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12 Iyar 5766 - May 10, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
Entering the Yeshiva Reflects the Idea of Osuroh No Ve'ereh

From an unpublished talk given to the graduates of Yeshivas Hanegev, Nisan 5748, by HaGaon Hatzaddik R' Reuven Yosef Gershonowitz zt'l, rosh Yeshivas Hanegev

"For Hashem grants wisdom; from His mouth knowledge and understanding" (Mishlei 2:6). Wisdom emanates only from Hashem.

On the other hand, it also says, "He gives wisdom to the wise" (Doniel 2:21). The question is, "How does one get wisdom to begin with, if Hashem only grants it to those who already possess it?"

This is not difficult, for we must know that even the initial wisdom originates from Hashem as a gift. No one has it from himself! So if Hashem endows that wisdom, what does man add? A person must put his heart to it. He must desire it. He must be intelligent enough to know that he wants wisdom. This alone makes him one of the wise to whom Hashem gives [further] wisdom.

(We find in Midrash Tanchuma Vayakheil 7 where it discusses Betzalel, and it says that he had wisdom even before the Divine spirit of wisdom filled him.)

Moshe's Prophecy in the Merit of His Effort

Let us study Moshe Rabbenu's prophecy. How did he achieve prophecy? It is written, "The Angel of Hashem appeared to him in the fiery flame from within the sneh. And he saw and lo, the sneh was burning with fire, but the sneh was not consumed. And Moshe said: Let me approach and see (Osuroh no ve'ereh) this great sight; why is the sneh not being burned?"

The Sforno comments on the phrase: "And Hashem saw that he had approached to see" — to inspect and contemplate this phenomenon. And then Hashem called to him. Chazal teach us, "One who seeks to be purified is Divinely assisted, as we see, `And Moshe went up to Elokim and Hashem called to him from the mountain.' "

Moshe's "seeking to become purified" reached such an exalted degree that "He gazed upon the vision of Hashem."

When did this all begin? When he said to himself, "Let me approach and see." Without this initial overture, he would have forfeited the ensuing privilege and level. Were it not that "Moshe went up," there would not have resulted, "And Hashem called to him . . . "

This is the meaning of "He grants wisdom to the wise."

From where does the wisdom initially come? When a wise person takes that first step of going to see, to contemplate. When he makes an attempt to understand, to observe, to comprehend. This is wisdom; it is a search, a striving. With an initial effort, Hashem grants wisdom, but if a person does not exert himself, he will not be granted anything.

The Promises to Yaakov Ovinu Were in the Merit of His Hishtadlus

We also find by Yaakov Ovinu: "He went towards Choron . . . and he dreamt," after which Hashem made promises to him. How did he merit all the promises that Hashem made to him and all the providential guidance He showed him, and all the blessings He granted him? How did he merit prophecy, as well?

Rashi tells us, "I say that Mt. Moriah was uprooted and transported all the way here. This is the distance-leap which we find mentioned in Shechitas Chulin, that the Beis Hamikdosh came to intercept him in Beis El, as is written, `Vayifga [he intercepted — or, alternately, he prayed] at that place [alternately, to the Place, to Hashem, Who is the Place of the world].' In other words, Hashem created the supernatural phenomenon of transporting the Beis Hamikdosh to where Yaakov was.

Why did Hashem not detain Yaakov at that location when he first passed by that place? Rashi explains: "If his heart did not move him to stop and pray in the very place where his forefathers had prayed, why should Heaven restrain him there? Since he continued on his travel, Heaven saw no reason to detain him, and allowed him to proceed."

Only later, when Yaakov approached Choron, did he suddenly realize that he had passed by that holy site and had not stopped to pray where his forefathers had prayed. Only after he riveted his attention upon this and returned to Beis El was he privy to the miraculous distance-leap whereby the Beis Hamikdosh was transported to intercept him. It actually came towards him. Only after this did Yaakov merit the awesome dream-vision wherein he saw the gateway to Heaven.

It required a measure of effort and exertion on Yaakov Ovinu's part — but this gained him a glimpse of angels, of Heaven, and the transport of the Beis Hamikdosh to where he was. All as a result of his effort! Had he not made an attempt — he would have had nothing.

We see explicitly from here that the first overture, the first move, must come from the person himself. If we do not make that effort, Hashem will not give us anything.

This is Rashi's opinion. He maintains that it is not enough to will something, to put one's mind to something. One must do something towards that goal. Only after Yaakov went back to Beis El did Hashem perform that wonder for him of bringing the Beis Hamikdosh to him.

The Ramban writes differently. He says that as soon as Yaakov thought of retracing his steps from Choron, he experienced kefitzas haderech and reached the place where his ancestors had prayed. No, says the Ramban; he did not yet return to Beis El nor did the Beis Hamikdosh yet intercept him on his way back. He says that as soon as Yaakov `set his mind' and decided to return, and before he even took a step in that return direction, Hashem already brought Mt. Moriah to him.

We see then, that even according to the Ramban, one must, indeed, take the initial step. But that step does not have to be in action; the thought and the will and the intent is enough in and of itself to be considered hishtadlus. This is the literal `putting one's heart,' or intending. A person must make the decision of direction; he must know where he wants to go, and choose that path in his mind and heart. Without this choice, Hashem will not give him anything. It all depends on his `putting his mind' to it.

"And His Heart Was Lofty" — Leads to Prophecy

We are told in Parshas Vayakheil 35:21, "Every man whose heart uplifted (nosso libbo) him . . . " gave donations for the building of the Mishkon. What is the meaning of a heart uplifting or propelling a person? The Ramban explains this `loftiness' as magnanimity, generosity, a sense of openheartedness.

The Jews in the desert suddenly felt an inclination towards certain crafts and skills. They had not been taught or trained in these skills but found within themselves the drive and aptitude to use them. "And his heart was lofty in the ways of Hashem (Vayigba libbo bedarkei Hashem)." A person did not need a mentor or teacher. He felt the skills well up from inside him, and when he felt that arousal, he seized it and volunteered. And then he truly experienced those powers being endowed to him by Heaven. And so it is: if a person feels that awakening, the potential within him, and he asserts it, he will receive the necessary powers from Heaven to translate it into deed.

How does one go about it? How does one arouse oneself, elevate oneself?

Yonoson ben Uziel translates the posuk that says that they came with the "uplifting of the heart" to mean that the men whose hearts aroused them verily reached the level of prophecy, of ruach hakodesh — the divine spirit of Hashem motivated him into action.

And how does one attain that?

In fact, there seems to be a contradiction here. We see that "the heart was lofty in the way of Hashem." But elsewhere in Sanhedrin, a person is urged to be humble and hold himself lowly. Rashi explains there: "Make yourself like dust, and lowly so that you will survive, like a dark house. In a dark house one does not open the windows to examine if there is a nega tzora'as and therefore the Cohen will not be able to see the actual nega but will pronounce the house pure right away." One who wants to survive should adopt this strategy: be like a dark house where we do not open the windows and therefore it survives [and is not destroyed in the course of the nega purification process].

We see here two approaches to serving Hashem:

The first is a lofty heart; the second is through humility and being truly low. The truth is, however, that they do not conflict. How, then, can they be reconciled?

A person must elevate himself in order to receive renewed powers so that he can rise all the higher. But if he rises with haughtiness and pride and believes that he has knowledge and power, then he has not truly risen. This is not the `way of Hashem.'

Only if he compares himself to a darkened house and thinks of himself as having nothing, can his heart become exalted in the way that is truly of Hashem. He must remove his outer trappings, his externals, his extra layers, and let his soul soar. If he leaves his ego and pride behind, he is granted great powers from Hashem which can lead him all the way to the level of prophecy. However if he seeks to elevate himself together with his externals, his self-importance, this sort of loftiness is of no value whatsoever.

Hishtadlus upon Entering Yeshiva

Those who come to study in yeshiva must come in order `to see,' like Moshe Rabbenu, to approach and examine, to be receptive. Then Hashem will grant them wisdom, from His part, and they will be able to continue along their path, in the merit of their initial effort.

Dear Brothers!

On this first day of yeshiva, you came empty-handed, only with a driving spirit of kedushoh, of wanting to approach in order to see. And one can say, "Were it not for that auspicious day [of Mattan Torah], how many other Yosefs [nobodies, John Does] are there in the marketplace [of life]?"

There are many `Yosefs' in the streets, but where are they today? You have been privileged to enter the hallway of Torah. This seems to be a miracle, but the truth is that it is no miracle; this is the reality of one who `approaches to see,' who makes the effort to capture and embrace the marvelous vision of a yeshiva. For whoever turns to see Hashem, is granted special siyata deShmaya and wisdom. One must remember and not forget to be grateful to Hashem for the great kindness which He showers upon each and every one of us.

Fortunate is he whose portion is among the dwellers of the beis hamedrash and not among the streetcorner loiterers. In Nisan were our ancestors liberated, and in Nisan will they again be liberated.

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