Friday, May 28, 2010

226 - Beha'aloscha

The Torah describes Bnei Yisroel's travels in the desert which were synchronized with the cloud that rested on top of the Mishkan. When the cloud began moving, Bnei Yisroel packed their bags and followed suit, and wherever the cloud stopped, they unpacked and pitched their tents. Sometimes the cloud stayed in the same place for years on end, while other times after merely a few days, or even a single night, the cloud would once again begin its journey.

The Sforno (Bamidbar 9, 17-22) explains that by way of this description, the Torah is recounting the greatness of Bnei Yisroel. They traveled through the desert exactly as Hashem wished, despite the many hardships involved. They might have camped in a terrible place, completely devoid of any comfort, and nevertheless, they would stay put despite their intense desire to move on. Or, they might have stopped at an oasis which provided abundant food for them and their animals, and be directed to move on after a few days.

Rav Wolbe said (Shiurei Chumash) that he saw a sefer that interpreted the Sforno also with regard to the spiritual realm. Even we can sense that certain places have more spirituality, or are more conducive to spirituality, than others. Likewise, in the desert, Bnei Yisroel might have camped in a veritable spiritual oasis where avodas Hashem was easier, but were pressed to move on after a few days. Or, they might camp in an area devoid of any spirituality where they met with much difficulty in their avodas Hashem and in overcoming their yetzer hara. Nevertheless, they would remain there as long as Hashem willed despite their intense desire to move on.

Rav Wolbe adds that this is an idea that should be integrated into each of our lives. Many times, a person senses that Hashgacha has placed him in a specific location or situation. Sometimes he feels that the occasion is to his benefit. In other instances it seems that it is to his detriment since it might be extremely difficult to properly serve Hashem in that given situation. However, he must know that if Hashem has put him in a specific situation, then he must serve Hashem to the best of his ability under the circumstances. If he senses an ease in his avodah, he should take advantage of the opportunity given to him. While if he senses more difficulty in his avodah, he must exert himself to overcome his yetzer hara and accomplish as much as possible.

It is Hashem Who decides where each person ends up. We are not supposed to run away from the location where we were placed, nor can we ignore it by burying our head in the sand. If one is facing difficulties in his avodah that he feels are connected to his city of residence, it would be appropriate to seek the advice of a moreh derech. Indeed, he might possibly tell him that he remain there and face the challenges that Hashem has prepared for him.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

225 - Shavuos

How are we to prepare for the Yom Tov of Shavuos? Rav Wolbe (Alei Shur vol. II pg. 402) writes that we can glean the answer from the days of Sefira leading up to Shavuos. Counting day after day brings to mind the pasuk in Tehillim (90, 12), "Teach us to count our days so that we will acquire a heart of wisdom." If we learn how to properly count each day, we will succeed in acquiring a heart full of wisdom. The Mashgiach enlightens us with the following explanation of this pasuk.

With regarding the heavenly manna which fell on a daily basis, Chazal (Shemos Rabbah 25, 13) tell us that Hashem acts with us in the same manner that we ourselves act. The Torah was given with the intention that it be studied each and every day. Since Bnei Yisroel fulfilled this commandment properly, Hashem provided them with the manna which fell each and every day.

Chazal revealed to us that aside from the general mitzvah to study Torah, there is yet another aspect of Torah that must affect our daily lives. Just as in a store we are given bags to fill with produce, so too, we are given days to fill with Torah. Hashem creates the world anew each morning, and hence, each day provides an opportunity for Torah study that never existed before, and regardless of what we did yesterday or will do tomorrow, our job is to fill the present day with Torah.

However, this seems to be a novel approach. Doesn't the pasuk state explicitly that we are to study Torah not so much with the intention of filling our days but rather in order that, "These words should be on your heart?" The answer is that both ideas are true. If a person is thirsty, he will fill a cup with water and drink it, for without a cup one cannot drink. Likewise, if one is thirsty for Torah, he must fill his days with Torah because the days are the cup that enables him to quench the thirst felt in his heart. If we properly "count our days" and fill each one with Torah, we will acquire a "heart full of wisdom."

On Shavuos, we will once again accept the Torah. A true acceptance of the Torah means that avodas Hashem will take a central place in our lives, and we will do our utmost to fill each and every day with a substantial amount of Torah, mitzvos, tefillah, and chessed. One who fulfills this obligation will merit the reward mentioned at the end of the above Medrash. "Moreover, I will bless you each and every day as the pasuk states, 'He will fill you day after day with the blessings of Hashem.'"

Gut Yom Tov!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

224 - Behar/Bechukosai

Parshas Bechukosai discusses the brachos that are enjoyed by those who heed the Torah's commandments and the tochacha that will (G-d forbid) befall those who do not follow the Torah's guidelines. Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash) notes that Chazal tell us that there is no reward for mitzvos in this world. If so, he asks, why is the Torah promising blessings and bounty - in this world - for those who keep its precepts?

Rav Wolbe quotes the Ba'alei Mussar who explain by way of analogy. One who drives strictly on paved highways, will come across rest stops on the way where he can find food and other amenities that will provide for all his needs as he travels. However, should he stray from the beaten path and try to carve a route for himself, not only will he not find a place to eat and sleep, he will have difficulty in the very travels themselves. As he cuts through the forest, he will encounter thorns, thickets and numerous obstructions along the way. Moreover, as he struggles to free himself from these obstacles, he will find himself treading deeper and deeper into the forest.

In a similar vein, he who follows the path of the Torah and its commandments will encounter a multitude of blessings; not because he is being rewarded for his actions, rather, because he is traveling the correct road of life. The storehouses of plenty are there for the travelers. However, he who tries charting his own course, will not only lack food and water, he will be pursued by wild animals deeper and deeper into the jungle that such wanderers encounter.

The Rambam writes that the prophets and wise men yearned for Moshiach so that they would be freed entirely from impediments in their avodas Hashem. This is our ultimate objective, and we must strive to create such conditions wherever possible even before Moshiach comes. Every step we take down the road of the Torah will, be'ezras Hashem, stave off obstacles in our avodah and ensure that we encounter the blessings that the Torah enumerates in this week's parsha.