Devar Torah - Behaalotecha

Thursday, 27 May, 2021 - 6:26 pm

Wherever We Live Every Moment Is the Place We Make Hashem’s Home

By Rabbi Shimon Raichik

This week's parsha discusses the travels of Bnei Yisroel through the desert. The parsha tells us that when the ananei hakavod- the clouds of glory signaled, the Bnei Yisroel travelled and when they signaled they stopped and camped. In some places they stayed for a year or a month, and in others just a day or two. What practical knowledge do we gain by knowing the various travels and camping places of Bnei Yisroel in the desert? The answer is to teach us that Bnei Yisroel camped and traveled according to the word of Hashem. Still, what lesson does that, that we travelled according to Hashem, teach us today in our service of Hashem? 

The Gemorah asks: How do we know that we may not carry between a private and a public domain on Shabbos? If we learn this halacha from the desert, we know that a desert is not considered a city, but rather a karmelis (not a public domain)? The Gemorah answers that we learn the halacha out of the fact that Bnei Yisroel traveled and camped according to Hashem.

When the Bnei Yisroel encamped, that place became a permanent establishment. Thus, the laws of a private domain and a public domain applied. This teaches us that even though the Bnei Yisroel might have only stayed briefly in a certain place, because Hashem told them to stop there, their stay, however short, was considered permanent. 

When Jewish people traveled through the desert, the goal was not to remain there. Their entire focus was on traversing the desert in order to arrive in Eretz Yisroel. 

This is also applicable to our journey through the galus.  Our goal is not to remain here in galus, just as the goal of the generation of the desert was not to remain in the desert. Our entire focus is on the geula  and on bringing Moshiach.  Since we are here according to Hashem’s will, we have a mission and a purpose to set up a mishkon for Hashem  here in Los Angeles to make it a home for Hashem, even if Moshiach  will come later today or early tomorrow.

The Rebbe explains that a desert has two features: no one can live there and nothing grows there. This shows a level of klipa. Nothing positive can come from klipa, and klipa wants everything for itself. When the Bnei Yisroel entered the desert, wherever they settled converted that part of the desert into a city. There were six hundred thousand households and a population of over two million individuals, they were supplied with water from Miriam's well and they erected the Mishkan. The Midrash adds that plants even began to grow. Bnei Yisroel converted the physical desert into a physical city and a spiritual desert into a home for Hashem. This same lesson should be applied to our avodas Hashem in this time of golus. We are living in a spiritual desert without a revelation of Hashem. Our job in this desert is to erect a Mishkan, a dwelling place for Hashem. 

In this sense, every one of us represents the shevet Levi who must establish our dwellings as a Mishkan and do the service of Hashem in our home - where each of us represents the kohanim.

Sometimes we travel away from home. Even if only for a day or so, we may feel that we are only traveling and what we do is not so important. One might say to himself, “ich bein nor interveigen- I am neither here nor there." Why should I be careful in kashrus, in tznius, or daven with a minyan, etc. while in transit? I am on the road, don't bother me. 

This week's parsha teaches us that even when the Jews only encamped for one day, the Levi'im had to erect the Mishkan, disassemble it the next day and load the wagons with much hard labor! The Levi'im did not excuse themselves by saying, "we don't need to get so involved, why should we even bother, it’s only for only a day or two?” Instead, they knew their encampment was by the word of Hashem and it was their task to prepare the Mishkan for the Kohanim to bring korbonos. They therefore treated every temporary place as permanent, and erected the Mishkan and performed avodas Hashem in that place.

Once the women of Nashei uBnos Chabad had a convention in Detroit. On their way back from the convention  their flight was delayed.  They had concerns about the delay (perhaps because of it being close to Shabbos). They called the Rebbe’s office and requested a bracha because they were, in their words, “stuck in the airport”. Rabbi Klein asked for a clarification in the Rebbe’s name; what do they mean that they are stuck? They replied by saying that the flight was delayed. Rabbi Klein responded that the Rebbe knows that's what they mean, but obviously there's a reason for the delay. There's no such thing as it just being a delay. Obviously there's something that needs to be done with this moment or these hours that you are in the airport.  Whether you travel or whether you stay there is according to Hashem. The Rebbe made this clear to them that no matter how long they are there they should use the opportunity to help others to do mitzvos. They ended up using their time giving out brochures and candle lighting sets for Shabbos. 

The same is true for us. When we travel we must remember the lesson from the Baal Shem Tov that everything is by Divine Providence. The pasuk in Tehillim (37:23) says; “The steps of man are directed by Hashem.” Wherever we end up, even overnight, is because Hashem wants us to be in that specific place. Our whole life is and wherever we are “according to Hashem”. One must behave as if one is at home, and make that campground, hotel, motel or airport lounge into a Mishkan for Hashem.

(Adapted from Likutei Sichos, vol 7, p. 351, Vol 13, Toras Menachem v. 40 Behaaloscha and Sefer HaSichos 5747 Vayigash)

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