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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Off The Derech!

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

If there are so many people going ‘off the derech’ maybe it’s the ‘derech’ that is ‘off the derech”! There are too many people that just don’t seem to fit in.

Let’s open a window into Jewish history just where this week’s Parsha takes us. By this time Moshe had already had his share of difficult moments and disappointments with Klal Yisroel. He had the frustrating experiences with Pharaoh; he watched his people betray G-d as they built the golden calf; he listened to the people of Israel audaciously complain against G-d when they didn’t like the taste of the Manna; he managed a rebellion against his leadership and he fought against the spies for the honor of the Land of Israel.

Through all of this, our Rebbe Moshe, more or less never lost his cool.

One day the leaders of two of the tribes of Israel, Gad and Reuven, came to Moshe in a very respectful tone and voiced a request. “We are abundant with flock and children,” they said, “can we please stay on this side of the Jordan where there will be plenty of room for us?”

Moshe responded in a whole new way. According to one medrash he scolded them for three days straight. He threatened them and nearly cursed them.

Why did this request set off something in Moshe beyond any response that we have ever seen before?

The answer is that until this point in the history of the new Jewish people, even when we sinned we did so as a people. We had ups and we had downs but it all took place within the framework of Klal Yisroel. Now, for the first time in history, a group came to Moshe and said,”We want out!”

They had no problem with G-d, with Torah or with Moshe. They had no interest in mutinying or revolting. They just didn’t want to be part of the Jewish people. They just wanted to start their own private community with like minded relatives and be left alone. They would be more comfortable that way. According to the Zohar they were elitist.

Moshe saw red. He saw before him the first major division in Israel. He listened to the plans for the first break away minyan. When the integrity of the wholeness of the Jewish people was compromised Moshe knew that it meant trouble. The Jews relationship with G-d is dependent on its wholeness. The definition of Judaism is 12 separate tribes combined as one.

Obviously we are entitled to do our own thing and make ourselves comfortable. But there is a line. There is always a Jordan River. If you are on the other side of the river, or if you push someone else over the river, you have gone too far.

Today in Israel many of the neighborhoods and even entire cities are divided amongst different kinds of Jews. This has to change. Jews have to see each other, live together, pray together and see the beauty of each others lifestyle. Let’s get on the same side of the Jordan!

Look at the Talmud. There is actually not a page of the Talmud that doesn’t record an argument between Rava and Abaye. Almost 3000 arguments! At the end of so many of them the Talmud records “Tirgama Abaye aliba D’Rava.” Abaye explained the law according to the logic of Rava. Beis Hillel, always repeated the opinions of Beis Shamai before saying their own opinions.

I think that if we fix Israel and even the world on a micro level, Hashem will fix it on the macro. During this period of the year we must develop a policy of inclusiveness. Find someone who doesn’t fit in; someone who is staying on the wrong side of the Jordan; someone who feels they are not part of the whole, hold their hand and walk them over the river. If we can learn together and daven together, with G-d’s help we will build the Beis HaMikdash together.

Dedicated by my friend Mr. David Mayerfeld of Monsey, “in honor of Rabbi Haber and all of Torahlabs terrific outreach work.”

Thank you David - may Hashem bless you and yours!

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