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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Be'halot'cha

Parshat Be'halot'cha

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Behalotcha
21st of Sivan, 5780 | June 13, 2020

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb
Of Vacation and Science

There is a letter from the Chazon Ish, wherein the questionnaire purportedly asked, “I am a yeshiva student and we are approaching the end of the term, and I am exhausted and worn out. I know that according to the academic schedule, there is a vacation coming up. But I am worried about it. Where does it say in the Code of Jewish Law that you should take vacations?”

The Chazon Ish writes back, “My dear one, there is no sin nor guilt in taking vacation. You are exhausted because it is natural, after putting forth so much effort, to be exhausted. You should be happy that you have expended so much effort in doing something so important. We should not despise nature, because nature is a word for the more constant and repetitive action of G-d’s will. Miracles are odd events that don’t follow the normal patterns, and events that follow the normal patterns are no less G-d’s will; they are just constant and repetitive.

If you get tired, and it is nature which is behind it, then that means that G-d wants you to get tired. And I’m telling you, G-d wants you to take a vacation. That means, sleep well, eat well, go on tiyulim (trips). If you have difficulty following my instructions, come to me and I will help you.

You wrote me Torah ideas in your letter, but I am not going to answer them. [The Chazon Ish knew that if he would respond, the student would begin looking up the sources and analyzing them]. For two weeks, go on vacation.”

Now, the Chazon Ish was one of the greatest gedolim of the twentieth century, and produced many voluminous works on Jewish law and thought. He was one of the leaders in Eretz Yisrael, and his word was viewed as law in Bnei Brak and elsewhere. He stood at the helm, so to speak, of scholarship and saintliness. There is therefore no question that this is a valid Jewish approach.

I would like to expand on the foundations of this approach.
I have met baalei teshuva who are bitter and resentful over the amount of time they spend sleeping. How many mitzvos can you do when you are sleeping? Zero. You can serve Hashem when sleeping, but not perform mitzvos. “That is a gigantic waste!” some people say. So they look for a diet, or exercise or training where they can find a way they can sleep less. But why is there the view that sleeping is a loss; that it is a religious down? Is it written in the Gemara or Shulchan Aruch that a person should minimize his sleep as much as possible? No. People, in our times, are trying to figure this out, but people should be cautious about drawing conclusions like this. If something of this nature – that you should in fact minimize your sleep – is so fundamental a Jewish precept, then it would have been mentioned before.

The truth is that G-d created us as creatures who need sleep. To rebel against the idea of sleep is to rebel against G-d’s creation. That is the deep reason why there is a problem here. You are not accepting the world that G-d created.

Someone who regrets eating because it is a waste of time, or it could reinforce the desire for physical pleasure is mistaken. There are in fact living creatures that don’t eat. An aerophyte is a plant that you can hang from the limb of a tree, and its roots dangle from the air, and it is nourished by the dust in the air. You do not need to plant it in the ground. Do they have a spiritual advantage over us? G-d creating us with the need to eat is part of the plan for the human being.

A person should eat well and constructively, but to feel undone, damaged and animalistic because he needs to simply eat to be alive and healthy is incorrect. Even though the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim writes something to this effect, that is to be addressed and understood not in contraindication to that which we said. Furthermore, there are mitzvos which relate to things that we must eat.

The idea of a vacation is thus stemming from the notion that Hashem created me, and my body is part of my creation, and I should not rebel against being created that way. It is an acknowledgement that we are physically embodied, and accepting it and servicing it in the way that it needs to be serviced.

The body in fact can be the key to contributing directly to the service of G-d in very subtle ways.

An acquaintance of mine, from America, was at a frum beach when he noticed an older gentleman on a deck chair, looking at the ocean. He wasn’t surrounded by any family. The man looked quite respectable and dignified. My friend walked over to the gentleman, who actually was one of the great Poskim of the generation (though the man did not know that), and asked what he was doing there. “Well,” he said, “I am a Posek; I render religious, legal decisions. When you make these decisions, very often, they depend upon very tiny, subtle details, and you are examining how this works with that. You are thinking in terms of details and small calculations a lot of the time. From time to time, I come to the ocean to restore my sense of the grand, the large, the powerful, the broad. I don’t want to become psychologically narrow to the details; I want to be able to see the big picture also.”

This Posek was using the aesthetics of the ocean to be able to balance his judgment so as to render better, legal Jewish decisions. But think about the mental process here. Aesthetics can contribute to balanced judgement. Now aesthetics is a human sensitivity which G-d created us with. There are creatures with eyesight which is far superior to ours, and I know not one which stares and watches a beautiful sunset for a half-hour. The beauty of the sunset is totally absent for them. But G-d not only put beauty into the world, He created within us the sensitivity to respond to that beauty. And when you give thanks to G-d for the beauty in the world, it is a double thanks: He put it in the world, and gave us the sensitivity to perceive it.

Now, this gadol was taking it one step further. How can I take the aesthetic appreciation of beauty and enrich the spiritual side of my life, so that I can service G-d in a better way? Now you start thinking, the Tabernacle was beautiful, and there was beauty invested in the Beis Hamikdash. Why is Jerusalem described as Kelilas Yofi, the most superb city of beauty? What does it matter that it is beautiful? Why should a Pasuk in Tanach describe it that way? Moreover. why were the Matriarchs described as beautiful, as was Yosef? It is because beauty can be very important spiritually.

Rest, recreation, a sense of quiet and the feeling that, “For the next ten days, things are okay” is of paramount importance. The sense that nothing is pressing on you is vital and valuable to have once in a while. Especially entering into the month following the summer – Elul – which is a demanding time if taken seriously, as it provides an opportunity for great striving against great obstacles, one has to be prepared for that.

Thus, the notion of a vacation is certainly appropriate, given this as the background.

Now, let’s bring the Chazon Ish’s concept further along.
G-d’s will is what runs the world. When we talk about nature and miracles, both are expressions of G-d’s will. G-d does not go on vacation. He did not create the world and then abandon it and allow it to function without His input and supervision.
How are we supposed to appreciate what we call nature? If it is all Divine production, with just some of it repetitive and some non-repetitive, how are we supposed to relate to that?

I am going to briefly give you Rav Dessler’s picture of nature in the world, as it makes this question vivid and sharp.

Rav Dessler writes that our world is likened to a motion picture video. A twenty-minute video might be constructed out of 20-30,000 pictures. The video is merely a sequence of pictures, with the pictures following after one another very quickly. Your eye cannot take into account ten changes per second, so it simply looks smooth. You can see this very well if you simply stop the video; what you will be left with is a picture on the screen. If you then start it again, it will continue to roll.

Each picture is its own independent reality. There is no relationship whatsoever between one picture and the next picture. It is not that one picture forces the next picture to be what it is. The editor can, at will, extract one picture and put in another. You can stick in whatever frame you want.

Every new moment of this world is a new frame. (This is if space and time are discontinuous, which is the case, as dictated by quantum gravity; if it is continuous, then you can take any snip out). There is nothing forcing anything else to do what it does.
If a person lets go of a brick and it falls to the floor, one cannot say, “Well, he let it go; there’s gravity and there’s nothing in the way, so it has to fall to the floor!” No, it doesn’t. What is happening is that G-d is making there exist a brick here, then just below it, then below that, and below that… and on and on… Each one is a separate frame. It could have been stopped at any moment and something else put in-between. Letting it go does not force it down. It is all new.

This is what the Chazon Ish means when he says that nature is nothing but the more constant and repetitive of G-d’s will. The events fall into categories that are repetitive; that is how you can expect what is going to happen, verses miracles where G-d’s will produces something that is not expected to happen and does not fall into the same decision pattern. It is not repetitive in that way.

Now, Rav Dessler says, this commitment that G-d has to making almost everything repetitive is only when we are looking. G-d has no commitment to it when we are not looking; because the whole idea of creating a repetitive world is only for the sake of a particular type of human test; a particular type of human development.

He brings one interesting support from this from the Gemara (Bava Metzia 42a), which states, “Bracha (meaning the expansion of something) is only found in relation to things which are not observed.” The Gemara therefore says that if you are harvesting your crop and putting it into your barn, you should not measure it until the last particular moment when the buyer wishes to purchase it. The reason is because so long as you have not measured it, its actual size is hidden from your eye, and a blessing can devolve upon it.

What does this mean? Why does it make a difference whether you are looking or not looking?

It is because G-d has a commitment to the repetitive when you are looking, but He does not have any commitment whatsoever to it when you are not looking. It is all His will anyway. Nothing is “The Laws of Nature controlling the world....” There is no such thing.

Now, you may supposedly wonder, if there is no such thing as one thing making another thing happen, what about science? Doesn’t science study what makes what happen, and how things force each other to operate? (I am leaving out intricate science where they point out that there is no room for cause, and it is all differential equations).

Can you figure out the answer?

No real causation is happening, but G-d is committed to make it look like it is happening, when we’re looking. Science can therefore explain to me what I will see when I’m looking because they figure out the patterns that G-d is using in making the world, and they can build and predict what will happen. It is because G-d wants it to look that way. G-d is committed to the illusion, and science is studying the illusion well, and thus, they can predict what the illusion will show and what will happen if it is manipulated in some way. Science is therefore very useful to produce something when we are investigating and examining patterns.

If science can give you a handle on understanding the dynamics and patterns and give you a way to create technology which will appear to influence things in such a way, and you will have these patterns reproduced, then it is very worthwhile knowing. Even if the inferences that this is how the world works on its own is a false inference, it doesn’t mean that it is useless.

Newton’s theories are all false, but that doesn’t mean they were useless. The theories predicted things within a certain approximation, and for hundreds of years, we could not measure anything beyond that approximation, so for everything that we could measure, we always got the right answer. But the difference between true and false in our practical world is next to nothing.

If you go to the moon, you use Newtonian laws. If you use the Theory of Relativity, the equations are much too difficult to solve and too expensive, and the difference will be six inches, which makes no practical difference.

It is a widespread mistake, even among scientists, to believe that at medium speeds and sizes, Newton’s Theory is true; and at very fast speeds or very tiny sizes of particles, it is false, and Einstein takes over. That is dead wrong. It is false always; it just doesn’t matter practically.

Newton said that light travels infinitely fast; that it takes no time to get from here to there. For us, most of the here’s-and-there’s are so close together that 360 thousand miles per second is instantaneous. When you send radio signals to the moon for communication, there is something close to a two-second delay, and to Mars, there are several minutes of a delay because of the speed of light. But Newton was wrong, even with the faster signal speed because it is off by a trillionth of a second.

This doesn’t mean that learning Newton’s theory is useless. It can be false but very useful because it tells you about the world enough to make practical successes.

With science, the fault is a deep, philosophical and metaphysical one. Are there causes making the world operate this way or not? That is wholly false as a premise. But in terms of what you will see and learn when you make predictions can calculate them, science can be very useful and worthwhile.

Rabbi David Yosef
The Most Important Mitzvah

When the day will come that we go to Hashem after a long life of one hundred and twenty years, according to the Mekubalim (Kabbalists) and the Chovot HaLevavot, the most important mitzvah we could have performed is that of zikui ha’rabim, inspiring Jews to come closer to Torah and mitzvos. The Chovot HaLevavot writes that if people would know what great reward awaits those who are me’zakeh the rabim, they would run after it all of their life.

Rav Aharon Walkin zt”l was one such individual. Throughout his entire life, he pursued reaching and teaching other Jews. We must learn from him. Nobody knows when our time will come. We all must take the opportunity now to increase in our Torah study, Fear of Heaven and zikui ha’rabim, which is the most important.

We must think of our families, neighbors and friends who are distant from a Torah life and whose children are not receiving a Jewish education. We must encourage and support them in coming closer to Torah.

Anyone who can do anything to bring people to study Torah and develop yirat shamayim, or to participate in Torah classes and to attend shul; that is the biggest merit we can have for the Next World.

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