let us begin by asking the following question. Did you ever ask yourselves why the ten days of (teshuvah) repentance, culminating with Yom Kippur, are not placed before Rosh Hashanah which is the coronation of our Creator? In other words wouldn’t it be better to first complete our repentance before the inauguration of our King of kings?
One possible explanation for this (seeming conundrum) is that in order to best be able to arouse a sincere teshuvah it behooves us to first realize how much potential we have for doing good. This therefore is the inner theme of Codesh Elul. How so? Since these days are the days we are preparing ourselves to inaugurate the King of kings on Rosh Hashanah our main focus is becoming the most positive (spiritually, mentally and physically) productive people we can be. This then by recognizing just how much untapped potential for doing good we have missed out on throughout the year, we can with a renewed positive attitude enter into the awesome ten days of teshuvah filled with a determination to repair any breaches of the past.
May this year we all merit to attain this lofty goal, thereby bringing closer the final geula soon in our days
TOO MANY HORSES
It is written in the Torah that “When you come into the Land… set a king over you; only he shall not have too many horses for himself, so he will not return the people to Egypt in order to increase horses, for Hashem has said to you, you shall no longer return on this road again. And he shall not have too many wives, so that his heart, not turn astray; and he shall not greatly increase silver and gold for himself. (Shoftim 16-17)
A Jewish King is not permitted to indulge in too many horses or too many wives nor to greatly increase his stores of silver and gold. We may well understand the warning given with respect to the accumulation of wealth because of the challenges this poses and the warning against too many wives because of the complexities it creates within royal household. But it is far more difficult to fathom why our holy Torah has chosen to create a separate and distinct warning about having too many horses. Are they not merely another form of wealth? Why horses more so than any other possession?
Our Torah explains that it is specifically the accumulation of horses that would cause the people to return to Egypt (Mitzrayim). Why? On a pragmatic level, Mitzrayim is the primary breeding ground for the Arabian horse, considered to be the most magnificent of all of the breeds. These horses have long commanded huge sums of money and are sought after and praised for their prowess and strength. Therefore, it would seem that if the king of the Jewish nation were to collect vast numbers of these horses, the Torah’s warning could well have practical consequences in that the king would set the direction for commerce and trade towards Mitzraim.
While this approach to an understanding of these verses may have practical appeal, there are other explanations which we will now explore. To better understand this section fo the Torah and how they relate to our personal lives, we should first consider the teaching of our Sages that each of us rules over the “small kingdom” – that is oneself. It may be helpful to visualize this “small kingdom” as a small “nation” whose resources flow from three major centers corresponding to three major organs – the brain, the heart and the liver whose roles are crucial to the development of the mind, emotion and physical energies.
And who is the king of this microcosmic kingdom? That is ideally the soul (neshoma) – the leader within us that governs and directs our inclinations – Thus the word king (melech) is an acronym for the three major organs: The (m)em corresponds to the (m)oach/mind; the (l)amed corresponds to the (l)ev/heart; while the (k)af corresponds to the (k)aved/liver.
The mind (moach) is the throne of the intellect which governs the thought processes. Its two upper faculties are wisdom and understanding. When these faculties are properly balanced they coordinate synergistically to produce knowledge (da’as). The lev/heart is the pump that circulates life sustaining blood throughout the entire body. To nourish our spiritual existence the heart, as the seat of the loftier emotions, propagates those motivating forces which consist of a range of moods and dispositions, from inspiration and joy to fear and sorrow. The third of these essential organs is the liver (kaved) that filters and purifies the blood on the physical level, while on the spiritual level it ideally refines and sanctifies the physical desires for use in the service of Hashem.
With this introduction we can now infer that the Torah’s reference to the Jewish king is also a beneficial prescription for every individual for establishing the proper balance in life.
Horses, particularly those connected with Mitzrayim, epitomize the symbol of strength and prowess on the physical level. These qualities parallel the attributes of the natural instincts of man (nefesh behamis). This potent nature if harnessed constructively can be a tremendous asset in the pursuit and fulfillment of one’s goals in life. However, such an energy must be used judiciously, avoiding “racing” too fast or recklessly. Thus the Torah has provided a “warning sign” not to acquire too much , so to speak, “horse-power” in order to stay safely within the spiritual “speed limit.”
Next, the Torah commands the king not to have too many wives. The husband-wife relationship belongs to the heart (lev), because it is motivated by the loftier emotions that emanate from the heart such as love, loyalty and devotion. Too many wives symbolizes a lack of this unity.
Then the king is warned that he “shall not greatly increase silver and gold”. Besides its monetary value, silver corresponds to chesed which is rooted in wisdom whereas gold symbolizes gavurot whose roots are in understanding. Wisdom and understanding are crucial tools for positive growth, however, the single-minded accumulation of intellectual assets or material wealth without a corresponding accrual of humility and submissiveness in the acknowledgement of the Source of these blessings can lead to an unbalanced portfolio with insufficient resources allocated to spiritual values.
Ironically, the Torah permits the establishment of a king and yet almost at the same time warns against the possible consequences. Now perhaps we can better understand the meaning of this seeming dichotomy by noticing the inverted order that is written in the Torah. Horses listed first, correspond to the liver (k)aved; then wives are listed paralleling the heart (l)ev; and finally silver and gold relating to the attributes of the mind (m)oach. The Torah is thereby teaching us that living a lifestyle that pursues “too many and too much”, chas vi-shalom, inverts/transforms the power of the kingship (m)e(l)e(k) to the state of humiliation and disgrace k)e(l)e(m).
To avoid this and dedicate his thoughts, words and actions purely to the service of Hashem, the king is commanded to write two Sefer Torah: “It shall be with him, and he shall read from it all the days of his life, so he will learn to fear Hashem his G-d, to observe all the words of the Torah and these decrees, to perform them, so that his heart does not become haughty over his brethren and (so that he will) not turn from the commandment right or left, so that he will prolong his years over his kingdom, he and his sons amid Israel.” (Shoftim 17:18-20)
Through following this prescription we coronate Hashem as the King of kings thereby bringing closer the geula and the rebuilding of the holy Temple (Beis HaMigdash), may it be soon in our days.
AN IDEAL TIME TO ENHANCE OUR INVESTMENTS
“When a man departs from this world, neither silver nor gold, nor precious stones nor pearls escort him, but only Torah study and good deeds…” . “…Mine is the silver and Mine is the gold, says Hashem, Master of Legions.” Avos 6:9
Like someone who counts and recounts their most valuable financial holdings, the Almighty counted and then recounted us again in the Torah, as Rashi reveals to us: that because of G-d’s love for our nation, He counted us frequently. The Ramban says: it was also a great honor for each person to give their name as an individual to Moshe and Aharon. The Sforno adds: that everyone’s name was Divinely inspired to indicate each person’s personal virtues. Let us attempt to derive from the census taken three times in the midbar of the shevatim, together with the names of their princes and the position of each shevet in relationship to each other, a paradigm of our Nation as the Creator’s most valued “asset”.
Taking the liberty to use investment parlance in parallel to our Nation will make more visceral our comprehending the uniqueness of our role in this life. It is generally recognized that in order to maximize one’s investment returns, a preferred strategy is to diversify one’s assets. This is achieved by choosing a wide variety of stocks and bonds from various economic and geographical sectors. Many financial institutions have created “fund families” that do this for the investor by buying stocks, bonds and other assets that correspond to the various goals of the investor to increase his holdings, maximize future potential and minimize risk. An individual portfolio is the sum total of his or her financial investments.
Just as proper financial investing needs structure and diversity, so we clearly find with the Torah’s delineation of each the various Shevatim. Each Shevit can be seen as corresponding to a specific “fund sector” with all of the Shevatim together making up the entire gamut of a potentially perfect supernal “investment portfolio” for the Creator. The princes of each Shevit/fund therefore can be seen as corresponding to the “fund managers”, while the members of each Shevit corresponding to the individual “shares of stock” allocated to each of the funds which, B’H, split many times over the ensuing centuries. The marching positions of each Sheivet could be seen as parallel to the various “economic sectors” in which each fund is invested and the resting position corresponding to the “geographical market” in which the fund is located.
And now let us ask how is the value of these “funds” measured? – It is through the “production” of mitzvoth and ma’asim tovim that the value of the “stock” increases and the overall Heavenly “portfolio” grows.
Unfortunately at various junctures in the historical road map for “investment strategy” parts of our nation’s performance was not always sterling causing our “assets” being downgraded. This has in turn caused a weakening in some of our investment “sectors” due to our inability to fulfill certain mitzvoth while in galus. However, fortunately the “C.E.O” of the entire creation has never “sold us short” and even as we function with a less than ideal portfolio – ie. without our Beis Hamikdash with its many precious mitzvoth – causing our “financial statements” to be less than ideal, we have remained the Creator’s chosen possession and with His help there is always the opportunity for us to make good our loses and thereby regain our previous spiritual “market position and value”.
Armed with these “investment” strategies, we can use our distinctive capabilities to maximize our spiritual assets and thus enhance our “global position” with the goal of restoring the crown of Torah soon to its proper position.
True, as the pesukim quoted above state: the silver nor gold and other treasures of this world do not accompany us to the next, but the Creator’s most precious treasure – our mitzvoth performed with ahavas Hashem, together with His gold which we acquire through adhering to the mitzvoth of restraint demonstrating our yerias Hashem do in fact accompany us.
May we all merit to “invest” all our energy and capabilities profitably at each stage of our journey through life.
CONQUERING ERETZ CANAAN … AND OURSLVES
This week in Parshas Eikev there is a very interesting Torah portion in which Hashem promises to drive out the nations that lived in Eretz Canaan as it is written: “Hashem, your G-d will thrust these nations from before you little by little; you will not be able to annihilate them quickly, lest the beasts of the field increase against you”(Devarim 7:22). It is also written in Parshas Mishpatim (23:29-30) “I shall not drive them away from you in a single year, lest the land become desolate and the wildlife of the field multiply against you. Little by little shall I drive them away from you, until you become fruitful and make the land your heritage.”
We are aroused to ask a few interesting questions of how we can possibly understand the simple reading of these pasukim which implies that the wild animals, as threatening as they can be, could be considered more of a danger to us than the well fortified, strongly armed calculating Canaanite nations? After all don’t we find that throughout history enemy nations have always posed a much greater threat than any type of wild animals? What therefore are these “beasts of the field” that are so dangerous that the Torah announces that it is seemingly preferable to allow the potentially hostile Canninite nations to continue dwelling in the land temporarily until we “become fruitful and make the land our heritage”?
Perhaps these Torah sections can be understood in the following way that will teach us a wondrous lesson: Eretz Yisrael can be seen to correspond to the body for our nation and we are its soul as is alluded to within the name of Israel which is the name of both our nation and our land. How do we see the spiritual DNA of this connection? The letters yud, shin, reish, alef and lamed which form the word “Yisrael” are amazingly the exact acronym for the names of the Avos and Imahos of the Jewish people: Yitzchak, Yaakov, Sara, Rivka, Rachel, Avraham and Leah (according to the Ari HaKadosh, Likutei Torah, Kisvei Ari, parashas Vayishlach, d’h, Vayikra es shemo Yisrael).
If this is so, then let us ask if we are the soul and Eretz Israel is the body then what do the Canaanite nations and the beast of the field symbolize?
Perhaps we can venture to say that the powerful “Canaanite nations” can be understood to correspond to that part of human intellect which views life only through a lens of intellectual understanding of ephemeral values, while the “beasts of the field” can be seen to represent those baser emotions which are concerned with corporal pleasure seeking.
The Torah is therefore perhaps giving us an awesome teaching that when a Jewish neshoma begins its entry into the realm of mitzvos, as expressed in our nations entering the land of what will become Eretz Israel, there will be waiting for us two fierce adversaries which have to be subdued and controlled or expelled: One is the powerful, well fortified intellect which uses its powers of subjective reasoning and rationalization to ratify and justify its lifestyle choices, while the other even more potentially licentious adversary is here referred to as the “beasts of the field”.
Therefore the Torah is informing us, that because the self willed intellect and the unbridled emotions will not meekly yield to this yoke without a struggle, that only as quickly as we “increase” our levels of Torah and yerias Shamiem, will Hashem correspondingly help us to safely remove “little by little” the influence of those foreign ideologies that up until now “inhabited the land”. [Of course when referring to those kinds of thoughts allowed to temporarily remain, we are only referring to only those kinds of thoughts that are in the permissible range.] From here we can derive awesome lesson in life that human mind, like the land, is never a vacuum and therefore if the intellect is not occupied with some kind of mindful thoughts it will easily become inundated with an onslaught of corporeal desires as is so evident especially in these last few generations.
May we, the Bnei Israel, all merit soon in our days to reach the ideal level of Eretz Israel, as our Avos and Emos did, where our minds and hearts will only yearn to be constantly filled with the will of Hashem.
TU b’AV – A DAY FILLED WITH – TOV – GOOD
The 15th day of the month of Av (Tu b’Ab) is one of those special days on our Jewish calendar that can almost be missed if we don’t pay close attention because, unlike other holy days, it does not require us to leave our weekday activities and immerse ourselves in special mitzvoth. Yet it contains a treasure trove of spiritual wealth that is available for us to mine. We enter the treasury through a portal called “awareness.”
Let us first take note that Tu B’Av falls out forty days before the 25th of Elul which is the first day of Creation. Our Rabbis (Chazal) teach that forty days before conception, a Bas Kol announces whom each child-to-be will marry. So also forty days before the creation of the world, a Bas Kol announced the future covenant between the Creator and the Jewish nation (B’Nei Yissaschar, Ma’amer Chodesh Tamuz, dalet).
It is written in our holy seforim that the month of Av is governed by the letter Tes and has within it a tremendous inner power for (Tov) good as revealed through the numerous blessed occurrences/proclamations that Chazal have associated with Tu b’Av.
The tractate (Gemora) Taanis 30b-31 lists a number of favorable events that took place in Jewish history all on this very auspicious day of the 15th of Av. Let us see if we can create a connecting correlation between the events listed in Gemora Taanis with our seven shepherds and the sefortic attributes that they correspond to.
During the fledgling Jewish nation’s forty year passage through the midbar, all the men died upon reaching sixty; this decree was rescinded at the end of their journey, which became apparent on Tu B’Av. Also, the slain of the city of Beitar were finally buried on the 15th of Av. Both of these incidents reflect the attribute of chesed as exemplified by Avraham Aveinu as seen through altruistic kindness (chesed shel emes) he fulfilled sparing no effort or expense for the burial for his deceased wife – Sarah.
Then there was the “removal of the roadblocks” that had prevented access to Jerusalem. This possibly correlates to the attribute of spiritual strength (gavurot) as epitomized through Yitzchak Aveinu whose life was one of directed holiness through discipline, reaching its crowning glory when he “removed all barriers” through selflessly offering himself at the story of the Akeda.
Since after the 15th of Av the nights become longer, the Gemora tells of the importance of increasing ones Torah learning in the “evening”. Torah corresponds to the attribute of the balance between chesed and gavurot known as(teferiot) – as epitomized Yaakov Aveinu who exemplifies misiras nefesh for Torah learning especially during the long “night of the galus”. The Midrash tells us that after fleeing from Esau, Yaakov studied continuously for fourteen years, day and night, before meeting his next worldly challenge – that of Lavan.
On this day the ban against marriage between the tribe of Binyamin and the rest of the tribes (Shafatim) was repealed.. This allowed for the Jewish nation to be “reunited”. Unity between Jews help us to “reunite” with the Creator (Ribbono shel Olam). This is the attribute of eternality (netzach), exemplified by Moshe Rabbeinu who dedicated his life to the lofty goal of unifying us with Hashem.
Wood cut up to the 15th of Av (but not later) was used as fuel for the alter (mizbe’ach) where we offered our sacrifices through the descendants of Ahron HaKohen, who exemplifies the quality of submissive splendor (hod). Just as the wood was totally consumed on the alter of Hashem, so was the level of total selfless dedication of Ahron HaKohan in his avodas Hashem.
Tu B’Av is the last day of planting before the New Year. Planting seeds at the proper time will, with the help of Hashem, begin a process that will later produce life- sustaining nourishment. Yoseph, who was placed in charge of the world’s food supply, corresponds to the attribute of yesod that channels Divine influences. This perhaps teaches us that as important as it is to plant seeds – meaning to have nice ideas – it is just as important to follow up by cultivating, harvesting and finally distributing the fruits of ones efforts.
This list of events that took place on the 15th of Av indicates to us that this extraordinary day is a repository for many blessings. Our Sages tell us that the 15th of Av is compared to Yom Kippur in a number of important ways. First they are both days of forgiveness: Yom Kippur was the day the Jewish people were forgiven for the sin of the golden calf (eigel); whereas on the 15th of Av the Bnei Israel in the midbar were finally forgiven for the sin of the spies (cheit ha-meraglim). In the time of the holy Temple in Jerusalem (Beis HaMikdosh), both these days were also especially imbued with Heavenly assistance for shidduchim. (Gemors Ta’anis, 26b)
So great is the power of Tu B’Av, the Pri Tzadik tells us, that the third and final Bais Hamikdash will be “built” on the 15th of Av.
This final redemption will come about through our long awaited Mashiach ben David who exemplifies the power of – malcus – royalty to orchestrate, combine and develop all the mentioned above Divine attributes. May we merit this revelation soon in our days.
THE MYSTERY OF BAIN HAMETZARIM – THE THREE WEEKS OF POTENTIAL REDEMPTION
Bein Hametzarim – “between the tragedies.” Caught in the vise between – the 17th of Tamuz and the 9th of Av – days in which our Temple (Bais Hamigdash) was destroyed as well as many other calamities befell us – it is difficult to perceive any redeeming aspect of this tragic period. However, we have long understood the spiritual value that lies within adversity. For example our Rabbis (Cazal) inform us of the benefits we derived from our period of bondage in Egypt (Mitzraim), which prepared us for the next level in the service of Hashem. In Mitzrayim we were given the opportunity to extract precious sparks of holiness that only the most challenging of events and epochs could release.
Let us try to reveal a redemptive, positive view of this difficult period that we re-visit each year at this time. Perhaps one of the “keys” to releasing ourselves from personal and national bondage lies, ironically, in the name for the period – “Bein Hametzarim”.
Why is this time called “between the tragedies” and not “the time of tragedies”? The nature of many people, when beset by difficult challenges, is that they tend to become overwhelmed and even imprisoned in their own personal “bars” of anguish and hopelessness. Yet, many of us know those exceptional people who, in seemingly overwhelming circumstances, are able to overcome restrictions focusing not on the bars – of limitation – but on the spaces “between” them – the inner messages that offer new vistas of growth and change which are encoded “within” the challenges.
Cazal have foretold that one day the inner lights of these days called Bein Hametzarim will be unveiled revealing the crowning gem, our long awaited Moshiach, whose birth date is the 9th of Av (Yerushalmi, Brachos).
Sfas Emes tells us that the ten sayings (maamoros) with which the world was created world were later channeled in Mitzraim through the ten plagues (makot) and finally revealed in the form of the Ten Commandments. These ten sayings were the Divine D.N.A. that G-d used to formulate the world. Had mankind cooperated and obeyed Hashem’s commandments, the world would have achieved perfection; however because of the various sins throughout the generations, a process of purification was deemed necessary including the ten plagues (macot) for the Mitzriyim (at the same time that the Jewish people were the recipients of blessings) that led eventually to the exodus. However, since freedom from physical bondage was not the final goal, the benevolent Creator led us to Har Sinai and gave us the Torah whose essence is coded within the ten commandments. Perhaps we can draw a parallel from this to draw another connection among numbers: the twenty-two letters (oisios) of the Torah, twenty-two days of Bein Hametzarim and to twenty-two of our holiest days. As is well known the entire creation was and continues to exist through the twenty-two holy osios of the Torah. However, due to the ongoing failings of mankind, specifically the Jewish people have designated to be a holy nation charged with rectifying and elevating the whole Creation. We are assigned at times to descend into the darkest, most dangerous realms of time in the calendar year in order to reveal the inner radiance their intrinsic holiness. It is specifically during the depths of the frigid winter referred to as SHOVAVIM (TAT), during which the Torah reading retells of the bondage of our forefathers, that we can access the spiritual “genetics” necessary to rectify not only that period but all challenging times. This lofty goal is achievable through the dynamic vibrant power contained within the twenty-two readings (aliyot) of the Torah beginning with the story of Moshe our teacher (Rabbinu) and the burning bush (sneh) (the forth alia in Parshas Shemos), ( then seven alias each in Parshas Va’eira and Parshas Bo) and ending with the splitting of the Yam Suf (forth alia of Pashas Beshalach) for a total of twenty-two aliot.
It is specifically through the Torah, our spiritual catalyst, that even during the most twenty-two searing intense summer days of Bein Hametzarim will be transformed in the near future into days of joy. Adhering to the Torah’s prescriptions will enable us to make the transition from the grip of stifling bondage to new heights of freedom in days of Divine radiance. Each and every day of the Bein Hametzarim period contains within it the seeds – the inner essence – of twenty-two of our holiest days. 
May all of us merit to see, feel and experience the blessings encoded within each and every one of these days, thereby transcending the galus of limitation to arrive at the ultimate redemption (geulah).
 S’fas Emes in the name of his grandfather the Chidushei Ha’rim.
 The Bnei Yisaschar brings a Zohar that Yaakov Avinu received the portion (control) of Nisan, Eyar and Sivan while his brother Esau received control of the summer months of Tamuz, Av ( the months of Bein Hamitzarim) and Elul. (Ma’amrei Chodesh Tamuz-Av, Ma’amar alef, s’eef vav.) I also heard that Yaakov Avinu also received in addition the portion of the months of Thisre, Chesvon and Kislev whereas Esau received the portion of the strongest winter months of Tevet, Shevat ( the months of Shovavim -Tat) and Adar. Only later did Yaakov Avinu take Elul and Adar into his realm of holiness.
 Parshas Pinchas, read at this time, contains the mitzvot of theYamim Tovim, indicating that there is a connection between the Yamim Tovim and Bein Hametazarim. Additionally, the twenty two days from Shivah Asar B’Tammuz through the Tisha B’Av parallel the twenty two days from Rosh Hashanah to Shmini Atzeres (which are also twenty-two days) and through this connection the days of Bein Hametzarim are drawn up and sweetened. (Parshas Pinchas – 24 & 25).
A GLIMPSE OF OUR EARTHLY – “MANNA” – HEAVENLY FOOD
After the exodus from Mitzrayim and passing through the Yam Suf , the Torah tells us of the miraculous “Heavenly food” that sustained our entire Jewish Nation for forty years in the desert. “Hashem said to Moshe, ‘Behold I shall rain down for you food from heaven; let the people go out and pick each day’s portion on its day, so that I can test them, whether they will follow My teaching or not’.” Thus begins the Parsha of the Mann to which it is taught that whoever recites this parsha every day is assured that they will not lack sustenance. The following is an amazing true story of some of the many forms manna can take.
Levi married during his third year of learning in a ba’al teshuvah yeshiva in Eretz Yisrael and within the year he and his wife had the first of what was to be many children. After five years of marriage and their third child, the Six Day war was about to begin. Levi’s American parents requested the family return to the States for the duration of the war. Levi and his wife reluctantly agreed to leave and within a week landed in New York only to find himself embroiled in another type of “war”
After a few days of settling in the family, in a small rented apartment, Levi arose early one morning so as to have a proper amount of time for dovening and a leaning seder before beginning his pursuit of (parnosa) looking for a job. Soon after Shachris, a dignified stranger approached Levi and asked whether he said the Parsha of the Mann each day. The impressive looking man explained that it was written in the gemora Yerushalmi that whoever said the parsha of the mann every day was assured of sustenance.
Levi shyly admitted that he did not and had not even heard of this minhag. After the gentleman left, Levi began to consider his words as he wanted very much to believe this promise but the many earlier years in the secular world tended to make him skeptical about any phenomenon that could not be explained rationally. This was not a battle of physical prowess but a “inner war/struggle” of overcoming years of educational and sociological influences.
Nonetheless, Levi had a deep desire to bridge the seemingly large gap between his spiritual goals and his worldly perceptions. So before he left the shul, Levi opened the Chumash to the Parsha of the Mann and slowly began to read it. Someone raised in the religious community would have been able to complete this Parsha in about five minutes, but Levy who hadn’t learn his first words of Hebrew until he was twenty-four took nearly one half hour trying to be precise in the correct pronunciation of each letter and phrase while at the same time making a sincere effort to place the meaning of those words in his heart.
Amazingly within seconds of his finishing the Parsha another elderly man gently tapped Levi on the shoulder and after saying hello and introducing himself asked, “Young man, I see you are new to the schull, are you in need of a job?” Amazed Levi asked him what he had in mind. The gentle man told him that he had a small factory and could use some help at this time of the year. Levi was speechless. Within “toch kidei dibur” while the sounds of the parsha were still echoing from his lips and for the one and only time in his thirty years of life, he was approached with a job offer before he applied or for that matter even began to look for a job. Levi thanked him profusely, took his telephone number and said he would consider the kind offer.
Walking slowly back to his rented apartment, he contemplated these events, events that most people whom he grew up with would have allocated to a category called “serendipity” or coincidence and not given a further thought, but now he was deeply thinking about the timing of these events and the words of our Sages. That part of him that wanted to believe in – haskaka pratis – Divine intervention excitingly related the chain of mornings events to his family.
After breakfast, Levi began his efforts to look for a teaching job by beginning to call some of the local Yeshivas. Since it was in the middle of the school year, he didn’t expect that he would be able to get a full time job but would be happy even with a substitute position. Amazingly, the Aibishter’s plans for him were somewhat different. The principle of the very first Yeshiva Levi called, after hearing his articulate English and his educational background, offered him the possibility of a full time position for the remainder of the school year. It was just that morning, the principle offered by way of explanation, that he learned that one of his teachers was immediately moving out of the area. The principle invited Levi to a meeting and told him that if everything was agreeable he could begin that very day.
Levi may have began the day with a certain narrow mind-set but with these two and still further events would soon solidify a deep seeded respect and awe for words of our holy Sages. Just as he was about to leave for his teaching interview, the mailmen delivered their first letter to this new address. They quickly opened the envelope and gasped. Inside was a note which was from an aunt and uncle who explained that they could not recall whether they had sent a gift to Levi and his wife when their last baby was born several months before and added that if they had they should keep the enclosed check also for their needs. (True the letter was mailed a few days before but how many of you have received a nice size monetary gift on the first day you ever said the Parsha of the Mann. By now Levi and his wife, who had indeed already received a check from his aunt and uncle were now starting to feel overwhelmed and at the same time very comforted that “Someone” above was looking out and arranging for them with not only for jobs but even bonuses.
Hold on to your to hats, folks, for we are not done yet. A few minutes later, Levi decided to hitchhike to the Yeshiva. He watched several cars pass and finally a young religious man stopped his car and offered him a ride. As they drove Levi mentioned that he was on his way to begin his new job as an English teacher. The driver then struggled in broken English to ask Levi if he had any free time to tutor him. He explained that he was born in Eretz Israel and was now married and living here and really felt the need to learn better English. By now Levi was in sheer awe by the offer of yet another source of income and so he responded that he would be happy to do so if they could agree on a time and price. Levi took his number, and got out at his destination.
Within minutes of their meeting, the principle presented the conditions of employment, to which he agreed and that very day Levy began teaching his new class.
When Levi arrived home later that evening, he was bubbling with the news of his teaching job and his possible tutoring job and did not imagine that his wife would be anything other than a happy excited listener. That however was not the case. His wife “jumped in first” by saying: “Guess what? While you were gone I got a call from the principle of the local girl’s school. She had apparently gotten my name from one of our new neighbors.” Levi’s wife continued: “The principle said she was in desperate need of a substitute because her regular teacher needed to take an abrupt leave of absence.” Almost speechless yet at the same time full of thoughtful praise of the Creator for showing him that Manna can takes many forms, Levi realized that his previous skepticism was now a thing of the past and that “wars” can be won, if we cling One who created us.
P.S. – Oh by the way, Levi did take that tutoring job which continued twice weekly for more than six months and for the last thirty plus years he continues to recall these wondrous events especially as his is melodiously reading over the Parshas ha-Mann daily.
OF GIANTS, MEN AND GRASSHOPPERS
“There we saw the Nephilim, the sons of the giant
from among the Nephilim; and it came to pass that in our eyes
[we were] like grasshoppers, and so we were in their eyes.” Bamidbar, 13:33
The military reconnaissance of the Land presaged a battle that appeared hopeless as it would pit the weak and small against the strong and mighty. The spies – meraglim – in answering the questions posed to them upon their return, seemingly did no more than state the obvious danger; yet we know that they committed a grave sin in so doing. What can we learn from this tragic event in order to avoid the errors of the meraglim?
The first step is to understand the nature of their failing.
The commentators acknowledge that the meraglim recognized Hashem’s power but suggest that the spies thought that Hashem was going to limit Himself and act in accordance with nature and therefore B’nei Yisrael would be unable to triumph.
Yehoshuah and Caleb, men of complete faith, demonstrated what it takes to remain men – anashim – even in the face of vastly stronger and more powerful enemies. Yehoshua faced the distraught assembly that was weeping and entreating Moshe to return to Egypt and told them a simple but profound truth. He did not deny the obvious size and strength of the giants, but exhorted that “If Hashem is pleased with us then will He bring us into this land and will give it to us . . . and you , you should not fear the people of the land for they are our bread; their protective shadow is departed from them as G-d is with us . . . “ (Bamidbar 14: 8-9).
It all depends on the lens through which we view the test. The meraglim saw the inhabitants of the land as being too daunting and the land as being unconquerable, because they used their own personal discernment, Yehoshua and Calav viewed the inhabitants of the land through the lens of daas Torah and thus perceived them as presenting no meaningful obstacle.
Unless a Jew sees himself as a representative of G-d who is All Powerful, he will see himself not as a person facing his adversary, but rather as a “grasshopper” facing a “giant”. The way in which we perceive our relationship to Hashem is the deciding factor in how we view ourselves.
Referring to the spies’ encounter with the giants, the Torah says “vanehi b’eineinu k’chagavim” and “and in our eyes [too] we were like grasshoppers.” “Nehi” connotes weeping or crying and suggests a diminished, disheartened and despairing emotional state. Although the meraglim were initially described as ‘anashim’ righteous men — heads of the tribes of Israel, their lack of faith now surfaced transforming them to lose their exalted status.
As is all too apparent from our experiences during this long difficult galus, if our belief in Hashem weakens, our Jewish self esteem is diminished undermining our ability to see and appreciate our unique mission in this world. The Kotzke Rebbe explains: The spies had no right to consider how the giants viewed them. As Jews and emissaries for the Jewish people, they should have thought only of their mission, not of what anyone else thought of them. How many times do we become discouraged because of what we feel or perceive that other people think?
When, in that diminished psychological state, if we should be confronted by a difficult challenge, it takes on the hugeness of a giant in our eyes and as such has the power to discourage us from achieving our true potential and fulfilling our destiny.
How can we overcome this challenge. First we should realize that there is no barrier so large or overwhelming that we cannot hurdle it, if it is Hashem’s will that we do so. The Maraglim saw themselves as grasshoppers. Why grasshoppers? Perhaps to teach us that every challenge gives us the opportunity to choose our direction and destiny in life. When threatened, the grasshopper can either jump back, as did the meraglim who counseled the nation to jump far away from their “giant” appearing challenges or it can use it powerful hind legs to leap over the obstacle that lies before it. From this we can learn a wondrous lesson that when we stand up to a challenge for (Hashem’s) the Creator’s honor, our supernal “legs” of trust and faith “jump up” to the forefront and aid us in leaping over all and any perceived hurdles and barriers.