This week's parsha
Have you ever wondered why pop-up ads always offer licentious opportunities, and never Torah or mitzvah opportunities? When was the last time you visited your favorite news site and got a pop-up offering you a chance to give charity? Did you ever check the weather and get a pop-up touting the allure of Torah study? Even better, when is the last time you got so riddled with pop-up ads that you literally couldn’t shut down the incessant invitations to the Western Wall?
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev famously said, “Had G‑d put Himself before us and hidden the allure of the world in a book, He could have expected us to worship with a full heart. But is it our fault that He hid Himself in a book and placed the allure of the world before us?”
It is true that today, one can carry the entire Torah, Talmud, halachah and Jewish ethics on a small handheld device. Popular Jewish websites like this one attract millions of visitors. The Torah is no longer hidden in a book.
But the flip side is that worldly allure is also much more readily available. The same device that contains the Torah can contain tempting materials that are harmful to the soul.
Spirit to Flesh
When Moses was told that his time was near, he offered the following prayer: “May G‑d, the L‑rd of spirit to all flesh, appoint a [leader] over the congregation.”
Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev asked why the verse didn’t simply read, “L‑rd of all flesh,” instead of “L‑rd of spirit to all flesh.” Along the lines of his famous words quoted above, he explained that we are an amalgam of spirit and flesh, but G‑d concealed the spirit and revealed the flesh.
Moses prayed that G‑d appoint a leader who was primarily a spirit (albeit clothed in flesh), but who understood that we are primarily creatures of flesh (albeit vivified by spirit). Moses wanted a leader who understood this dichotomy and devoted himself to helping his followers bridge the gap.
A leader must help us see the allure of living with divine purpose. We already know the allure of gourmet food, exciting sports and leisure. Our spiritual guide must show us how much more exciting these activities can be when imbued with meaning.
Just Like Sinai
At Sinai, every Jew felt the palpable excitement of proximity to G‑d. When G‑d magnificently revealed His spirit, we knew with acute clarity that material pleasures pale in comparison to the spiritual.
However, the Sinai experience wasn’t lasting. When it ended, so did the inspiration. This was because G‑d wanted us to generate our own inspiration, and He gave us a Torah to show us how.
Shortly after Moses prayed for a successor, G‑d gave Moses the mitzvah of the daily offering. Every morning and evening, a burnt offering was brought upon the altar in the Temple. The verse reads, “A constant ascendant offering, [as was] done at Sinai, for a pleasing fragrance, a fire to G‑d.”
The simple meaning of this verse is that we are required to offer the same offering in the Temple that was offered by Moses at Sinai. The deeper meaning is that we are required to recreate the Sinai inspiration every day.
We must fan the flames of our fiery passion for G‑d that permeated us at Sinai. The true meaning of an ascendant offering is that our entire soul ascends. Our mindset is uplifted to the point that, rather than feel the allure for worldly pleasures, we are attracted to G‑d through Torah and mitzvot.
It is possible to live a self-indulgent, if permissible, lifestyle and lay the blame for our lack of spirituality at G‑d’s feet. Out of their love for their fellow Jews, the chassidic masters did just that when they blamed the sins of the Jews on the evil inclination placed in them by G‑d. But that reasoning is acceptable only when justifying the sins of others. When we look at ourselves, we must remember to bring an ascendant offering. It is within our power to ascend. And if we can, then we must.
And then, the “pop-ups” on our mind’s screen will be ones of holiness.