Thursday, July 20, 2017

no place to run

The Midrash opens Parshas Masei by telling us that although many great people -- Ya'akov, Moshe, David -- had to flee from their enemies, throughout our 40 years of travel in the desert not only did we not have to flee from enemies, but we didn't even have to run away from the snakes and scorpions.

Earlier this month we discussed yet again the famous Ohr haChaim, based on the Zohar, that says a human being, being a ba'al bechira, poses a greater threat than an animal because a human being can decide to act as he/she pleases irrespective of G-d's plan, but an animal is basically a robot.

Our Midrash seems to contradict that view, as it implies (...not only did we not have to flee from enemies, but we didn't have to flee from animals either...) that the snakes and scorpions posed a greater danger than human enemies. 

I paraphrased the Midrash in order to convey what I think is its simple meaning, but if you read it carefully, the words suggest a deeper meaning.  Sefas Emes points out that it does not say that we did not have to flee from danger, but rather "lo hinachti eschem livro'ach," G-d did not let us flee.  It's not that we encountered no danger in the desert.  On the contrary, the desert was filled with dangers.  G-d, however, did not let us run away from them.  We were forced, with his help, to face down the threats.

All of life's challenges are there to being us closer to G-d.  Sometimes a person davens that Hashem deliver them from needing a refuah, a shiduch, employment, etc. and Hashem enables them to escape the situation of need -- the person is able to flee from danger.  But there is another way to come closer to Hashem when faced with an obstacle.  "Min ha'meitzar karasi K-h" -- a person can find Hashem from within the dire straits themselves.  Rather than escaping the situation, the person can discover that Hashem is right there with them in their suffering, in their sorrow, in their needs, and that itself gives them the ability to overcome.  "Bein ha'metzarim" = "Min ha'meitzar..."  We are hedged in with no way out, no place to run.  "Lo hinachti eschem livro'ach."  But "imo anochi b'tzarah," Hashem is here with us, and an appreciation of that truth is itself a way out.

On a completely different topic...  has anyone else noticed the numerous ads for various events, some of which do benefit worthwhile organizations that this post should take nothing way from, that are basically exercises in gluttony?  Each one boasts of bigger and better meats prepared by various  "master" barbequers (how hard is it to throw some food on a grill?  Even I can do it!),  hand rolled cigars (I kid you not), scotch tasting, etc. etc. 

Maybe I don't like it because my subconscious is bothered by the fact that I never get to go to one of these things, but I just can't square in my mind things like this with concepts like kedusha and tahara.  You want to do something like this in your own backyard -- be my guest.  But is this what you want associated with yeshivos?  With community mosdos?  You can't even put a woman's picture in a yeshiva journal because it somehow is beneath our lofty standards of kedusha, but stuff like this goes? 

I don't understand it, but there is much in life I don't understand. 


  1. either Hashem solves one's problem (flight),
    or He helps one to solve his problem (fight)--

    are the "organizations" choosing flight into sensuality (His default setting for man), or to fight for funds by Higher rules (b'chol avas nafshecha tochal basar, Dev. 12:20; Chullin 84a)?

  2. Funny thing I noticed in these glossy magazines that cater to well-to-do Orthodox. Every other add says that their product, or cruise, or hotel, is decadent. OK, I know that although decadent once meant davka "reflecting a state of moral or cultural decay or decline," in other words a synonym for "degenerate," and now it has begun to mean luxurious, it still retains a hint of the ugly self indulgence that ought to be embarrassing for ye'rei'ei Hashem that seek to grow in ruchniyus. I think people ought to have a good time in life, and unrelieved austerity leads to a sour and shriveled personality (as the Mesilas Yesharim indicates,) but my gosh, does the story of the zolel v'sovei, or the Ramban's naval birshus hatorah, mean nothing at all?