No Standing Still On The Upward Journey To Redemption



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    Shifra Vepua

    No Standing Still On The Upward Journey To Redemption

    Two men are climbing a mountain and one of them slips and falls. The one on top screams, “Oy vey, are you alive?”  “Yes, I’m alive.” “Did you break your legs?” “No, my legs are fine.” “Did you break your arms?” “No, my arms are fine • Full Article

    BEGIN WITH A GRIN
    Two men are climbing a mountain and one of them slips and falls. The one on top screams, “Oy vey, are you alive?”  “Yes, I’m alive.” “Did you break your legs?” “No, my legs are fine.” “Did you break your arms?” “No, my arms are fine.” “That’s great, so you can climb back up!”
    “Sorry, I can’t.” “Why not?” “I’m still faaaaalling.”

    KNOWING UP FROM DOWN
    The story of Yehuda and Tamar gets an entire chapter in parshas Vayeishev. It’s a story which leads to the birth of
    twins, Peretz and Zorach; and Moshiach comes from Peretz (speedily in our days).
    The entire hard-to-swallow story happened in a place called Timnah. Where is Timnah? How many Timnahs are
    there? And why should we care?
    In the parsha it says, “And it was told to Tamar, saying, ‘Behold, your father in law is going up to Timnah to shear his
    sheep.’” Rashi says, “is going up to Timnah: In connection with Shimshon, however, it says (Shoftim 14:1): ‘And
    Shimshon went down to Timnah.’ It was situated on a mountain slope, so that they would go up to it from here and
    go down to it from there.”
    It would seem that Rashi wants to resolve the contradiction about how one gets to Timnah. But the Rashi is
    altogether strange! First of all, why is Rashi commenting now? If there is a contradiction between Chumash Bereishis
    and Sefer Shoftim, let’s wait until the “ben chameish l’mikra” gets to Shoftim. When he has the question, Rashi can
    answer him. Why tire the reader with questions he doesn’t have now?
    Second, if Rashi wants to discuss Timnah now, he could have done so in the previous verse where the contradiction
    first comes up! In the previous verse it says, “and he went up [to watch] over his sheep-shearers he and Chirah, his
    Adulamite friend to Timnah.”
    Furthermore, it’s not like this is an ingenious idea of the Rishonim; the question and the answer in Rashi come from
    the Gemara, and not only in Talmud Bavli but even in Talmud Yerushalmi. In both Talmuds we find additional
    reasons for the difference in wording that appear even before the reason that Rashi chose. For example, “Shimshon,
    who was degraded there, it says he went down; Yehuda who was elevated there, it says he went up. Another reason
    (proven from verses in Sefer Yehoshua) is that “there were two Timnahs, one on a downward incline, the other on
    an upward incline.” So, why did Rashi pick the third reason?
    And the question of all questions is what madman builds a city on the slope of a mountain?
    The advantage of a city built at the base of a mountain is obvious; it makes the place more accessible. It’s easy to
    reach it. There’s no need to climb. This enables business with other cities. (It’s not for naught that New York is an

    accessible port, as is Tel Aviv).
    Still, there are those who choose to build on a mountaintop. The reason is, although building a city like that is
    difficult (getting the construction materials up to the top of the mountain, etc.), and transportation and accessibility
    are problematic, there is a great advantage. During war, a city on a mountaintop has the upper hand against the
    enemy since the enemy is below and we know (in connection with Yud-Tes Kislev), “The hand of Chassidim (and
    Jews) is on top!”
    But who builds a city on a slope when it’s hard to do business, hard to build, and there’s no great defense of the
    city?
    UP, UP AND AWAY…
    The Rebbe sets out to explain Rashi and teaches us an important lesson in man’s avoda. According to the Rebbe’s
    illuminating approach, the question which Rashi is answering is: why the textual emphasis on the going up to
    Timnah? In other words, even if Yehuda had to go up the mountain to get to Timnah, why do we need to know?
    Should the verse also tell us which bus line Yehuda took or what kind of car he drove? Who cares?
    What pertains to our subject is that Tamar found out about Yehuda going to Timnah and it would have been enough
    to say, “And it was told to Tamar, saying, ‘Behold, your father in law is going to Timnah.’” Does Tamar care whether
    Yehuda climbed the mountain or rode a motorcycle? The main thing (like Moshiach) is that he arrived!
    Even in the story of Akeidas Yitzchok, which happened on a mountain, the Torah doesn’t tell us that Avrohom and
    Yitzchok went up Har HaMoriyah, nor that they went down from the mountain. It says, “And he went to the place,”
    and “and they came to the place,” and that’s all!
    Based on this principle, all questions are answered. The verse Rashi comments on is describing how the “teller” said
    to Tamar, “ Behold, your father in law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep.” Why does the “teller” say that
    Yehuda went up and not that he arrived or went?
    Obviously, we can’t say that the “teller” was referring to the first reason in the Gemara, that Yehuda was spiritually
    uplifted by going to Timnah because how would he know the future?
    That interpretation of “going up” or “going down,” fits better in the textual narrative and actually, that is how you
    can understand it in the previous verse, that it’s the Torah which says that Yehuda went up and it is alluding to a
    future spiritual elevation. But that cannot be said of the “teller,” a goy.
    As for the second answer of the Gemara, that there were two Timnahs, this is also hard for Rashi to accept because
    it would seem sensible that the two cities were far from one another, because if they were close, people would
    become confused between the two places and they would add some sort of description like Timnah-North and
    Timnah-South or something like that. In fact, in Sefer Yehoshua it says there was one Timnah in Yehuda’s portion
    and one Timnah was in Dan’s portion.
    Therefore, when the “teller” tells Tamar that Yehuda is coming to Timnah, he is obviously talking about the Timnah
    where Tamar is and not some distant place. If it would be a distant place, why would Tamar care? If so, it would
    have been sufficient for the “teller” to say, “coming to Timnah” and not “going up to Timnah,” and the question is
    still not resolved.
    This is precisely the reason that Rashi opts for the third and last explanation of the Gemara which is that Timnah is
    on a slope, because that simply explains why it was emphasized to Tamar that Yehuda is going up to Timnah. That’s
    because there are two paths that lead to Timnah, one going down the mountain and one going up. Tamar needed to
    know which way Yehuda went to know where to wait for him.
    Very nice; all the difficulties in Rashi were answered, and what do we get out of this? What does it teach us? How
    does it add to our understanding of our role in bringing the Geula?
    Like Timnah, we too are on the slope of a mountain! When a person is climbing a mountain, he can’t stop for even a
    moment, because if he doesn’t continue climbing, he will fall!

    This fits wonderfully with man’s service of G-d. “Who will ascend the mountain of G-d?” We cannot suffice with past
    achievements and rest in our holy service – because we are constantly on the mountain slope, in spiritual danger. If
    we rest for a moment, we can stumble and end up heading ‘downhill’, G-d forbid. So too, with bringing the Geula.
    True, we did a lot but we cannot take our hands off the steering wheel. We cannot slow down until we reach the
    mountain summit, the true and complete Geula! Especially now, when we are so close to completing the task, we
    cannot retreat (which is true with the current war Israel is waging too).

    TO CONCLUDE WITH A STORY
    We will end with a story connected to war time and problems of retreating, and the ancient Jewish forcefulness not
    to withdraw, not to give in, until the mission is accomplished.
    Friday, 5 Iyar 5708/1948, the British left the country and in the morning, the National Committee in Tel Aviv
    announced the founding of the State of Israel. Immediately, war broke out around the bases vacated by the British
    and the Arabs succeeded in taking control of the Latrun police station which gave them complete control from the
    high ground over the road to Yerushalayim. The city was besieged; nothing could get in, not a bottle of water, a sack
    of flour or food for children.
    The United Nations offered in a panic to remove all the Jews from Yerushalayim. Ben Gurion was torn and consulted
    the chief rabbi at the time, Rabbi Herzog, who was in the city, and asked his opinion. Rabbi Herzog convened all the
    rabbanim of the city to discuss the weighty question of whether the Jews should leave the city for the first time since
    the destruction of the Mikdash. Rabbi Bengis, Av Beis Din of the Eidah HaChareidis, got up and said: The prophets
    spoke of two destructions of Yerushalayim, not of a third. Therefore, we should never leave Yerushalayim!
    His view was accepted and eventually the Palmach fighters broke through the Burma Road and built a roundabout
    road to Yerushalayim.
    Good Shabbos!

    57

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