Friday, July 09, 2010

Matos 5633 Second Ma'amar

The Midrash[1] teaches that there are two ways a person can have wealth.  He can receive a gift from heaven or he can grab it for himself.  A gift from heaven lasts.  When he grabs it for himself it is likely to be taken from him.  The Midrash gives examples.  Korach and Haman were wealthy yet, not only did their wealth not last, they too, were destroyed.

The Sfas Emes has difficulty with this Midrash.  Does not everything come from God?  What then is the difference between a gift from heaven and a gift that one grabs for himself?

The answer is alluded to this very same Midrash.  The Midrash says that when the gift comes as a result of the strength of the Torah, it survives.  The strength of the Torah permeates the entire world.  The Zohar[2] teaches that God created the world with the Torah.  Therefore, of course, a person’s wealth exists through the power of the Torah that inheres in it.  Everything exists due to the power of the Torah within.

The difference between a gift of heaven and a gift that one grabs can only be in a person’s own attitude towards it.  As long as we understand and internalize the knowledge that what is ours is a result of the power of the Torah, it survives.  When we forget this and begin to believe in the effectiveness of our own actions, we are on dangerous ground.

The tribes of Gad and Reuven were involved with their cattle and flocks to the extent that they were unwilling to enter the land of Israel.  They believed in the effectiveness of their own actions.  Had they entered the land they would have merited their portion in the land and the portion that they received on the eastern bank of the Jordan River.  Instead, they lost everything.  Reuven and Gad were the first tribes to be exiled.[3]

Practical Application

We understand intellectually that everything comes from God.  Applying this understanding to our daily lives is difficult.  The Sfas Emes implies, though, that the difficulty is because we do not internalize this idea.  It remains outside of us.  Because we do not internalize it, when we are under pressure we tend to forget and then we act, like the children of Gad and Reuven, as if our actions can be effective while leaving God out of the picture.

So, our work is to internalize the fact that everything we have is from God and will survive specifically because of our undying faith that this is true.  When this understanding informs our approach to situations and decisions, we know that we need not fear loss.

[1] Bamidbar R. 22:7
[2] Zohar 1:5a Introduction
[3] Divrei Hayamim A 5:26

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