Parshas Behaaloscha: We’re in His arms

This week, the Torah teaches us the laws of observing the Shabbos. The 39 types of labour that were done to construct and de-construct the tabernacle are the basis of the various prohibitions of Shabbos.

The Talmud in Tractate Shabbos (31b) has an interesting question. Among the prohibitions of Shabbos is the forbidden act of destroying something. We are taught that this does not apply if one intended to rebuild it again. But what if the destroyer planned to reconstruct what he’d taken down on a different spot? Would that be allowed?

The Talmud suggests that it should be permitted, since the Tabernacle was portable, and moved from place to place along with the people. But then it reconsiders, stating that the verse in the Torah said: ‘By the Word of Hashem they camped, and by the Word of Hashem they travelled”. The fact that G-D told them when to set up shop and when to move on meant that their dismantling of the tabernacle isn’t considered as such.

It begs explanation. The priests did have to dismantle and reassemble the building. What difference does it make as to Who told them to do it?

There are several answers. But perhaps the most inspirational one comes from the Maharal, who gives the following parable:

A mother takes a baby out to an appointment she has in another part of town. Holding her child in her arms, she walks to the station and takes the tube (a subway train in London) to another station, from where she takes another tube journey on another line. The final leg of the trip is a bus ride. They had to physically go from one place to another, passing through many different neighbourhoods en route, changing surroundings numerous times.

That’s not quite accurate. As the Maharal points out, the only one who had to walk from place to place was the mother. The child never moved anywhere. He stayed in the same spot all afternoon: in his mother’s arms.

‘By the Word of Hashem they camped, by the Word of Hashem they travelled’. G-D was the One guiding us in the desert, picking us up and carrying us from place to place.

This idea brought to mind an observation from the writings of renowned Jewish Chassidic psychiatrist and scholar Rabbi Dr Abraham J. Twerski.

Rabbi Twerski once observed a child at a doctor’s surgery. The toddler was left to play with some toys while the mother waited for their appointment. He was old enough to recognise the man in the white coat who suddenly disturbed his playing. Knowing what this man planned to do to him, the child began to scream in protest. Rabbi Twerski followed the child, who was escorted by his mother and the doctor to a separate room. Rabbi Twerski watched as the child was placed on the table, and kicking and screaming in terror as the feared doctor plunged the sharp needle into his skin. Meanwhile, the mother not only failed to defend the child but actively assisted the ‘tormentor’ by holding him down!

And yet, Rabbi Twerski observed, when the child cried after his traumatic experience, he turned to his mother, the accomplice in the doctor’s actions, for a hug!

The child didn’t want to be subjected to that painful experience. But subconsciously, he knew that if his mother, the human he loved the most, was behind this, it will ultimately benefit him somehow.

Whatever happens to us in life, we know that it is our Father, Hashem, Who is behind it. Even if we’re consciously hurt, we know on a deeper level that He sees far more than we do, and does everything for our good. We don’t go anywhere. Hashem does the walking. We, his children, just sit in His arms and trust our Father’s judgement.

(with thanks to my brother in law Rabbi Eli Rowe for the idea)




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