Shelach – letters of courage


Dear Chevra,

A number of years ago I was counseling a woman who found herself in a particularly troubling circumstance. As she vented I interrupted her with the question, “Do you believe in God?” Silence…and then, “Of course I believe in God! What kind of a question is that?” Continuing, I asked (as diplomatically as I could), “So why is Hashem being left out of the picture?” She appreciated the rebuke and began putting Hashem back into the picture.

On his first visit to Kotzk, the Kotzker Rebbe asked the young Reb Leible Eiger, grandson of the illustrious Rebbe Akiva Eiger, “Where is God?” Unsure how to answer, Reb Leible suggested, “God is everywhere.” Again the Kotzker asked, “Young man, where is God?” Reb Leible answered, “In the sky above and the earth below. There is no place absent of God’s presence.” The Kotzker asked again, “Young man, where is God?” This time Reb Leible demurred, answering, “The Rebbe should tell me.” To which the Kotzker answered, “Young man, God is wherever you let Him in.” To let Hashem into our lives we must first open the door.

The meraglim, the scouts sent to spy out Eretz Yisroel, the Land of Israel, saw and experienced the bounty of the Land. But they mistook bracha for klallah, blessing for curse, fortune for misfortune; they didn’t ask with sincere inquiry, “Where is Hashem hiding in this?” They didn’t seek to find Hashem, to recognize Hashem, in the midst of His perceived absence. Had they done so, they would have found Hashem in their troubles and their hardship would have turned into joy, comfort and blessing.

Our lives are beseeched with frustrations. Events gone awry. It is upon us to encourage ourselves and ask with sincerity, “Where is Hashem in this?” A friend’s daughter wrote to Reb Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l, regarding difficulty finding her beshert, her intended. The Rebbe wrote back the simple line, “If you search, you will find.” Shortly after receiving the Rebbe’s reply, she found her beshert. So to, if we search, we will find. This was the approach of Kalev ben Yefuneh. Kalev experienced the same events as the other meraglim, but Kalev brought himself to the task of recognizing Hashem’s involvement. Kalev asked with sincerity, “Where is Hashem in this?” Kalev searched and he found.

Recognizing Hashem’s presence in hardship is not easy. Yehoshua ben Nun had the benefit of a blessing from Moshe Rabbeinu to help him with this recognition. Kalev, not having received a blessing from Moshe, separated from the other spies to daven at the kever of the avos in Chevron. Both Yehoshua and Kalev recieved Siyata D’Shemaya, Divine Assistance, through connecting to the tzaddik, to the virtuous individual. In the case of Yehoshua, it was a visit to Moshe, the living tzaddik. In the case of Kalev, through visiting the graves of tzaddikim. So to with us, if we’re having difficulty recognizing Hashem’s involvement in our hardships, we can visit a tzaddik, we can visit the graves of tzaddikim, if neither of those options are available, we can open a sefer and connect to the tzaddik through his words, and in that merit, recognize Hashem’s involvement in our situation.

Regardless of religious or family background, and irrespective of where we find ourselves, each of us has the ability as a Jew to follow the Kotzker’s holy advice and “Let God in.” If you search, you will find.

Wishing you a Gut Shabbos,

Binyamin Klempner

About the Author
At the age of 17 Binyamin Klempner left Teaneck, NJ to pursue a simple existence on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Northern Montana. While residing on the Blackfeet Reservation he discovered the beauty of his Jewish Heritage and traveled to Boston to learn about Jewish life from the Bostoner Rebber, Reb Levi Yitzchok Horowitz, zy"a. From Boston he traveled to Zichron Yaakov where he studied in Yeshiva for a number of years. From there he married and lived with his wife in Milwaukee, WI while studying under HaRav Michel Twerski, shlita. During this time Binyamin also earned a Masters Degree in Social Work. After working as a social worker for several years he moved with my wife and kids to Tiveria, Israel where he works as an organic farmer and homesteader.
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