I usually write over what the guest speaker said, but in this case I just cannot do justice to the derasha given by R’ Yisrael Schorr of Ohr Samayach in Monsey, which was malei v’gadush with mareh mekomos from shas and midrash as he moved m’inyan l’inyan but still managed to tie everything together. In a nutshell, R’ Schorr explained that gashmiyus is usually a contradiction to ruchniyus (He quoted the GR”A’s explanation that a shtar geirushin is called a “get” because the letters gimel and teis never come together in all Tanach – “get” therefore connotes separation. But why don’t those letters come together? Derech derush he suggested that gimel=gashmiyus, while teis = tov, and “ain tov elah Torah,” so the two elements cannot coexist). However, when we make a siyum we celebrate with gashmiyus, with food and a seudah. The process of learning begins with toil. The churban habayis happened because “lo beirchu baTorah techila,” the people did not recite a bracha on the beginning of the learning process (Sefas Emes), when the learning is difficult and not enjoyable. It’s easy to celebrate and say a bracha when you finish and can sit back and appreciate the fruits of your labor; it’s harder to thank Hashem as you struggle with the difficult sugyos along the way. But that toil, that struggle, is what elevates a person. Gan (Eden) = guf and neshoma. The only way back into the gan is through ameilus in learning. If a person succeeds, his reward is not only in ruchniyus, but in the ability to appreciate a seudah in gashniyus properly as well. (Again, this is poor summary of just a taste of what he said.)
Of course there was a bit of a bittersweet flavor to the event, as we took time from celebrating our teens finishing masechtos to say tehillim for the teens kidnapped in Israel. Is there anyone not amazed by the tremendous achdus shown by Klal Yisrael at this time of crisis? Remember the protest marches, the inflammatory rhetoric, etc. of just a few weeks or even days ago? Now you have chassidism, chareidim, mizrachiniks, chardal – everyone – davening for these boys. I saw in an article that over 2000 non-religious Jews came together at a Chabad event on Shabbos in Tel Aviv to daven for these boys. Of course there are many issues that still divide us. Too bad it takes tragedy to teach us that despite those problems, we are all still brothers.
Why did Moshe have to change Yehoshua’s name to protect him from the meraglim? Yehoshua was a brilliant talmid – surely he would have had his guard up and followed Moshe’s advice had Moshe warned him of the danger? R’ Chatzkel Levenstein explains that the power of a group is a “koach ruchani,” a force that the intelligence and willpower cannot easily overcome, no matter if the person is as great as Yehoshua, no matter that he might have been warned in advance and have his guard up. If such a force can be harnessed for bad, surely it works for good as well. When dozens of young men dedicate themselves to finish masechtos, their positive influence has an effect on their peers, their yeshiva, their community.
R’ Chatzkel explains further that as powerful as the sway of the group might be, we see from the parsha that there is an even great force: the power of tefillah. Kaleiv escaped the influence of the meraglim by going to daven at the graves of the Avos. It’s this koach of tefillah that we desperately need these days to see that all works out for the best.