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Vayakhel: The Fountain within Yourself

Miriam Aflalo

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

“Make us a god that will walk in front of us. We have no idea what happened to Moshe, the man who brought us out of Mitzrayim.” (Shemos 32:1)

The Ramban stresses that they said: “a god that will walk in front of us.” They did not want a new god who had power to give them life — The World to Come, or even This World. Rather, they wanted someone to fill Moshe’s shoes.

From the time they left Mitzrayim, until now, they had traveled according to the word of Hashem as He conveyed it through Moshe. And now Moshe is lost. So they wanted to make a new Moshe who could show them where to travel.

The nation was confused and wondering … the sand dunes in the desert were long and continuous…. Who will lead them? The coffin of Moshe was floating in Heaven. A sense of mourning was in their hearts … Everyone was asking: “Who will walk in front of us?”

From this we learn that a person is obligated to have a rav who will teach him and show him the way, as it says: “Make for yourself a rav.” The Rambam adds: “Even if he’s not worthy to be your rav, make him your rav anyway, because a person can’t learn from himself.” (Rav D. M. Ruebman, Zichron Meir)

Life is often an arid desert. Suddenly, after long days of wandering, you come across an oasis of green. A clear fountain bubbles up and you drink your full to wash away the dust.

Coming to a rav in the desert of life makes you feel that all the questions that were clogging your throat got washed away from the wellspring of eternal water — the Torah.

However, although it is crucial to establish a rav for yourself, a person must also remember the rule that Hillel said: “If I am not for myself, who is for me?” Otherwise, a person may rely too much on his rav. He might throw off the yoke of his personal responsibility and then he would be in danger if he loses his rav. (ibid.)

I have days of sand and clouds of dust that obscure the horizon. Days that I don’t even recognize my own soul. Should I be tough in this situation or perhaps lenient? To restrain myself, or to stand up for my rights?

My ten-year-old is huddled in her room, her mouth pressed to the telephone. She sounds agitated. Should I leave her alone or get involved? And I got a call from a seminary asking if I can host several girls for Shabbos. I’ve been mentally debating this question for three hours. Is this what’s good for my family?

Sometimes I wish that someone else would make the decisions and dictate to me exactly what to say and how.

Does my job come at the expense of my kids? Is this necessary for our budget? Is my son’s new friend a good one or a detriment to his growth? Maybe I’m making mountains out of molehills.

I don’t know. I just don’t know. I wish I could go back to when I was a little kid and my parents made all my decisions. Or perhaps back to high school where I had teachers to discuss topics and provide direction.

Is it possible to ask a rav all of these questions?

So Bnei Yisrael made the Golden Calf. This tragedy occurred because Moshe was their redeemer from Mitzrayim. And when they thought he had died, they didn’t know what to do. They sinned when they should have withstood this test and raised their hearts to Hashem. This wasn’t a place for bereavement and misery. (ibid.)

No, it’s not possible to ask every question. But are you sure you don’t know the way yourself? Look deeply into your heart and probe the depths of your thoughts. Do you have the answer for which you’ve searched for so long?

At times there is a desert and no oasis. But you have yourself. What you’ve learned and what you instinctively understand. Your inner conviction of what the will of Hashem is.

Go with this strength.

Bnei Yisrael didn’t do this. Rather, they relied completely on Moshe their rav. They were paralyzed without him. Having reached the highest level possible, they still felt like they couldn’t go on by themselves. (ibid.)

There are days that I need to say out loud: “Yes, I know. I am capable of making a small decision. It’s not always possible to ask and there’s not always someone there to ask. We all need to guide ourselves with Hashem leading us through the maze of life. Some time we will find ourselves at some junction that we don’t recognize and there will be no one around to ask directions. Are we then completely lost? Hashem moderates my steps and I will find within myself the fountain of water to quench my thirst.

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