Friday, June 12, 2009

On Spirits and Servants

When Moshe Rabbeinu sends the meraglim out he knows that there is a potential for disaster. Addressing his principal disciple, he prays "may the One above save you from the wicked counsel of the other meraglim" [See Bamidbar 13:16 and Rashi ad loc] Additionaly, Moshe Rabbeinu invokes greater protection for Yehoshua by changing his name from Hoshea to Yehoshua by adding a letter of the divine name (a yud).

There were two spies who did not fall prey to the plot to vilify Eretz Yisrael – Yehoshua and Calev. We know by what merit Yehoshua was saved - the varied methods set up by Moshe Rabbeinu. But we must ask – by what merit did Calev escape ? This question becomes especially poignant when we consider our own trials.

We don't all have the zechus of carrying a letter of Hashem's name with Moshe Rabbeinu's blessing.

The passuk describes Calev's actions with the following telling phrase.

 [במדבר יד:כד]

"ועבדי כלב עקב היתה רוח אחרת עמו וימלא אחרי והביאתיו אל הארץ אשר בא שמה וזרעו יורשנה"

"And my servant Calev, since he was possessed of a different spirit, and he filled himself with following my directions, and I will bring him to the land that he went to and his descendants shall inherit it"

[Bamidbar 14:24]

Following Hashem's directions seems to be a pretty straightforward solution – we are certain to avoid wickedness if we stay on the right path. But what will keep us there ? Two things.

One – being possessed of a different spirit. If we merely do the mitzvos because it's what we do – then what can I do prevent misdeeds when I am struck by a whim or notion to do so ? If, however, we have a strong guiding spirit – then even in the face of social adversity ( like peer pressure, societal/cultural pressure, etc. ) we will be able to do what is right.

So how do we get this guiding spirit ?

Like Calev, we fill ourselves with our mission of following Hashem's instructions. Not halfway, not even ninety percent is enough. We must be one hundred percent filled with our dedication. We usually know what is right – it's just a question of right for whom. What is right for me as a kid may not be right for me as a parent. And what is right for me as a person hanging out with this group may not be right for me hanging out with another group. The ultimate test, however, is what is right for me as an eved Hashem. That's what gave Calev the indomitable spirit that was the equivalent of Moshe Rabbeinu's blessing and even a letter from Hashem's name – the unshakeable self identity of an eved Hashem, a servant of  G-d.

So perceive yourself as an eved Hashem – and when that's what you have looking back out at you from the mirror – fill 'er up !

Hatzlacha !!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Complaining... Badly.

"ויהי העם כמתאוננים רע באזני ד'..."

[במדבר יא:א]

"And there were those in the nation who were complaining badly in the ears of Hashem…"

[Bamidbar 11:1]


One would almost think that there is such a thing as complaining, but not badly. What was the great sin of the complainers ?

They complained of the travails of the journey. They had had three straight days of travelling and that was too much.

There is a saying – "You can answer a question, but you can't pacify a complaint". The entire mentality of a complaint is beyond the realm of logical reasons. That is because the complainer doesn't want an answer – they want to demonstrate their just displeasure.

So we see that a complaint against G-d is a horrible thing – it essentially negates the good that G-d does for us and brands the complainer as a total ingrate. But why does the passuk specify that this was a bad complaint – is there such a thing as a good one?

Yes !

Earlier in the parasha we saw the "complaint" of those who were impure and couldn't bring a korban pesach. They came before Moshe and said "Why should we be left out?" Essentially, they were complaining that there was this statute that forbade them from serving G-d – "It's not fair!"

But this complaint is good – because it doesn't negate our obligations to Hashem, rather, it emphasizes them. And Hashem recognizes this. That's why in response to the pesach complaint – Hashem created a holiday ( Pesach take two ).

So whenever we feel the need to "complain" to Hashem – try to take a step back and analyze the complaint – is it good ?

Hatzlacha !!

He's Got Our Back

The Ribbonno Shel Olam is constntantly taking care of us.

This is never more evident than when He wants to give something. When a man bestows a gift upon another - he is simply concerned that the gift be appropriate and well received. There is no way for a person to follow up and make sure that the gift is acctually having the desired effect of making the recipient's life better. 

Hashem, however, is different. When He grants us the "triple blessing" of the kohanim - Hashem actually, subtely, doubles each bracha.

"יברכך ד' וישמרך" - Hashem will give you blessing, but He will also guard you to ensure that that blessing is not taken from you.
"יאר ד' פניו אליך ויחנך" - Hashem will shine His presence upon you - all your actions will be blessed by a divine seal, but He will also grant you grace so that others do not feel your blessed actions are ill deserved.
"ישא ד' פניו אליך וישם לך שלום"
Hashem will show you favoritism, but He will also grant you peace so that others who are not shown this favoritism are not alienated by it and do not hold it against you.

May we be zocheh to see the doubling of all berachos in our lives - and may we hear these berachos echiing in the halls of the beis hamikdash, bimhaira beyameynu, amen.

Hatzlacha !!