SO NEAR AND YET SO FAR BY ARIELLA BRACHA WALDINGER
Have you ever been challenged by the reality of being so near to success, or reaching a long awaited goal and suddenly, you feel it slipping through your fingers due to your own bad choice?….so Near and yet so Far. It feels so sad, so shameful, so hopeless and you agonize over it, because you understand the ramifications are far reaching. I believe for most of us, we can relate to this experience and it is a painful one.
This is exactly what happened in this week’s Torah portion Shlach when Moshe sent spies to survey the land of Israel to ascertain the strengths of its inhabitants, resources and livability. Moshe sent carefully chosen Torah scholars….leaders of the Nation to bring back a report. They understood that G-d had chosen the Land of Israel for His people and that the time for entering was divinely ordained by G-d. The nation was literally standing at the threshold of entering the physical, yet spiritual, land that G-d had promised to Avraham and his descendents. They were so near to success and achieving the purpose for which they were redeemed from Egypt and yet so far from understanding that purpose. The distance and disconnect that was created from their spiritual blindness and lack of understanding still permeates the reality of many Jews today. We are still being impacted by their bad choice and as a result appear to be far away from our destiny which is really very near to us, if only we can learn from the spies’ mistake.
How we experience life is based on our perceptions of life but often our perceptions are ego-centered or skewed, as they are based upon many hidden factors. The Zohar (III:152a) teaches that the thoughts that were uppermost in the minds of the spies were that they ate bread from heaven, had no financial worries, and had ample time to sit and learn. They understood that when they went into the Land, they would have to work and it would disturb their spiritual pursuits. Their perceptions were off. Gideon Weitzman in the book, “Sparks of Light” essays on the weekly Torah portions based upon Rav Kook’s teachings, states that they preferred a carefree life in the desert more so than a worrisome existence in the Land of Israel. He says this is the root cause of the spies’ sin. They saw Torah study as a distinct entity, disconnected from national life. This misconception blinded them, so that the report they brought back was not only false but illogical. They failed to perceive that the physical work would be fused with spiritual aspirations because the soul of Am Yisrael is infused with holy purpose, even when it appears hidden.
If I were to answer the questions Moshe put before the spies,through today’s eyes, here is how I would respond Moshe requested, Note the quality of the Land……..it is exceptional with diverse and distinct topography and stunning natural beauty; Note whether the inhabitants are weak or strong…….the Jewish nation in the Land is full of courage and vigor and are spiritually alive in the deepest way….in a way that you cannot possibly understand unless you live here; Note whether the cities are fortified…..they are fortified with legions of angels, G-d’s blinding light of protection, loving acts of kindness, constant Torah learning and mitzvot which add strength to our nation and spiritual nourishment to fortify our souls; Note whether there are trees………Trees you ask? Israel is the only nation in the world who ended the 20th century with more trees than it started with, while other countries ended with less. There are trees with purple flowers, red flowers, pink flowers, yellow flowers…..more beautiful and fragrant than any you have ever seen and the varieties are vast. Israel is also one of the largest exporters of flowers which bloom in the Land all year long. Note the fruit of the land; the taste of its fruit is indescribable as it is saturated with holiness. To summarize, the reports of life in Israel today are beyond favorable with everything one needs to live happily and successfully. Israel has it all, as never before and living here is within your reach if you so desire. In order to truly rectify the sin of the spies, you must remove the blinders that the spies wore and trade them in for new spiritual lenses to bring you into the light of its truth and beauty. Rav Kook reminds us that AM YISRAEL, ERETZ YISRAEL and TORAH are one. They are intrinsically linked. One does not come into fruition without the other and he concludes that the Nation only has full expression when we are in our Land.
Gideon Weitzman in “Sparks of Light” summarizes that the only way to acquire the Holy Land is to fuse the physical with the spiritual on all levels. In Eretz HaKodesh, we have the possibility of proving to all that even mundane tasks can become sanctified and become part of the Divine service. This can be achieved in the Land of Israel and only in the Land of Israel. He concludes with the following: The land of Israel cannot be conquered by might alone. In order to truly enter Eretz Yisrael, we need both the spirit and the body. Then, Israel becomes part of Am Yisrael and we become part of the Land.
I believe that we absolutely have the chance today to rectify the damage caused by that tremendous blunder by coming HOME and being a part of the building of ourselves and our nation. We can take delight in our Holy Land and all the goodness it has to offer. It is our choice, so choose well because our personal choice will have the biggest impact on our private life as well as our national life.
I will close with Blessings which we all need. For those not in the Land, I Bless you to merit the desire and willingness to claim your true ancestral, spiritual inheritance by returning home to Eretz HaKodesh! For those who are already home, I bless you to merit to grasp, at the deepest spiritual level, the full implications of what it means to be living in the Holy Land. Be sure to guard your speech relating to the Land as it is forbidden to speak ill of Eretz Yisrael.
Hatzlacha and Bracha in all your endeavors, With Love, Ariella Bracha
Korach, the Divisiveness of Jealousy
Today, if one reads the daily news, it might seem that we have become one big machloket. As a government, we are in dispute with other governments in the world. Within our own medina, one party is in dispute with the other. As Am Yisrael, we are in dispute with the other nations of the world. Within our own Am, we are in dispute with each other, one “derech” pitted against the other, each one believing with all his heart that his way is the right way (and only way).
The Hebrew word for dispute is machloket. The root of the word machloket is chelek, which means portion. What was the root of Korach’s machloket? – jealousy. Korach was not satisfied with his portion. He did not want to serve HaShem as Korach, he wanted to be Kohen HaGadol. The fire of Korach’s jealousy burned through and destroyed any possibility of his attaining a pure connection with the Source of all Life, blinding him from the capacity to see, with binah, the Divine Plan of HaShem and the beautiful portion which he had already been assigned. Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter wrote on Parshat Korach that Korach was actually intended for the role of Prince of the entire Tribe of Levi. But, in his jealousy, his vision of himself was so distorted that all he could see is the “less” that he thought he was receiving.
How often do we miss out on the gifts in our own lives when we are focused on what we think are the undeserved gifts of others. Each one of us is given a personal derech, our individualized way to serve HaShem, to the best of our ability. When we try to be someone else, and serve in his or her way, then we become disappointed, jealous, and ultimately, fail to fulfill even our own purpose in the world. Chazal teach us that in beit din Shamayim, they will not ask us: “why were you not like Moshe Rabbeinu?” They will ask us, “why were you not you?”
If we take off our fiery lenses of jealousy, we will be able to see that all of Israel is one body, one people, all connected to each other like all the limbs of our body are connected together to serve the single purpose of enabling us to move. Rav Kook discusses how each organ performs a specific task for the purpose of the body’s overall health. How preposterous it would be for one organ to decide it is more important and therefore fight against another organ, bringing down the whole body.
“Who is rich? One who is happy with his lot.” Pirkei Avot, 4:1. Korach had a great future, but the fire of his jealousy consumed him. He was not happy with his lot, his portion in the Am, and therefore he lost not only his portion, but also his life.
Shabbat Shalom v’Chodesh tov,
And this, from the beautiful blog: Tomer Devorah
Shabbat Shalom: Parshat Korach 5773
29 Sivan 5773
Erev Shabbat / Rosh Chodesh
Korach: Condemner of generations
by Daniel Pinner on Friday, June 7, 2013
The Talmudic sage Rabba taught that when a Jew dies and stands in the place of eternal judgment, he is asked six questions: Were you honest in business and trade? Did you set fixed time to study Torah? Did you beget children? Did you look forward to the Redemption? Did you use your wisdom to fathom the intricacies of Torah? Did you use one subject to understand another? (Shabbat 31a).
Elsewhere, the Talmud (Yoma 35b) gives examples of excuses that Jews give for having neglected Torah: I was so poor that I never had time or effort for Torah; I was so wealthy that my whole time was devoted to my business; I was extremely sensual and passionate, and my passions distracted me. To each of these there is a response: Were you poorer than Hillel? Were you wealthier than Rabbi Elazar? Were you more beautiful, more sensually passionate, than Joseph?
We all have our excuses for neglecting Torah, and objectively it is true that we all face our own challenges. But the Talmud teaches us that no matter what your particular weakness may be, others who came before us, greater than us by far, faced the same obstacles, the same lusts, the same temptations, yet overcame them to become among the greatest and most devout Jews who ever lived.
Earlier this week, I spent a few days in one of the more affluent and more religious Jewish communities in London, England. Speaking to a few Jews there and broaching the subject of aliyah, I heard similar responses from many people. Why do we need to make aliyah? What do we have in Israel that we lack here?
On the face of it, it is very difficult to refute those questions. Within 15 minutes´ walk of where I was staying there were five synagogues, three kosher delis, two kosher butchers, six kosher restaurants, and three Jewish schools. An eruv surrounds the community. What more can a religious Jew ask for?
The Land of Israel, that´s what! In the Jew´s daily life, the single most recurrent theme in our prayers is the Return to Zion. In the Blessings before the Shema and the Blessings after the Shema (morning and night),a dozen times in the Amidah (morning, afternoon, and night), in the Grace after Meals, in every celebration (wedding, circumcision, and so on) – maybe forty times a day the Jew prays in different words for the Return to Zion.
If there was ever a generation which could have been justified in saying: What will we have in Israel that we don´t have here? – That was the generation of the Sinai Desert. They were fed Manna from Heaven, they had a sheltered life in the Sinai Desert, they learnt Torah directly from Moshe. And having grown up under Pharaoh´s whips, they would have been delighted simply not to be slaves. Independence? The Land of Israel? Aliyah? – Yes, inspiring ideals. But for them, simply to be free to live as good Jews without their skin being cut by those cruel whips must have been a veritable paradise.
And then came the sin of the spies. How the nation wept when they were told that they would never enter the good Land that G-d had decreed for them!
In this week´s Parashah we encounter two rebellions against Moshe. The first is Korach´s, the second is Dathan´s and Abiram´s. These two rebellions were born of the despair of a nation which had been condemned never to enter the Land of Israel.
But what was their despair? They had everything and more that any Jew in north London or Crown Heights can aspire for. Yet they were plunged into such gloom by that decree that these demagogues could latch on to their disappointment.
If the poorest of Jews who neglected Torah because of their poverty will be challenged: Were you then poorer than Hillel? And if the wealthiest of Jews who neglected Torah because of their wealth will be challenged: Were you then wealthier than Rabbi Elazar? And if the most sensually passionate of Jews who neglected Torah because of their sensual passion will be challenged: Were you then more sensually passionate than Joseph? – Maybe the affluent and religiously comfortable Jewish communities in exile today will likewise be challenged: Were you better off than your ancestors were in the Sinai Desert?
Did you have G-d´s Clouds of Glory by Day? Or His Pillar of Fire by night? For sure, you had your kosher supermarkets and pizzerias and falafel joints – but did you have Manna? Could your Jewish day schools and Yeshivot compete with Moshe´s teaching?
If the generation which had all that, and which ostensibly should have been delighted simply to be free of the whips, was plunged into such despair at being deprived of coming to the Land of Israel, so much so that Korach and Dathan and Abiram could play on those emotions so devastatingly successfully – how will any Jew who decides, in this generation, to remain in exile answer the question: Were you sincere and honest all those dozens of times every day that you prayed to return to Zion?