The summer session has just begun. It's cool in the early morning, hot in the afternoon and chilly at night. That means that virtually anyone who wants to complain, can find the right time of day declare the weather unbearable. This means that the new girls can always find an ice-breaker when they sit together in the cafeteria for the first time. Complaining in unison generates a feeling of belonging and commonality. There are entire movements that thrive on the good feelings that shared hatred and communal negativity foster. Where would the U.N. be without Israel?
My purpose isn't to go political on you. That would only lead (at best) to still more overeating. No. It is to take you back to this past week's Parshah, Behaaloscha. It begins with Aharon being told his service in preparing the menorah was even greater form of service than offering the sacrifices that princes of each tribe offered as was narrated in last Parshah. The menorah was a physical embodiment of the collective light of the souls of the Jewish people. As Ramban points out, this light will last forever. The miracle of Chanukah (which of course involved lighting the menorah) demonstrates something about the eternal nature of this sort of light. The perfect way to inspire someone reach their potential is to give them what they need to retain their sense of enlightenment without needing you. Your ideal is enlightenment, not co-dependence. Aharon had to see that each light would stay lit.This means that you and the person you are trying to touch both have to value anava (humility) more than you value dominance.
Towards the end of the Parshah you have the rather cryptic story of Eldad and Meidad. It took place after the Jews complained. They demanded to have food that was anything but the mann that fell from heaven. Their complaining had taken on its own energy; they couldn't complain about the taste of the mann, since it tasted however you wanted it to taste. They couldn't complain about how far they had to go to get it, or how original you had to be to prepare it. They complained about it being a Divine gift, unlike the food that they "earned" in Egypt. They wanted to feel more important, and resisted the humility ad reliance on G-d that was one of the main lessons that the mann taught. At this point, Moshe told G-d that the task of taking care of the Jews was beyond him. G-d then told him to locate the seventy elders who were the men the Egyptians had put in charge of the work-brigades during the enslavement. Instead of doing what the Egyptians demanded, which was to use every inhuman trick in the book to make their fellow Jews work still harder, they took the blows of their supervisors when the men under them didn't meet the impossible quotas that they had been assigned.
There was one problem. There were twelve tribes. If you want each tribe to have the same number of elders representing them and caring for them, you get either 60 (12x5) which is too few, or 72 (12x6) which is too many. No tribe would willingly reduce the number to 5, which created a problem. Eldad and Meidad, who were elders, decided that even though they had shared the same agonizing choices as the others, and had the same right to reach the prophetic state that the others would reach if they were to share in Moshe's role of leading and of transmitting Torah. Alsheich quotes the Talmud which tells us that (and how) their humility benefited them. They realized that only 70 men would be chosen. The excluded themselves from the selection and stayed outside. They said, "We know ourselves. Let's separate ourselves and let them stay". The chosen elders experienced a profound prophetic experience while they were in the appointed tent. Eldad and Meidad were outside, in the general area and had an experience that was just as deep. This was unheard of until now; up to this point, prophecy came to them through Moshe and only Moshe during their stay in the desert. Eldad and Meidad's humility opened the door to reaching a prophetic level no one else had reached. They saw that Moshe would not lead the Jews into Israel, and the result (Malbim explains) would be that the wholeness that G-d had in mind when He created the world would not yet occur. It would have to wait until much later. They prophesized about the wars of Gog and Magog that the prophets who lived hundreds of years later narrate. Before Moshiach comes, there will be great world powers. One will view himself as the "roof" (gag in Hebrew is roof) that holds the world together. In modern language, we would call it an umbrella organization or movement that is all inclusive. There will be opposition. Magog(the roof-maker) will want the right to be the ultimate determinant in the direction the world takes, as well. What characterizes them both, is their almost unlimited arrogance. Neither one has room for any path but his own, or any complaint about any aspect of his vision. The contrast between their humility, and the light that it opens you to see, is the exact opposite of the nations who are too blinded by their own ambitions to see anything but themselves. There is no inner menorah to give them light.
Humility means seeing Hashem as great, and yourself as small. It means not pursuing recognition, dominance, or honors. Its hallmark is not complaining about what life is but seeing its beauty and feeling humbled before its Author.
And now, my dear dear friends, comes what I really wanted to share with you in this letter. Time has passed since the terrorist attack in the Bnei Torah shul in Har Nof in Cheshvon. My grandson's Bar Mitzvah took place last Tuesday. He is the child who escaped the scene of the massacre by crawling under the tables and feet and running home to tell my daughter that Arabs are in the shul and are killing people with their hatchets and guns. It was, as you can imagine a very special celebration of life and of Hashem's generosity. One of the guests was Risa Rotman, whose husband, Chaim Yechiel ben Malka is still unconscious as a result of the violence that he suffered. She pointed out that every one of the seven families that were involved directly have reason to give thanks, and to move beyond seeing only darkness. She married off a son, Rebbitzen Twerski, who lost her husband Rav Moshe, son is engaged. Brianna Goldberg of the Neve office whose husband R. Avraham was killed, had a great-grandson, a privilege that only a generation ago was very rare. Adina Mualmi's daughter is getting engaged tomorrow night, and another daughter who was childless for many years had twins. Her husband, Eitan ben Sara still needs tefillah for a full recovery, but has vastly improved. Chaya Levine's, who is now the assistant director of Neve, had lost her husband as well. Her daughter got married this year. Yaakova Kupinski moved into a beautiful spacious new home. We are worthy of the miracle of being at Mordechai's bar-mitzvah, watching him give a siyum and hearing his father, my dear son in law give a moving dvar Torah when only a half a year ago we didn't know if he would survive. If anyone other than Risa would have pointed this out, I would have been offended. It would sound to my rather un-humble ear cloying and patronizing. Coming from the one who has certainly suffered, it sounds different. It sounds like humility of the purest and most genuine kind.
Her menorah is lit
And stays bright
When you don't see
Who is holding the flame.