Friday, June 22, 2007

Our Generation's Parasha

This week’s parasha is probably the most important parasha for our generation to read and learn from.

In this weeks Parasha, we see Am Israel on their 40th year in the desert, ready to start entering the land of Israel. This parasha is the parasha of the end of galut. It’s the parasha of Atchalta Digueoula.
This parasha comes after many parashiot in which Am Israel went through different crises: The Meraglim, Korach, etc… During 40 years in the desert, Am Israel was going through crises after crises.

The parasha thus starts with the mitzvah of Para Adumah which we will ignore for our purpose because its more complicated to explain how it fits here (and there are some deep reasons why it does, but for another time).

The first event to happen in this week’s parasha is the death of Miriam. Right after the death of Miriam, Bnei Israel start complaining of the fact that they do not have any water. If you think about it, their complaint is not something horrible. If a nation is in the desert and does not have water, isn’t it normal for them to ask their leader for Water?
However, Moshe Rabennu was not happy at all with their demand. God tells him to take his stick and speak to the rock: water will then come out of the rock.
Instead, Moshe Rabennu took his stick, called Am Israel mere Rebels, and hit the rock. The Mefarshim disagree on what Moshe’s sin really was: Was it to call Am Israel rebels or to hit the rock? Others say other things. If it was to hit the rock, then why did moshe even need to take the stick? If it was calling Bnei Israel rebels, was this sin really that bad? No explanation is really satisfying.
Right after this event, Am Israel asks to pass through Edom, and Edom refuses. What does this story teach us?

After learning what Rav Moshe Charlap and Rav Mordechai Elon have to say about this parasha, I now think most of Sefer Bamidbar is here to tell us this parasha. In this parasha, we are told the secret of the difference between am Israel in chuts laarets and am Israel in erets Israel.

In order to understand this better, lets look at Moshe’s sin once again. When God told Moshe to go give water to bnei Israel, called bnei Israel an "eda" (20:8). However, when Moshe and Aaron called bnei Israel, instead of calling them an Eda, they called them a kahal. What is the difference between a kahal and an eda?

A kahal is an agglomeration of individuals (many individuals together).
Eda comes from the word Edout, Testimony. An Eda is one block which is testimony to something.

When God called Am Israel an Eda, he wanted Moshe Rabennu to tell Am Israel that even though we saw in the last few parashiot that they sinned a lot, they were still considered an Eda: a testimony to God’s name. Even though externally they looked like a mere kahal, inside, they were an Eda. They had not lost and could not loose their segulah which is to bring Gods name into this world.

However, Moshe Rabbenu called Am Israel a kahal. He could not see the special segulah that Am Israel had. Rather, he saw bnei Israel as a collection of Individuals who sinned. Therefore, when he called them, he called them rebels. Therefore, instead of speaking to the rock, he hit it. By speaking to the rock, Moshe would have shown Am Israel that at their internal level, mere speech could achieve miracles – Hakol Kol Yaakov. However, instead, Moshe hit the rock – Hayadaim yedei essav. Rav Elon explained that the reason why God told Moshe to take his stick is davka to show the world that even if he has the stick in his hands, he will talk to the rock: Hakol Kol Yaakov".

This is what God told Moshe: "I’m punishing you because you did not believe in me!" When you do not believe in Am Israel, you do not believe in God’s image in this world (hitgalut). This also explains his punishment: If you cannot see Am Israel as an Edah, then you cannot lead Am Israel into Erets Israel.

Now we can also understand why Edom refused for Am Israel to pass through its territory. If Am Israel had reached the level of Eda, then the whole world would have given them the red carpet for them to fullfil their mission of building a mamlechet kohanim vegoy kadosh, because they would realize this is best for the whole world! "Venivrechu Becha Kol Mishpechot Haadama". However, instead, Am Israel was still, externally, a mere kahal. And therefore, Edom did not want to be a part of their conquest of Erets Israel.

I think that from this parasha we can learn a lot of very important lessons for our generation. 2 of them come out to my head in particular.

1. Klal Israel Eino Hoteh. It’s a rule. The Klal, the Edah, is always going to stay pure, its Godly! Even when we look around and we feel that Am Israel is doing horrible things, we feel Am Israel is at a low level, when we look deeper, we know that there is nothing that will ever erase this characteristic of edah which is engraved in the deepest parts of our being as a nation.

2. At a time where leadership is missing in Israel, we can now see what type of leader we need in order to transform our atchalta digueoula into gueoula mamash. We do not need leaders who will fight and defend our nation alone. We need the nation to grow by itself. At night, when its dark (galut), we see the stars in the world, the different leaders are what gives us light. In the day, its only the Sun (Klal Israel itself) which gives us light. Our leader needs to be one which will help raise the level of Am Israel to the level of Edah.

If we learn all these lessons, beezrat hashem, our Kahal will transform itself into an Edah, and our neighbours will stop attacking us and instead help us accomplish our mission, and beezrat hashem, the gueoula shelema will come… bimhera beyamenu! more...

1 comment:

Daganev said...

A friend of mine, this shabbos came up with an amazing answer to the question o

I am hoping you have heard this answer before somewhere.

His explanation goes like this:

The Jewish people were not complaining about the lack of water for selfish reasons. Rather they were complaining that they did not have any water for the purification needed, from comming in contact with a dead body (i.e. Miriam)

Moshe's sin then, was that he did not have "the benefit of the doubt" torwards the Jewish people and instead thought they were just being a bunch of complainers.

The reasons for this explanation are as follows: 1. There is no seperation between the death of Miriam and the story of the Rock. 2. In all other situations, when the Jewish people complain, even when it is a test, G-d acts in a way which harms the complainers in some way. In this situation G-d does no such thing.