Behalotecha 5780

June 10, 2020

The passenger seat

During the years in the desert the Bnei Yisrael were constantly on the move. In this weeks Parasha, the pasuk points out that every time the Jews traveled and encamped, they only did it under Hashems instruction. Many commentaries bring out from here that not only was it under hashems instruction, but also hashems protection and guidance. The lesson is that despite the fact they were constantly on the move, the Jewish people felt the entire time as if they were protected like a baby in its mother arms – the mother is constantly on the move but the baby is stationary and cared for.
The Raavad, in the introduction to his Sefer Baalei Nefesh, explains why it is that every corner we turn in our life from beginning to end, we are surrounded by Mitzvot: on the field, eating, getting dressed, our animals etc. In order to cater for our free will, Hashem gave us the power to ‘run the world’ – we plant, we build, we create. However, Hashem wants us to know that with every single step we take, we must know who the real one in control is. Hashem set a form of reminder that: every time you do an action and feel in control you must remember that Hashem is the real one in control. Rav Yerucham Leibovitz shows this idea in Parashat Behar. The pasuk says “when you come to the land which I gave you, you shall dwell in it, a dwelling to Hashem”. The words ‘to Hashem’ emphasise this very point. That the land was not given in order for you to exercise your own powers, rather you must attribute those powers to hashem and always have in mind that he is the real master of the world.
A parable is told of a hitchhiker who manged to catch a lift with a man and his young child. The hitchhiker couldn’t help but notice that the child, sat in the passenger seat next to his father, had a small toy wheel of his own. The child without fail was continuously making every move while the car was moving. The child was convinced that it was his toy wheel that controlled the entire car. The hitchhiker exclaimed to the father ‘wow, your son is really getting involved!”. The father turned to his new passenger and said “You have no idea. If my son doesn’t have his own wheel he tries to take mine and wreaks havoc. So I decided to get his own and it keeps him busy”. Because we have free will, we feel a sense of great power and control, and so we try to use it and grab the wheel and ‘control the world’. Hashem, knowing it will do us much more harm than good, gives us a wheel to feel sense of control, but we must never forget that our wheel is merely just a toy in the eyes of a child.
If you take the Hebrew word man – אדם, rearrange the letters to מאד – many. Man is capable of many things and can accomplish so much. Throughout life, we are on a constant journey: growing, creating and even destroying. Our contribution to this world has tremendous amount of affect to the past and future of humanity. However, we must not get caught up in our involvement and it is crucial for us to understand who is really in control.