The Rope of Life

When the meraglim returned from their mission, ten of the twelve messengers delivered a grim report. They told of a powerful people living in large, fortified cities. They told of giants, and of the Amalekites who dwelled to the south of the Land.

Kalev ben Yefuneh momentarily managed to silence the others, declaring “We shall surely ascend and conquer it, for we can surely do it.”

At first glance, Kalev’s words are perplexing. The other men had presented detailed, logical arguments why the land could not be conquered. Yet Kalev did not address any of the reasons given by the other spies to buffer their stance. Rather, he simply declared, “We can surely do it.”

Writing in the Warsaw Ghetto during the dark days if the Holocaust, under some of the most horrifying conditions known to mankind, the Pieczesna Rebbe, Hy”d, offered the following explanation:

There are times when a Yid finds himself in crisis and tzarah, yet he sees a viable way out, a light at the end of the tunnel. There are other times so bleak that according to logic there seems no way out.

At such times, a Yid must strengthen himself with emunah that the Ribbono shel Olam can save him, and plead with Hashem to do so. At such times, one shouldn’t spend time racking his brains trying to imagine a feasible way out of his tzarah; for if after all his efforts, he will still be unable to save himself, this may adversely affect the level of his emunah. And that could actually prevent the yeshuah.

Therefore, Kalev declared, “Indeed, everything is true. The people are powerful, and the cities are fortified. Nevertheless, I know and believe that there is no limit to what Hakadosh Baruch Hu can do. Even if in temporal spheres there seems no feasible way to conquer the land,” he insisted, “we can surely do it.” His approach was not logical counterclaims or detailed explanations, but rather emunah and bitachon in Hashem.

Some might assume that while we are obligated to have emunah as we await a yeshuah, this obligation and the actual yeshuah are two separate concepts. However, as the Piecszesna Rebbe elucidates, sefarim teach us that it is actually the emunah that serves as the conduit for the yeshuah.

***

At the end of this week’s parashah is the mitzvah of tzitzis. We read these pesukim twice daily as part of Krias Shema.

On the words l’maan tizkeru — “so that you may remember and perform all My mitzvos” — a parable in the Midrash describes a man struggling to survive in the ocean.

“Grab this,” the captain calls out to the drowning man as he throws him a rope. “Don’t let go of it, for if you do you will lose your life.”

So did Hakadosh Baruch Hu tell Bnei Yisrael: As long as you cleave to the mitzvos, you are cleaving to Hashem, and are “alive.”

The first Slonimer Rebbe homiletically explains that while the techeilis thread on the tzitzis symbolizes the highest levels of yiras Shamayim, the white threads represent emunah pshutah, believing in Hashem without reasoning or calculations.

This is the “rope” the Midrash refers to. As long as we grab and hold onto our emunah pshutah, we are holding on to our spiritual life.

Emunah pshutah is the foundation of our relationship with Hashem. It is among the white threads that tcheilis is placed, for through emunah pshutah one can achieve the highest levels of yiras Shamayim.

***

A prominent Menahel tells how shortly before his bar mitzvah he was brought to the Kopyczynitzer Rebbe, Harav Moshe Mordechai, zy”a, for a talk of inspiration.

One would expect such a shmuess to revolve around the fact that the young boy would soon be mechuyav bamitzvos, or perhaps about the kedushah of tefillin. Instead, the Rebbe sat the young boy down and learned with him the translation and meaning of each of the thirteen Ani Maamin formulations of the Rambam.

The Rachmastrivka Rebbe, shlita, tells of the time that he was davening in Meron on Lag BaOmer. Right in front of him was Harav Mendel Weg, a venerable Slonimer chassid. While most of the gathering were reciting Tehillim or learning Zohar, Rav Mendel was saying “Ani Maamin,” translating each word into Yiddish and repeating it again and again with great passion and kavanah.

Similar incidents are told of the Steipler Gaon and other Gedolei Yisrael. For the Ani Maamin list is not only a statement, it is also a tefillah that we should attain ever-higher levels of emunah and bitachon.

He’emanti ki adaber: I have emunah because I speak about emunah (the Rebbe of Lechovitch).

May we have the wisdom to do so at every opportunity.