Judaism: Divrei Azriel: Bring It To the World
Running Away From Har Sinai...To Bring it To The World
Seemingly, every child undergoes a transition during their childhood or early adolescence. While it is very common and understandable for teenagers to be less than excited and eager to go to school and learn every day, younger children usually have anticipation and enthusiasm for school. It is no rare phenomenon for young children to express great joy over their educational experience, while older "high-schoolers" often are happiest when most distant from their education. This being said, at some point in the educational career of most youths there is this change of heart towards the experience of learning. What begins as a joy and a desired privilege eventually, perhaps between ages 10 to 13, is viewed as a bothersome chore. With this in mind, I would like to suggest a new understanding of a well known parable of Chazal.
After being stationed at Har Sinai for nearly a year, in Parshat BeHaalotecha Am Yisrael finally begins the expedition through the desert towards Eretz Yisrael. The Torah records the very first journey from Har Sinai: "va'yisu mei'har Hashem derech shloshet yamim... - Am Yisrael traveled away from Har [Sinai] a three day journey" (10:33). Rashi explains that Am Yisrael left Har Sinai with such haste that they traveled the distance which would normally take 3 days all in one day! Chazal, in the Talmud Yerushalmi (Taanit 4:5) as well is in the Midrash Yelamdeinu (quoted in Torah Sheleima vol. 10, Parshat BeHaalotecha, pg. 119) offer a well known parable to describe how Am Yisrael traveled from Har Sinai. The Yerushalmi's version states: "R' Zechariya, the son in law of R' Levi, likened this to young children who turn away from school and run into the town to wander and play, this is how Am Yisrael turned away from the Torah." The Midrash Yelamdeinu adds that "...they had been at Har Sinai for 11 days short of an entire year and each day they were given Mitzvot. As soon as Moshe told them to go the distance of a one day journey, they went the distance of a three day journey, like a young child who leaves school and runs..." Tosfot (Masechet Shabbat, 116a s.v. "puranot") cites this Midrash and adds in the word "boreach," meaning to escape, which is an even stronger depiction of the Jewish people's eagerness to get away from their "schooling" at Har Sinai.
Am Yisrael desperately wanted to run away from their yearlong study of Torah and receiving of new Mitzvot. It had been a very intensive year of study and development, of ups and downs, and they were ready for a vacation. Chazal understand that because of this display of running from the Torah, Am Yisrael took the very first steps towards their downwards spiral which we see in the upcoming parshiyot. According to Chazal, the chate ha'meraglim, the rebellion of Korach, the infiltration of Midiyan, and the many other shortcomings of Am Yisrael, are all rooted in this hasty abandonment of Har Sinai.
I would like to suggest another understanding of this parable bederech drush, though it is surely not the simple intention of Chazal. As noted above, it is common for students of different stages to have vastly different relationships with their educational experience. Accordingly, it should follow that only a certain segment of school children, perhaps those less enamored by education and learning, should run away from school. However, it seems that most children tend to run away from school. Seemingly, upon looking closer, there seems to be two different reasons children might run away from school.
Some kids run away from school to distance themselves from the learning experience. Alternatively, other children, often younger and more innocent, do not run from school with that urge to escape. They run with an entirely different attitude. They run with huge smiles and great excitement to share with their parents and siblings all that they have just learned! "Ema, Aba, guess what we did in school today!?! I want to share with you this new song and this new story that I learned today!" These children don't run from school to get away from it, but to share all that they have learned with whoever will listen!
Perhaps we can view Klal Yisrael as this type of school child, not the grumpy and bitter child. Yes, it is true that there were many ensuing difficulties that Am Yisrael faced in the midbar and beyond, but how much has this child gone out and taught the world over the course of history? How much love of learning, pursuit of knowledge, ethics and values have Am Yisrael brought to the world?! May we all be blessed with the youthful love of Torah, and run out into the world and share it. As the Rambam says in Sefer HaMitzvos regarding the Mitzva of Ahavat Hashem (Mitzva 3): "When a person truly loves something their heart will not stop being connected to it and they will go out and praise it to all and they will cause others to love it as well."
Time Sensitive Trumpets
In the middle of this week's parsha, Moshe Rabbainu is commanded, "make for yourself two silver trumpets... they shall be yours for the summoning of the assembly and to cause the camps to journey" (10:2). Commenting on this verse, Rashi quotes the midrash and states "they shall be made from your own supply, you shall make and use them to the exclusion of any other." Thus, even Yehoshua could not use the trumpets Moshe used.
The Sefer Ke'Motzaei Shallal Rav explains that from this we can learn a very deep lesson. The tools which were used in one generation to call the nation together in order to move the camp will not be the same ones which are necessary to move call further generations.
That is to say, those tools and techniques which the leader used in order to rally the nation together, to inspire and bring the people to a greater awareness of Hashem and His Torah, change from generation to generation. Those successful techniques of yesterday's generation which boasted amazing results might have destructive effects on the current generation. Every leader has to be able to understand and know what the proper avodah of the present is and that which is not.
Every generation has its challenges and difficulties. The responsibility of a leader is to understand the needs and characteristics of the time in order to ensure that the tools and techniques implemented will have positive and fruitful results.
This not only applies to those in leadership positions, but truthfully to all of us who relate and interact with the current generation. We are all called upon to create new "trumpets" which will be suitable for the present and bring the Jewish people closer to Hashem and His Torah.