The Common Thread
By Rabbi Label Lam
But the men who ascended with them said, “We cannot ascend to that people
for it is too strong for us!” They brought forth to the Children of Israel
an evil report on the Land that they had spied out, saying, “The Land
through which we have passed to spy it out, is a Land that devours its
inhabitants! All the people we saw in it were huge! There we saw the
Nephilim, the sons of the giant from among the Nephilim; we were like
grasshoppers in our eyes, and so we were in their eyes!” (Bamidbar 13:31-33)
What does it say about the spies that they included in their report that
they felt- “like grasshoppers” in “their own eyes” and in “their eyes”? What
type of subjective evidence is this? How do they know how they are perceived
in the eyes of the inhabitants? What does it matter? What was their tragic
flaw? Maybe we can determine from the cure, from the medicine prescribed at
the very end of the Parsha what was the fault, the disease at the beginning.
HASHEM said to Moshe saying: “Speak to the Children of Israel and say to
them that they shall make for themselves Tzistzis on the corners of their
garments, throughout their generations. And they shall place upon the
Tzistzis of each corner a thread of turquoise wool. It shall constitute
Tzitzis for you that you may see it and remember all the Commandments of
HASHEM and perform them; and not explore after your heart and after your
eyes after which you stray. So you may remember and perform all My
Commandments, and be holy to your G-d. I am HASHEM your G-d, who has
removed you from the Land of Egypt to be a G-d unto you; I am HASHEM.
It seems, the remedy involves “seeing” or “perceiving” differently. That’s
the part of the psyche that needs continuous prompting. Tzistzis are for all
generations and for some reason are meant to remind of HASHEM’s Mitzvos and
that we were taken from Egypt!
This past Shevuos at a hotel program there was a symposium about “Jewish
Outreach”, and the floor was open for questions. A fine gentleman raised his
hand and asked the ensemble of Rabbis in the front of the auditorium, “While
walking home from Shul on Shabbos I sometimes see a Jewish neighbor who is
involved in a garage sale. He’s not doing anything related to Shabbos. What
should I do Rabbis? Should I wish him a “good Shabbos” or just leave him be
and walk on by?”
The Rabbis exchanged glances until one felt compelled to answer. He cleared
his throat and hesitatingly said, “Let me tell you a story! A few years back
I was walking in Kew Gardens in Queens on Shabbos on my way to Shul when my
eyes met a man in a cherry picker high up amongst the wires doing his work.
I said to him, “good Shabbos” and a conversation ensued. Since then we have
become the best of friends. He became Shomer Shabbos and now his entire
family is involved in the learning and teaching of Torah.” The Rabbi stopped
abruptly, “That’s all I’m gonna say!” The answer was clear and definitive
and the audience was sufficiently impressed with the possibilities in simply
wishing someone a friendly “good Shabbos”, but that’s not the end of the story.
Later this Rabbi who gave the answer came over and told me an amazing and
curious piece of information. The fellow who asked that question was the man
in the cherry picker. Amazing! How can someone forget a true historical
fact like that?
The Torah tells us the very same thing, so to speak, “Don’t worry about
managing results! Honor the process! That’s the nature of partnerships-
being to you a G-d. You remember to do all the Mitzvos-what you are
Commanded to do, and remember daily I took you out of Egypt. You stay
focused on your job and I’ll do Mine. That just may be the common thread!
DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.