Published Date: July 20, 2020
This week’s music: https://youtu.be/eOqEe1qO7es
Just before beginning I want to share with you our great joy that this Shabbat, 26 Tammuz, Bezrat Hashem, we will be celebrating 27 years of life in Eretz Yisrael. We look forward to you all joining us very soon.
This week’s Torah portion, the second of a double portion, “Matot-Masei,” Travels, begins by what seems to be a simple listing of the 42 stops that the “B’nai Yisrael” made in the desert as they made their way on the exodus from “Mitzraim” to entering the Holy Land of Israel. I recently saw a deep teaching in a book called “Degel Macahneh Efraim” (The Flag of the Camp of Efraim), written by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Efraim, grandson of The Holy Baal Shem Tov. He quotes his grandfather as giving over that in everyone’s journey in life there are 42 “spiritual encampments,” mirroring the 42 stops that “B’nai Yisrael” made in the desert as they prepared to enter “Eretz Yisrael.” Just like “B’nai Yisrael” left “mitzraim,” so we go out of our mother’s womb and head out on our journey of life which eventually culminates to our return to the holiness of our Creator in heaven. Once again, as the Slonimer Rebbe quotes the teaching of The Ohev Yisrael, The Opter Rav, “The Holy Torah is eternally alive in our lifetime and forever.”
Certainly there are many stops along the path of life that are easy to identify as milestones in our lives. Birth, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, marriage, the blessing of having children, starting a new job, moving to a new community, all obvious and identifiable. Then there are also other incidents which certainly have a major impact on our lives. God forbid, personal tragedy, road accidents, being turned down for a job that we really wanted, or setbacks in our personal life relationships.
Reb Moshe Chaim Efraim brings down that “there is no bad thing that comes down from Heaven. Everything is good and kind even if it comes down clothed in the “midah,” attribute of “gevurah,’ “din,” harsh judgment. What can we know? A difficulty that I might experience could be actually helping me avoid something even less pleasant. It could be a lesson in life which will open the gates to my being able to approach a much higher positive experience. Or, as Reb Efraim teaches, “it could even be something that feels harsh for me where in turn, this is benefiting all of “klal yisrael” and for that moment, it is my role to take on, willingly or not.
So how do I deal with those challenges in life? According to the teaching of The Ba’al Shem Tov, the first most important thing is to acknowledge that they happened and are a part of my specific life plan. This is the beginning of the path towards finding the good in everything. I don’t deny that something is happening to me. I accept that it is real and that I need to confront it now. Once I do that I can now own it. It is mine and important to my personal growth. Of course at this moment I may not know why it is one of my 42 stops, but that we find out in due time, whenever that may be. If I realize that there is good in every life experience of mine, then I will have the strength to get to the core of the good. Hashem is sending down only good. My choice is to learn to accept it that way, or “chas v’shalom,” not. That’s my choice If I choose to emphasize that which I think is “the bad” in this moment, then obviously I will live with that bad feeling until I am ready to let go of it. There is good growth at every stop on the way.
Hashem is sending us forward in life through those experiences. The walking on this journey is so important. My life, everyone and every moment in it, are so precious. As Reb Shlomo taught in the name of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, the holiness of our long walk in life is that it teaches that we are all still on the way. We are all on our road. Just as in the 42 stops in the dessert, the Bnai Yisrael only moved on when it was, al pi Hashem, “ by the word of God (Bamidbar 33.2), so to, when Hashem thinks that we are ready for the next station we need to be ready to move on. So I’d better prepare for every move along the way. The more we acknowledge and own our situations, the more gates open up for us to continue on our path. I need to look for that good, find it, own and ride it to new higher heights in my journey. Hashem gives the “koach” and conditions to every Jew according to the plan for his/her life. These are the 42 stations that we all need to go through to fulfill our true individual fixing in this world. Every place that we go to Hashem is guiding us through this part of the journey with the exact details that we need to fulfill our role here.
At the point that I know this, I can honestly thank Hashem for this event and be better prepared to do so through every one of my life events in the future. So basically what I need to do every step on my personal journey, physical and spiritual, is to look at myself as honestly as I can and ask myself, who was I? Who am I now? Who would I like to be? How do I get closer to my soul’s goal in this world? Once I do that it becomes so clear that only with “shlemut,”true completion of my role, can those questions be answered and translated into and honest collective reality.
One of the best times to connect to this great potential of awareness is on Shabbat. Shabbat represents newness. The work week is over and I can now fully concentrate on my connection to Hashem in this 25-hour period. I can clearly appreciate the meaning of the prayer, “he who always renews with goodness the ability to create.” God makes each day new so that we can go through our individual renewal process. While this is true every day it is particularly accessible to us on Shabbat the day, as The Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh calls it,”the day which renews creation for an additional week.” “This is the day,” Reb Shlomo taught, “which will give you the strength to fix yourself during the coming week. You will know what to fix because on Shabbat you experienced a time when you had a complete soul. You have felt perfection.”
What’s happening now is but one more stop on our collective journey, mirroring the 42 stops that “B’nai Yisrael” made in the desert as they prepared to enter “Eretz Yisrael.” Each stop along the way, camping there just long enough to pick up the “sparks” that needed to be collected and brought home. And so it continues. For the past 2,000 years “B’nai Yisrael,” the Jewish people, travelling from country to country, finding success; enjoying, feeling welcomed and comfortable in their new habitat only time and time again to suddenly be told to leave. You are no longer welcome. Your job is done here. We have always moved on, unknowingly going to the next destination to gather together more “missing sparks” that will eventually be drawn to the beauty of our true home, “Eretz Yisrael.” It seems to be time for all of “Am Yisrael” to move on and claim their rightful place together in The Holy Land. May we be blessed to cherish that idea and experience extremely soon. We all need to acknowledge it, own it, want it and then do it now, for the sake of “shlemut” for all of Am Yisrael which will open the roads for Peace in the world.