Few extremes are as far apart as are Heaven and Earth.
The former represents unfathomable spiritual realms, home to a World of Truth and a state of where nothing exists other than cleaving to Hashem. It is there that the eternal soul of a Jew merits to reside before — and hopefully after — his sojourns in this temporal world.
Down here, on the other hand, the neshamah meets up with enormous risks, endless challenges and obstacles, along with a significant share of pain and anguish. It is little wonder that the soul has to be forced to be born within a body.
So what indeed does a neshamah gain from coming to this world? Wouldn’t it be far better off simply to stay put?
The answer is alluded to in the very first passuk in this week’s parashah.
“Go for yourself from your land…,” the Ribbono shel Olam tells Avram. The Zohar Hakadosh teaches us that this passuk refers to the neshamah coming down to this earth.
Granted, the soul has a far easier and more pleasurable time in Shamayim. But there, one has no opportunity for growth, and one stays constantly at the same level. It is only this temporal world with all its obstacles, challenges and temptations that gives one an opportunity to “go forth” — to grow and ascend to ever-higher levels of ruchniyus.
For instance, there is a severe misconception that exists in regard to the correlation between the study of Torah and time spent earning a parnassah. Contrary to what many assume, these two concepts actually have a very profound influence on each other.
Certainly, when one spends his available time learning Torah, it has a dramatic effect on the hours one spends working for a livelihood. In addition to numerous applicable halachos and relevant hashkafos, it helps elevate the time spent working to a totally different sphere. For just like the time spent learning Torah is not constrained to the limitations of time, in the merit of the Torah, the same is true for his hishtadlus for parnassah — and he will succeed even during the times of day, week or year that don’t seem conducive to financial endeavors. Therefore, he will not hesitate to take time to learn Torah even during a peak sales season, for he realizes that not only will this not decrease the amount of money he will earn, but can actually increase it.
Concurrently, the time spent working also helps one properly use the time dedicated to learning. For the hours spent away from the Gemara fill one’s heart with a great thirst and a genuine sense of longing and yearning. When he finally is able to sit back down with a sefer he is filled with enormous enthusiasm, determined to make the most of his time.
This same general concept applies to our coming to this world. It is through the challenges we face, because of the fact that we have to spend so much of our time dealing with our physical needs, that we are filled with a thirst for the spiritual that helps us rise to ever greater spiritual heights.
Hakadosh Baruch Hu told Avram, “Lech lecha meiartzechu — go for yourself from your land…” It is only from “this land,” from a temporal physical world, that you can “go forth” and grow. Hashem promised Avram that here he would be blessed with children and wealth. For it is only in Olam Hazeh, a world that includes the challenges of earning parnassah and raising children, where the neshamah of a mortal can rise to higher levels of greatness. (Adapted from the teaching of the Divrei Yisrael, the Modzitzer Rebbe, zy”a)
It is the task of a lifetime for a Torah Jew in the workforce — or even while walking the streets or making a purchase in a local store — to recall that he is indeed “on duty” at all times. Every moment of the day is time dedicated to avodas Hashem, and is an opportunity to cleave to Hashem.
Even when we slip and even when we fall and have temporarily forgotten our mission, we can return in a millisecond.
In his sefer Magen Avraham, the Trisker Maggid, zy”a, quotes his father, the Chernobyler Maggid, zy”a, that the Baal Shem Tov said: A Yid may be so busy with his work that he spends the entire day in the markets and streets and nearly forgets that there is a Creator of the World; yet when the time to daven Minchah arrives he sighs in his heart over how he spent the entire day occupied with the futilities of this world. He runs to a corner and davens Minchah, and even though he doesn’t know at all what he is saying, nonetheless, his tefillah is very precious to Hakadosh Baruch Hu, and the sigh of such a Yid splits the Heavens.
May we merit to have the wisdom to properly use every moment of the day.