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Thursday, 26 November 2015

Developing Spiritual Maturity

Daf Yomi Sotah 31

A little boy was sitting on a park bench with one hand resting on an open Bible. He was loudly exclaiming his praise to Heaven. "Hallelu-kah! Hallelu-kah! Hashem is great!" he yelled without worrying whether anyone heard him or not.   Shortly after, along came a man who had recently completed some studies at a local university. Feeling himself very enlightened in the ways of truth and very eager to show this enlightenment, he asked the boy about the source of his joy.

“Do you have any idea what Hashem is able to do?  I just read that He opened up the waves of the Red Sea and led the whole nation of Israel right through the middle.”  The enlightened man laughed lightly, sat down next to the boy and began to try to open his eyes to the "realities" of the miracles of the Bible. "That can all be very easily explained. Modern scholarship has shown that the Red Sea in that area was only 10-inches deep at that time. It was no problem for the Israelites to wade across."

The boy appeared to be stumped. His eyes wandered from the man back to the Bible laying open in his lap. The man, content that he had enlightened a poor, naive young person to the finer points of scientific insight, turned to go. Scarcely had he taken two steps when the boy began to rejoice and praise louder than before. The man turned to ask the reason for this resumed jubilation.
"Wow!" Exclaimed the boy happily, "Hashem is greater than I thought! Not only did He lead the whole nation of Israel through the Red Sea, He topped it off by drowning the whole Egyptian army in 10 inches of water!"

Rabbi Yossi Hagelili taught: When Israel rose from the Red Sea, they were inspired to sing a song of gratitude.  How did they sing?  Even the toddler on his mother’s knee and the nursing baby, once they saw the Shechina (Divine revelation), the toddler lifted up his neck and the baby interrupted his feeding to declare, “This is my G-d and I shall glorify Him,” as the verse in Tehillim states, “From the mouths of babes and sucklings, You established strength.”
Rabbi Meir would say: How do we know that even fetuses in the wombs of their mothers sang?  For the verse states, “In assemblies, bless G-d, Hashem from the source of Israel.”
The Gemara asks: But they could not see the revelation!
Rabbi Tanchum answers: Their mothers’ tummies became a shining prism and they saw everything.

Rabbi Yossi is teaching us a powerful lesson about maintaining our faith in Heaven.  When he says that even infants recognized G-d at the Red Sea, the message is that when it comes to Divine revelation, we are all like children.   G-d is revealing Himself all around us, and yet we don’t appreciate it, because we are spiritually immature.

Think about how kids perceive their daily sustenance.  In the morning, they open the pantry and take out the box of cereal.  They open the fridge and take out the milk.  Where does it come from?  How did it get there?  Kids just don’t think of those questions.  They have no appreciation for the hours their parents worked to make the money, the time spent grocery shopping and schlepping to make sure that there is always a full pantry and fridge.

That’s how most people deal with Divine sustenance.  G-d is working hard, so to speak, to provide for our every need.  And yet we just go through life oblivious to the incredible amount of Divine planning and execution that is happening all around us. 

When the Red Sea parted, suddenly everyone was jolted out of their oblivious state and couldn’t help but sing a song of gratitude to G-d.  Even the “children” – people who otherwise had no appreciation of spirituality, no spiritual maturity – stopped what they were doing and praised Heaven. 

Rabbi Yossi is asking us to develop our spiritual maturity.  Instead of going through life expecting the pantry and fridge to be full, stop each day and think about how where your sustenance truly comes from.  Hashem is the true Provider of all. 

Rabbi Meir takes it a step further.  He teaches that even fetuses sang the song of gratitude.   ‘But they couldn’t see!’ exclaims the Gemara.  That’s exactly it.  Most of us go through life not only lacking spiritual maturity, but lacking the vision to even know that there’s life beyond our immediate little world.  Imagine twin fetuses chatting with one another.  Could they begin to describe the real world?  All they know is world of the womb.

But when Hashem parted the Red Sea, He granted them a moment of vision into the world.  That’s what you should really be thinking about.  Not only is Hashem your Provider.  But why is He providing?  Are you stuck inside your little world of planet Earth, or are you contemplating the “palace” of the World to Come?  If we could only get a momentary glimpse of the ‘real world’ our actions on Earth would be vastly different.  Most of the time, we are truly nothing more than fetuses, thinking we know the world, but having no clue about the real world out there.

It’s time to start appreciating, on the one hand, Heaven’s bounty in this world; but, on the other hand, the reason you are being sustained in this world.  This world is the hallway to the great palace on the other side.  May you merit increasing your spiritual maturity and appreciation as you grow through life!

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