Torah Fax
Friday, July 7, 2006 - 11 Tammuz, 5766

 
Torah Reading:  Chukat - Balak (Numbers 19:1 -  25:9)
Candle Lighting Time:  8:11 PM
Shabbat Ends: 9:20 PM
Pirkei Avot: Chapter 5
 
Catch Up
 
For the past while, our brethren in Israel were reading one Parshah ahead of the Diaspora. This difference began on Shavuot, which occurred on a Friday and Saturday June 2 & 3. However, in Israel, Shavuot is only one day, so while we were celebrating Shabbat, June 3, as the second day of Shavuot, that day in Israel was observed as an "ordinary" Shabbat.
 
Thus, on June 3, we in the Diaspora read a special Shavuot Torah reading, instead of the weekly Parshah. In Israel, however, they read the regular Parshah (Naso) on that Shabbat. Outside of Israel, Naso was not read until June 10. Finally, this week, when we read the double-parsha of Chukat and Balak, while in Israel they only read the parsha of  Balak (Chukat having been read last week), the Torah readings between Israel and the Diapsora are reconciled.
 
One lesson to be learned from this phenomenon is that despite the fact that Torah is the very source of unity in our lives, nevertheless, the Torah itself recognizes the legitimate division that exists between holy and the ordinary. The world was designed to have times, places, personalities and experiences that are special and sometimes holier than others.
 
In terms of "space," Israel is the Holy Land, while the rest of the world is not. With regard to time, Shabbat is qualitatively holier than the rest of the week. In terms of personalities, we also have certain individuals, who are "head and shoulders" above the level of the ordinary person. People such as Moses and Aaron, were/are considered to be holier than the rest of the Jewish people. In addition, there are experiences in everyone's life that are special, holy, Sabbath like and these events are clearly demarcated by us as being different from others.
 
With this approach of the need to recognize and respect the abovementioned differences there is also room for some challenges and misconceptions.
 
Some might think, as Korach did, that, in fact, everyone is holy. There ought not be a hierarchical structure within our community, where one Jew is considered more holy than the other. Since even the most ordinary Jew, he argued, was holy, why the need for leaders?
 
A second challenge, from the opposite direction, is that it is wrong to make these separations since we should maintain a constant state of Holiness, at all times and in all places. (This extreme view might have been the view of the spies who wanted to stay in the spiritual oasis of desert, as explained in Chassidic literature).
 
Conversely, there are two misconceptions that can arise from the assertion that there are two states of existence: holy and ordinary. The first misconception is that the definition of "ordinary" is a life devoid of meaning, thereby legitimizing the removal of all standards from an "ordinary" person's life, on an "ordinary" day in an "ordinary" place. This translates into a sometimes heard statement that only in Israel does one have to act in a prescribed manner; only on Shabbat or on a Holiday do we have to act Jewishly etc.
 
The second misconception, conversely, is that the separation between the holy and profane is etched in stone. The ordinary must remain ordinary and separated from the holy.
 
This week's double-portion of Chukat and Balak, where the reconciliation of the Torah readings in Israel with the Diaspora takes place, suggests that none of these four challenges and misconceptions are valid:
 
First, there is indeed a separation that must be preserved between the Holy and the profane. One must recognize that the Shabbat is unique and must be treated differently from all the other days of the week. And we must also realize that the Land of Israel cannot follow the rules that govern all other places; it is a land that is directly answerable to G‑d. And there are individuals who stand apart, and whose special status must be respected and revered.
 
Second, there is a need to appreciate that there are times in which the person must "descend" from the lofty perch of Shabbat, and that there is a lesser degree of holiness outside of Israel; that the ordinary person has certain limitations that do not apply to those on a higher level. In short, we cannot live on and maintain the same spiritual plane all the time.
 
Third, notwithstanding the first two points, we must also understand that even in the weekdays, there is spirituality and meaning. Even in the Diaspora a Jew must live a G‑dly life. Not living in Israel does not mean we need to live a life devoid of meaning. 
 
And finally, the reconciling of Israel with the Diaspora this week suggests that even though there is a designated separation between the holy and the ordinary, the ultimate goal is for the holy to "invade" the ordinary,  so that even during the week, we sense the holiness of Shabbat, and even in the Diaspora we feel the spirit of Israel. And the lofty heights that certain holy individuals attain affect and uplift the plain ordinary individual.
 
This is what our Sages meant when they said that in the days of Moshiach the Land of Israel will spread to the entire world. This refers to the spiritual state of the Land of Israel. It will eventually break through its own boundaries and borders to instill its holiness throughout the world. And we facilitate this process on our end by "making Israel here," i.e., attempting to make every aspect of our lives more G‑dly.
       
Moshiach Matters
Our Father, our King, inscribe us in the book of Redemption and deliverance... Our Father, our King, cause deliverance to flourish for us soon... Our Father, our King, be gracious to us and answer us, deal charitably and kindly with us and deliver us. (From the prayer Avinu Malkeinu)
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