Friday, July 13, 2007

Parashat Matos-Masei 5767

Rabino Label Lam

What to Make of My Summer Break?!

"These are the journeys of the Children of Israel that went out of theLand of Egypt according to their legions under the hand of Moshe andAaron." (Bamidbar 33:1)
There are the journeys of: Why are these journeys recorded? This is tomake known the kindnesses of the Omnipresent… (Rashi) And they journeyed from Chashmonah and they camped in Mesorot. Theyjourneyed from Mesorot and they camped in Yakan. (Bamidbar 33:30-31)

And He said to Avram, “Know with certainty that your offspring shall bealiens in a land, not their own-and they shall serve them and they willoppress them four hundred years. But also the nation that they will serve, I shall judge, and afterwards they will leave with great wealth.”(Breishis 15:13-14)

What is the implied kindliness of traveling from place to place? Why doesthe Chumash tell where they traveled from each time? Of course theytraveled from the same place they last traveled to. Why is the record ofthe travel related to having left Egypt?

More than 25 years ago when I was still a youngish Yeshiva student we tooka long journey from New York to Florida where we set up shop learningTorah in North Miami Beach for a week. For the long trip home we had fourcars that traveled loosely together. We arranged to meet in Savanna, Georgia where we were all generously treated to a big Sunday brunch.

At that meal one of the senior students spoke up and delivered a mostfascinating Dvar Torah. He spoke about the mystical notion that as wetravel from one place to another learning, praying and doing acts ofkindliness we are like a magnet attracting and elevating hidden sparks ofholiness that have been embedded in this dark and lowly realm of existence.We may have little real idea of the impact of our deeds at the time butthere are many sublime sparks that wait anxiously for some righteousindividual or group to release them from the imprisonment of those husksthat bind. It was certainly an interesting thesis and I’m sure I was notthe only one who didn’t understand completely what he was talking about atthe time.

We made our after- blessings and got back on the road. We met at an agreedupon exit along the way to pray the afternoon service and then set oursights on the next meeting place where we would convene for the eveningprayer service. All four cars in our caravan came together that eveningwithin a few minutes of each other. We found a large empty parking lotwhere under a concrete canopy we congregated briefly to pray. On the farside of the parking an ice cream shop was open and a small cluster ofpeople and cars were gathered but we had no near contact with anyone therein that Virginia shopping mall, before getting back on our long and merryway home.

We arrived early in the morning and later that exhausted day it wasdiscovered that a phone call was made to the Yeshiva outreach division anda message was left inquiring about Torah classes and believe it or notthis call had come from, of all places on the planet, that small off thebeaten path Virginia town where our modest group had stopped to pray justthe night before.

To every place the Children of Israel traveled they brought an everincreasing treasure of holy sparks collected from the time of leaving

Egypt. What’s the ultimate value of all those gathered sparks? Writes theOhaiv Yisroel, “When G-d sees portions of good and holiness are rescuedfrom the hand of oppressors He has the greatest possible delight… Thesesparks rise from the deepest pit and are elevated to form a crown for G-d.” All this makes we wonder, “What to make of my summer break?!”