Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
June 15th 2012 -Volume 2, Issue 32 –26th of Sivan 5772
I hit Enter and I wait… and wait… and tap on some keys…I’m still waiting. It’s not downloading. Why is this taking so long? Maybe if I pull out the plug and start all over again it will work faster. I reach for the plug and all of a sudden it finally goes. Nothing like a little fear tactic of disconnecting your computer from its electrical life force to kick it into shape. Kind of like technological water-boarding, I guess. Now if only I could figure out what to do with the long waits in the post office or the motor vehicle department. But for some reason I don’t think any amount of plug pulling will speed up those lines.
I know I really shouldn’t be that impatient. It is amazing that with a click of a button on our computer we are sending messages all the way up to outer space and back and it seems kind of silly to be upset if it takes an extra nano-second or so. But having lived in that great city that never sleeps, New York , for many years, you somehow develop a lack of tolerance for anything that you can’t beep with your horn and get an instant response. Yet I don’t think New Yorkers are the only ones who have this experience. I think for most of us at different times the clock just seems to be ticking verrrrryyy sssslllooowwwlyy… As a Rabbi friend of mine once said –I don’t mind if people look at their watches during my sermons. It’s when they hold it up to their ears to see if it’s still ticking and checking the batteries that I begin to get nervous.
This weeks Torah portion teaches an important lesson about the passage of time in one of the more tragic stories in the Torah. For those of you who have been keeping up with our journey you will know that the Jewish people have left Mt. Sinai and are marching off preparing to go to the Land of Israel . In order to find out what the challenges that lie ahead are, they send out spies to check out the land. Unfortunately these spies come back with a very scary report about giants and wars, how it’s a land that will eat up its inhabitants and then they show them these huge fruits to demonstrate the scariness of the land. The nation becomes terrified, they weep, they mourn, they long to return to Egypt and they lose faith in God. They have accepted the Lashon Hara-the Evil talk of the Holy Land , and they have forgotten that their God in heaven promised them this land as their birthright. Hashem, once again disappointed by his nation and their lack of faith issues the consequences. For saying Lashon Harah the spies will die immediately. (According to Rashi who quotes the Medrash their tongues stretched out until their bellies and worms crawled in- just in case you needed a visualJ). The rest of the people from age 20-60 would die in the wilderness, never to enter Eretz Yisrael. And their children the Torah tells us
I shall bring them; they shall know the land that you have despised… They shall roam for forty years and bear your guilt until the last of your carcasses in the wilderness. Like the number of days that you spied out the land, forty days, a day for a year… Forty years.. and you shall comprehend straying from me.
Wow! I’m sure your saying. This seems like a very harsh punishment. The truth of the matter is there is something very perplexing about this punishment. First of all why are they punished at the rate of 1 year to 1 day? Seemingly in heavenly punishments we have a concept of the punishment fitting the crime Mida K’neged Mida- Quid pro Quo (for all you latin speakers). Why would they have to pay such a steep price and exchange rate? Also it seems that the children under 20 are not culpable for the sin, as they were not included in the decree of death, so why would they have to suffer and wander for forty years? Seemingly only the sinners above 60 should have died and not entered the land of Israel (an appropriate punishment for their lack of faith and desire to fulfill the Divine mandate to live there). What point was there in them wandering?
The answer, I believe, has to do with our perception of time. We all know the old adage “Time flies when you're having fun”. The Torah even tells us that when Jacob was working for his wife Rachel for seven years it was as if it was only a few days. When you are engaged in something meaningful the hours feel like minutes and the months like days and the years like weeks. It flies by. On the other hand when you’re doing something you dread, sitting in a class you don’t want to be in, waiting in the dentists office, or just waiting for your computer to log on then it seems like hours. Each day that those spies were in the Land of Israel should have flown by; marveling in the wonder, beauty and holiness of this God Promised Land. But it didn’t it felt like a year. When they conveyed that message back to the people they cried and mourned and transmitted that message. Israel is horrible, each day there is as painful as a year. Children who witnessed this needed to learn a different message. They had been traumatized- they “bore that guilt of their parents”. It would take forty years of hearing their parents long to step foot in the Land of Israel to change the impact of that 40 day tragic trek through the land of Israel.
There is a powerful in message for us in this story. None of us can control how much time we have here on this world. We only know that it is limited and the clock is ticking from the moment we are born. What we do have control over is how we will experience that passage of time. Will we be engaged in meaningful, inspirational activities that gives us an appreciation of every precious moment that we have- so much, that we don’t even realize that its passing by. Or are we going to be staring at our watches counting the minutes as they schlep on our march to the grave. The summer months are here and as a parent of children I know that there will be moments that I am spending our quality vacation time and it will be amazing and go so quickly but will be captured for eternity. Then there will be those days that my children will inevitably say “what do we do today Dad??? I’m so bored”. Children know that each day of summer vacation is precious and shouldn’t be wasted. The truly righteous and accomplished understand that we should approach every day of our lives with that same perspective. So maximize those moments when your sitting in front of a computer, or waiting on line. Say a prayer, learn a little bit. Maximize your time with something meaningful and watch how it just flies by.
Have a inspirationally long Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ YOUTUBE VIDEO OF THE WEEK
Lipa- Hang Up The Phone J)
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
Mitzpeh Revivim- The year was 1945 the vision of a Jewish state was already starting to be actualized and three dreamers came out to the Negev to expand the borders of Israel in the South. Revivim was one of 11 points in the Negev that were established before the State of Israel as “agricultural scientific expeditions” as it was illegal to open new settlements under the British mandate. The small group lived in old byzantine caves without water and electricity with the sole purpose of creating “facts on the ground” that when the state of Israel would be established the negev would be ours providing an important and strategic border with Egypt. Today one can visit Revivim have a tour with actors dressed in the time period (English and Hebrew) as well as see the planes that fought in the independence war, see the incredible water irrigation tunnels that were made and hear the story and feel the inspiration of the those early settlers who gave their lives to build us this land.