Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Secrets and Rewards of Eternal Youth

There were three categories of Jews who did not fall prey to the instigation of the Eirev Rav in the affair of the Golden Calf.

One, the women. Brimming with common sense, the same nashim tzidkaniyos who were the bulwarks of faith in Mitzrayim, did not see any reason to panic if Moshe was late - surely Hashem would take care of them.

Two, The tribe of Levi. Having seen, up close, real avodas Hashem, the Levi'im saw through the pretense of the Golden Calf as an intermediary to serving Hashem for what it really was - out and out idolatry.

Three, Yehoshua. He wasn't even around in the camp when the Eirev Rav started stirring everything up. Where was he ? Camping at the foot of Har Sinai - waiting for his rebbe, Moshe Rabbeinu.

The passuk refers to Yehoshua as a "youth". The Ramban points out that Yehoshua was 56 years old at this point - hardly a young'un. Why does the Torah paint him with the designation "youth" ? Says the Ramban, because he was serving or squiring for Moshe Rabbeinu. Whenever there is a master and one who is attending the master - the attendant is referred to as a youth. This is probably because to attend a master and to learn from him - one has to remain, like a youth, a perpetual student.

The young are students of everything because they know they have not the experience nor the wisdom to forge out on their own. The day they stop learning, or more accurately, the day they cease placing themselves under their teacher's mastery, is they day they 'grow up'.

Yehoshua eventually grew up - he grew to lead the entire Jewish nation! But it wasn't until being a student, a 'youth', was no longer an option.

How can we handle the trials and nisyonos of life ? Well, if we have the good fortune of being a member of categories one or two we are already a step ahead. For those that are left - we must follow the example of Yehoshua. "עשה לך רב" as the mishna in Avos states - but more importantly - "עשה עצמך כתלמיד" .

Hatzlacha !

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Pomegranets and Bells

We find in the Gemara ( Zevachim 88b ) that the meil was suppossed to atone to Lashon Hara spoken in public. This is derived from the fact that the meil had bells and they would make noise - let the garment that makes noise come and atone for a sin that is trangressed with noise.

So why do we need the pomegranets ?

Lashon Hara is any statement that would make you think negatively of another Jew. We know that the positive sound of the bells would somehow cancel out the negative sound of the slander. The pomegranets were there to prevent it in the first place. The gemara teaches that even the most simple of Jews is filled with merits like a pomegranet [is filled with seeds]. If we were to internalize this - we would never say anything negative about our fellow Jews ! So even though the meil had the ability to cancel out the bad sounds with good ones - it was also there to remind us not to say them at all !

Friday, February 15, 2008

For (Hashem's) Honor and Splendor

"ועשית בגדי קדש לאהרן אחיך לכבוד ולתפארת"
[שמות כח:ב]
"And you shall make holy garments for Aharon, your brother, for honor and splendor" [Shemos 28:2]

The gemara in zevachim (88b) points out that the garments of the Kohein Gadol would actually atone for various transgressions that the Jewish people commited. How does Aharon's wearing of a garment atone for the sins of the people ? Particularly such glamorous garments - how do we know that Aharon was able to focus on this secondary motive of atonement - perhaps he was occupied with the Honor and Splendor bit ?
We see in the passuk Aharon's name is written in it's shortened form - to teach us that he saw himself in the diminutive. Regardless of the honor and splendor heaped upon him - he redirected it to where it belonged - to Hashem.

Friday, February 08, 2008

But Can I get There From Here ?

There were four principle vessels of divine service in the mishkan. The Aron Hakodesh, Shulchan, Mizbeach ( Hazahav ) and the Menorah.

There is a curious attribute that three of these shared.


Since the Jews were wandering through the desert, it would make sense that there would be a system of manuvering these precious articles from place to place. This system was having rings set into the sides of the vessels and having poles or staves threaded through the rings. In this way they served as handles. But there are two things to notice about these 'handles'. With regard to the Aron Hakodesh - we were commanded never to remove the poles. While the menorah had no poles at all.

What do these poles represent - what 'job' did they perform on the Aron which was so crucial it couldn't be neglected for a second - and so inconsequential so as not to serve on the Menorah at all ?

Poles or handles represent accesibility - if we can't reach something or grasp it in a particulary meaningful way - we look for a handle - a way for us to reach and grab hold of it.

Each one of these four vessels represented another facet of our service of G-d.
The Mizbeach represents our teffilah, the Shulchan, our physical prosperity. The Menorah represents wisdom. The Aron is actually the connection we have with Hashem. Three of these have handles because Hashem gives us the ability to use this 'crutch' to attain a measure of proficiency in these aspects.

The 'crutch' or handle for the mizbeach is suffering. When we suffer we are naturally drawn to G-d to pray for salvation. The handle for the shulchan is maaser. Hashem promises us that if we are properly disposed with our material possesions - He will give us all we need.

The Menorah has no handles. To attain torah wisdom there is no crutch and there are no shortcuts.

The Aron, however, not only has handles - but there is a prohibition against ever removing them. Hashem made sure that we have an everlasting connection with Him and is there to remind us about it through personal providence ( hashgacha pratis ) every day. This handle will never cease - representative of the fact that while we may not have wisdom or wealth - and we might not even know how to pray for it - our connection to Hashem as His people - is unwavering and strong.

Hatzlacha !

Friday, February 01, 2008

True Jewish Nobility

"ואל אצילי בני ישראל לא שלח ידו ויחזו את האלהים ויאכלו וישתו"
[שמות כד:יא]
"And regarding the nobility of Bnei Yisrael, Hashem did not send forth His hand, for they saw (a vision) of G-d and they ate and drank" [Shemos 24:11]

There is a machlokes amongst the commentators as to what was the impropriety committed by the "אצילים".

Rashi claims that they saw a vision of Hashem and subsequently treated the experience lightly by resuming their feasting. This is akin to Esav's belittling of the birthright - as it says - "...and he ate and he drank and he got up and he left, thus Esav spurned the birthright"[Bereshis 25:34]

The Kli Yakar opines that the fault lay in the אצילים's lack of understanding of their new, prophetic nature. After being graced with this vision - they should have realized that they were above ( however slightly ) the usual mode of human functioning, and that their need for physical sustenance was somewhat diminished. Similar to, but in a lower level than, Moshe Rabbeinu - who needed no physical nourishment for the forty days and nights he spent on Har Sinai.

Either way, these were Jews who were granted a measure of divine vision and did not rise to the occasion. What can we learn from their mistake ?

Whenever we have a spiritual awakening or an uplifting moment - we must realize that we are no longer the same people we were beforehand. However slightly, we have shifted the balance of prominence between our physical and spiritual sides.

We must be cognizant of our new status and do everything in our power to treat it with the dignity and gentle touch due to it.

Hatzlacha !