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Parshas Behaaloscha

More Than the Hand of Man

By Rabbi Label Lam

According to HASHEM the Children of Israel traveled and according to HASHEM they camped, all the time the cloud resided upon the Mishkan (Tabernacle) they rested. (Bamidbar 9:18)

Why does the verse go to such great length? In order to counter that which the nations were saying that Israel is lost in the desert and Moshe is himself lost and doesn’t know where to lead them…Therefore the verse comes to explain that all their travels were according to the Divine Presence, and even though they rested in this place for a night and this place for a month…all was according to the Divine Presence and when the cloud moved from this place to a different place they would travel to that place. (Midrash HaGadol)

From ground level and from the outside one can fall prey to the false premise that the Jewish People are lost based upon their erratic patterns of movement. As it turns out it is not true. Each step is calculated the way a chess master moves pieces on the board. So The Almighty guides us on our way. What role do we play? Are we mere participants on a predetermined path? That’s hardly the message!

King Solomon pens the following; “Trust HASHEM with all your heart and upon your own understanding do not rely. In all your directions know Him and He will make straight your ways”. (Mishlei 35-6) What is the wisest of all men telling us here? He is advising us on how to create the most beautiful life. How do we do that? Simple! Just follow the ways of HASHEM! How do you do that and how does that help to create a masterpiece of existence?

Imagine a man working on a scaffold high above the ground. He is painting on a giant billboard seventy rows high and three hundred and sixty five spaces across. He wears myopic glasses that allow him to see only that which is in front of him and to be blind to the square ahead. He has a paint-by-number formula that instructs him to color within certain defined spaces with great care according to the number in that space. Green is five and Blue is three for example.

So he completes his small tasks dutifully and daily before moving to the next giant space. At the beginning of a new year he begins a new row and so it goes for seventy years. After that time he is made to step far back from his larger than life canvas and observe what he had accomplished. A beautiful portrait beyond the scope of his imagination stands before him. However, the fellow who painted only according to his own artistic instincts is made to face a chaotic sequence of furious strokes signifying nothing. So King Solomon cautions us not to rely on our limited minds but rather yield to a Superior Intelligence Who sees the bigger picture.

I heard directly from Rabbi Mordechai Schwab ztl who was known as “The Tzadik of Monsey” a story from more than seventy five years ago. He had gone to see the sainted Chofetz Chaim who was quite elderly at that time. When it came time to take leave he shook hands with the Chofetz Chaim who grasped his hand firmly. Then the Chofetz Chaim seemed to dose off. The young Rabbi Schwab tried to gently remove his hand. The Chofetz Chaim held on even tighter as he appeared to be slumbering. Reb Mordechai called out to the sleeping Rabbi that he needed to go to catch his train but his grip was firm and so he remained. After a period of some time he awakened and released the young would-be Tzadik. He hurried to town only to discover that he had missed the train. Later it was learned that the train he was hoping to travel on was in one of the worst train accidents in Poland’s history.

When doing our best to discover “what is the right thing”, living carefully within the four cubit of Hallacha, to act optimally appropriate at each moment for a whole lifetime, a pattern of perfection emerges that transcends human intellect manifesting more than the hand of man!

Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Label Lam and



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