In Parshat Beha’loscha, Am Yisrael continues its passage through the desert. We get a palpable taste of Hashem’s closeness during their travels. They travel when the pillar of cloud arises and directs their journey. They rest when the cloud descends. They subsist on manna. Water is provided for them. Hashem truly walks with them.
Hidden amidst this parsha is an interesting line. It appears when the Jews request from Moshe a second chance to make a Pasach Sacrifice as they were tamei (impure) during the actual Pasach. Moshe hears their request and conveys it to Hashem. Hashem agrees and gives them Pasach Sheini (Second Pasach). The Torah uses unique language to describe the two types of people permitted such a second chance: “Any man who is impure from a corpse or on a long journey, you or your generations, can offer this sacrifice to Hashem.”1 2 The word “רְחֹקָ֜הׄ” (rachoka: long) has a dot on top of its last letter. We know from an earlier Rashi that such dots convey that the letter should be regarded as non-existent.3 With this understanding, Rashi comments: “There is a dot on it (on the ה of the word רחקה), to say not that [the road] is not actually distant, but that he was outside the threshold of the Temple Courtyard for the whole time of the Pasach sacrifice.”4 So, when the Torah says, a distant/long road, it means to say that they were actually anywhere from very far away to just outside the allowed “zone” for sacrificing the Pasach sacrifice.
The Torah here makes no separation between someone who was very close or very far. You were there or you weren’t. Such a dichotomy exists within our inner work and spirituality: there is no becoming. What does becoming mean? It means that we simply are in each moment. We are as connected as we can be or we aren’t. There is not “becoming” connected. We are either as kind as we can be or we aren’t. There is no “becoming” kind. You are either in the courtyard, being that which you want to be, or you are outside of it. How far away you are doesn’t matter. You can’t be almost kind. If you are outside, it as if you were on a distant road. Every single moment is an opportunity for you to be you, fully all that you are. With Hashem’s help, today we are better than we were yesterday, but that is not “becoming.” It is simply that our abilities expanded. If you are connected and aware at this moment, then you are within the courtyard. If you are not, you are outside the courtyard.
The Gemera tells us that one can marry a woman on conditionalities. “Be betrothed to me with this cup of wine yet it is honey, with honey but it is wine...on condition that I am wealthy yet he is poor, on condition that I am poor yet he is wealthy – [under these conditions] she is not betrothed."5 The Gemera then goes on to say: “On condition that I am a tzaddik (a righteous man), even if he be a rasha gamur (a totally evil person), she is betrothed, [because] perhaps thoughts of repentance entered his mind."6 The exact halachic law behind this decree is debated – but the point stands: a marriage is considered valid if it’s on condition that he is a tzaddik (a righteous person), because (assuming that in his heart his intention was true), simply by thinking such a holy thought, he was righteous, at least fleetingly. The Baal Shem Tov taught as much when he said, “Where a person’s thoughts are, that’s where he is.”
Kind thoughts lead to kind actions which lead to being kind. Thus, simply by thinking kind thoughts and believing you are kind, you are kind. You do not become kind, you are kind when you are practicing kindness. Every moment is a chance for you to express yourself without fear or doubt, to speak with kindness, to look through eyes of empathy, to dedicate your time to further your purpose. Our lives are merely a sequence of these moments and each moment in itself is an independent decision. RIGHT NOW am I the person that I know that I want to be, that on my deepest level I know I am capable of being? When we make the choice to be that person, we are that person. When we don’t, we are not. There is no becoming. It is as Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try.”
So often the yatzer hora spins us terrible tales about how, because the previous moment was not spent in connection and love and because perhaps the next moment may also not be, we should forgo this moment as well. This is one of his greatest lies. We must find a holy passion inside of ourselves and rage against this voice. Now depends not on before or after. Now is infinite. It is the only point in which we are truly experiencing reality, truly experiencing Hashem. This moment contains all of our power. We are powerless in both the past and the future. We must draw all of our attention into the present moment and resist those lies that tell us we are not capable. We must realize that every single moment that we choose to be ourselves, we make an impression on the great canvas of the infinite that is truly our own. With each such action, the impression becomes deeper and we slip more easily into its grooves.
You might say that becoming is the act of working on your middot (character traits). “I am working on being kind.” What does that mean? Opportunities for kindness come to you by Hashem’s hand. With each passing opportunity, you are kind (to the best of your abilities) or you aren’t. Our work is not in becoming kind – that mentality is rooted in the belief that you are not kind right now. Perhaps yesterday you were not kind, but yesterday has nothing to do with today’s potential. With a single thought of kindness, you can transcend any mistakes you have ever made. Rav Morgenstern teaches, “When we find that a person is still in a state of melancholy after having done teshuvah, it signifies that he does not really have faith in the power of teshuvah. The person imagines that the damage that was caused by his former sins still exists. A person who really has faith in the power of teshuvah, however, really believes that repentance can transform a person completely.”7 The fears and doubts and failures that we carry today are not ours to carry anymore. That is a teshuva mindset. They were ours in the past and we often carry them with us into the present. We fear that we have not yet transcended them, that we will make the same mistakes again. As long as we carry this fear with us, we will make the same mistakes again. Only when we realize that we are truly reborn each moment do we have the power to do true teshuva. What defines a tzaddik or tzaddikah is not that they never make mistakes, but rather, that their teshuva is an instantaneous transformation.
This is how we become living embodiments of emunah. Our work is not in becoming someone different. It is in simply realizing with full faith that we are capable of being who we truly are in every moment. That is the secret of life. Each moment that we believe, we align with the truth. We can make this into a game. If you were embodying your true self, how would you act in this very moment? What music would you listen to? Who would you hang out with? How would you pray? What words would come out of your mouth? When we align our actions with our inner truth, even incompletely, we make an enormous tikkun for our souls. We feel it almost immediately. When we direct our will towards truth and good we are filled with enormous power – this holy power gives us the strength to not only continue but to rise far beyond anything we thought was possible...one...moment...at...a...time.
If we do this enough, we begin to truly believe we are that person. We begin to truly believe that we are capable of achieving all that Hashem created us to be. In essence, if it is a holy desire, then we are capable of achieving it. So often we limit ourselves with our own beliefs. We settle because we are afraid to seek more. But we live in relationship with Hashem. If we change ourselves, Hashem changes reality (Himself) accordingly.
Our goal is to align our beliefs with our capabilities. Who is the embodiment of this? Hashem. No one ever asks how Hashem can possibly run the world with all of its responsibilities. No one questions this. This is because, with Hashem, there is no difference between His capabilities and His belief. He is One. He does all that He is capable of. When we mirror this in ourselves, we truly believe we can accomplish all of which we’re capable. Further, we come to discover that we become capable of all that we truly believe.
We do not need to do anything to become fearless, or courageous, or kind, or compassionate. We simply must realize that we already are. Who is a courageous person but one who thinks courageous thoughts and acts courageously when required? Hashem will send the opportunities for that mindset to manifest itself into action. There is no becoming. When we realize this, we become extremely powerful. We realize that we can truly do anything we want. We let go of yesterday’s fears and doubts because we are not that same person. Each and every moment is a chance to be better, happier, more joyous, lighter. Each and every moment is a world in itself. We must simply pull ourselves away from those magnetic voices that try to limit our infinite into a framework of likes and dislikes, possible and not possible, afraid and not afraid. May we all merit to understand what it means to truly do teshuva, to let go of all that holds us back now, to burn on the alter all of our fearful “what ifs,” and to realize that every moment presents a new opportunity to stand in the courtyard.
- BaMidbar: 9:10
- An interesting Midrash describes to us who these men were: “who were those [impure] men? They were the bearers of Joseph's casket. These are the words of R. Yishmael. R. Akiva says: They were Mishael and Eltzafan, who had become tamei by (the bodies of Nadav and Avihu). R. Yitzchak says...they were men who had become unclean by contact with a meth-mitzvah (a body with none to bury it, but themselves), their seventh (and final) day of uncleanliness falling out on Pesach eve.”
- Rashi: Breisheit: 18:9
- Rashi: BaMidbar: 9:10
- Kiddushin 48b
- Kiddushin 49b