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Moses appointed twelve emissaries to scout out the Holy Land and return with a report. The representative for the tribe of Ephraim was Moses’ primary disciple, Joshua. Until this time, the lad’s name was Oshua. But Moses added a letter to his name and called him Joshua.
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Home » Life Is Beautiful, Naso

Naso: Self Imposed Confinement

Submitted by on May 25, 2014 – 11:44 amNo Comment | 2,700 views


We live in self-imposed confinement. Our world is confined to ourselves and to the people we love. Tell us about a tragedy elsewhere in the world, we cluck our tongues and move on. For some, the world is even smaller. It extends only to themselves. At every turn they ask only one question, is it good for me?

Such people walk about all day thinking that everything revolves around them. When they see two people chatting they assume it is gossip about them. When someone looks at them, they assume they are being mocked. Such people can’t walk into a crowded room without feeling self-conscious; they assume everyone is focused on their imperfections and are laughing behind their back.

They might be in a room with thousands and believe themselves the only person of interest. If they would only broaden their horizons, they would be freed from the albatross that weighs them down. But they are too insecure to let go. They hold onto themselves at all costs and refuse to enjoy the beauty that surrounds them. The world is filled with beautiful, people and things, and their parochial vision is filled only with themselves. What a crying shame.

Then there are those who broaden their horizons to encompass the entire Jewish nation. For every question they ask, is it good for the Jews? These people don’t live inside themselves. They are concerned for the needs of a nation. This is very big of them, but they are still in self-imposed confinement.

Then you have the Universalists, whose concerns encompass the entire world. Their interests are global. The environment, the economy, the community of nations and its geopolitical balance are constantly on their minds. They are the world’s statesmen and leaders. Yet, they too live in self-imposed confinement.

After them come the scientists and astronauts whose spheres of interest expand to the entire universe. Their interests exceed their reach and surpass even the distant galaxies. Their breadth of view boggles the mind as they study the planets and map the stars. Their world isn’t confined to the here and now; they live in an extraordinary time space continuum and yet they too live in self-imposed confinement.

For truly and really our world, the whole of the universe and its vastness of intricate patterns is like naught compared to the true reality of existence. The peculiar limitations of our sensory organs confine us to the physical dimension of existence. But beyond the aural and visual, the tangible and empirical, lies a world of infinite grace, endless grandeur and all-encompassing love. A compelling and exquisite beauty we cannot begin to conceive.

I refer of course to the spiritual realm, the place of angels and souls, the place of mystical energies and ethereal beings. Except that this realm is not a distant fantastical space, it is here, right where you and I reside – a deeper dimension of the reality we occupy. We have no measuring tools for this dimension and no sensors capable of discerning it. We therefore shut it out as if it doesn’t exist. We cannot prove its existence, we cannot explain its elusiveness and we cannot comprehend its vastness so the easy way out is to deny it. But deny it all we might, it is very much there.

The world we live in is infinite, if only we knew how to access it. It is filled with love and forgiveness, light and inspiration, courage and confidence. Its pristine beauty cannot be marred, its peaceful serenity cannot be disturbed. On this dimension there are no shortcomings or faults, no discord or bickering, no separation or separateness. Here, there is only unity. It is the realm of the one. The one and true G-d.

It is possible to deny it of course, but to our own detriment. It is no different from the self-absorbed fellow who foolishly assumes that only he is worthy of note and a room filled with thousands think only of him. Such grandiose fantasies don’t reward, they destroy. Shallow, self-confined, thought produces no pleasure, only angst; it wears at the spirit and leaves you bereft.

The same applies on the grander macro scale when we speak of reality’s multiple dimensions. We are able to access, the empirical, emotional and perhaps intellectual dimensions of reality. We have notions of the spiritual and mystical, but cannot grasp it. Yet, though we cannot know it, we deny it at our peril. Such denial leaves us with a skewed notion of an existence centered on gratification and self.

From this standpoint, we are incapable of the larger view that encompasses our own slice of life alongside the rest of reality’s dimensional spectrum. Our scope is filled only with ourselves and we are oblivious to everything else. From this viewpoint, we feel demeaned every time our hopes are dashed, feel crushed every time the wheel of fortune turns away.

Lift The Head

We now understand the underlying meaning of the peculiar Biblical terminology, “lift your heads.” [1]Rather than instructing Moses to take a head count of the Levites, G-d instructs Moses to lift their heads. How do you lift a head?

The message to Moses was this. Teach the people that the slice of reality they inhabit, the dimensions they recognize, are merely a small sliver of the full magnitude. There is much more to life than what meets the eye. We can reach higher, we can live deeper, we can access a profounder realm of reality.

When we access that space, we become one with everything around us because the same life force pulses through us all. The one G-d, creator of heaven and earth, made me and all else. We know at once the indescribable gulf between G-d and everything else, yet we also know that we aren’t separate or apart from G-d. What we are, G-d is. What we can become, G-d already is.

From this standpoint, every person counts. Not for one, but for everything. It is a one that is all consuming. The one from which everything emerges. We are each manifestations of the true and only one. Thus each Jew in that census, counted for one and stood with G-d, the one Creator of all.

When we access this dimension of consciousness even temporarily we become transcendent and endless. No number is large enough to encompass us for we are beyond number, beyond all calculation. We are at the apex of all, the essence of reality. In this dimension, we are the wellspring of life. For in us, at that point, the creator is found.

The Torah told Moses to lift the heads of the Levites, to raise them to a higher dimension. The Torah tells us to do the same. Every year when we read this section of the Torah we are instructed and even empowered to attempt this level of transcendence.

It is accomplished through prayer and meditation. It is accomplished through Torah study and prophecy, but most of all it is accomplished though unity and faith. Unity with each other and faith in the creator – the elixir of all life.[2]


[1] Numbers 4: 21.

[2] This essay is based on a talk by the Lubavitcher Rebbe OBM delivered on Shabbat Parshat Bamidbar, 1954.

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