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Kotel - Coffee Heaven

Pinchas - Choosing The Prize

 

Dear All,

 

The hour is late. It is the waning moments before Shabbos. I hope these words are coherent.

 

/The last two weeks I davened Thursday morning at the Kotel - both were memorable experiences - filled with early morning prayerful varied and soulful Jews

 

I noticed after davening that everyone [hundreds of people] was drinking from the same brownish cow paper coffee cup - a tip off that it came from the same source.

 

Right next to the Kotel Tunnels there are brochures advertising - a beautiful new exhibit entitled sharsheret hadoros - a chain of the generations - boasting of a beautiful sculptures in the context of the Kotel Tunnels which meld beauty and history into a wonderful crescendo.

 

Right next to that advertisement is a middle aged couple. He mixes and she pours - they do this everyday - coffee, tea, hot chocolate and borekas [I believe that is a Friday thing] - it is an efficient operation. I asked them who pays for this - he gave me an incredulous look - and directed me to an almost empty red pushka - how many cups - 800 a day - on Friday about 1500 cups - there are jars and jars and jars of coffee in the corner - waiting to be used.

 

All told, from a little corner near the Kotel Tunnels - a beautiful and unassuming couple serve 5500 cups of coffee a week - to help people come close to God and their hertiage

 

Do you know how many prayers have been enhanced because of their coffee? How many children who pushed themselves to come early for the vatikin chavaya (experience) sipped their hot chocolate with incredible satisfaction - how many old men and women found themselves really able to do it - because of the coffee and the love. In case you are wondering, this is not a commercial for Coffe.

 

The Jews are such a beautiful people. I believe that this couple can be the aforementioned exhibit - they represent the smart, innovative, chesed that marks our people. They are the link of the generations - the chesed of Avraham

 

The Talmud has a line that some people can acquire the next world with with one moment - some people can acquire their next world with one cup (and another and another)

 

Mi k'amcha Yisrael

 

with regards from Eretz Yisrael - Asher Brander

 

Now for a d'var Torah

 

The daughters of Tzelafchad, those righteous and smart women, petition Moshe for a piece of land in Eretz Yisrael (Bamidbar 27, their father died and why should their family lose out?). Their claim is vindicated by the Almighty and through their merit, a parsha in the Torah comes to light - one of only four places in Torah where Moshe seeks Divine counsel to gain ultimate clarity regarding Halacha.


Rashi wonders why the placement of this episode immediately follows the new census [conducted by Yehoshua and Elazar -the new leaders of Klal Yisrael] - a counting that the Torah sadly reminds us of the post-meraglim (spies) reality: [Bamidbar, 26:64-65]

 

And of these, there was no man counted by Moshe and Aharon .. for Hashem had said of them they will surely die in the wilderness save for Kalev and Yehoshua

 

Quoting the Midrash [Tanchuma Pinchas 7], Rashi posits a poignant notion

 

Among these there was no man...: But the women were not included in the decree of the spies, for they cherished the Land. The men said, "Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt!" (14:4), whereas the women said,"Give us a portion" (27:4). This is why the passage of Zelophehad's daughters follows here.

 

Men vs. Women is the contrast here: the women who sought a piece of the land and the men who rejected it is the point of the textual positioning.


It is remarkable to note that the basic midrashic view is that that the women took no part in either of the two major desert sins, the Golden Calf and the Spies. Rashi's explanation here however requires analysis
[1]:

 

But the women were not included in the decree of the spies, for they cherished the Land.

 

And the men did not cherish the land? Did the meraglim themselves[2] not say: [Devarim, 1:25]

 

And they took some of the fruit of the land in their hand[s] and brought it down to us, brought us back word, and said, "The land the Lord, our God, is giving us is good."

 

It wasn't about not cherishing the land - it was about being afraid for their lives:[Bamidbar, 13:31-14:3]

 

But the men who went up with him said, "We are unable to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we. .... "The land we passed through to explore is a land that consumes its inhabitants, and all the people we saw in it are men of stature.... Why does the Lord bring us to this land to fall by the sword; our wives and children will be as spoils. Is it not better for us to return to Egypt?"

 

Perhaps there is a mussar darher [insight] here. I apologize in advance for the pop psychology, but maybe we can glean an element of truth from Rashi's words that may teach us about the dynamics of human choice.

 

Consider a few classic choices, [from the generic to the boutique]

a. .... sleeping vs. studying for the final

b. .... eating the cake or skipping it

c. ..... avoiding the plane or taking the trip to see the family

 

Would we say that the one who studies for the final does not cherish sleep? Would we say that the one who overcomes the cake likes it less than he who succumbs? Would we say that the one who gets on the plane fears flying less? Intuitively, we sense that is not the case.

 

Wherein lays the difference between one who overcomes his fear [to fly] and one who does not. For both, fear is an absolute reality. Wherein lays the difference between the one sleeps and the one who studies? For both, sleep is a great value

Wherein lay the difference between the one who eats the cake and the one who avoids it? For both, cake tastes great

 

Bnei Yisrael are confronted with two choices: Should they enter into the beautiful land of Israel or because they were afraid[3], should they avoid it. The men opted for fear and the women for courage. Wherein lay the difference? Rashi's words here are critical:

 

Among these there was no man...: But the women were not included in the decree of the spies, for they cherished the Land

 

Note what Rashi omits. He does not say that the women were not afraid. In all likelihood they were certainly afraid as well. In Rashi's words we see a different nuance. There is no frontal attack on their weakness. Simply put, it may not always be sufficient to say "I should not be afraid, I should not be afraid, I should not be afraid" !

 

Why did the women gain entrance into the land of Israel? Their ability to see beyond the obstacle and fixate on the goal, on the prize of Eretz Yisrael was the key to their success. They did not fear less, they cherished more

 

Recognizing and identifying with the greatness of a goal - and the attendant loss of the one who succumbs, is the key. As good as the cake is, it tastes even better to not have it and be healthy. As scary as Eretz Yisrael is, the beauty of being in the land teeming with kedusha simply transcends anything else.

 

Perhaps this is a key to meaningful Jewish education. We need to teach and model the greatness of the goal! One who wakes up for netz (sunrise) minyan does not dislike sleep; but as he drags his tired body out of bed, he recognizes that special sense of intimacy one feels whilst speaking with God at the very first moment of the day. To not have that is too great a loss to bear.

 

It was this very formula that the Chofetz Chaim invoked in his own internal world. A remarkable non-classic Chofetz Chaim Story from Rabbi Berel Wein gives us a window into a very real and great tzaddik

 

Rabbi Wein's father in law - R. Layzer Levine grew up in the home of the Chafetz Chaim and related that from time to time visitors would come to the Chofetz Chaim [who was a kohein and according to the Talmud, kohanim have tempers] and truly provoke/annoy the Chofetz Chaim. At times, the Chofetz Chaim feeling the inner anger, would withdraw from the conversation and speak to himself. "Yisroel Meir, Will anger help you. Will it accomplish anything" - and after several moments of self-conversation - he would regain calm and control of his emotions and would be able to engage quietly and peacefully

 

Giving in to anger initially tastes good, but in the end what has been accomplished? The transcendent personality thus waxes great by cherishing and deepening one's understanding of that the ultimate prize - a relationship with Hashem. Everything else is just not that good.

 

To the extent that we really want it, we will be able to transmit it. In a world of ever expanding choices (of seemingly infinite naarishkeit), May Hashem give us the strength to really want it

 

Good Shabbos - Asher Brander

 


[1] Cf. Kli Yakar 26:64 for 2 explanations why the men sinned in the spy episode and the women did not

[2] Cf. Rashi there. This line is written according to the simple textual meaning which is explicated by Ramban there

[3] The particular nature of that fear requires analysis. Some say it was fear of losing their midbar comfort or the nesi'im losing their midbar status or primal fear of the inhabitants of the land


 
   
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