Spiritual growth is likened to a soaring bird reaching higher and higher. It is seen as the clear antithesis of borders and limits.
Yet the Jewish path of spiritual growth is lined with predetermined steps and an ordered lifestyle.
As a result, throughout the ages, Jews have been maligned as being too caught up with the details and the repetitive rote of their walk of faith. Other systems of faith would declare and espouse their superior and more elevated doctrine of spirituality.
Undaunted, Jewish people would continue in their much-conscripted mode of behaviour.
Why would that be?
In the Torah portion of Pinchas we read the following;
Hashem said to Moshe, "Go up to this mount Abarim and look at the land that I have given to the children of Israel. And when you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people, just as Aaron your brother was gathered. Because you disobeyed My command in the desert of Zin when the congregation quarrelled, [when you were] to sanctify Me through the water before their eyes; these were the waters of dispute at Kadesh, in the desert of Zin.( Numbers 27:12-14)
In spite of this tragic reminder of his not accompanying his people into the land of Promise, we see that Moshe steps forward to ensure that his people would not be left leaderless.
Moshe spoke to Hashem, saying: “Let Hashem, the G-d of spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, who will go forth before them and come before them, who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of Hashem will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”( Ibid:15-17)
Moshe’s standing forward is dramatic and strong and Hashem accepts Moshe's request;
“Take for yourself Joshua the son of Nun, a man of spirit, and you shall lay your hand upon him. You shall present him before Elazar the Kohen and before the entire congregation, and you shall command him in their presence. You shall bestow some of your majesty upon him, so that all the congregation of Israel will take heed.”
Following this we read about the commandment regarding the Daily sacrifice
“Command the Children of Israel, and tell them, 'My Offering, My Bread-Offering for My Fire-Offerings for a pleasing odor to Me, you must offer in its appointed time'” (Numbers r 28:1) and continues to describe how the Tamid sacrifice was brought twice daily, once at sunrise and once just before sunset.
What is the connection?
Recently, after the evening service (Maariv) a member of the shul got up to announce that tonight his father in law was celebrating his 100th birthday.
We all broke out in song and clapping. The man rose from his chair and held out his cane for each of us to hold and dance with him.
Then each of us approached him to wish our best wishes. I told him that I enjoy that whenever I walk him out to the car he always shares a HIDDUSH.
A hiddush is a creative new way to look at the Torah text.
He immediatly turned to all and offered the following HIDDUSH to all those around him.
The Midrash describes a discussion in the Talmudic House of Study, as to which verse in the Bible points to the guiding principle of spiritual Jewish life.
One of the answers given is ‘Love your fellow as yourself, and as Rabbi Akiva says, “This is the guiding principle of the Torah” (Sifra Vayikra 19:18).
The discussion quotes another opinion: “‘This is the record of the genealogy of Man, when God created him’ (Bereishit 5:1) — this is an even greater principle.”
The Maharal’s version of the Midrash presents a third opinion: the ultimate guiding principle is the following verse:
“You shall offer the one lamb in the morning and the other in the afternoon” (Exodus 29:39 and Numbers 28:4).The Daily Tamid sacrifice.
All then acknowledge that this verse includes all the rest.
The 100 year old Rav then explained that consistency and constancy is the source of all blessings. He continued and described how that is true in all of our lives.
That verse and the sacrifice truly describes underscores the greatest framework of spiritual life without which that life begins to wither and die.
This framework is made up of the principles of “consistent, constant and unselfish faithfulness”. in the morning and the other in the afternoon”” at every day!
When that framework is broken the inner strength critical for continuing the eternal journey is deeply wounded. Moshe was being reminded that he was to leave his people. He immediately stepped in to make sure that they were not be left leaderless.
Yet it was clear that the people of Israel were now to begin a journey fraught with changes and twists and turns. Hashem then gives the people the prescription of survival through all these and every upcoming changes in their walk through history.
That prescription is consistency and constancy.
It is that consistent framework that sets the groundwork upon which spiritual growth and innovation can flourish.
It is that constant preoccupation that gives us the spiritual anchor to withstand the greatest of storms throughout our history.
Without that consistency the vagaries and distractions of life always find ways to interfere with spiritual growth.
Consistent and constant care allows for a fragile sapling to grow to the greatest of heights.
What is true of the tree, is true of our soul.
LeIlui Nishmat Yehudit bat Sinai veGolda Yocheved
Rabbi Moshe Kempinski, author of "The Teacher and the Preacher", is the editor of the Jerusalem Insights weekly email journal and co-owner of Shorashim, a Biblical shop and learning center in the Old City of Jerusalem, www,shorashimshop.com