When a multitude of Jews gather together, it gives expression to the basic principle of Ahavas Yisroel -- love of a fellow Jew -- and unity of the Jewish people. When the place of gathering is a synagogue or study-hall, a place of prayer and Torah, and the purpose is to strengthen all matters of Yiddishkeit and holiness, then this unity is extended to encompass G-d, Torah and the Jewish people.
When many people gather, you have people from different homes, backgrounds and groups, as the Gemara says: "For the mind of each is different from that of the other" (Berachos 58a). There are those whose life is devoted to Torah study, others who excell in observance of mitzvos, while others apply themselves mainly to worldly matters in the manner of, "In all your ways acknowledge Him ...," (Mishlei 3:6) and, "... Let all your deeds be for the sake of Heaven." (Avos 2:12)
When all these people gather "as one person with one heart (intention)," with the goal of fulfilling the mission of the Holy One, Blessed be He, in all matters of Torah and Yiddishkeit, then they are truly as one.
Such a gathering in and of itself effects the theme of: "In the multitude of people is the King's glory." (Mishlei 14:28) The glory of G-d, King of the world, is magnified and glorified by this occurrence. The Midrash expresses it this way:
When Israel performs the will of the Omnipresent they add strength to the Heavenly power, as it is stated: "And now I pray then, let the power of the L-rd be great"
(Eichah Rabbah 1:5-6, par.33; Bemidbar 14:17)
It is in this context that we interpret the verse in Iyov: "You should have a desire to the work of your hands," (14:15) to mean that the Holy One, Blessed be He, desires and longs for (as it were) the good actions of the people on earth.
This thought is further intensified by the fact that we meet in the third month, Sivan. The theme of Sivan is Mattan Torah, the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people, which forged the eternal bond between the Jewish people and G-d, through the eternal Torah. The Gemara expresses it this way:
... a threefold Torah (Pentatuech, Prophets, Writings) to a threefold people (Kohanim, Levi'im, Yisraelim) ... in the third month. (Shabbos 88a)
These three together are inseparable, as Koheles says: "... a threefold cord is not quickly broken." (4:2)
When the Jews camped in the wilderness of Sinai, before Mattan Torah, this unity was already effected: "as one person with one heart."
Thus, there is a lesson to be taken from the month of Sivan, the lesson of unity; and when Sivan comes around it bestows the blessing of G-d upon us, to form that unity. This idea comes to reality in this meeting, in this place. That despite the apparent differences in people, time and places we all unify as one person, with one intention and resolve to live according to One Torah.
This is our commitment. What does G-d ask of us when He makes demands of us?
I do not ask ... but in accordance with their means. (Bemidbar Rabbah 12:3)
Thus, we possess the ability to fulfill our mission with joy and glad hearts, with spiritual and physical good health, and G-d gives us His blessings that nothing should interfere with our activity and that the material, mundane world will be a vehicle to fulfill G-d's will. Consequently, body and soul, in man and in world, function harmoniously to carry out to completion the will of the Holy One, Blessed be He, with joy and gladness of heart.
There is also a special lesson for this gathering, being on the third day of the week of Shelach:
- We can glean a lesson from the third day of the week;
- From the Torah section of this day;
- The portion of Tanya;
- Tehillim; and
There is an additional unique lesson for the participants in this gathering, Jewish girls, who were given a special mission together with special blessings commensurate with their mission.
What is the role and mission of Jewish girls? To prepare themselves, so that when the time comes to establish a Jewish home, each one should become an "Akeres Habayis," the lady of the house (the fundamental basis of the home). It is she who causes the home to be a dwelling place and abode for G-dliness, by filling the home with holiness, Torah and mitzvos.
The Torah tells us: "They shall make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell among them." (Shemos 25:8) Now the verse does not say "I will dwell in it," (in the sanctuary) rather "among them," which indicates that every Jew has the potential to make his heart an abode for G-dliness. This dwelling place in the heart may then be extended to include the of the Jew. So that G-d says, "I will dwell in the Jewish home." The Jewish woman holds the key to this phenomenon, her actions will create and direct the atmosphere in the home. This is what is meant by "The wisdom of women builds her house." (Mishlei 14:1) This is true especially in the education of the young children, to reveal the Sanctuary and holy place hidden within their hearts.
To bring all of this about, the education of young Jewish women becomes paramount. They must be educated and infused with Torah and Yiddishkeit and they must be made ready to fulfill their purpose and mission. This will be properly effected when part of their training includes educational work with younger children, to train them in the spirit of Torah and Yiddishkeit.
Our Sages teach that on the third day the Torah says the words "Ki Tov" -- it was good -- twice, to indicate "Good to Heaven and good to man." (Kiddushin 40a)
The ultimate realization of this double goodness is when a Jew combines the spiritual with the physical and infuses both with the fulfillment of G-d's will as expressed in Torah -- the true good is, of course, Torah.
From the third day we garner the lesson and the special power, that revealing the Sanctuary in a Jewish child is the same theme as harmonizing the spiritual and physical together to cause "Good to heaven and good to man."
What do we learn in the third section of Shelach? G-d wanted the conquest of Eretz Yisroel to proceed along a natural path. So He directed Moshe to send people to tour the land and gather intelligence on how best to conquer it. We know that this episode ended tragically for the Jewish people, when the spies returned with a negative report. However, here specifically we find a profound message for Jewish women and girls. The Midrash propounds, and Rashi quotes:
But against the women there was not decreed the decree of the spies for they cherished the land. (Rashi, Bemidbar 26:64)
In other words when the spies returned and said: "Howbeit, the people are fierce ... we are not able to go up against these people," (Bemidbar 13:28-31) the men believed them, but the women paid no heed, instead they faithfully trusted Yehoshua and Kalev who said:
If G-d is satisfied with us and brings us to this land, He can give it to us -- a land flowing with milk and honey. But don't rebel against G-d! Don't be afraid of the people in the land! They have lost their protection, and shall be our prey. G-d is with us so don't be afraid.
Chassidus explains that the spies did not want to enter Eretz Yisroel because they did not want to descend and be involved in the Divine service associated with mundane matters -- practical mitzvos. Rather, they wanted to remain in the desert where they dealt with spiritual, theoretical, and intellectual aspects of Torah. The purpose of creation however, is to deal with the mundane world; to cause it to be permeated with holiness. This is the purpose of the descent of the soul -- "truly a part of G-d above" -- to unite with the material body and create an abode for G-dliness!
This is essentially the role of the Jewish woman as the foundation of the home, to make the home a dwelling place for G-dliness and to open the hearts of her children to be a Sanctuary for G-d.
From the Torah section we also discover that in each generation there are the Yehoshuas and Kalevs, the leaders of the generation, who announce that since "G-d is satisfied with us" and His desire is to bring us to the land -- to elevate us through our actions to convert the Canaanite land to the Land of Israel -- Eretz Yisroel, "They are our prey" -- for everything was created for the sake of Israel -- to utilize all things in converting the world into an abode for G-dliness.
The term used here is "Ki Lachmainu Heim -- they are our prey" (lit. they are our bread). This teaches an additional point. There will be difficulties and obstacles. But see them as the labor of making bread: you must plough and plant, reap and thresh, and so on, until you finally bake the bread -- but after all the toil and labor you eat and enjoy the bread:
When you have eaten and are satiated, you shall bless the L-rd your G-d ... (Devorim 8:10)
In your spiritual service you must likewise overcome difficulties and obstacles, toil and labor, but here too you will bless G-d for the obstacles, for through them you were able to express and evoke your great attachment and devotion to the Holy One, Blessed be He, to His Torah and mitzvos. You showed that you could do G-d's will under all circumstances with joy; completely and happily.
What do we learn in today's Tanya portion?
Now from the foregoing exposition the verse: "I, Hava'ye, have not changed," will be understood. This means: there is no change [in Him] at all; just as He was alone prior to the creation of the world, so is He alone after it was created ... without any change in His essence, nor in His knowledge, for by knowing Himself, He knows all created things...."
and Tanya continues:
That the Holy One, Blessed be He, is completely one and unique. He and His knowledge are all absolutely one, and knowing Himself He perceives and knows all the higher and lower beings [even] unto a small worm in the sea and a minute mosquito which will be in the center of the earth.... (Tanya p. 312)
This teaches us a profound lesson in our responsibility to convert the "Land of Canaan" into "Eretz Yisroel." There is such immense diversity in the world how can one hope to imbue all existence with the spirit of holiness?
The answer is, "I Hava'ye have not changed." The Creator, Blessed be He, has given all existence the essential ingredient of existence: G-dliness! It is the source of all existence -- the true unifying force. A Jew must reveal that underlying G-dliness in everything.
This lends emphasis to the subject of education and the role of Jewish women and girls. The educational goal of a counsellor and educator -- her true inner purpose -- is to uncover the "part of G-d" in every child. To reveal it in such a manner that it will flower and bloom and affect the entire personality of the student. To the degree so that all action, speech, and even thought will be inbued with the "unchanging G-dliness." We speak not of innovating or superimposing but simply revealing what is already there.
Although the children are young, the teacher and councellors must find the proper phraseology and language to explain these important points on the child's level: that he or she has a neshamah, which is a part of G-d, and therefore all of his or her actions and activities must be appropriate and he or she must conduct himself/herself as is befitting such a noble child.
In today's section of Tehillim we read two chapters:
- Who can begin to recount the mighty acts of the L-rd, or make heard the essence of the praise of His mighty acts? (106:2)
This chapter goes on to recount occurrences from our history which portray the mighty acts and the praise of the Holy One, Blessed be He.
- Let them avow to the L-rd His loving kindness, and His wonderful works to the children of men. (107:8)
This chapter deals with events which at first appeared to be dangerous or tragic and then turned out to be beneficial and blessed, which also shows us the wonders of G-d.
Here we learn a profound and far reaching lesson. In educating a child the teacher must use the story motif to transmit ideas. Sometimes the child is afraid of the unknown material or he is afraid that because it is difficult he will not be able to understand. This could weaken his ability and motivation to learn. But, when the concept is presented in a story form the child will relate to it and it will drive away any fear or apprehension; it will enhance his ability, it will motivate him to seek and ask for more and more. It will awaken his interest and curiosity. Scripture expresses it thusly:
Ask your father and let him tell you, and your grandfather who will explain it. (Devorim 32:7)
The child will beg his father or teacher to tell him more about the history of our people and the stories of our past. Torah itself utilizes the narrative form very often to teach us many mitzvos and laws. Certainly, when we educate a child, we must utilize this approach of telling a story on the level of the child -- including the teaching or moral lesson in it and it will be more easily accepted by the heart and mind of the child.
The second chapter in Tehillim reminds us that all occurrences will end in the manner of, "This is also for the good," and therefore, "Let them avow to the L-rd His loving kindness."
What happens when you have a problem child -- one who is hyperactive or difficult to control? He is "wild" in class. Do not worry or fret about this. On the contrary, channel his zealousness and overabundant activity in a good direction. Motivate the child to study more and add more enthusiasm in his mitzvos -- also direct him to added activities on behalf of the other children. What do you do with a child who has exaggerated demands or complaints against the teacher or the leader? To such a child we must relate a story of happenings of days bygone, which will show that there were times and events which seemed hopeless or tragic and yet they worked out for the good, to the point that they engendered more praise for G-d. When you remember that the children in your care are children of G-d, you will realize how their powers have to be channeled into the existing good of their G-dly souls.
Our gathering today is also for counselors of summer camps, who will be responsible for the education of children during this coming summer.
It has often been mentioned that the summer camps provide a greater degree of training than school, because they encompass all 24 hours of the day for many weeks. Thus the counselors should realize the great responsibility which rests on them. First to educate themselves to be "living examples," and then, through this, to educate the children.
This involvement as counselors will prepare these young women to eventually raise and educate their own children, when G-d will bless each of them among all Jewish girls all over the world to establish homes in Israel -- till the coming of Moshiach.
In today's section of Rambam we learn the laws of Kiddushin -- marriage. Jewish marriage differs from secular marriage as indicated by the name Kiddushin -- which stems from the root "Holiness." For a married couple must build a holy house where the Shechinah will dwell.
This is why in the blessing of the marriage we say "Who sanctifies His people Israel...." Every individual marriage is part of the community of Israel, and the marriage of the Holy One, Blessed be He, with the Jewish people. In today's laws of marriage we find the Rambam rules that:
If a minor betroths a woman his betrothal is invalid, (Laws of Marriage 4:7)
whereas in the case of a girl:
A father may betroth his daughter ... as long as she is a minor ... from the day of her birth....
Thus, girls have the greater quality, that from birth they can become sanctified (also sanctified to G-d). They have all the qualities of being a Jewish wife -- foundation of the home -- from birth, which later will be realized when they bear children -- whom they will raise to be G-d-fearing and observant.
All this emphasizes the special connection that Jewish women have with raising and educating Jewish children. Every Jewish child is a "child of G-d" and when a Jewish young woman makes an effort to use her knowledge and experience in educating Jewish children, then G-d increases His blessings to this Jewish daughter, that she will merit to establish a Jewish home and to bear sons and daughters -- to raise them to Torah, marriage canopy and good deeds and to see from them much true Yiddishe Nachas.
Happy is their lot, great is their virtue of the parents who have trained and motivated their daughters to became counselors and teachers for small Jewish children. Similarly, great is the virtue of the parents who send their children to camp, where they will be devoted to the spirit of Torah.
May we merit that by these actions of educating the children we will go to greet Moshiach with the children at the head -- for they were the first to recognize G-d then and, so too, now. And just as the women then loved the land -- so too now -- and this will bring Moshiach now and we will go to our Holy Land, led by Moshiach, may our redeemer come and lead us upright to our Holy land.