Journey From Egypt To The World-To-Come
By Rabbi Pinchas Winston
FRIDAY NIGHT: 17th of Tamuz
Last sunday was the seventeenth day of Tammuz -- 'Shivah Asar
b'Tammuz' -- and the fast day that begins 'The Three Weeks' (though
you will read this on another day). Having left the Sefirah-Period
just six weeks ago, we are now into a whole new even more serious
period of national mourning called 'Bein HaMetzorim' -- 'Between the
Troubles' -- that is, the period BETWEEN (and including) THE TROUBLES
of Shivah Asar b'Tammuz and Tisha B'Av.
The summer is usually considered a time of life, at least in the
Western World. It is when people come alive, leave school early,
leave work early, and go the beach, the ball game, the barbecue, or,
whatever they can do to PHYSICALLY enjoy themselves. Hot and sunny
weather and a much 'looser' atmosphere make modesty a forgotten value
(although winters are not much better these days), and, if ever there
was one word to sum up peoples' notions of what summer should be all
about, it is the word F-u-n -- with a capital F.
I said leave school early, but I only meant with respect to the
Orthodox system of education, which usually continues well into the
summer long after secular schools have closed in June. Cheder and
yeshivah do not usually finish until just before Tisha B'Av, after
which time they take what is called, ironically, the 'Chofesh
HaGadol' -- the 'Big Vacation.'
Well, 'big' at least compared to other periods of time away from
yeshivah, but not big at all compared to their secular counterparts.
For, within three weeks of Tisha B'Av, the yeshivah world will return
to learn once again with the beginning of the Jewish month of Elul
(August 19), and commence a VERY serious period of time called 'Elul
Zman' -- a period of repentance and preparation for the upcoming
Yomei Norayim -- Days of Awe (i.e., Rosh Hashanah, Ten Days of
Repentance, and, Yom Kippur).
For some Orthodox children, it is simply what they are used to. For
those who continue to remain in the yeshivah world, even after they
are married, it is the requirement of being part of that world. And,
for an even smaller group, they love learning Torah so much that it
is vacation as long as they are learning, and, 'work' once the
vacation begins (nothing is more difficult and complicated than
keeping children entertained day-after-day when they are out of
What can we Orthodox Jews do? Couldn't G-d have let the temples be
destroyed in the winter time, when there's not much to do anyhow? We
have so many holidays as it is that we have to observe, and which
don't always allow for 'fun' -- couldn't THIS period of mourning have
overlapped with THAT period of mourning, and killed two birds with
one stone? What does history have against us, anyhow?
Let me answer this question by a story.
There was once an Orthodox Jew who was on his way back to Eretz
Yisroel from the States, obviously anxious to get home and rejoin
with his also anxious wife and children. He got as far as boarding
the airplane and settling in for the long flight when an attendant
came and told him that he would have to deplane.
You can imagine the disappointment, and anger. No reason, apology,
or, compensation the stewardess offered for this unusual and
embarrassing circumstance could placate the man, who refused to leave
the plane. He simply wanted to go home to his family and country.
Thus, airline security was called in, and, the Orthodox Jew, forcibly
and in humiliation was removed from the airplane in front of all the
other passengers fortunate to remain on board for the flight. The
plane took off shortly thereafter, with the Orthodox Jew left behind
at New York's Kennedy Airport waiting for the next available flight
to take him home.
However, all the disappointment, anger, humiliation, and impatience
disappeared when he first became aware of the shocking news that the
flight he had boarded -- he had actually been ON that the plane
itself -- and then unboarded crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the
coast of Canada shortly after take-off, with no survivors.
Within a split moment of consciousness, the Orthodox Jew went from
being the 'victim' to being the 'saved.' In fact, any humiliation he
had felt at that time probably stemmed from realizing how G-d was
going out of His way, so-to-speak, to save his life, and yet he had
resisted and responded with VERY negative emotions.
I don't know if the man had ever pronounced those key words that we
are ALL obligated to say in times of trouble -- This TOO is for the
good -- but, he certainly had reason to know that he should have
shortly after HIS troubles had begun.
So it is with the life of the Jew. This World has so much good to
offer -- PHYSICALLY. However, what ever that good is, it pales
infinitely compared to the good that the World-to-Come has to offer
us FOREVER, whether we can relate to that good or not. There's
nothing wrong with a little fun in life, except, that is, when it
comes at the cost of pleasure, pleasure in This World, and,
especially in the World-to-Come.
For, whereas fun stimulates the bodily senses for a temporary period
of time, pleasure is that which we gain from doing something
meaningful, even though it may also result in fun (like spending time
with your small children, for example). And, there is nothing more
meaningful than the pleasure of the World-to-Come, which, is hard to
focus on and work towards when you're constantly be drawn into
superficial secular summer activities.
Against us? FOR us. Whether it is history (i.e., Hashgochah Pratis --
Divine Providence), or, the rabbis interpretation of history, either
way, they help us to keep control of spiritual senses and remain
focussed on what counts most in life. While the rest of the world is
running around living a care-free life, history and the rabbis have
made sure that we live a caring life, one that takes into account the
ultimate pleasure of the World-to-Come. This way, eventually and as a
result, such an attitude will lead to redemption, when we will be
able to turn such fast days as Shivah Asar b'Tammuz and Tisha B'Av
into days of celebration and meaningful joy.
SHABBOS DAY: Parashas Mattos
When the land will be conquered before G-d, and only afterwards (you
will) return, then you will 'clean' from G-d and from Israel...
In the parshah, this posuk is talking about the people of Reuven and
Gad, who had come to Moshe requesting land on the east side of the
Jordan River. After Moshe criticized them for this decision, he later
made them take a vow that they would only do so after fighting with
their brothers against the people of Canaan, and, after waiting for
the land to be settled. If they did this, Moshe told them, then they
would be 'clean' of all obligations.
However, the Talmud, in typical Talmudic fashion, has another
application for these very same words:
It was taught: The overseer of charity, if there are no poor to whom
to distribute, should exchange (bronze coins for longer lasting
silver coins) with others, but not with himself. An overseer of food
for whom there are no poor should sell to others but not to himself,
as it says, "You will be clean from G-d and from Israel." (Pesachim
The Talmud is talking about preserving tzedakah until it can be
properly used. Bronze coins, Rashi explains, can rust over time and
lose their value, whereas silver maintains itself for a longer period
of time. How much more so is this the case with food, and, by selling
supplies now, the money can be saved for a time when needy people are
around to be helped.
However, the Talmud says, it is hard not to be biased when it comes
to one's own possessions. And, since people know this, it is even
hard, perhaps, not to wonder if the overseer has decided in his own
favor when making the exchange of bronze for silver, or, food for
money. Therefore, even though the onlooker has his own mitzvah to
judge to the side of merit (Shabbos 127b), and, is even warned of the
consequence of not doing so (Shabbos 127a), still, nevertheless, the
Talmud is teaching, one has an obligation to make it easy for people
to judge him or her to the side of merit by appearing 'clean' for G-d
Appearing clean before G-d is rarely an issue: either you are or you
aren't, and G-d knows it even better than we do. You can fool some of
the people some of the time (including yourself), but, you can fool
G-d NONE of the time, so, why bother trying?
Now, obviously we are not talking about doing the wrong thing and
making it appear as if you are doing the right thing for appearance
sake, for, then you will not be clean before G-d. No, we are talking
about doing the right thing in a way that might make people think you
are doing the wrong thing, even though you aren't.
This is different from the rabbinic prohibition of 'ma'aris ayin'
(literally, 'appearance of the eye'), which is when you are doing the
right thing, though it appears as if you are doing the wrong thing,
which people take to be the right thing. In such an instance, they
can actually learn to do the wrong thing from you, because they don't
know what is right or wrong, except by the way you have acted.
However, here the assumption is that they DO know what is right and
what is wrong, and, they think they have caught you doing the wrong
thing! And, what's wrong with that? Worse come to worst, they will
criticize you for doing the wrong thing, at which time you will have
your chance to explain your actions.
Or, they won't. And, instead, they will judge you unfavorably, and
you will have been a stumbling block for them, which is a Torah
prohibition (Vayikra 19:14). Or, maybe even worse, people will say,
"Well, if So-and-so isn't so careful about that, then certainly I can
be more lenient in what I do..." which, of course, is faulty
reasoning, for which you will also be held responsible.
Therefore, in all that we do, we have to be clean before G-d and
before man -- squeaky clean, if we can. If G-d sees that we try to
be, then, He helps make it so for us, even if we slip up every now
These are the journeys of the Children of Israel, who left Egypt as
legions under the leadership of Moshe and Aharon. (Bamidbar 33:1)
In the course of the forty years that the Jewish people first left
the previously inescapable borders of Egypt, a lot had happened. In
fact, a lot of Jews had died.
First, there were the Jews who were killed over the incident of the
golden calf by the tribe of Levi when Moshe set about purifying the
camp from idol worship. There were several plagues against other
sinners through the four decades, and, some were even given capital
punishment for the crimes they had performed.
In the incident of the daughters of Midian alone at the end of
Parashas Balak, 176,000 Jews died for worshipping Ba'al Pe'or! In
fact, as Sefer Bamidbar winds down with this week's parshah, the
entire generation of men who had fallen for the words of the spies
will be coming to an end, as the last of the sinners die for to atone
for their involvement.
As well, many people were born in the desert. In spite of the heavy
losses, the overall number of the Jewish people stayed pretty much
the same. Some people never even left Egypt, at least in the own
bodies, or, in the 'outside world.' Where do they fit into this posuk
Thus, there is tremendous insight in the first verse of this week's
parshah. There are three parts to the verse: 1.) Children of Israel,
2.) who left Egypt, and, 3.) under the leadership of Moshe and
Aharon, and each one tells a story of its own.
First of all, 'Children of Israel' includes all Jews, whether they
were born in Egypt or in the desert, whether they died before
reaching Eretz Yisroel, or, whether they died in the desert. However,
what determined who survived and made it in the end was whether they
were able to 'leave Egypt,' and, accept the leadership of Moshe and
For, as we learned from the wife of Lot, there is 'leaving' and then
there is 'leaving.' There is a leaving where the heart goes with you,
and, then there is the kind of leaving that Lot's wife did where her
body fled from S'dom while her heart remained behind. Only those Jews
whose hearts came with them, leaving any desire to remain in Egypt
back in Egypt, qualified to enjoy redemption.
But, even then, if they could not accept Moshe's leadership, as in
the case of Korach and the spies before him, then, still, they were
bound to stumble and get left behind either in Egypt or the desert.
Whatever journeys they were to take, they would be different from
that of the rest of the Jewish nation.
As it was for the Jews of the Desert, so, too, is for the Jews of any
century and period of Jewish history. Yes, we are ALL Children of
Israel. However, to travel through time and succeed at making it to
the 'Promised Land,' literally or figuratively, we must be willing to
leave Egypt, either literally or figuratively. That means leaving
behind values that are anti-Torah and which promote immorality on any
Furthermore, we have to be willing to accept the guidance and
leadership of the Moshes and Aharons of our time frame, Torah leaders
who abide by ALL the laws of Torah, and who are famous for their
great Torah knowledge and fear of G-d. Then we will possess leaders
who will be willing to lead us TO G-d, and not away from Him, leaders
whom we can follow, not whom we try to lead.
With these three qualifications, a Jew can make his own personal
journey through life and history successfully, leaving behind his own
version of Egyptian 'enslavement' and arriving safely at his own
portion of the Promised Land. This is what gives us the fortitude to
withstand life's spiritual tests, and to come out of them being
pleasing to G-d, ourselves, and, our fellow man.
Techiyas HaMeisim-Resurrection Of The Dead
The leap from Yemos HaMoshiach to the period of Techiyas HaMeisim
(Resurrection of the Dead) is far greater than the leap from our
period of history to Yemos HaMoshiach. For, whereas in Yemos
HaMoshiach new bodies will be brought into the world through the
familiar birth process, in Techiyas HaMeisim they will be built anew
just like Adam HaRishon's body was at the beginning of Parashas
... It is like a craftsman who extracts silver from its source in the
ground; in the beginning he puts it into an oven until all the
impurities of the ground are removed, and the silver remains. But not
perfect silver, until he puts it into the over again Likewise, The
Holy One, Blessed is He, puts the body into the ground until it
completely rots and all of the zuhama is removed, and only a small
amount of decomposed matter remains. From this He re-builds the
body... (Zohar, Vayaira 115b-116a)
What this means is that at the beginning, He will build the body from
the small amount of decomposed matter, which will be clean and pure
from zuhama. However, it will still be quite physical and not in its
true perfected state. (Sha'arei Leshem, p. 490)
Thus, the purpose of resurrection is clear: it is to rebuild the body
free of any impurities, so that it can return to its ideal state of
'Kesones Ohr' (aleph-vav-raish), when it is more soul-like than
body-like. How long this process takes is the same for every person,
however, just when the process begins will vary from person to person:
In any case, the time of resurrection will vary, for, one who is
rectified earlier from his zuhama will die and resurrect earlier,
since the point of death then will only be to decay the physicality
of the body and renew it as a new entity. As a result, the period of
death to resurrection for the entire 'generation' will be long,
though, tzaddikim who have died previously will resurrect immediately
at the beginning of the period, which will be after forty years of
the ingathering of the exiles (Sha'arei Leshem, p. 489)
This is what it says in Midrash:
There will be many resurrections, and the period of time will
continue, according to Rebi Yehudah from forty years after Kibbutz
Golios, at which time the first resurrection will occur, and continue
until the last resurrection, a period of 210 years. Rebi Yitzchak
says: 214 years. (Midrash Ne'elam, Toldos 140a)
Explains the Leshem: there will be many resurrections over a
large period of time, with the first resurrection occurring after
forty years of ingathering of exiles, that is, 210 years in advance
of Year 6000. The last resurrection will occur towards the end of the
They will not all die at the same time, for, the world will not be
destroyed in advance of Techiyas HaMeisim. Rather, some will die
early, and some later, just as it is now. It will continue this way
for a long time-the entire forty-year period of Kibbutz Golios until
the first resurrection, as well as the entire 210 years or 214 years
after the first resurrection until the last resurrection, as we
mentioned previously. Anyone who is not yet rectified by the time
resurrection begins as is fitting for eternal life, will die at the
end. (Sha'arei Leshem, 490)
Hence, during the period of 210 years, some people will have already
resurrected, whereas others will still await death, decomposition,
and, resurrection. However, whereas on this side of history we fear
death and long to live, on THAT side of history we will long to
finally die and be recreated anew:
All those who still live the life of This World will say 'Holy!'
before the righteous who have already arisen during the resurrection.
The world will exist on two levels: that of angels and that of man.
(Sha'arei Leshem, p. 490)
In such a spiritually holy environment, it will be impossible to
ignore one's own physicality, and, the sooner one dies, the sooner
one will be able to join the ranks of the angels.
Many questions arise as a result of the concept of resurrection,
since it represents the 'final form' of the person (though it can
become increasingly spiritual as time progresses and creation becomes
more elevated). However, when we consider the concept of 'gilgulim,
that is, reincarnation, then the question arises, which body returns
in Techiyas HaMeisim?
After all, reincarnation implies that a single soul can live many
lives. And, furthermore, in the course of living many lives, he may
have had many wives, and she, many husbands-one per lifetime. For
whom do we resurrect?
The answer is not so simple, and, it is beyond the scope of this
discussion to fully provide it, even if that were possible. However,
some details are available, beginning with:
Look also in the Zohar (Chaye Sarah 126a), where it says that the
resurrection will literally occur ... in the body that suffered with
the soul in This World and did not derive any pleasure from the
entire Torah and his good deeds ... after it is purified from all its
zuhama and physicality, as a result of death and decomposition in the
ground, as it is explained. (Sha'arei Leshem, p. 489)
Thus, according to the Leshem, the body that was used the most to
learn Torah and to perform mitzvos, with the least amount of worldly
benefit for doing so, is the one destined to be resurrected.
Considering that Torah and mitzvos themselves are meant to act as a
process of refinement, that would make sense.
And, the less worldly benefit derived for learning Torah and doing
mitzvos would mean that the person did both for altruistic reasons,
adding to the purification process of the body. For, nothing purifies
the body more than serving G-d for HIS sake, and not for our own
sake; it is considered as if the person sacrificed himself on the
altar as a sacrifice to G-d and ascended Heavenward.
However, as we will see from the Arizal, it is not so simple which
body returns in Techiyas HaMeisim, or, for that matter, how many.