Friday, March 2, 2012

The King's Messengers

Shlucho shel adam kemoto – the shaliach of a person is like the person himself” (Kiddushin 41b)

Send for Yourself

From the Torah it is not clear who initiated the sending of the spies to scout out the Land of Israel before Moses was to lead the people in triumphantly. In Numbers 13:2 it appears as if it was G-d's command: "Send for yourself people" (As in "Go for yourself" that was said to Abraham). But how could this command, which ended up so tragically, have originated from God?

Rashi explains: "Send for yourself"--by your own judgment; if you wish. This implies that the success of the spies depended on their inner identification and willingness to surrender to the task at hand.

In the case of a King's messengers, the will of the King is expressed more through the acts of his messengers than by the King's own actions, because in the act of comissioning messengers there is an inner bonding between the will of the messenger and the will of the King who sent them, and this power carries forth throughout the messengers' actions, enhancing the greatness of the King.

However, when there is hesitation among the people, who feel as if they are heading towards the unkown, and they will need a level of surrender that they have not yet known, they yearn for a King who will understand their weakness but also be able to provide them with strength and resolve. This is the test of Moses: can he activate messengers? Can he bring others to act according to their own internal compass, and in alignment with his will? And to electrify others with his spirit too? Moses has brought them out of Egypt, but can he inspire them with his vision to conquer the land? This was his real test.

Moses prepared his messengers with guidance, but the mission ultimately failed. We learn from Deuteronomy 1:37 that God considered the failure of the mission to ultimately have been Moses' failure. The spies felt that in their current situation, which was under Moses' leadership, they did not have the means to overcome the obstacles that they encountered in the Land during their scouting mission. Sure, they knew Moses as Prophet, Giver of the Torah, Judge and Ruler, clean of sin and of earthly desires, who had led them through the desert of mystical union, rather than through lands of military battles. Yet this experience left them feeling that they did not have enough desire and strength to leave the beauty of the desert, and cope with the inhabitants of the land, who drew from the land lives full of vitality and abundance. The world of the Oneness of Souls did not have the strength to overcome the separation of Existence (or so they supposed), and he who is comfortable in the land of separation will ultimately be victorious in battles fought there.

When the spies said "They are stronger than us" [regarding the Giants], the word "They" can also mean "He" in this context; in other words, the spies were in fact making a statement about God Himself; they sensed that identifying with God did not provide them with enough strength to protest and nullify the gross forms opposite them, and they renunciated that "even in the world to come He will not be able to pull us out of there" (G-d forbid).

But were the spies in fact corect [regarding Moses]? The severity of their sin and Moses' reproach indicates so, but in what did they sin? They sinned in the fact that they did not believe that Moses could, and desired more than anything else, to leave his own boundaries.

Moses achieved 49 Gates of Binah (Understanding), and at his death reached Sha'ar HaNun, the 50th Gate, the level of "no one knew", as Rebbe Nachman explains that Moses' soul departed out of his desire for the land of Israel, when he looked at Mount Nevo as a person desires a thing with infinite longing, until his soul expired from not being able to actualize his yearning. Moses is called "the faithful servant", sustainer, shephard and nourisher of faith in the souls of Israel. How does he sustain them? Through the Da'at (knowledge) that he sows in them. But even though knowledge cultivates faith, nonetheless a person must make a space in one's personality, as a result of the opening of knowledge, in order for faith to take hold. For faith, with all her silence and trasncendence of explanation, is infintely fiercer and more violent than knowledge, which is conditioned by human limitations, and therefore, the climate and immunity of Israel are fit for her.

This is why Moses yearns to move from knowledge of in the desert, to faith above knowledge in the land of Israel. For this the spies needed to believe that Moses of Israel was different than Moses of the desert, that he yearned to leave the word of speech (dibbur-midbar) to the word of the Hint (Remez), by which God had not yet been known, but which marks the place at which Faith shines, where the God's revelation transcends all conceptualizations and limits, and where humanity reaches, by way of knowing-not-knowing, an identification 

with God's validity and force.

This is in relation to the sin of the spies, but as for the leader--happy is the generation whose leader admits that the people's sin is his own. The spies did not believe that Moses could transcend his boundaries, precisely because he does not believe in them truly and purely that they too can trasncend themselves. Moses then sent the spies without full trust that they would complete their mission. He himself failed to fully identify with the Divine permission given to send messengers; and sent them instead as if it were a command. Only by imparting the strength of his own desire to his messengers can they succeed.

Moses was a stutterer, and already at the beginning of his path, it was clear how much he hesitated from being a messenger himself, how much we doubted that he could awaken the people to believe in redemption. Even after the Exodus, until accepting Jethro's advice, Moses assumed that everyone who wanted to speak to God had to go through him first. Moses was not convinced then that his approach, which derived from seeing God and his works, was going to be accepted fully and honestly (at least not to the point of emulation) by those who had not seen visions of God themselves regularly, who were burdened by slavery to physical reality, to its rules, conditions and limitations. Before the Flood, 'from the water I drew him' means that Moses was drawn from another world, from a dimension that was entirely Chesed and revelation, and that was the world he lived. Because of this, he stutters out of fear when he comes to speak things to those to whom this reality is foreign, his heart naturally telling him that he will not completely succeed in his own mission.

But he who truly wants to be a King must be able to rule like Moses rules when he applied the advice of Jethro. One must believe that every one, when the task is thrust upon them, will find the strength necessary to fulfill it; the identification with the one who sends will awaken this strength. When one comes to lead those who are far with an inner capacity that longs to lifts to them up and awaken in them identification with their King, there must be readiness to 'risk it all' for their hidden qualities, despite the limtiations of their revealed dimension, for without this there is no need in a king who will be exalted and elicit honor and awe; there could just as well be a tyranny. The thirst for the rule of a King is precisely the thirst for someone who will impart trust in the innermost, concealed point, forcing it to appear and draw the entire personality after it. Surely this entails great risk, and threfore there will be mistakes from time to time, as the Zohar states regarding the verse 'that a leader sins'-- Will a leader surely sin? Yes, a leader surely sins!

Moses sent spies but apparently did not believe enough that they could transcend themselves, that without him they could want to lead like him. And because he did not believe in them, they too did not believe in him, that he could too work outside of his own boundaries, and be filled with real desire for the Life of Israel, full of vitality, physicality, and engagement, the opposite of the equanimous, spiritual and unitary Life of the desert.

This is the meaning of: Send--by your own judgment. For there can be no absolute commandment to appoint messengers, for this would deny the freedom of choice of the one who sends whether or not to believe in his messengers. Still, God did want Moses to send them, and the command was God's desire for Moses to rule from his own freedom and readiness to rule, rather than out of obedience alone to the God's will.

The paradox of being commanded by God to choose can be explained as follows: 

Even though I am an entity on own, full of validity, freedom, and power of decision, in all this, I am You, not really separate at all, my Will is like Your Will, wherever you send me, to the hidden stairways and depth of concealment, the essential truth of my being--which appears so separate--is your Being; it only requires a wise and enlightened being to discern that I am nothing but a Hint to You, one who may approach my soul so as to redeem her. After Him we will surely go! 

~ Adapted to English from Yiztchak Ginsburgh, Rucho Shel Mashiach: HaTkufa B'Re'i Ha'Chasidut [The Spirit of Mashiach: The Contemporary Era in the Light of Chassidut], compiled by Yisrael Ariel, (c) 2004, pp. 193-199

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