Torah Fax  

Friday, August 1, 2008 - 29 Tammuz, 5768

Torah Reading: Massei (Numbers 33:1 - 36:13)
Candle Lighting: 7:52 PM
Shabbat ends: 8:56 PM
Pirkei Avot: chapter 2


Shabbat Chazzak - Shabbat Rosh CHodesh


Joyous Fear

This week's parsha describes the forty-two journeys of the Jewish people from Egypt to the Land of Israel. It is said that these forty-two journeys apply to every individual in their own spiritual journey. Each one of them conveys a message about the way we can travel from one place to another in terms of our life's mission.
Among these journeys the Torah recounts: "They journeyed from Har Shefer and they encamped in Charadah. Har Shefer translates as "a beautiful mountain." Charadah can be rendered as trembling, anxiety or fear.
It is hard to imagine how one's traveling from a beautiful mountain, in the spiritual sense, will lead one to dreadful fear and anxiety.
One way of looking at it is to recognize that the closer one comes to realizing G‑d's presence the greater the sense of awe one has and hesitates to get any closer. The Patriarch Jacob said as much when he asked G‑d to save him from the wrath of his brother Esau. "I have become small from all of the kindnesses … that You have done for Your servant." Tanya, the classic work of Chabad Chassidic thought, explains that G‑d's expression of love to him made him realize his own insignificance and caused him the anxiety that he felt.
One might think that the feeling of anxiety that grips a person who has climbed the lofty and beautiful mountain of spiritual growth is a sign of his or her regression. This thought is unwarranted and is dismissed by the Torah in this week's parsha.
By including the place called Charadah as the next leg of the journey we learn that, on the contrary, one's feeling of anxiety at having come so close but feeling so far, is an integral part of one's spiritual growth and development and is a more advanced stage. Ultimately, as we reach the Promised Land that anxiety will convert into peace and tranquility.
On a different level, the Chassidic Master R. Tzvi Hirsh of Zidotchiv, interprets this verse in a novel way and explains that these locations Har Shefer and Charadah allude to the three Patriarchs, Abraham Isaac and Jacob.
Abraham, the Talmud points out, was the one who referred to the future location of the Holy Temple as a mountain (Har).
Shefer (beauty), R. Tzvi Hirsh states, alludes to Jacob because Jacob's face, our Sages say, exuded an aura of beauty (Shufra-the Aramaic version of Shefer).
Isaac is connected to the idea of trembling (Charadah). Indeed, the Torah reports that when Isaac discovered that he had given his blessings to Jacob instead of Esau he trembled exceedingly. (According to Rashi the words "and he trembled” should actually be translated: “and he was bewildered.")
Our Sages present the following dialogue that will take place in the future between G‑d and each of the three Patriarchs about the behavior of their errant descendents—the Jewish people. At that time, our sages tell us, both Abraham and Jacob will appear less than sympathetic. Only Isaac will be willing to stand up for his people.
With this premise, the Chassidic Master retranslates the verse: "They moved away from both Abraham who is identified with the mountain and Jacob who is associated with beauty, and they found respite in Isaac, the one who trembled and was bewildered."
Perhaps we can add some commentary to the above Chassidic interpretation that will provide us with a practical lesson as well.
Abraham is less than forgiving of his children's ways because Abraham was a mountain of virtue and passion for G‑d. From his lofty perch it was hard for him to be that tolerant of those who have strayed so far.
Jacob represented beauty and harmony. His ability to synthesize the various colors and hues of virtue and devotion to G‑d (the traits of Abraham and Isaac) made him a paragon of virtue and a model of perfection. He possessed the ultimate beautiful constitution. It was difficult for him to see and appreciate the good beneath the ugly veneer of those who have strayed so far from the path of spiritual aesthetics.
Only Isaac who saw the good, though deeply buried, in the soul of his rebellious, uncouth and violent son Esau, could also see the redeeming value of those of his descendents that have so degenerated.
Isaac was a digger of wells. He was able to remove the dirt that covered up the pure and refreshing waters. And he is likewise able to find ways of uncovering the purity of the souls of his progeny and defend them.
Isaac therefore trembled (or "was bewildered" as Rashi translates) when he heard Esau enter and ask for the blessings. Isaac was convinced that Esau was redeemable because at his core he was a good person - and Isaac was able to see that good hidden beneath the surface. When he realized that he had given the blessings to Jacob instead, he was terrified or bewildered that he had so misjudged his son Esau. He had been so convinced that he could see the good in him.
In truth Isaac was not in error. As discussed in earlier messages, Rebecca his wife realized that only Jacob could help Esau actualize his latent goodness. The way to help Esau with the blessings was not to give them directly to him (as isaac had thought) but rather to give Esau the blessings vicariously through Jacob.
At any rate, Isaac, who would always search to find the inner holiness in himself and in others—will therefore defend his recalcitrant children.
When Isaac hears something negative about another Jew he trembles and is bewildered. He cannot believe and accept that there is nothing redeeming about that individual.
This then is a novel way of interpreting the journey from  Har Shefer to Charadah:
A Jew, upon climbing the mountain  of G‑d and attaining spiritual beauty is bound to look askance at those who are below him and whose lifestyle is unattractive.
Here the Torah tells us that we must journey away from the elitist attitude that one's spiritual sophistication can engender. One must go to the Isaac mindset of trembling and bewilderment when they hear that someone is beyond hope. This attitude takes all of us one step closer to reaching the Promised Land.
This message is particularly poignant in these days, known as the "Three weeks" which commemorate the period in which Jerusalem was pillaged, and when the Holy Temple was destroyed. Our Sages tell us that the cause of the destruction was the senseless hatred that prevailed in Israel at that time.
The Rebbe repeatedly admonished us to reverse that mindset of senseless hatred. This will lead to the reversal of the negative energies associated with the destruction of the Temple and the ensuing exile and hasten the coming of Moshiach and the ultimate Redemption. At that time the trembling and bewilderment of Isaac will turn into laughter, joy and delight as the word Isaac (Yitzchak is connected with Tzchok, laughter) denotes.

 Moshiach Matters 

"We see in recent years how the verse 'And Moses gathered the Jews' is occurring literally—the ingathering of the exiles of Jews from all over the world, who are returning to the Holy Land. The number of people moving to the Holy Land is incomparably greater than those of previous generations."
(The Rebbe, Shabbat Vayakhel, 1992)

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