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24JEWISH

We don't even understand our own motives without wise outside advice

Parschat Beha’alotecha includes the section of Mitlonenim (Nagger) [Chapter 11]. The Jews wanted to eat meat. They remembered all the "wonderful delicacies" they had eaten in Egypt - and deplored the fact that they missed these dishes in the wild. "All we have is this man (manna)." Jews always complain about the food! They longed for the garlic and onions that they ate in Egypt. The verse [Bamidbar 11:10] teaches that Moshe heard the people crying at the entrance of their tents (boche leMishpechotaw Ish lePetach Ohalo). Rashi explains that the expression "boche leMishpechotaw" means that people outside in the open would group into families to express their complaints together. It wasn't a family picnic, it was a family “howling ceremony”. The family sat together at their entrance door and complained publicly about the food situation in the wilderness. Rashi quotes another interpretation of our sages regarding the expression "boche leMishpechotav": the crying referred to "the families". In other words, they complained about the forbidden sexual relations, the Issurej Arajot, which the Torah issued to the Jewish people.

According to this rabbinical tradition, the main complaint was not related to the onion. This event happened some time after the Jewish people received the Torah. The Torah forbade the marriage of various women - the relationships known as the arajot prohibitions. This was what they wept over. They said “onions” but they meant “arajot”. Rav Ja‘akov Kaminetsky asks a simple question: how can we put words in their mouths? The verse says that they complained about the onions and cucumbers. Why do the rabbis interpret this as something completely different from the simple reading of the verse (Peschuto schel Mikra)?

In his book “Emet LeJa'akov”, Rabbi Kaminetsky often shows similar phenomena in Chumash (Five Books of Moses), where Chasal (our sages) bring to light a far more ominous interpretation than the ostensibly “innocent” wording in the verses would suggest. Another example is in the coming part of the week, when Moshe hires the spies to find out "intelligence" information about the people of Kena‘an. When the spies return and report that the people there are "chasak hu mimenu - stronger than us," the Zohar (also quoted by many commentators) claims that the spies were up to something. They feared that if they entered the Land of Israel they would lose their leadership positions and prestige. Because of this, they subconsciously sabotaged plans to bring the people to Erez Yisrael so that they would not lose their leadership position. Here, too, Rav Ja‘akov asks: How did Chasal come up with this?

Another example: In Lot's decision to settle in Sedom - after his break with Avraham, the simple reading of the verses would suggest that the decision was due to the very practical reasons that Lot was a shepherd and the country that Sedom surrounded, was fertile and productive. Here, too, Lot von Chasal is ascribed dark motifs: he chose the specific environment because of its reputation for lust and immorality. Sedom was “Sin City - the city of sins” at that time - and according to the wise men (apparently without evidence from the biblical text), this was the reason Lot went to Sedom. The same question can be asked here: Why can't we take Lot's plans at face value - just say that he wanted to go to Sedom because the land was fertile?

Rav Ja‘akov replies: Chasal do this because they penetrate into the depths of the human psyche. They tell us something very profound about human nature. Everyone has subconscious feelings, powers, and desires that even the person may not be aware of. Something is happening in people that goes beyond what the eye sees. Chasal know - either through “Ruach HaKodesch” (prophetic spirit) or their sensitive intuition of how human beings work - that something deeper is happening. When people gather at their doorsteps and scream out loud so everyone can hear, it's not just about the onions that they are screaming! People don't cry over onions. You're crying over something else.

There were also other appealing places in Erez Yisrael. When Lot chose Sedom of all people, why did he? It is - whether he realized it or not - because there were subconscious motivations in him. This happens to everyone. A person always has to go into himself and check his motives.

When people go to a psychologist or psychiatrist and tell them about their problems - if the professional is astute and understands human nature, then he realizes that what the person is saying is NOT what they mean. These are the words he says - but there is something else that is actually going on in his mind. A wise person or a trained professional will be able to discern what is actually going on deep in a person's mind.

That is the reason why Chazal repeats the procedure for explaining the narrative (narrative) Chumash over and over again. How do you know? They know because they know people. They are trying to tell us that it happens to each of us. We all have hidden plans and subconscious motives. We have what is known as a “negiot” (personal bias). We do not fully know or understand ourselves because we are so subjective about the decisions that affect us.

How can we protect ourselves from these “blind spots”? As we have said on other occasions, the counselor to be followed is that of the Mishnah in the Tractate Avot (Proverbs of the Fathers) [1: 6]: Make yourself a rav [mentor] and acquire a chawer [narrow Friend]. We have to have our actions and motives checked by our fellow men or teachers who “tell us how it is”! Without such advice and guidance, we cannot function.

A person who says: "I know that I am‘ nagua ’[biased], but ..." will end this sentence with a statement that he should completely ignore. If someone is 'nagua' then they are disqualified from judging the matter - period! So who will pasken (judge) for him? This is why it is so important that everyone should have a Raw, Rebbe, or senior counselor to guide them on matters that concern themselves on which they are disqualified from forming an objective opinion. For this reason, Pirkej advises Avot (sayings of the fathers) to be a friend koneh (literally: “to buy”). Whatever the investment, one must make that investment to ensure the ability to honestly assess one's actions.

Relationships these days are superficial. A chawer (friend) is not just someone you say “hello” to and chat with for a bit. A chawer is someone to open up to and trust. It is someone to whom you can say things about yourself "as they are" - and return that favor. Everyone needs it. The reason Chasal spend so much time pointing this out across the whole of Chumash is because they are trying to "hammer" it into our heads: You cannot trust yourself.

Having a Rebbe and a Chawer is one of the most precious goods in life. The Mishnah, which advises us, “Make yourself a Raw and acquire a Chawer”, therefore concludes with the words: “... and judge every person with intercession [leKaf Sechut].” Inevitably, the Raw or Chawer will disappoint you too. We will be mad at him for not showing up for a simcha (celebration) or for not giving us as much time as we expected. It is easy to be disparaging under such conditions: "This is not a raw, this is not a friend." The Mishnah admonishes us: “Hewej dan et kol haAdam leKaf Sechut” - be lenient with this person, judge him with intercession! Don't distance yourself for such flimsy reasons. Such relationships are just too important to break off so easily! Even if it means doing a "backward roll" and making crazy explanations for that person - do it. It is worth maintaining a relationship with a raw or chawer.

The real test of a Jewish leader

Moshe complains to the Almighty: “Did I conceive or give birth to this whole people that you would say to me:‘ Carry them on your bosom like a guard carries a baby, up to the land that you promised his forefathers? ” [Bamidbar 11:12]. Rashi says: This is the job of a leader. "Guide them with sensitivity, even at the risk of them stone and blasphemy you." The Gemara says [Sanhedrin 8a]: “A judge must endure the anger of the community” and cites the text of our verse in Beha’alotecha as proof: “… how the guard carries the suckling baby”. A ward chairman has to look at his “flock” like little babies at times. Babies can be so horrible from one minute to the next and then all right again. How can someone lose his temper with a one year old? The baby doesn't know what it's doing. You can't hit a one-year-old child! This, as the Torah tells the leaders, is how they should look at the Jewish people. They are like babies who cannot control themselves.

Jirmejahu is probably the prophet who lived in the most tragic epoch of all time. For years he told people that the end was near, that the temple was being destroyed, that they should do teshuvah (repentance). They didn't listen to him. They tormented him. They threw him in prison, in a mud pit. He was starving. After everything they'd done to him, it turned out he was right - the destruction was coming. After the destruction, the people came to him and asked him to ask the Almighty on their behalf whether they should stay in Erez Yisrael or go to Egypt. They told him that whatever the Almighty told them they would be heard. Yirmeyahu put her question to G ‐ d and the answer he received was that they should stay in the land of Israel and the Almighty would protect them there. After hearing this answer (which was not the answer they originally wanted to hear), the people again accused the prophet of lying.

Despite the chutzpah (cheek) of the people, despite the years of frustration from their torment - when the people ignored his message and Erez left Israel for Egypt - Yirmeyahu followed them to Egypt! As the Midrash says: “If there is no vineyard, what do you need a fence for? If there is no flock, what do you need a shepherd for? ”

Yirmeyahu said, “How can I not go with them? They are a flock and I am their shepherd. " How would you and I react to such treatment? “You want me to go to Egypt with you? - I'll tell you where to go! Enough is enough!" But Jirmejahu leaves because Jirmejahu was a leader - and a leader understands the secret of "how a guard bears a child". He understands that they are a bunch of babies and they must be treated with the same patience that is shown to babies. This is the true test of a Manhig beJisrael (a leader of the Jewish people).

 

Rav Frand, Copyright © 2013 by Rav Frand and Project Genesis, Inc and Association Lema’an Achai / Jüfo-Zentrum.

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