Devar Torah - Matos/Masei

Friday, 13 July, 2018 - 10:32 am

A lesson from this week’s rescue of
12 Thai soccer players and their coach:
Neither the lack of Air, the Raging Waters nor a safe Passageway
will deter our Escape from Galus!

By Rabbi Shimon Raichik

Since this week’s parsha of Matos-Masai always falls out during the Three Weeks there must be a connection between the two. Also everything that occurs in the world is by hashgacha protis, therefore the rescue of 12 Thai soccer players and their coach who were trapped in a cave in northern Thailand for more than two weeks and finally rescued against all known precedent or prediction is also connected to this time period and all serve as a timely message in the service of Hashem.

The Rebbe explains that the name of the first parsha Matos, translated as a hard stick represents the resolve and the decisive spirit of the Jew while in Galus. The name of the second parsha Masai, journeys, represent our spiritual travel through the Galus and reminds us that everything we experience throughout  is always and solely a journey to reach Yarden Yericho the edge of Eretz Yisroel which symbolizes the coming of Moshiach.

We also read parshas Pinchas during the Three Weeks. Pinchas represents self sacrifice and complete determination to the unwavering fulfilment of Hashem’s will even at the darkest of moments of Galus.

This week the dramatic story of the boys who hiked into the Tham Luang Nang Non cave system on June 23 and then became trapped by floodwaters has riveted people around the world. It took an increasingly happy turn over the last three days as an international team of divers brought out the boys in three stages.

The group was found trapped in the flooded area half a mile below the surface by two British divers a week ago in a chamber some 2.5 miles from the cave’s mouth.

Tuesday’s rescue mission succeeded in retrieving the remaining four boys and the coach. The last people to emerge from the cave were a doctor and three members of the Thai Navy SEALs at 10 pm Tuesday local time. The boys are in good overall health, according to Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health.

Certainly in the days and years ahead this unique story will become a long remembered historical event especially as more details surface. Most remarkable was the miraculous outcome of them all being extracted safely from a dangerous life threatening scenario with a collective international effort. Many of the rescuers heroic self sacrifice and resolve along with the positive yet innocent nature of the boys coupled with multiple close calls right up to the very end riveted the worldwide community.

In retrospect their journey into the cave can be seen as a mistake. Once they miraculously survived and then we're found, everyone mobilized with iron will and determination, to do all possible to save them. That determination not to give up or even falter when all seemed lost until they arrived to safety reminds us of the theme of parshas Matos-Masai.

Galus can be likened to a hole or even better yet by way of analogy in this situation to a cave system.  The dangers that we face in Galus are the raging waters, the lack of oxygen and the prospect of elongated entrapment with no escape.  

The raging waters represent the pleasures of this world. We can thrive if we keep them in check,  if we are unconcerned they could eventually drown us.

The potential loss of oxygen represents a lack in Torah study which is our life line in Galus. A Jew can remain strong and determined with a good supply of air from the life that we receive from the study of the Torah. At first it may go unnoticed as our oxygen supplies are slowly diminished, but by then it’s very close to too late when it finally happens.

Lastly we face the prospect of despair if we aren’t actively engaged in an escape strategy. If we do nothing, and push a solution off until some unknown and distant date we run the risk of becoming entirely lost in the cave.

The lesson of this week's parsha is to remain strong (Matos) and to move forward (Masai) with a clear vision of complete escape, our ultimate arrival to the banks of the Jordan River, the arrival of Moshiach.

When we look at the culture of today in 2018 I have noticed some lack a concern about the impact unbridled pleasures of the world can have on the long term survival of their Judaism. Some say they want to have it all, they want their Judaism together with all the pleasures this world has to offer. The lesson of the Three Weeks is not to be complacent about the dangers that the raging waters can present. Some of us have become experts at being indifferent to those dangers and with great skill close their ears the warnings of others to moderate the blessings of this world within the proper context of a Chassidishe lifestyle. It takes work but it’s well worth surviving.

Another essential thing we need to recognize today more than ever is the benefits of clean air,  the long-term benefits of daily Torah study in our life and it’s life transforming effects for ourselves our families and communities as well as the entire world.  If we lack Torah study we may not notice at first how deeply it is affecting us but over time we can lose consciousness, just as the one diver who lost his life when he fell asleep without his oxygen.

The complacency of living without an immediate escape strategy is the third danger. The urgency of needing to act immediately with all of our strength and resolve is critical just as it was to the rescue in Thailand. A sense that we have all the time in the world, that Mivtzoyim can wait till a later stage of life or that the Mivtza of Moshiach is only for our spare time or when the Rabbi speaks can delay our entire mission. The Rebbe gave us the power and responsibility to dive into the cold and murky water to pull all those that are drowning and give them life support and an exit strategy out of the Galus.

Underneath it all  we all know very well that we need air, that we’re out of time, and that we can drown (G-d forbid) in the Galus,  especially when we look at our children and our grandchildren and the future they face. Through the inspiration of this week's Torah portion we gain the clarity and decisive spirit,  the resolve and the positive attitude to travel immediately forward toward the final and complete escape from Galus.

During the three weeks we strengthen our vision of the future Redemption by learning Hilchos Beis HaBechira, the laws concerning the building of the Beis HaMikdash. The Rebbe is in charge of this operation and has brought us all together to complete our mission revealing Moshiach now!

A Good Shabbos, A Good Chodesh.

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