VORTIFY YOURSELF


From
Rabbi Yosil Rosenzweig
e-mail yosilr@juno.com

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PARSHAT EMIR

Vayikra (Leviticus) 19:1 - 20:27
Haftorah - Ezekial 44:15-31

I will be away during the next week at a conference and have adapted a Vort that I wrote last year just a few days after a young man in Israel was killed. The human toll that the Jewish people have paid for a Medina (a state) is huge. Only by realizing the cost, can we put any real value on the worth of Israel's independence.

This past Sunday we celebrated Yom Ha'atzma'ut, the State of Israel's 49th Independence Day. Celebrate might be the wrong word, for my heart is still wary of the future for Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel). This is especially true after the murder of David Baum, a 17 year old Yeshiva Bochur (a rabbinical student), who was murdered on Monday, the 28th of Iyar, 5756 (corresponding to May 13th, 1996).

I didn't know David personally (though I think I met him several times), his brother Yitz, was my oldest son Yudi's classmate. And the loss of one so young and with so much promise, left me numb.

Those of you who were conscious in 1967, when Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) was reunited with her people, remember the overflowing joy and excitement of that moment. It was a different world then. Israel was the good guy, the Arabs still feared the immense power of Am Yisrael (the Jewish people). Our people were beginning to awaken to our heritage, after generations of slumber. The Jerusalem of Gold was a sparkling treasure that was once again under Jewish sovereignty. It was an exciting time.

Now, in 1997, Israel, the land and the people, are apprehensive of what comes next. A depression is settling upon Am Yisrael and peace or pieces, is the question of the day. So what do we do? How do we cope?

In Bamidbar (the book of Numbers), after the Torah gives a census of the children of Israel and reviews the camp's orderly formation around the Tabernacle, the Torah then introduces the offspring of Moshe and his brother Aharon:

"And these are the children of Aharon and Moshe, on the day that Hashem spoke to Moshe on Mt. Sinai." (Numbers 3:1)

Then the Torah lists only the sons of Aharon, leaving out any mention of Moshe's progeny until verse 27.

The Talmud in Sanhedrin teaches us that the students of a Rebbi (a teacher) are considered his children. Moshe Rabbaynu (our teacher) was as much a father to his nephews as he was their uncle. As their Rebbi he was likened to a father by the mere fact that he taught his nephews Torah.

I have had the Z'chut (merit) of having many fathers in my life. Some I have known personally and some only through their written words. I would like to share with you some words of inspiration from some of my fathers, and among them in particular, Rabbi Nachum Bulman, formerly of Newport News (where I am currently serving as Rabbi), and more recently of Migdal HaEmek and Yerushalayim.

The result of Moshe's (Moses') initial meeting with Pharaoh was that Am Yisrael now had to gather their own straw, while producing the same quota of bricks. Rav Bulman asks the classic question: Why was it, that after Moshe's first meeting with Pharaoh, when the Ge'ulah (the deliverance) was within our grasp, did the yoke of servitude upon Am Yisrael become greater, and appeared to push away deliverance entirely?

The nation became aggravated, Moshe became disheartened. He actually got angry at Hashem and said:

"My L-rd, why have You done evil to this people, why have You sent me? From the time I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your Name, he did evil to this nation, but You did not rescue them." Shemot (Exodus) 5:22-23

Hashem's response in the next verse was one of rebuke.

"...now you shall see what I shall do to Pharaoh, for with a strong hand will he send them out and with a strong hand will he drive them out from his land." Shemot 6:1

Rashi (acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki [1040 - 1105] ) comments on this verse and compares Moshe Rabbaynu with Avraham Avinu (Abraham our forefather). Avraham was told that Yitzchak (Isaac) would be his only offspring. Yet, when he was commanded to place Yitzchak on the altar, Avraham did not complain.

Moshe, however, did complain. So he was granted the right to live to see this partial salvation, but the later and greater salvation, the conquering of the land of Israel, he would not live to see. Moshe's blindness to Hashem's concealed plan, his lack of understanding that all that Hashem does is ultimately for the good, was the cause of his tragic loss and he never lived to see the final salvation.

Rav Bulman reminds us that it's always darkest before the dawn. As Jews we must constantly remind ourselves that we do not see the whole picture and the piece that we do see we frequently misinterpret. We must always remember that Hashem alone is the architect of the plan we call reality.

However, in the analogy between Avraham and Moshe, there is one more important fact that we must recall. The Meshech Chochmah (Rabbi Simcha Meir of Dvinsk [1843 - 1926] ) teaches us, that when Hashem told Avraham:
"...raise your eyes and look out (upon the land) from where you are." B'rayshit (Genesis) 13:14

Avraham didn't see the inherent spirituality of Eretz Yisrael. He raised his eyes and only saw directly ahead. He only saw that which was in front him, a fertile land that provided sustenance to its inhabitants.

Hashem then told Avraham,
"... gaze to the north, south, east and west."

Don't just look forward. Look around you, look in all directions, not just at what's in front of you. Gaze upon a land that also has contained within it an inherent spirituality. Remember always that Am Yisrael (the people of Israel) and Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel) are inseparable. Even if they exist apart from each other, they are united and are one entity.

Let us all say for Israel's independence;
Hodu LaHashem Ki Tov, Ki L'olam Chasdo - give thanks to Hashem, for He is Good, His kindness endures forever!

We have been granted the great gift of being reunited with our land. Yet, some of us might get depressed because we see just a small fragment of Hashem's overall picture. We must not allow that to happen. We believers must never allow confusion and misguided emotion to cause us to question Hashem's motives. We must each acknowledge that Yom Ha'atzma'ut is but a glimpse of a greater and more precious gift from Hashem yet to come.

The Vilna Gaon (Rabbi Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman [1720 - 1797] ) refers to the Zohar (a kabbalistic commentary on the Pentateuch and the 5 Megillot - the 5 scrolls) that explains the phrase in Shir Hashirim (the Song of Songs):
"Kol Dodi Dofek (the sound of my Beloved's knocking)."

The Gaon cites a parable of a Jewish midwife who is helping in the difficult birth of a child.

A woman is exhausted from her birth pangs. Her breathing is difficult, she is weary and feels she cannot continue. The midwife, after the last unsuccessful effort, tells the mother that the baby is on its way. Then the midwife shouts - "MAZEL TOV, I see it - don't stop now, you have to push just one more time." The mother who no longer has the strength to continue, gathers deep from within her last bit of strength and successfully overcomes her pain and her exhaustion and gives birth to her child.

Am Yisrael is in the midst of a dark hour. How can we continue after the terrible things that have happened to us? But we hear the sound of our beloved, we hear the "Mazel Tov". We accept the Mazel Tov, even though the birth isn't finished. It is the Mazel Tov that strengthens us and keeps us from despair.

How young David Baum was part of Hashem's divine plan is still unfathomable to me. Yet, we must trust that his tragic death has hastened the inevitable redemption of our land and our people. Those who knew him must mourn his sorrowful death while at the same time realize, that the birth pangs of Hashem's redemption, the dawn of Hashem's fulfilling promises are upon us.

May the family of David Baum be comforted with the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. And may we all be blessed with the years to see, not only the establishment of a state, but also the final and complete redemption of our nation and our land. MAZEL TOV!

I still don't understand why we must pay such a high price to have a state. But for the first time in 2,000 years we DO have a national homeland and therefore we must celebrate not only its reality, but the fact that it brings us closer to the day of Hashem's great revelation. So celebrate we must, for one day soon, we will see the entire picture and it will be dazzling.

I hope that the words of my fathers have brought you the comfort and the inspiration, that they did me.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Yosil Rosenzweig


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