Beit Midrash

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To dedicate this lesson

Their Origins and their Journeys, by Hashem’s Word


Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli zt"l

Av 3 5779
We read about the journeys from one encampment to another on the way to Eretz Yisrael, and it mainly consists of names of places. These names contain history, and the basic premise behind them is "based on the word of Hashem" (Bamidbar 33:2). As Bnei Yisrael were about to enter the Land, it was worthwhile to review the whole past, to teach that even when we enter the Land, we need to hold on to lessons from the past in order to know how to live our lives in the future.

The parasha also includes a warning: "Do not contaminate the Land … that I dwell in, for I am Hashem Who dwells in the midst of Bnei Yisrael" (ibid. 35:34). Rashi learns: "Even when they are impure, the Divine Presence is among them." The Ktav Sofer explains that the heart of a Jew is always complete. The impurity is just the doing of the evil inclination, and therefore one should avoid defiling the Mishkan in which Hashem’s presence will always be dwelling. Every link in the chain of Jewish history is full of sacrifice, with every Jewish child being inculcated with sanctity and purity, and this passes throughout the national journey.

Let us look back at the journeys of the generations that preceded us, at the prominent rabbis who led the communities of our family origins. The spiritual power of these great men was not about their abilities but in the fact that what they did was "based on the word of Hashem." There were shadows and not only light, but it was based on Hashem’s word. When we came to Israel, it was with the strength we received from these leaders and from the holy communities. Whether we want it to be so or not, this heritage is part of us. We must not give up our honor and replace it with something that is of no value.

We finished the parasha and sefer with "Chazak chazak." We need double strengthening. We certainly need physical strength, to return the valor of Israel. But this is conditional on spiritual strength. If one has just physical strength, it can cause pitfalls. Bar Kochva felt that he did not need Hashem’s help because of his strength (Yerushalmi Ta’anit 4:5), and he was vanquished. The power of Moshe and Aharon was rooted in Hashem’s word; they were not proud of their natural strength, including in the intellectual/leadership realm. They relied totally on the strength of Hashem.

Nowadays we have the impression that what we gain on the battlefields, we lose as a result of an internal struggle. We find Chovot Halevavot (5:5) relating to a pious man telling a military unit returning from a successful battle: "You have come from a small war, and you did not yet go out to the big war (against the evil inclination)."
Let us indeed be strong. But we will all be strengthened when we see the young generation knowing how to sometimes not follow the waves of the time because it does not keep us on our traditional path. We want to see our children sanctifying Hashem’s Name and glorifying the honor of His kingdom.
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