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