It has not been a good few weeks, to say the least. Let us be honest. We all know, without a doubt, that Hashem is talking to us, demanding improvement. Beginning with Meron and continuing with Stolin and the war in which thousands of deadly rockets fell all over Eretz Yisrael, clearly, Hashem is talking to us.
Yes, even us, here in America. So many of us were finally preparing to head to Eretz Yisroel for Shavuos. We got our ishurim and we couldn’t wait to get back to “normal,” but Hashem told us, “Whoa! Hold your horses! Normal isn’t here yet. You obviously didn’t yet get the message.”
The problem that many thinking Yidden have, however, is understanding what Hashem is demanding from us. We know that He is talking to us, but what exactly is He saying? What does He want?
It is so easy to point the finger at others and say, “For sure He is demanding such and such, because look at those people who are fighting. Look at those people who are not dressing with tznius. Look at those people who cruelly don’t let anyone into their schools. Look at those people who shamelessly indulge in A, B or C. Look at those, those and those…” In short, look at everyone except for ourselves.
On the other hand, anyone with even half a brain knows that there are many issues that we need to improve, and if we don’t talk about them, we will just return to normal.
So, what do we do?
Hashem is Talking to Us, But What is the Message?
We know that Hashem is talking to us; it is so clear. We know that there are myriad things that we can and should improve, yet we don’t have nevi’im and we can’t put our finger on exactly what nekudah it is.
Yisroel Kedoshim, Klal Yisroel is holy, and we really want to improve, but it is so hard when we are not sure exactly what to improve. When fingers pointed by others are effectively saying, “You are responsible, not me,” that just complicates matters and we end up doing nothing.
Everyone is probably wondering: What message is Hashem sending us? I certainly don’t know, but I would like to share something that a wise friend told me, something that resonated and made me think. I would also like to share a related practical lesson from this week’s parsha.
Several prominent senior gedolim have pointed out that we must look at the way the Meron tragedy transpired. How? By one person stepping on the other, by people nebach piling on top of each other. Then we saw a similar occurrence in the Stolin tragedy. And during the war? We saw an entire country cowering in bomb shelters, terrified of some unknown missile or projectile penetrating homes and wreaking havoc.
When We Say We, But We Mean They
Our first reaction is that we should stop stepping on each other, hating each other vehemently, and fighting with one another. Yes, that is true, but stop for a second. Even though we say, “We should stop fighting with each other,” many of us really mean, “They should stop fighting with each other.”
Let us be honest. Recently, there has been an explosion of so-called “frum media.” At one time, there were just a couple of papers that, although not perfect, had clear red lines, hashkafah and halachic hashgocha with a value system, often based on the Sefer Chofetz Chaim with regard to what could be published and what couldn’t. Today, with so many new media alternatives – print, electronic and social media – we find that within seconds of an event happening, it is projected throughout the world. Even doctored clips or manipulated information created by those with vested interests in pushing one narrative can be easily spread around the world in a matter of minutes or even seconds.
For example, let us say that there is a machlokes going on somewhere. In minutes, we all see the news, shake our heads, and say, “Tsk, tsk, they have to stop this. Their sinas chinam is ruining Klal Yisroel.”
Now, I agree that sinas chinon should stop and must stop, but, at the same time, I think we should all realize that we are just as guilty when we watch clips and almost take pleasure in seeing “those guys” finally get their just desserts.
In addition, I have a sneaking suspicion that many of those involved in terrible machlokes don’t want to be there. They are nebach stuck in an institution, a hashkafic point of view, a kehillah that happens to be in the middle of a fight. They almost have no choice but to take a side. (I am not at all justifying machlokes or taking a side. Rather, I am giving more information and balance.) What about us, however? What about we who are not involved? Why are we so fixated on what is happening with them? Why do we almost gleefully watch or read, shake our heads, and say, “Nebach, Moshiach is not coming because of them?
Perhaps we are actually having such a degree of hana’ah, or at least fixation, albeit horrified fixation, when we see one of them stepping on the other, and that itself is a terrible teviah on us.
In other words, let us for a second think about what is happening. Perhaps those people are not the story. Perhaps our reaction to those people is the story. If we would stop discussing, looking, and seeking more news on this or that fight, and instead say a few more kappitlach of Tehillim or choose to be a little more caring for the guy sitting next to us in shul or for our spouses, we might actually realize that Hashem is talking to us as well, not just them.
This got me thinking about an incident in this week’s parsha that, for some reason, is not talked about much when we say a vort at the Shabbos table.
The incident in question is about two zekeinim by the names of Eldad and Meidad.
Now, let us understand the incident with Eldad and Meidad. What happened? According to one explanation in Rashi, Moshe Rabbeinu gathered 72 zekeinim, six from each of the shevatim. When Hashem commanded Moshe to gather zekeinim to come to the Ohel Moed, He specified that there should only be seventy. Therefore, a goral was made, and out of the original 72, seventy zekeinim were chosen. The other two, Eldad and Meidad, were excluded.
The seventy chosen zekeinim gathered in the Ohel Moed, where Hashem descended and placed a ruach of nevuah on them. Thus, these seventy nevi’im received nevuah together with Moshe Rabbeinu after which they left the Ohel Moed.
In the meantime, Eldad and Meidad did not enter the Ohel Moed, but remained behind in the camp. While there, they also merited to receive a nevuah from Hashem. Rashi tells us that Gershom, the son of Moshe, ran to Moshe and told him, “Eldad and Meidad are prophesizing in the camp.”
Upon hearing this, Yehoshua told Moshe, “Moshe, my Master, destroy them.”
Why? Why did Yehoshua feel that they should be destroyed? The meforshim explain that Yehoshua felt that the fact that they were prophesizing outside the Ohel Moed, separate from Moshe Rabbeinu, was a slight to the honor of Moshe Rabbeinu. How could they prophesize on their own without Moshe?
Learning from Moshe’s Reaction
Moshe’s reaction, however, was completely different. When Moshe heard what was happening, he, in his humility, exclaimed, “Are you being zealous for my sake? Halevai that all the Yidden would be on such a great madreigah as them [Eldad and Meidad] that Hashem would place the exalted level of nevuah on all Yidden as he has done with Eldad and Meidad.”
Now, let us contemplate Moshe Rabbeinu’s reaction. Chazal tell us that the nevuah that Eldad and Meidad prophesized was, “Moshe will die and Yehoshua will take the Bnei Yisroel into Eretz Yisroel.”
Knowing what the nevuah was should make us all the more surprised at Moshe Rabbeinu’s reaction. As we mentioned before, Moshe’s reaction was, “Halevai that everyone in Klal Yisroel should be so heilig that they would all merit the zechus of having nevuah.”
Here, Eldad and Meidad are prophesizing about Moshe Rabbeinu’s petirah and the fact that he would not lead Klal Yisroel into Eretz Yisroel (something that we know pained him greatly) and what is Moshe Rabbeinu’s reaction? His reaction has nothing at all to do with himself and the nevuah and everything to do with his beloved flock, Klal Yisroel.
From here we see the tremendous tov ayin of Moshe Rabbeinu. From here we see how much he fargined others, never letting anything be about himself. Instead, he was always able to see the good in others and fargin them, even if what they were saying was very painful to him. He immediately rejected Yehoshua’s strong suggestion to destroy them and found the positive in what Eldad and Meidad were doing.
Again, certainly, if a person is involved in machlokes, he should make his own cheshbon hanefesh, but perhaps all of us, the vast majority who are not taking part in some terrible communal fight, or are not guilty of some other breach or transgression, should also make a cheshbon hanfesh as to why, when we go to the coffee room, the shteibel, the computer, or our phone, we are so thirsty for news about what is happening in this group or that group.
Let us remember that it isn’t only them. It might just be us.