Tuesday, May 24, 2016

508 - Shemos

Chazal provide us with an enlightening description of Klal Yisrael: "The Torah says about one who returns a lost object to a gentile, 'Thereby equating the satiated to the craving" (Sanhedrin 76b). Rashi explains, that gentiles are described as "satiated" since they do not necessarily crave to know their Creator, while Jews are given the appellation "craving" since they thirst and crave to fear their Creator and to fulfill His commandments.

Rav Wolbe (Da'as Shlomo) elaborates on this idea. Jews have always been the revolutionaries - not only in the spiritual realm but also in the material world. In any movement that arises, you can always find Jews at the forefront. While gentiles are mostly complacent, the Jewish people thirst and crave, and are therefore always searching for fulfillment. Most importantly, this innate quality stands out with regard to spiritual cravings. Jewish People crave and search for a connection with their Creator.

Yet, Chazal inform us that spiritual searching can be dangerous. While proper yearning should lead one to become closer to Hashem, if one is not careful then he can end up with the opposite result - he will have distanced himself from his Creator. Following the exodus from Mitzrayim the Torah tells us that Bnei Yisrael, "tested Hashem saying, 'Is Hashem among us or not?'" (Shemos 17:7). Immediately thereafter, Amalek waged war against Bnei Yisrael. Rashi explains the juxtaposition analogously: A man carried his son upon his shoulders and set out on his way. The son saw an item and asked his father to purchase it for him. The father complied and the scene repeated itself time and time again. The pair then met a man and the son asked him if perhaps he knew where his father is. The father turned to his son and exclaimed, "You don't know where I am?!" He threw his son down and a dog came and bit him.

During their bondage in Mitzrayim and thereafter when Bnei Yisrael left in a most miraculous fashion culminating in the splitting of the sea, they had always searched for Hashem in a manner that cultivated closeness. They prayed and pleaded, and Hashem redeemed them from the bondage and their Egyptian pursuers despite the fact that they did not have the merits to deserve the redemption (see Ramban to Shemos 2:23). They craved His closeness and He reciprocated. However, subsequently they engaged in the negative type of searching: they began inquiring if Hashem was with them when they should have felt Him carrying them in His arms and turned to Him as they did earlier.

It is common to find people who learn Torah and perform mitzvos, and nevertheless, they are discontented. They had hoped to acquire all the levels of spiritual perfection enumerated by the Mesilas Yesharim, or they had aspired to learn the entire Shas or perfect their avodas Hashem and they did not achieve their dreams. Their failure leads them to dejection and despair. They crave and search for spiritual fulfillment but unfortunately they end their search not merely empty handed, but with the opposite result. They simply did not realize Hashem was cradling him in His arms with every word of Torah studied and every mitzvah performed.

Moreover, we merely need to yearn for true closeness to Hashem and the rest will follow automatically. The proof can be found in this week's parsha. When Moshe observed the burning bush, he moved toward it to inspect this miraculous sight. "Hashem saw that he turned aside to see, and Hashem called out to him" (Shemos 3:4). The Seforno explains that the Torah is informing us, "One who comes to purify himself, is given Heavenly assistance." By merely turning toward the bush, Moshe merited prophesy. The Seforno adds that when Moshe ascended Har Sinai the mere ascension of Har Sinai was the impetus for Hashem to call out to him.

Making strides in our avodas Hashem is hard work. Yet, our Sages tell us, "Nothing stands in the way of one's will." Some homiletically explain this to mean that nothing prevents us from willing! Moreover, in light of the Seforno, willing itself is the very springboard needed to catapult oneself directly into Hashem's arms!

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