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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 » Pinchas

Pinchas: Jewish Popup Screens

Submitted by on July 8, 2012 – 9:33 pmNo Comment | 3,125 views

Pop Ups

Have you ever wondered why pop-up screens always offer gambling or lust opportunities and never Torah or Mitzvah opportunities? When was the last time you visited your favorite news site and got a Jewish pop-up screen offering you a chance to give charity? Did you ever check the weather and get a pop up touting the allure of Torah study? Even better, when is the last time you got so riddled by pop-up screens that you literally couldn’t shut down (or out) the parading invitations to the Western Wall?

In our minds we do occasionally experience pop-up reminder thoughts to do a Mitzvah, but not as often as we experience pop-up reminder thoughts to go out to dinner or catch a movie. Further, when Mitvah reminder thoughts do pop up, they are rarely never-ending parades that simply won’t leave us alone.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev famously said, “Had G-d put Himself before us and hidden the allure of the world in a book, Jewish Pop-up Screens - innerstreamHe could have expected us to worship with a full heart, but is it our fault that He hid Himself in a book and placed the allure of the world before us?”

It is true that today the secrets of the Torah are no longer hidden in a book. In this new age one can carry the entire Torah, Talmud, Halacha and Jewish ethics on a small hand-held device. One need only access the internet to find vast storehouses filled with Torah treasures. Popular Jewish websites like www.chabad.org and www.aish.com attract millions of visitors. The Torah is no longer hidden in a book.

But the flip side is that the worldly allure is also much more readily available. The same device that contains the Torah can contain materials pleasing to the flesh and harmful to the soul. It is even easier to find such materials online. They literally pop up on your screen and you have to make a point of shutting them down. In all my years of internet usage I have never experienced a Torah pop-up, but I have often experienced pop-ups of the other variety. If Torah abounds today, so does temptation.

Spirit to Flesh

When Moses was told that his time was near He offered the following prayer. “May G-d the Lord of spirit to all flesh, appoint a [leader] over the congregation.”[1] The Rabbi of Bardichev asked why the verse didn’t simply read, Lord of all flesh, instead of Lord of spirit to all flesh?

The Rabbi explained this verse along the lines of his famous quote. We are an amalgam of spirit and flesh, but G-d concealed the spirit and revealed the flesh. He is our Lord, but there is a disconnect between us. He functions in the realm of spirit, but we are tied down to the world of flesh.

Moses prayed that G-d appoint a leader, who is himself primarily a spirit, albeit one clothed in flesh, but understands that we are primarily creatures of the flesh, albeit vivified by a spirit. Moses wanted a leader that understands this dichotomy and devotes himself to helping his followers bridge this gap. It is the role of the spiritual leader to mentor his flock and guide them away from flesh for the sake of flesh, toward flesh for the sake of spirit.

In simple terms this means that our leader must help us see the allure of living with Divine purpose. We already know the allure of gourmet food, exciting sport and leisure. Our spiritual guide must show us how much more exciting these activities can be when laced with inner meaning and abiding purpose. He must show us that endowing these endeavors with true content, can bring them to life.

Living life just to please self can only satisfy in the short term. In the long term we must learn to live for a higher goal and nobler purpose if we hope derive satisfaction from life. Our leader must live with and for G-d at every moment, must feel the pure joy that comes from a melting soul and a flaming heart. Our leader must show us what true love for G-d looks like. Our leader must illustrate utter devotion, inner passion and ecstatic delight for a Mitzvah. When we see this lived out by a fellow human being, who is at once just like us and a cut above us, it inspires us to bridge our own gap.

A leader must relate to the Lord of spirit and to those, who are all flesh. A leader must serve as a bridge between the two and thus show the people how to bridge it themselves. This is what Moses sought.

Just Like Sinai

At Sinai every Jew felt the palpable excitement of proximity to G-d. It was a fleeting moment, but enough to show us that it can be done. At Sinai the inspiration was handed down from above when G-d suddenly revealed His spirit and illustrated its incredible attraction and allure. At that moment we knew with acute clarity that material pleasures pale in comparison to the spiritual.

However, the Sinai experience wasn’t lasting. When it ended, so did the inspiration. This is because G-d wants us to generate our own inspiration. He wants us to be inspired without His help and gave us a Torah to show us how.

Shortly after Moses prayed for a leader that would bridge the gap between flesh and spirit G-d gave Moses the Mitzvah of the daily offering. Every morning and evening, a burned offering was brought upon the Altar in the Temple.

A constant ascendant offering, [as was] done at Sinai, for a pleasing fragrance, a fire to G-d.”[2] The simple meaning is that we are required to offer the same offering in the Temple that was offered by Moses at Sinai. The deeper meaning is that we are required to recreate the Sinai inspiration every day.

We must fan the flames of our fiery passion for G-d and recreate the love for holiness, allure of the spiritual and desire for soulfulness that permeated us at Sinai. The true meaning of an ascendant offering is that our entire soul ascends. Our mindset is uplifted to the point that rather than feel the allure for worldly pleasures we are attracted to G-d through Torah and Mitzvah.

It is possible to live a decadent if permissible lifestyle and lay the blame for our lack of spirituality at G-d’s feet. Out of their love for their fellow Jew, the Chassidic Masters did just that when they blamed the sins of the Jew on the evil inclination placed in them by G-d. But that is only acceptable to justify the sins of others. When we look at ourselves we must remember to bring an ascendant offering. We can ascend.  It is within our power to ascend. And if we can then we must.

[1] Numbers 27:16. See commentary of Kedushat Levi on this verse.

[2] Numbers 28:6. See commentary of Kedushat Levi on this verse.

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