May 28, 2024
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Chaim, Yankel and Berel were old friends from yeshiva. Baruch Hashem, they’d all done well in business and were able to contribute generously towards the needs of the community. One day, they were discussing the secret of their success.

“It’s all about tzedaka,” began Chaim. “Whenever a big deal goes through, I take the profits and divide them between myself and God. Here’s how I do it: I draw a big circle on the ground. I then stand in the middle and throw the money up into the air. Whatever lands outside the circle is for Hashem, whatever lands inside the circle is for me.”

Yankel says, “My system is very similar. I draw a line down the middle of the room and throw up the money. Whatever lands on the other side is for Hashem, whatever lands on my side is for me.

Berel says, “My method is almost the same as the two of you. I take my profits and throw it all up in the air. Whatever Hashem wants, He keeps. Whatever comes back down … ”

***

Ten spies returned from Canaan with an evil report of the land. Only two stood up and presented an opposing narrative of their mission. Today’s daf describes how the people responded to Calev and Yehoshua:

וַיֹּאמְרוּ כׇּל הָעֵדָה לִרְגּוֹם אֹתָם בָּאֲבָנִים וּכְתִיב וְכָבוֹד ה׳ נִרְאָה בְּאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד אָמַר רַבִּי חִיָּיא בַּר אַבָּא מְלַמֵּד שֶׁנָּטְלוּ אֲבָנִים וּזְרָקוּם כְּלַפֵּי מַעְלָה וַיָּמֻתוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים מוֹצִאֵי דִבַּת הָאָרֶץ רָעָה בַּמַּגֵּפָה אָמַר רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן לָקִישׁ שֶׁמֵּתוּ מִיתָה מְשׁוּנָּה

“And the entire assembly said to pelt them with stones. And the glory of Hashem appeared in the tent of meeting.”

Rabbi Chiya bar Aba says: “The verses teach that they also took stones and threw them heavenward. ‘And those men who brought out an evil report of the land, died by the plague before the Lord.’” Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish says: “This means they died an unusual death.”

“The juxtaposition of the verse about the threat to stone Calev and Yehoshua and the verse concerning God’s appearance suggests,” says Rabbi Chiya bar Aba, “that they also sought to stone God.” But, what happens when you throw stones heavenward? You can ask that question to Isaac Newton or our friend Berel! What goes up must come down. When you throw stones at God, they land on your head. Perhaps, that’s hinted at as the Gemara continues to expound the story teaching that “they died an unusual death.”

Life is full of ups and downs. Most of us are content to have a relationship with the Almighty so long as things are good in our life. But, what happens when life presents its challenges?

Sometimes, the moment things don’t go their way, people get angry at God. They walk away from Him. They throw stones at Him. But, we cannot fathom His ways. We do not understand why bad things happen. All we can do during the difficult times is turn our hearts heavenward and ask God to carry us through the storm. Those who cast stones at Heaven are only making things more difficult for themselves. Instead of entering the Almighty’s loving embrace during their moment of crisis, they turn their back on Him and forsake the opportunity to be carried in His loving hands.

When you lash out at God, the rocks land back on your head. Pelting God does not help the situation, it causes you greater despair. Rather than leaning on Him when you need Him the most, you are rejecting your Rock. It has the opposite effect to what you require at your moment of crisis and distress. You don’t want to cast away those rocks; you want to embrace the Eternal Rock. Those who turn to God at the darkest period, endure the ordeal with the least pain.

In Moshe’s final address to the people, he declares, “The Rock, His deed is perfect, for all His ways are just. He is a God of faithfulness without injustice, He is righteous and upright.” God is your Rock. Everything He does is just and for your good. May you merit maintaining your relationship with Hashem through the good times, as well as those moments in life when you need Him the most!


Rabbi Dr. Daniel Friedman is the author of The Transformative Daf series and the founder of the Center for Torah Values. www.transformativedaf.com 

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