15 June 2017

Shabbat Parsha: A Mother and Two Children

This parsha was for Beha’alosecha but I posted this week’s Parsha of Beshalach last week by mistake. So what follows is what was omitted for last Shabbat. So Sorry.

A Mother and Two Children 
By Roy S. Neuberger

“When the ark would journey, Moshe said, ‘Arise Hashem, and let your foes be scattered. Let those who hate You flee from before You.’ And, when it rested, he would say, ‘Reside tranquilly, O Hashem, among the myriad thousands of Israel.’” (Bamidbar 10:35) 

When Am Yisroel travels, the Shechina travels with us. The Shechina does not accompany any other nation. We are “am levadad yishkon … a nation that will dwell alone.” (Bamidbar 23:9) That is why we are called a Holy Nation; our ideal is to remain unpolluted by contact with other nations. “Ata kadosh, v’shimcha kadosh … You [Hashem} are Holy and Your Name is Holy, and who is like Your people Israel, one nation on earth?” (II Shmuel 7:23)

We journey through history alone. Our guidebook is the Torah and our objective is Eretz Hakodesh, a Land unlike other lands, a Land that is completely dedicated to the fulfillment of the Torah by the People of the Torah. 

“For the Land to which you come, to possess it, it is not like the land of Egypt that you left, where you would plant your seed and water it on foot like a vegetable garden. But the Land to which you cross over to possess it is a Land of Mountains and valleys. From the rain of heaven it drinks water, a Land that Hashem, your G-d seeks out. The eyes of Hashem, your God, are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to year’s end.” (Dvarim 10-12)

This week’s Parsha tells us, “al pi Hashem … according to the word of Hashem, the Children of Israel would journey and according to the word of Hashem they would encamp.” (Bamidbar 9:18) This was true in Midbar Sinai and it is true in the Midbar of Golus in which we travel today. We may not always be aware of it, but, as individuals or as a nation, every move we make is “al pi Hashem.”

Recently, President Donald Trump visited Israel. The effect of his visit was all-encompassing. A giant screen was erected to block the view of the Kosel Hamaarivi so he could not be seen as he stood at the Wall. Traffic was frozen, and people seemed to feel as if this event was going to change history. Indeed, the front-page headline on a prominent Jewish newspaper read, “A New Middle East?”

In fact, “ain kal chadash tachas hashemesh … there is nothing new beneath the sun.” (Koheles 1:9) Nothing has changed. One thing alone influences our destiny, namely, how close are we to the Ribono shel Olam and His Torah. There are no shortcuts to guaranteeing our welfare, only the ancient remedy: teshuva, tefilla and tzedaka

A cliché refers to “three sister religions,” supposedly equating the belief system of Bnai Yishmoel, the belief system of Bnai Esav, and – lehavdil elef havdallas – the Torah. President Trump demonstrated his belief in this cliché by his itinerary, which included an Arab summit in Saudi Arabia, the Vatican and – lehavdil – Eretz Yisroel. Rabbi Shlomo Rottenberg zt”l, the famous historian and mechaber of Toldos Am Olam, used to refer to this cliché. He would say, “Rather than ‘three sister religions,’ one should say, ‘A mother and two children.’”

Some children! These “children” live with hatred of their “mother” as the primary motivation for all their thoughts and actions. Their talk of peace is the kiss of Esav. In the words of Dovid Hamelech, “I am peace, but … they are for war.” (Tehillim 120:7)

Next week’s Parsha offers insight into the proper way to assert our claim to Eretz Yisroel

The Miraglim were afraid. They saw themselves as “grasshoppers” (Bamidbar 13:33), so insignificant that they lost the courage to assert the rights of the descendants of the Avos, to whom Hashem had promised the Land. Only Hoshaya bin Nun and Kalaiv ben Yefuneh acted correctly, and what did they do? This is vital for us to understand, because we need the same approach if we are to inherit the Land.

Hoshaya bin Nun was strengthened by his closeness to Moshe Rabbeinu. The Torah of his Rebbe sustained him against the temptation to cave in to the fear of the “giants.” Kalaiv ben Yefuneh was strengthened by his closeness to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov Avinu. He went out of his way to daven at Ma’aras Hamachpaila, and this strengthened him to fulfill his mission. 

We need courage to withstand the fear of the other nations and their empty belief systems. If we want to protect ourselves against the delusion that we are “like grasshoppers,” then we need the Torah of Moshe Rabbeinu and the consciousness that we are fulfilling the mission of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov Avinu. 

It is very difficult to buck the crowd. I am frequently embarrassed to pursue a course which I know will elicit stares and murmuring from others. The words of my late father strengthen me. He used to say, “Don’t have a sheep mentality.” Hashem gave us brains, and we have to use them if we are to fulfill our mission. To subordinate our Torah way of life to those who hate us is simply suicide.

I once consulted a doctor who had a photograph prominently displayed in his office. It showed his “rabbi” visiting the Pope in the Vatican. I found this picture almost physically sickening. When I mentioned this to the doctor, he told me, “We need all the friends we can get!” 

In order for us to survive, it is vital to remember that we have only One Friend, Hashem Echad!

In the words of this week’s Haftara, “’Not through armies and not through might, but through My spirit,’ says Hashem, Master of Legions.” (Zecharia 4:6) 

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Roy Neuberger, author and public speaker, can be reached at roy@2020vision.co.il.
© Copyright 2017 by Roy S. Neuberger


Screen erected in front of the Kotel Hama’aravi to shield President Trump.

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