Today is -


  • The Shattered Dreams

    As you know in the Parashat Shelach, the nation asks Moshe Rabbeinu to send out the spies, to spy out the land, even though Hashem has told them to just go into the land. Moshe is not too excited about this idea, so he asks Hashem, and Hashem tells him to send them for himself -  Shelach Lecha Anashim in Parashat Shelach 13:2. We all know the end of this episode of the history - the meraglim come back with a bad report, and due to the sin of slandering the land, all the males ages 20 and up of that generation, were buried in the desert, and were not able to enter the Promised Land. 

    It seems harsh that due to some biased calculations of the few, so many people are punished. Here they are standing just a few days away from Eretz Yisrael, and about to enter the land. Suddenly people come, and ask Moshe Rabbeinu to send out the spies. This is something Moshe Rabbeinu doesn't want to do, since Hashem already told him to go into the land, since it is yours and Hashem is with the nation. But the few turn everything around, and put Moshe into a difficult position where he is forced to ask Hashem for permission to send people as spies, where he is risking a chance that something might go wrong. And something does go wrong - the meraglim come back with a bad report, slander the land and Hashem tells everyone to turn around and go back into the desert...

    Have you ever thought for a second how Moshe Rabbeinu felt?! When Moshe Rabbeinu watched those people slandering the land, and Yehoshua and Kalev defending it, Moshe Rabbeinu knew it was trouble, not only for those that slandered but for the whole nation as a whole. 

    The years of the work that he has put in, were crumbling right in front of his eyes. His dream to go into Eretz Yisrael, and to serve Hashem in the Holy Land was being taken away from him - right there in the broad daylight.

    Have you ever had that feeling? You worked on something for years and suddenly it is being taken away from you by some evildoers and by circumstances where you have no control over.

    Not a good feeling. 

    But, let's look into it from a different angle. 

    There's a mitzvah which is hard to understand and makes one wonder why Hashem has given it to us, but maybe in the light of the above explanation it will start making more sense.

    There are many explanations to the mitzvah of Shiluach haKen, but I would like to take Zohar's explanation and expand on that. The Zohar says that this mitzvah is meant to awaken and intensify Hashem’s mercy on His creations. The pain which the mother bird suffers when she is sent away and forced to abandon her young "awakens the forces of mercy in the world" and releases an outpouring of mercy from the Heavens above which alleviates all kinds of human suffering. 

    With your permission I would like to add to the above. 

    Not to go into the details of the mitzvah but to touch a bit upon it in general, if you ever performed that mitzvah - that feeling you left with after completing it, is not enjoyable. Besides the fact that you have made the mitzvah, you are left with an egg, and left the bird feeling bad - very bad. You have taken her egg or a chick and created that void in the heart of the bird - you have broken her hopes of building a family, and ruined her plans for a "bright birdie future".

    And here Hashem comes and gives us this, as a mitzvah.

    Moshe Rabbeinu worked hard in his 80s dealing with the nation, which was not easy to deal with. A stubborn nation with lots of demands and quarrels. On top of it, the leaders that worked under him ideally had to be on the same page with him, but for some reason had their own agenda which he never agreed on or was aware of. All this brought to one result - that generation never made it to Eretz Yisrael, Moshes' goal crumbled, and he had to witness the passing of all the males ages 20 and up. 

    The meraglim didn't just destroy the dream of that generation, they also destroyed the dream of Moshe Rabbeinu, they brought suffering to our nation till today, and they have totally changed the plans for the nation, and everything unfolded not as Hashem has envisioned.

    So, Torah tells us to go ahead and do the mitzvah, and to go through that uncomfortable feeling and to let it sink in - feel that bitterness of the committed act.

    When we send away the mother bird and take her egg - it may seem, like the meraglim behaved back in the day towards the nation, when they went to Eretz Yisrael, and brought back the bad report that caused a lot of people to suffer - and here we are, taking away the eggs from the shooed away mother bird thus causing her pain and suffering.

    As for the mother bird - whatever she is going through, it is like the feeling of what Moshe Rabbeinu and millions of other people not privy to the scheme of the meraglim felt - betrayal of the assigned mission, and shattering of the dream of entering the Eretz Yisrael

    And as we stand there with an egg in our hands, we need to understand one thing - whatever we do or say in our life, may be breaking the Divine law and order and hurting a lot of people around us - whether intentionally or unintentionally just by giving in to our biased desires and calculations as was with the case of the meraglim.

    Armed with the above understanding, it should bring us to pray to Hashem and to ask for forgiveness for the sin of the Meraglim, and for that whole generation. This would be the perfect time to ask for forgiveness for our own miscalculations, where we thought and said not in the best of intentions.  And this would be the best time to ask for forgiveness for our nation as a whole, and to ask for the full redemption and reunification with that passed on generation, so we can meet with Moshe Rabbeinu and other members of our nation of the past who were not able to enter the Land, due to the bad schemes of others.

    By fulfilling this mitzvah, one is rewarded with marriage, children, and a new home. But most importantly we are taking responsibility for the wrong committed in the past by others, by actively fixing the sin of the past which brings Hashem's mercy onto this world, that stops human suffering and brings the redemption closer.

    Shmuel Katanov

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  • The Wisdom of the Jewish Sage

    It's very puzzling how it all played out. The nation of Israel was three days away from the Land of Israel - just go in, and mission accomplished - you are in Israel, Moshe Rabbeinu is a Moshiach, build the Bet Hamikdash and life is beautiful.

    But suddenly people ask for the spies to be sent to check out the land. So Hashem says to Moshe Rabbeinu in Parashat Shelach 13:2: "Send men to scout the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelite people; send one man from each of their ancestral tribes, each one a leader among them." So Hashem asked for leaders to be sent from each tribe. To date I have read many explanations on this pasuk. But with your permission, allow me to offer you yet another explanation.

    So twelve people go together as a group. The Rabbis say that the ten men out of twelve concentrated on the negative points of the Land, since they had their own hidden agenda, and this was the reason of their downfall - the exile and hardships we are facing today. The other two men - Calev ben Yefuneh and Yehoshua Bin Nun, have tried, but could not overpower the ten men's efforts of slandering the Land.

    But why did the ten men do that? What made them commit such a grievous sin?

    To answer the above questions, we need to look into another story of a different leader - a story of Mordechay HaTzadik - a story of Purim. There's something in this story that can be viewed from a different angle.

    Mordechay HaTzadik was a sage, someone that spoke 70 languages, and was part of the Great Assembly.

    The Megilat Esther says: "Once on a party in front of other kings and his friends, King Achashverosh executed his wife Vashti in a fit of drunken rage. After he got sober, he regretted it, but then realized that he needs a new wife, one that is beautiful and charming. So the King sent his people all over the towns to find a wife that would be pleasing for the King. 

    They gathered lots of ladies for the King to choose from, and this is when Mordechay HaTzadik approached Esther.

    There are many explanations who Esther was to him, one of them says, she was his niece. So Mordechay HaTzadik asked her to become a wife of the King. We don't realize what it meant to her - being married to a non-Jew, she forfeits all the mitzvot that woman should perform, she becomes part of the non-Jewish nation. To our dismay, she agrees...why would she do that? Let's try to understand this as well.

    As the time passes there are comes a man called Haman who didn't like Mordechay HaTzadik, and then he tries to annihilate the Jewish nation, he gets a permission from the King to do just that. The King agrees and Haman starts the process.

    So, this is when Mordechay HaTzadik goes to the Plan B.

    Queen Esther invites Haman to the palace along with the King where she exposes the evil plans of Haman. The King gets furious with the Haman and gives an order to hang Haman and ten of his sons on the gallows. And the King's orders have been carried out.

    Mordechay HaTzadik gets his community together for the attacks of the locals, since the decree was signed and put in motion by Haman, the Jews win the battle and there's a happiness and joy all over the towns in the Jewish neighborhoods."

    Our Rabbis say, that this story is not over yet. Mordechay HaTzadik becomes the King's advisor, thus ensuring that peace and security is guaranteed going forward for the Jews in those towns.

    Queen Esther and King Achashverosh have a son. The son grows up, and becomes the next King after the passing of his father. It is told, that this new king - Cyrus King of Persia, under the influence of his mother allows for the mass immigration of the Jews from the Persia to the Land of Israel to rebuild the Second Bet Hamikdash. He sent the nation with gifts of gold and silver to make a fitting house for G-d.

    Do you realize what has just happened? Did you see the wisdom of the Jewish sage?

    Mordechay HaTzadik asked his niece to marry a non Jewish King, to be a "spy" - where she lost out on all the mitzvot she could of done and ended up living a non Jewish lifestyle. But she was there for her nation in the darkest and trying times. She had saved the nation from the pogroms, overturning the decrees and eventually this led to the rebuilding of the Second Bet Hamikdash and in-gathering of the Jews back in Israel.

    The wisdom of Mordechay HaTzadik was in the realization, and right assessment of the situation, making the right moves to win the battle in the long run, and make it good and comfortable not for himself but for the entire Jewish nation.

    This is something the Meraglim or the spies in the times of Moshe Rabbeinu lacked. They were looking out for themselves, they were trying not to lose their positions and were more concerned with their fate and not with the fate of the Jewish nation.

    But why? Why Mordechay HaTzadik was able to make the right choices and the spies failed at it? Because Mordechay HaTzadik had a wisdom of the Jewish sage

    How can a person acquire wisdom? There's a pasuk on how to acquire wisdom, which goes like this: Reshit Chochmah Yirat Hashem - The beginning of wisdom is fear of G-d. If one wants wisdom, he must learn to fear G-d, he must fear G-d, without this he will not have wisdom - he will transgress everything under the sun, will make people around him suffer, for which eventually he will be bring judgement upon himself.

    The ten spies that went out to spy out the Land, came back with a bad report - because they lacked one thing - which is a Fear of G-d. They did things to fit their own agenda, and they spoke to support their own story. They were worried about their positions, about things they had, and how their life would unfold, without giving a second thought about the fate of the nation, the people they led and the task they were entrusted with. Eventually, it led the nation to wonder for forty years in the desert and the death of that, older generation.

    The Rabbis say, that the ten spies were fixing the sin of the ten sons of Yaakov Avinu that sinned against Yosef HaTzadik, but they failed. So the rabbis instituted that there are should be ten men every time they gather to pray daily prayers - a miniyan - where that gathering of ten people or the miniyan would have to fix the sin of the ten spies.

    A prayer in the minyan is the search for the right meaning, correction and unification of the goals, desires and motivation to serve the One and Only G-d, where it is done in unity and oneness of spirit or achdut just like it was done back in the day when we received the Torah on Mount Sinai.

    Why Hashem held them liable for the lack of Fear of G-d?
    Because in Talmud Berachot 33b it says: "Hakol Bidey Shamayim Chutz Miyirat Shamayim" which means, "Everything is in the Hands of G-d except for the Fear of Heaven / G-d".

    That's why Hashem has not given us the Fear of G-d - because He wants to see us work for it, since it is there are waiting for us, it is something that's attainable and available, within our reach, and definitely something that should NOT be ignored or postponed for the later years.

    With everything that we been through lately - virus and us being out of the shules and having no miniyanim - it makes one wonder if we have been making the mistakes of the ten spies, being too selfish with no concern for the nation, while forgetting the most important thing that we must posses and work on - The Fear of G-d

    Fortunately we have been granted the opportunity to return to our shules - where we have minyanim, and are allowed to pray together. Let's step up to the expectations that Hashem has for us. The meraglim did what they did, and now, it is on our shoulders and our responsibility to fix the wrong that was done, so we get to the next phase of our redemption.

    It is hard to acquire the Fear of G-d, but it is a worthy cause to invest our life into.

    Shmuel Katanov

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