Parshas Pinchas

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פרשת פינחס

And Hashem said to Moshe: “Go up this Mount of Avarim and see the land that I have given to the Sons of Israel” (Bamidbar 27:12). And later we are told, “And Hashem showed him the entire land” (Di’varim 34:1). Before the death of Moshe Rabeinu, Hashem brought him up to a mountain peak facing the Land of Israel and allowed him to see the land that he would not enter. And even more than that, we are told ויראהו ה׳ את כל הארץ – literally, “And Hashem caused him to see the entire land.” Even from the mountain top, no human eye is able to see the entire land, but Hashem performed a hidden miracle, and Moshe was able to see the entire land.

Why was it so necessary to see the land? And necessary enough that Hashem was willing to change the laws of nature to allow Moshe to see all of the land?! Moshe certainly believed Hashem’s promise of the exceptional excellence of the land, and even without viewing the land, he would be deeply grateful to Hashem. Why did Hashem, seemingly titillate the feelings of Moshe and say, “And you will see the land, and then you will be gathered up to your people [pass away].” What was the importance of seeing the land before leaving this world?

Here we are being taught that we are living in this physical world for the purpose of gaining a sensory awareness of Hashem and His wisdom and kindliness. Although all this would be fully revealed to Moshe in the Afterlife, it was of the most urgent necessity to gain this awareness, in this world, while alive. It is only here in the physical world, that the free-will operates to allow the opportunity for this true perfection of the awareness of the חסד ה׳. And this perfection does not consist merely of knowing Hashem’s wisdom and kindliness, but in actually seeing and experiencing His wisdom and His kindliness.

It is by using our sense of sight here, in this world, that one can best gain the most concrete form of awareness of Hashem. And every extra bit of sensory awareness of Hashem, is another step on the path towards דעת ה׳, the sensory awareness of Hashem’s reality – and of His wisdom and kindliness. “I have caused you to see it with your eyes,” Hashem said to משה רבינו (Dvarim 34:4). “With your eyes,” while you are yet alive and capable of using your eyes to arouse the emotion of gratitude for the gift of this beautiful land.

Now, one should not flippantly dismiss what I’m saying right now, because this lesson is actually the secret of our being alive. While you are living, your חושים, your nerves, your physical sense of sight are meant to be used for the purpose of helping you acquire a much sharper awareness of the wisdom and kindness of Hashem. And that tangible awareness that your נשמה, your mind, has acquired will create an attitude of אהבת ה׳, love of Hashem, that would never have been possible without your sense of sight.

Now, we cannot sit back and wait for Hashem to bring us up to the summit of a high mountain, to be capable of seeing His gifts. And actually we don’t need to. Our opportunities for using our eyes to continuously be acquiring more and more tangible awareness of Hashem’s kindness are endless. But you will only succeed if you remove the shackles of laziness from your mind, and begin training yourself to look at everything in this world with a new perspective. The Torah says וירא ה׳ את כל אשר עשה והנה טוב מאד. Hashem looked at everything that He made, and He saw that it was very good. הקדוש ברוך הוא has already given this world and everything in it, His stamp of approval. It’s טוב מאד. Now it rests upon us to follow in the ways of Hashem and use our sense of sight to look at this world and see the good of Hashem. And through thoughtful sight – and by that I mean, applying your mind to think thoughts that your mind creates – a person will engender true gratitude to and awareness of Hashem.

Now, all of us spend some time walking down the busy streets of shops and stores selling countless different types of items. Even if you’re the biggest צדיק who is hiding out learning in the בית מדרש all day, you still have to traverse the streets to get to the בית מדרש. And sometimes you have to come out for air as well. So why waste such a glorious opportunity? When you pass the fruit store and see the beautiful array of colors piled up high, don’t ignore it. Do you think that Hashem created this rainbow of colors for nothing? Hashem made them for you, for you to see and appreciate and to become more and more aware of Hashem and His endless חסד. That fruit stand is your ארץ ישראל. Hashem is walking you past that beautiful sight, the same way he brought משה רבינו up the mountain. So what will you do? Will you merely walk by and frustrate the plan of Hashem? Or will you stop and put your sense of sight to work, in conjunction with your thoughts, to think about the חסד ה׳?

And when you pass by a clothing store, it’s the same thing. The sight of various cloths, textures, materials and colors are there to invigorate your thoughts and emotions to love of Hashem. The many materials in the stores are presents from Hashem. He miraculously is producing all of these materials for you, from the ground and from the animals. The linen, the cotton, the wool – all expressly created for you, to enjoy and appreciate the חסד of Hashem.

And this is true when you pass by any store on the avenue. Every shop is another opportunity to view the endless variety of goods that Hashem is always providing us with. Plates and napkins. Pens and paper. Couches and tables. It’s endless. What does it matter if you don’t need it right now? Enjoy the sights of the חסד ה׳! Look at all the wonderful things that He is sending down to us. Look at them and begin loving Hashem.

Now, you’re thinking that this is so foolish. Rabbi Miller wants us to be excited about seeing the fruits and vegetables?! About the clothing and the wide variety of goods that are available in the stores?! We have so much more important things to learn. We have to finish Shas, and the קצות החושן and so much more. And that’s true. You do have to do that. But you must do this as well. It’s not for naught that משה רבינו ascended the mountain to see the land with his own eyes. Every bit of awareness of Hashem that you can gather up in this world with your physical senses will have immeasurable consequences for you in the Next World. And all it involves is some planning and thought to use the sights you see as a catalyst for awareness of the חסד ה׳.

And we see this from דוד המלך as well. אתהלך לפני ה׳ בארצות החיים said דוד המלך (Tehillim 116:9). What are these ארצות החיים, lands of the living, that דוד המלך speaks about here? And Chazal tell us (Yoma 71a) that ארצות החיים is the מקום שווקים, the marketplaces. As דוד walked past the many markets, he understood that he was passing through the place that allowed him to fulfill his purpose in life. דוד had learned the lesson from משה רבינו climbing up the mountain to see the land. And he had learned the lesson of וירא ה׳ את כל אשר עשה והנה טוב מאד. And therefore, when passing through the various markets, דוד made sure to open his eyes and see the sights that Hashem wanted him to see. דוד understood that he was looking at the gifts of Hashem. And that’s why he said אתהלך לפני ה׳ – When I walk through the marketplaces, I am walking before Hashem. דוד utilized the sights, and he wasn’t merely seeing the various foods and goods. He was seeing Hashem. The endless variety of goods that are available in the marketplaces are not only there for those who want to pay money. You can reap a much more valuable benefit than those who pay money to take things home. No, you don’t have to give any money. You can keep the money in your pocket and use your eyes and your thoughts to take home the best purchase of all – true awareness of Hashem, the acquisition of True Knowledge that you came into this world to acquire.

And the truth is that you don’t even need the שווקים, the markets, to become more aware of Hashem. Hashem has purposefully laid out before you a beautiful blue sky at all times just for this purpose. But you’ll have to be sure to use your thoughts as well, in order to gain that sensory emotion of Hashem’s kindliness and the feeling of gratitude. It’s not enough to see the beautiful sky, the majestic sunrise and sunset, and the floating clouds and to marvel at their beauty. Many foolish people do that – but they stop there, and that is a failure. A complete frustration of the intention of Hashem. You have to think thoughts of Hashem. Hashem has painted this beautiful portrait for you – every day a little different than the previous day’s painting. And say it with your mouth. “Thank You Hashem for the beautiful sky and the clouds that bring rain and life to the world.” The clouds mean watermelons and peaches and bread and everything else that the world is enjoying. So look at the sky and enjoy the beauty that Hashem has laid out for you, which is in addition to the physical benefits that it provides us with. And say it with your mouth. Even if you don’t believe it yet. Keep saying it and you will train your mind to think these important thoughts. You must use your sight and your thoughts together with your mouth to become a success. And don’t be lazy about it. Don’t say, “The sky was not for me. It’s just part of the בריאה. It’s for everybody.” No, that’s a wrong attitude. That’s why we’re told to say, בשבילי נברא העולם. All these sights are meant for you – for you to become more and more perfect in the awareness of the חסד ה׳.

And if you’re a wise fellow you’ll take advantage of all these ideas, and you’ll even add on ideas of your own. And I’ll give you one more עצה, one more good idea to go home with. The movement of your fingers are an indispensable part of your life. Not one time a day, not ten times a day. Not a hundred times a day. Thousands of times a day, you are maneuvering your fingers in sophisticated and complicated ways. Do you know that your fingers are made up of many small bones that involve complicated hinges and levers? And they were created that way by Hashem to allow us to perform the myriad of tasks that we do – working effectively and swiftly, and rarely tiring. We had a man here in the Shul who was missing a thumb – one thumb he was missing. He had his other nine fingers. And still, the simple things that we do with our fingers, became much more complicated for him.

But we never take the time, or the mental energy, to look at our fingers as they work. That’s what you should be doing! You can watch your fingers work as you button your shirt or as you tie your shoes. As you turn the doorknob or a page in the sefer. Spend one minute a day watching your fingers in action and you’ll be amazed! There are so many opportunities to use your eyes, as Moshe Rabeinu did, and to thereby actually begin appreciating the gifts of Hashem, and to fall in love with Him. ואהבת את ה׳ אלוקיך. You say it three times every day. Isn’t about time you started doing it?!

And this is why the Gemara says that סומא נחשב כמת (Nedarim 64b). A blind person is considered as if dead. Now, that’s a very strong statement. Why is a blind person considered as if he was dead? It’s a terrible, terrible thing to be blind, but what does it mean that it’s as if he was dead? And the answer is this: The sense of sight is the reason why you are alive! Do you hear that?! You are alive for the purpose of making yourself aware of Hashem and His wisdom and kindliness. And your eyes, your ability to see, is the most important way of seeing Hashem. If one begins to use his eyes in the way we are speaking about, then that person is fulfilling his purpose in life. And therefore, don’t waste all these opportunities. I know that it’s not easy. It’s so much easier to be lazy and not think. I know that you’d rather sleepwalk through life. But what can we do? We’re here only to accomplish, and if you get busy applying these ideas, you will accomplish what you came to this world for.

So when you say the ברכה of פוקח עורים in the morning, don’t forget to add this thought. Thank You Hashem for giving me the great gift of sight. The great gift of seeing the wonderful world that You created and the great opportunity that sight provides for success and perfection.

From Moshe Rabeinu’s climbing up the mountain, to gain a view of the land with his eyes, we learn this important lesson. You have been placed in this physical world, with a physical body and physical senses, for this one purpose. Hashem is giving you the opportunity to experience a sensory perception of Himself, in order that your physical faculty of sight should activate your thoughts and emotions of gratitude. And these emotions create a tangible knowledge of Hashem, what we call דעת ה׳, above and beyond חכמה, the mere intellectual knowledge of Hashem.

We say every day תהילת ה׳ ידבר פי ויברך כל בשר שם קדשו – “The praises of Hashem my mouth shall speak, and all flesh shall bless His holy name” (Tehillim 145:21). Your mouth, your flesh, your senses have to be involved in praising Hashem. לבי ובשרי ירננו אל קל חי – “My mind and my flesh shall sing to You, my living G-d” (ibid; 84:3). Your flesh, your body, and your thoughts have to work together to sing to Hashem. טעמו וראו כי טוב ה׳ – “Taste and experience Hashem’s goodness by using your sense of sight” (ibid; 34:9). True knowledge of Hashem, which is your purpose in this physical world, will not be gained from mere ideas. You will only acquire this דעת ה׳ when the the great truth of awareness of Hashem’s kindness is perceived by your physical faculties. And it is that awareness that you have come into this world to attain.
Have a wonderful Shabbos.