UNDER A ROCK
By Harav Y. R. Rubin Shlita
The following is from the second volume of our “A Rabbis Journal”:
When we were kids living in America, one of the sure signs of growing affluence was a move from Brooklyn to the area called Queens. In those days such a move showed one and all that the family had arrived and was working itself up the ranks of financial success. My family made this move when I was at the tender age of two, and strange as it may seem, in time I reversed said move by returning to Brooklyn. One feature that houses had in Queens at the time was a “Rock Garden”. In Brooklyn families had no room for such niceties, but in the roomier suburbia of Queens it seemed that every home came with its own grassy slope and a garden that was a mixture of rocks and small flowers. On every street the same act could be witnessed every afternoon throughout the summer months. Little kids would be seen with hoses watering the rock gardens. As an only son this grave responsibility was mine from a tender early age. There I could be seen, hose in hand, flooding the garden with gallons of water. I soon became as one with nature, (well at least as far as a rock garden would allow) and became quite an expert on all things growing (or trying to) in our lush weed strewn piece of Shangri-La. One of the most fascinating aspects of this early introduction to agricultural wisdom was what transpired whenever I picked up a long laying rock of any real substantial size. Yes I admit to this minor act of ecological mayhem, and plead total boredom as a mitigating circumstance. There I would be, this little Jewish child whiling away my time hose in hand. After a while I would understandably seek some distraction. One shtick was to aim the hose up into the air and then watch how the fine spray became a rainbow in the setting sun. Obviously any one walking past was not all that amused, and so one had to be very careful. When I felt particularly adventurous I would seek out a long dormant rock and pry it up. Oh what fun!!! You can’t believe what goes on under those rocks!! A whole world of life jumped out. There were all sorts of creepy crawlies who had been living in total darkness till I came along to free them. These creatures must of thought “Oh how kind of that little boy…he has brought light where we were trapped in total darkness.” It took some time for me to learn that this wasn’t necessarily the case. Some of those creatures actually preferred to live in the damp darkness under the weight of the stone. To them I was no saviour but rather the instrument of unwanted change. Well there’s no accounting for a bugs thinking, and anyway, I soon got weary of being the spreader of light to the world of small, slippery insects.
Reading the Parshas of Korach and Chukas got me to thinking of those long forgotten days of my misspent youth. Here we have Moshe Rabbenu, the greatest bringer of light in all the world’s history, and time and again he comes up against those who would prefer the darkness. Korach is a perfect case in point. The man is a leader in his own right, well respected, and very well connected. He has witnessed Moshe’s closeness with Hashem, and has lived thru all those miraculous times. Yet he picks a fight with this giant of the spirit, and tries to deny all that the world could see. What possessed such a fellow? Why did he deny the light and sought only the darkness of anger and hate? The very first words of the Parsha tell us an answer. “And Korach took…..” Korach was a taker, not a giver, and this was his tragic mistake. The man sought only to take what was on offer, he didn’t appreciate the need to give of oneself in this world. A taker lives a blinkered existence, he is blinded from anything that doesn’t suit his needs. The more one sees of people the more one realizes how the world is actually divided between the givers and the takers. Takers worship only one thing, their own ego. Even when they do give, it’s usually with an ulterior motive. They seek honor or praise and pay for it with a bit of giving. Such giving is empty because it doesn’t have the spark of light that a true giver passes along to others. The giver will always seek out ways to help his fellow man, and to him giving is not a chore but rather a blessing. Whenever I have been blessed to witness great Torah leaders in their ‘everyday lives,’ I have been astounded at how much they want to give to those around them. I remember once being with The Lev Simcha ZYA and hearing his request for those in need to come forward for a blessing. The Rebbe was ignited with such a powerful force for good that he physically yearned to give of himself to others. He went about the whole of the Shul we were visiting actually seeking someone to bless! If one came to him with a Kvital he would strive to find several levels in which to bless you. This was often done whilst he stood, as if the energy to give could not let him relax. Our Tzadikim are the epitome of giving, theirs is a life lived only for the light. Unfortunately such love is all too rare in our world today. We live in times where selfishness is the norm, and givers are seen as being foolish. People all too often choose to remain in the darkness, even under the stone of anger and hurt. They fear that to give is to be vulnerable, and therefore they build walls of isolation between themselves and those around them. It is interesting that these Parshas are read during a time of the year when we see many weddings. The Yiddisha calendar is such that during these few weeks one can have at least one or two chasinahs a week. The mainstay of any marriage is the ability to be a giver, if not the relationship becomes lopsided and weighed down with dark burdens. When two young people step under a Chupa they bring two different worlds with them. If they don’t realize that they will have to be able to give to their spouse, then they will find those two worlds colliding. It’s not easy, nor actually is it normal. Till now the young person has been singularly involved with their own selves. Their schooling, their relationships, their every move has been done to the tune of their own self-absorption. Now with just a few words, this all must change. It’s not an easy task, in fact Chazal tell us it’s as difficult as “splitting the red sea.” How can we expect them to do this basic change? By showing them throughout their growing up that giving is fundamental. This doesn’t happen thru Droshas or heated argument, it happens thru example. You want a child to be a giver, then show him giving. As a young man I had the zchus to Daven with some very sweet and giving Yieden. I remember thinking, they never called out to their children to come and sit down during davening. Their kids were often seen to be running about outside whilst their fathers were inside talis over the head eyes shut in concentration. How was it that these very same youngsters grew up to be devout daveners? A Guta Yied once explained to me that even when these youngsters were running about outside, whenever they looked inside they saw the fathers davening. Daveners come from davening parents. The same with givers, giving young come from parents who give! Hashem wants us to emulate His actions in this material world. The greatest attribute of our Creator is His capacity to give. This whole world is His gift to us, and there is nothing that we can do that can repay Him. The truth is Hashem has done, and does continuously His good, for no other reason than that this is His essence. As Yieden we must strive to emulate this goodness, by giving for no other reason than that it is our core essence. When a married couple realize that as Hashem’s likeness here on earth, we are meant to give to one another for no other reason than that we feel such a need. Then we are creating light, lifting up stones, giving life to others. In Chukas we find Moshe Rabbenu buffeted with setbacks. He loses his closest of allies, both his sister and his brother. The people as always are restless, murmuring at one point about a perceived lack of water. Moshe also approaches a rock, being told to speak to it he instead strikes it, and thus is denied entrance into the Promised Land. This is so hard for us to understand. Yet perhaps we can venture one insight. Moshe tried to impress on others that from a rock pure waters can flow. He felt so strongly about this that for dramatic effect he struck it! However Hashem wanted us to realize that one can’t teach the giving of the waters of life by striking, only by using words of sweetness. Our actions of giving are stronger than all the ‘clepp’ we can administer.