Relinquishing the Load

This week we read the perplexing episode of the misonenim. The rabble, rejecting the mann, demanded alternate, more “normal” food, the kind they were used to in Mitzrayim. Their complaining spread through the camp and was picked up by the rest of Bnei Yisrael.

We have no inkling of the greatness of the generation that left Mitzrayim, and we cannot fathom what this tragic episode was really about. Its lessons, however, are applicable to every generation.

Ramban teaches that as Bnei Yisrael left Midbar Sinai, which was near populated areas, and headed into the fearsome desolate wilderness, they began to agonize about their immediate future. How would they survive, what would they eat and drink, and how would they manage to overcome the seemingly insuperable difficulties when they would finally emerge from a huge and brutal desert?

Their grievous sin was the bitter and negative cast of their attitude. For they should have followed Hashem with joy and happy hearts, grateful for all the favors He had shown them.

* * *

One of the most challenging nisyonos of our generation is finding — feeling — happiness in our lives. Simchah is a crucial, non-negotiable element of avodas Hashem, and yet all too often we find ourselves feeling sad and down.

The cause is often a lack of spiritual fulfillment, a yearning for a sense of real accomplishment. Reorganization of priorities and rearranging daily schedules to make more time for what really counts in life can help.

Or it is the challenges and stresses of day-to-day life that wear us down. From the financial recession to the shidduch crisis, with a host of other problems in between, virtually every member of our community carries his or her own “sack” filled with challenges.

How can one be expected to fill his heart with joy when it is already filled with worries?

The answer can be found in another part of this parashah.

Chazal (Shabbos 31b) quote the view of Rabi Yose that the issur on Shabbos of soseir — dismantling — applies only to dismantling for the purpose of building something in the same place.

The Gemara wonders about this, for all the 39 melachos are based on tasks that took place in or for the Mishkan, and the Mishkan was dismantled only prior to traveling to a different location.

The Gemara answers that since it says (in this week’s parashah) “By the word of Hashem they would encamp,” it is considered as if the Mishkan was dismantled for the purpose of building in the very same location.

Hagaon Harav Chaim Shmuelevitz, zt”l, explains:

When one inquires where an infant is, the reply usually given is not a location but rather, “He is with his mother.” Regardless of street or city, the “place” of the child is described as “with his mother,” wherever she may be.

So too, Bnei Yisrael were, kevayachol, “with Hashem.” No matter where they were, they were being “carried” by Hashem. Therefore, the dismantling and re-erection of the Mishkan were always in the same location: “with Hashem.”

* * *

If those who demanded meat, yearning for the “good old days” in Egypt, would have recognized that they were “with Hashem,” that all their needs were going to be taken care by the Omnipresent, they would have had no reason to worry.

The parable is told of a bedraggled beggar who was trudging down the road with a heavy knapsack. A wealthy man drove by in a splendid coach and offered him a lift.

The poor man gratefully accepted and sat down in the comfortable seat, carefully placing the knapsack on his lap. His benefactor pointed out that there was plenty of room on the adjoining seat for his bag. “It is nice enough of you to offer me a ride,” the beggar said. “I wouldn’t want you to have to carry my baggage as well!”

Exasperated by this foolishness, the benefactor explained that his carriage was in any case carrying both man and burden, whether the burden was on a lap or on the seat.

All that we own and all that we need come from Hashem, the Source of all solutions, the answer to all our dilemmas. Since in any case our loving and caring Father “carries” our burden, why should we insist on carrying it as well?

Certainly this is easier to articulate than to internalize. Achieving elevated levels of bitachon is the work of a lifetime. But emunah and bitachon are the keys to our happiness; working on them is our duty and our salvation.