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A  Divine  Journey

From a detail in hilchos Shabbos, one emerges with a beautiful insight for the journey of life.

 

A basic Shabbos introduction: The 39 avos melachos (primary prohibited labor categories) of Shabbos are not objectively defined. In a word, kavana counts. Generally known as the meleches machsheves rubric , one must engage in direct, intentional, constructive and permanent [to a degree] labor in order to violate Shabbos on a torah level

 

Thus, one who acts with wanton destruction [ripping papers/breaking dishes or destroying walls] has not violated Shabbos on a Torah level.

 

Soseir [demolition] however, is one of the 39 melachos. The Talmud [Shabbos 73a] thus qualifies that demolition must precede construction [soseir al menas livnos] similar to tearing - to sew [al menas litpor] and erasing - to write [al menas lichtov]. The notion is that we consider the act in a larger context - e.g., such demolition is ultimately constructive

 

Two issues remain. Permanence and Location.

 

If the Mishkan is the paradigm source and it was constantly being deconstructed/constructed, one wonders where is the permanent nature of the building - why then is the mishkan any different than a giant erector set? An interesting Yerushalmi [Shabbos, 7:2] deals with our issue and arrives at a split decision:

"מה בניין היה במקדש [נ"א: במשכן] שהיו נותנין קרשים על גבי אדנים. ולא לשעה הייתה? אמר רבי יוסה מכיון שהיו חונים ונוסעים על פי הדיבר כמי שהיא לעולם. אמר רבי יוסי בי רבי בון מכיון שהבטיחן הקב"ה שהוא מכניסן לארץ כמי שהוא לשעה, הדא אמרה בניין לשעה בניין"

Was it not temporary - since they were camping and traveling on the Divine word, it was as if it was forever. Rav Yosi says since Hashem promised them that He will bring them into Eretz Yisrael , it is like [construction] for the moment - we may thus infer that temporary building is building.

 

Two opinions emerge. For Rabbi Yossi, temporary building is also considered building. We may not transcend our original source - the mishkan. The Chachamim argue; they quote a pasuk from our parsha that speaks of traveling on a [trumpet] blast - perhaps the classic verse of Divine travel [Bamidbar, 9:23][1]:

 

At the Lord's bidding they would encamp, and at the Lord's bidding they would travel; they kept the charge of the Lord by the word of the Lord through Moses.

 

In this verse, the Sages see permanence. It is a paradoxical Forever - for now notion; since Klal Yisrael is at the complete mercy and will of Hashem, they are not going anywhere - until they must leave on a dime. Thus they are in Kadesh for 19 years and other places for a few days. In their lack of decision power may be found a form of permanence, for they are always where Hashem wants them to be. We will yet revisit this notion in a deeper way. [Authorities debate whether the Bavli [Babylonian Talmud] agrees with this line of reasoning.]

 

A question of location emerges - for intuitively it would seem difficult to link demolition of place A to construction in place B [even if one uses the same bricks] ; it would make sense that for destruction to be seen as an antecedent to construction - it must be in that very spot. Indeed, this issue as well is a Talmudic dispute. Rav Yehuda has this requirement, while ....

R. Yossi holds that demolishing in order to rebuild on the same site is destroying, but if it is in order to rebuild elsewhere, it is not destroying.

 

However, the Talmud [Shabbos 31] delivers a devastating question on Rav Yossi:

Said Rabbah to him, Consider; all forms of labour are derived from the Tabernacle, yet there it was taking down in order to rebuild elsewhere?

 

To which the Talmud delivers a deep answer

It was different there,... for since it is written, At the commandment of the Lord they encamped, [and at the commandment of the Lord they journeyed], it was like demolishing in order to rebuild on the same site.

 

Remarkable. The Bavli utilizes the same verse as the Yerushalmi - but takes it a step further; it is not simply meant to imply permanence; rather it is used to bridge distinct locations - somehow in this verse is found a formula to teach that different locations aren't! We seek to understand the spiritual metaphysics of this equation utilizing a majestic explanation of Rav Avraham Ausband shlit"a [Rosh Yeshiva of Telz-Riverdale]. Consider this image:

A family is traveling cross country. Moshe, the 3 yr. old begins to kvetch and his mother holds him [she's in the back seat strapped in - no worries] and for the better part of several days from NY to Eugene [not even Portland!], that is where the Moshe remains.

 

When the mother leaves the car she is in Oregon. She breathes in the clean crisp air. When the child leaves [in his mother's arms] that same car, he remains where he always was - in his mother's arms.

 

A Jew who travels Al Pi Hashem is always in the same place. Whether he is apexing [my word] on the mountain of joy or struggling in the valley of tears [gam ki eilech b'gei tzalmaves lo ira ra ki ata imadi] - he is always with Hashem. Physical space is but a detail

 

For man [as opposed to woman] this Divine clinginess is almost impossible behavior: A few chapters later Moshe utters these poignant words after Bnei Yisrael complains [Bamidbar, 11:10-14]:

 

10. Moses heard the people weeping with their families, each one at the entrance to his tent. ....   11. Moses said to the Lord, ".... Why have I not found favor in Your eyes that You place the burden of this entire people upon me?  Did I conceive this entire people? Did I give birth to them, that You say to me, 'Carry them in your bosom as the nurse carries the suckling,' to the Land You promised their forefathers?   13. Where can I get meat to give all these people? For they are crying on me, saying, 'Give us meat to eat.'   14. Alone I cannot carry this entire people for it is too hard for me.

 

Herein, Rav Soloveichik's haunting words of analysis:

What is an Omein?- ... Of course, a nursing mother teaches the baby. Perhaps the mother is the best and most important teacher in the life of a baby. But she does something else - the Rebbe teaches the talmidim. The nursing mother, in addition to teaching, carries the baby in her bosom or in her arms. "...as a nurse carries a sucking child,". What does this mean? Usually the father doesn't do it, the mother does it. The father has no patience for that. It has more meaning than the literal meaning of the word. The teacher does teach his disciple, but the disciple very seldom becomes a part of him. When the mother teaches the baby, the baby becomes a part of her. The mother, when she rears the baby, has one calling, one purpose, to protect the baby. The Omein or the mother basically do not belong to themselves.  

 

Many may be very critical of my statement but this is true according to Yahadut. A mother has no life of her own. She belongs to the infant. At least as long as the infant is helpless and is exposed to the dangers of a hostile environment. She belongs to the infant.

 

Moshe discovered now that teaching is not enough for a leader of Yisrael. A teacher, no matter how devoted, has a life of his own. That his job is nursing, carrying the baby in his arms, watching every step, guessing the baby's needs (a baby cannot say what she wants, you have to guess) feeling pain when the baby cries and being happy when the baby is cheerful.

 

Thus the mother engages in an exquisite act of imitating Hashem!

 

To the extent that we live life al pi Hashem - always seeking Hashem, we might be million mile passengers, and travel through life's vicissitudes at mock speed - but we will have never gone away from Him, always close enough to feel the Divine embrace .

 

Good Shabbos - Asher Brander 

 

[1] It is interesting that this end of this pasuk is recited every week as the Torah is about to travel back to the aron [at the time of hagbahah]


 

 
   
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