Yacov Nordlicht – Parsha Matot-Massei – Travel And Growth

This week’s parsha recounts all the travels of Bnei Yisrael from when they left Mitzrayim until the final climactic entrance into Eretz Yisrael. Each period is recounted, from the seemingly superfluous to the obviously necessary.

The Apter Rav asks a question in this week’s parsha. We know that the Torah is eternal. It wasn’t just written for the generation which physically received it at Har Sinai, rather it was written for the Jews of every generation. If that’s true, then why does the Torah feel the need to recount to us the number of travels of Bnei Yisrael in the mibar? It seems like this part of the Torah only really has a connection to those who experienced it, namely those who left Mitzrayim! What practical difference does it make to our lives?

I always thought that there was an important lesson to be learnt from this episode in the Torah. The Torah tells us 42 different times Bnei Yisrael uprooted themselves form a certain place and traveled to somewhere else. 42 times they traveled further and further away from Mitzrayim until they finally reached their destination, Eretz Yisrael. They couldn’t just leave Mitzrayim and enter Eretz Yisrael. It took time and patience, traveling to each place necessary to enter Eretz Yisrael in the right way.

In life, people fall. The reality of the world is that we’re not perfect. Everyone has their own demons. After nearly all of our sins, we experience a yeridah. The cognoscenti are attuned to it, some can even feel it. Others who are so ingrained and used to the sin may not feel anything at all, yet the change itself is there. The question is how to proceed. How to go on. Of course, the first step is to always pick oneself back up, even though it’s easier said than done. But where do we go from there? How do we grow to ensure that such a thing won’t happen again?

That’s what the pasha is coming to teach us. Klal Yisrael didn’t just leave Mitrzayim and directly enter into Eretz Yisrael. They had to travel, again and again and again. Entering Eretz Yisrael didn’t happen overnight. Over a span of 40 years Klal Yisrael constantly set up camp and then, a little while later, resumed traveling. After 40 years they were finally able to enter into Eretz Yisrael.

All of us have periods of “Mitrzayim” in our lives. When we feel like we’re on such a low level of tumah that we’ve become blind to HaShem’s presence. The psukim are telling how to deal with it. We can’t expect ourselves to just pick up, leave Mitrzyaim and enter into Eretz Yisrael overnight. It takes time. It takes patience. It means conquering one level at a time. And after that level is conquered, to pick up and move onto the next level.  This is why these psukim aren’t just relevant to the generation of the midbar, rather they’re relevant to each and every one of us. Everyone has times when they’re immersed in a period Mitzrayim. The psukim are telling us how to leave Mitzrayim and how to enter into a place of kedusha like Eretz Yisrael.

To enter into a makom of kedusha in our lives takes time and work. It can only happen if a person takes it one step at a time. The psukim aren’t just telling us how to enter into Eretz Hakodesh, they’re telling us how to achieve a life of kedusha. Each one of us has the ability inside to become great, to connect with HaShem in a way few could dream imaginable. But it doesn’t just happen. A person needs to constantly be traveling, to grow from level to level until he reaches a place of dedication where the sole purpose is avodas HaShem. With this thought in mind, we can pick ourselves up, and navigate the pitfalls and trials of life in order to fulfill our purpose of closeness with our Creator.

 

Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – PTI – Passaic Torah Institute – Parsha Pinchas – Obtaining Positive Yields

When Yaakov Grossman got engaged to his fiance Aliza, their dream was to start the beginning of their marriage in Eretz Yisrael, with Yaakov spending his day immersed in Torah learning in the Mir yeshiva. The challenge was how would they be able to afford this dream?! Even with Yaakov giving haircuts, as he did when he was single, and his wife working, they still would not have enough income to meet their monthly expenses. They decided they would use the money they would receive as wedding gifts to finance their stay in Eretz Yisrael for as long as they could. Afterward they would move back to Montreal, where Yaakov would start his career. They felt this would be a worthy investment of their wedding gifts.

After their wedding they moved to Eretz Yisrael and Yaakov went back to full-time Torah study in Mir Yerushalayim, a dream come true. Together with their wedding money and the money they earned, they were able to stretch their stay for close to two years. They moved back to Canada with a young baby, Yaakov looking for a job, very little savings and the need to purchase all the furnishings for their apartment. Shortly after they arrived, Aliza attended a Chinese auction and purchased a ticket for a furniture package. She was extremely surprised and delighted when they called out her name as the winner of the furniture package! This set was much fancier than they ever would have imagined or dreamed of being able to afford. It was a clear reward from Hashem for their decision at the start of their marriage to dedicate themselves to Torah study in Eretz Yisrael.

A similar payback occurs in our parsha. Pinchas observes the serious desecration of Hashem’s name by the Jewish prince Zimri and the non-Jewish princess Cozbi, who engage in open illicit relations. Pinchas runs into their tent and spears the two of them in a zealous act to restore the sanctity of klal Yisrael. In return, Hashem blesses Pinchas with the gift of peace and harmony. But how could the reward for this violent act of vengeance be peace and harmony?

Our parsha is not the only place where we have this seeming contradiction. We find the same incongruity with the Ir Hanidachas—the city of Jews who are worshipping avoda zarah (idol worship), where the Torah commands us to wipe out all the inhabitants of the city. Yet, Hashem promises that all the participating soldiers will be blessed afterward with a compassionate and merciful nature (Parshas Re’eh). We know that killing develops a nature for cruelty, yet the Torah blesses all those involved in annihilating this town with the character trait of compassion!

Rav Tzadok Hakohen explains that doing a mitzvah does not create negative tendencies. In fact, it is just the opposite. When one participates in actions that normally develop a tendency for cruelty, but currently is done to fulfill a mitzvah, one’s inclination for compassion will be enhanced.

This is why Pinchas received the blessing of peace in exchange for his violent act.

Rav Tzadok says we find a similar phenomenon in the case of investments of money for a mitzvah. The Torah instructs individuals to give a tenth of their produce to the tribe of Levi. From here, the rabbis derive the mitzvah of ma’aser—giving a tenth of one’s earnings to charity. Understandably, giving charity to the needy is important and a key action in our developing compassion. However, the Gemara Taanis (9a) says shockingly that donating a tenth of one’s earnings to charity will actually make one rich. How is this so?

Similarly, the Gemara Shabbos (119a) attributes the wealth of the Jews in Eretz Yisrael during the Gemara era to the fact that they would spend large amounts of money to honor Shabbos.

Rav Tzadok explains that these results are rooted in the concept above, that an action performed for a mitzvah will only help generate good results, even when it normally might generate negative results. The same applies to an investment of money for a mitzvah. Spending money for a mitzvah, while temporarily depleting monetary resources, is really an insurance policy to be blessed with more and more wealth.

However, there is one condition for this formula to be successful: the mitzvah must be performed lishma—solely for the sake of fulfilling Hashem’s will—and not for any ulterior selfish motives.

The next time we are confronted with the opportunity to perform a mitzvah that involves a physical or monetary investment, let’s remember this lesson. The ROI—return on investment—of a mitzvah is not just in the next world, but even in this world! It’s a win-win situation.