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Independent Spirit, Move Up
by Rabbi Reuven Flamer

A sea change takes place in  the Torah reading this week.

We are on the move.

Until now, we have  learned  of the construction of a Mishkan, the Jewish population, and how they  were positioned as they  camped.

We now shift to where they went and what they did.

Their itinerary at first was meant to be short and sweet: a direct path into the Land of Milk and Honey. No stopping. No side tours.

But  the journey metamorphosises into the  more complex.

First, the Jews ran from Har Sinai - Mount Sinai "like a school child escaping  out the door at the afternoon bell, avoiding any possibility of more homework", the Jews ran to escape additional commands. 613 is enough!

They then complained: the Holy Aron (ARK) which travelled in front of them was three days ahead. A pocket of the population complained that the journey was too long. They desperately wanted a place to rest ! 

They were unaware that three days was to be one step into the promised land!

These two events ( running and looking for a place to "chill out") cascaded downward, and ( as we will read of next week) they Jews eventually requested not to go to Israel all together! A three day journey would become 40 years.

And thus began the iconic Wandering Jew!

And we have been,  ever since!

There are clues and cues in every corner of Torah. Our book of "instruction" ( Torah means " a direction") compacts an infinite amount of ideas in some very small spaces and junctions. ( When you appreciate how much so this is, you will begin to feel how this works in all matters of life too).

Why begin the "journey"  now,  in the parsha of Beholaschaspecifically ? What is the connection between the immobile Menorah and the travels of a nation (and you)?

Rest and Relaxation

Travel has evolved throughout the centuries. In days of old people stayed put. Travel was dangerous.  The roads were rough.  Only a strong curiosity and a penchant for adventure motivated travel. And there  were few travel brochures promising sandy beaches with warm breezes to be had centuries ago to get you on your horse or camel! Modern age brought air travel, railroads, open highways, and the luxury liner to entice even the least adventurous into locking the front door behind them and setting out into the great unkown.

The most common reason for moving about,  is change. This memorial day weekend millions will leave the comfort of home, fight traffic, crowds, and deplete their savings to " get away for a change of venue, a change of pace, and change of habit.

For a little R and R. Rest and Relaxation.

Like the school boy and the Jew at Mount Sinai, human nature hasn't changed all that much! We will even travel into the desert to avoid more work and look  for a breather!

Of course, wherever you go, you take yourself with you!

And here lies the secret of  true travel: see new places, experience more " the first time" moments, meet new people,  go to other worlds, without ever leaving home.

Lights, Candle, Action

At the start of the parsha, Aaron, the Kohen Gadol is commanded to light the Menorah. Beholascha es haneiros. "When you light the candles". The Torah chooses a peculiar term for lighting. In place of a more common term Hadlaka(used in the blessing before lighting Shabbos candles fro example) the term Beholascha literally means , "when you rise up". Rashi explains this in two ways: 1) light the flame of the menorah so it rises on its own ( the oil, wick, and container they sit in sustain the flame without outside assistance. Aaron can walk away and know they burn on their own) 2) the Menorah had a step in front of it, on which the Kohen would stand upon.

Beholascha refers to a fire ( the flame goes up) or a step up.

Peer Pressure and the Art of Religious Maintenance

The USA prides itself on being the largest collection of independent minded, entrepreneurial spirited, and ground breaking people on the planet.

Yet at the same time we yearn to be hip, au courant with the latest styles, up and up on the latest hot selling book, best selling movie, and newest high tech gadget. So which is it? Independence? Run with th pack? Trail blaze or See what the next guy says?

An interesting Jewish question: are Chassidim, for example, iconoclasts,  because they dress differently,  or are they sheep because they dress alike?

It comes to peer pressure. How much pressure in your gauges will decide how much you do is motivated strictly out of personal choice. Do  you keep Shabbos because you did last week? Do we dress in Jewish garb to please? Do we show up because we have to or want to?

Are you inspired from within or without?

The first lesson in this week's portion: the goal is to shine. Burn your candle . light your flame so it burns on its own.  Rise upwards,  without outside assistance. Absorb information. Find  a mentor ( Aaron), but inspire yourself. The objective is to always move upwards.

Can  you stay inspired without sinking into a natural course of action? And can you always be on the move without yearning to stop in the middle?

The answer lies in EXPECTATIONS.

Is G-d in your Corner?

Yes, we all crave the comfortable. Don't give me something new ( remember the school boy). We crave our nest ( when do we rest?)

And we always look for something new!

And the Torah agrees. The first commands after Har Sinai is to build a sanctuary. Create your special holy place. " Make Me a dwelling place, and I will reside there".

Then move on. Things will happen that will make you move. New demands will pop up. And you will crave the comfortable.

Juggle it!

The trick is to watch the clouds!

At each stop along the way a cloud stood pillar like in front of the lead tribe  of Yehudah. When it was time to move on, the cloud folded up and over Yehudah,  (the lead tribe in the formation), like a wooden plank ( seemingly parallel to the ground) Then, travelling with a special ark containing  the broken pieces of the first set of ten commandments, the cloud moved ahead of the pack. It  paved an  easy access to their destination, flattening hills, killing off dangerous scorpions, and "scouting" for the best place to stop. When reaching their destination, the cloud unfolded. It  once again became a pillar, a marker in the desert.

The Jews, we are told, travelled by G-d, and rested by G-d. ( the cloud and Aron).

When you see each stop along the way as being laid out by the Aron ( the aron Bris Hashem, the Ark of the Covenant) the path will flatten out like a smooth waxed board. Things will go smooth.

It may look like you are not in your promised land yet. It may feel like you are going nowhere.  It may feel like it is a good time to complain.

If you are travelling in life in order to rest and stop ( the school boy again) you see, you will not see how G-d does indeed have the promise land in mind. But if you leave your stop ( Mount Sinai) knowing that more is the name of the game, for you must always travel upwards, then ironically, the stops will be taken in stride! And you will feel that you are getting somewhere!

A practical illustration: you are working on a new venture. New ideas. New markets. Promises for new growth.
Is the  objective of your business venture to rest? Find a niche and relax? If it is, you may find the stops along the way as cause to complain!

Rather, move forward, knowing, that the forward thrust never ends. If there are stops, it's in order to move even forward.

You  are moving forward because G-d ( the Aron Bris Hashem) travels in front .

He is in your corner and desires and coordinates your steps.

When you travel by clouds.

The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe said it this way: Each of us is under contract in life. We must not only find a way to make a living, but find a way to make a spiritual living. Each place we are sent to ( on business and so forth) is calculated from above.

View the path of  mundane travel stops along the path of life not as the outcome of natural events, but  grand steps beyond the natural  you become a vehicule for the supernatural. 

G-d will always be in your corner and the path will be a smooth board. Turn from Har Sinai and desire natural rest will lead you to complain and turn a short trek into a lengthy saga!

Travel begins in our story of the Jewish people with always moving forward. Beholascha. Always light up.

But moving forward cannot be followed simply as a religious command. Your rising upwards must become natural and comfortable, absorbed and self inspired.


The Talmud predicts an age of darkness before Moshiach's arrival: leaders will have the face of a dog, leading by only polls - whimsical vote gaining decision making ( like a dog who runs ahead and then looks behind him at his master to see how he is reacting) .

We are a generation essentially on its own.
But this state is the last step on the way " to the promised land". The task of our generation is to be the  inspiration in a world bereft, seemingly, of direction . Be a flame that always rises. But looking for others to light you is not the way to travel!
Moshiach is the ultimate independence day. Start your day, as you begin your travel, with a flame in mind. Take a step up.



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