Friday, May 30, 2014

the challenge of "chulsha d'urcha"

The gemara (Shabbos 86) says that Hashem did not issue any commands on the first day of Bnei Yisrael’s arrival in the desert of Sinai because of “chulsha d’orcha,” the people were weary from their journey.  Maharasha asks: we know from Rashi on chumash that Moshe always went up to Har Sinai in the morning, spoke with G-d, and then came down at night.  Since Bnei Yisrael spent part of the day travelling to reach camp around Har Sinai, Moshe could not have ascended the mountain in the morning and therefore could not have received any instructions on that day.  Why does the gemara need to invoke the reason of “chulsha?” 

It’s amazing that when the runners hit the last leg of the NYC Marathon, no matter how tired they are from running the previous 26 miles, rather than dragging their feet acorss the finish line, they always seem to break into a sprint.  No one has “chulsha d’orcha” once they reach the end of the journey.  Bnei Yisrael left Mitzrayim just weeks earlier knowing and anticipating that they were going to have this unbelievable experience of “mattan Torah.”  They finally get to the finish line, and now, “chulsha d’urcha?!” 

The Chiddushei haRI”M explains that “chulsha d’urcha” does not mean physical weariness from the journey; “chulsha d’urcha” means spiritual weariness.  On the journey to Sinai, Klal Yisrael crossed paths with Amalek, “asher karcha baderech,” (urcha = Aramaic word for derech) who cooled their enthusiasm.  How did Amalek do that?  Not, writes the Shem m’Shmuel (Parshas Bamidbar), by diminishing the importance of Torah or the significance of mattan Torah.  No one would be tricked by that message.  To the contrary, Amalek acknowledged that kabbalas haTorah was a lofty, monumental achievement – so great, in fact, that who could really say that he/she was up to the task?  A group of people who had been slaves less than two months ago, who less than two months ago had no zechuyos, had no mitzvos?  Amalek has the same gematriya as safeik, doubt.  It’s not G-d who Amalek caused Klal Yisrael to doubt – it was themselves, their own ability and worthiness. 

A guy walks into the beis medrash on Shavuos night and he hears a bachur arguing with his chavrusa over a R’ Chaim, he sees two kollel guys fighting over a Tosfos, and he thinks to himself, “What am I doing here – I barely understand pshat in the daf yomi and can barely stay awake for the shiur on a regular night!”  That’s “chulsha d’urcha.”  It’s not that the person doesn’t appreciate Torah and love Torah.  We’re frum folks, no one is going to convince us that learning is not important, that Shavuos is not special.  It’s just for someone else, someone on a higher level, someone who is up to the task.  Davka because it’s so great, it’s not for me.  That’s Amalek. 

The reason Moshe always went up the mountain in the morning, explains the Shem m’Shmuel, is because morning is a time of chessed and renewal.  Had Bnei Yisrael come that first day to camp at Sinai filled with the hislahavus and anticipation that they should have had, had they come sprinting to the finish line, then, then Moshe could have gone up the mountain right away. It’s only the “chulsha d’urcha,” the “karcha baderech” of Amalek, which dimmed their enthusiasm and caused Moshe to have to delay until the next morning.
Maybe something on the parsha a little later...

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