A DIFFERENT SPIRIT by Rabbi Manis Friedman, Dean Beis Chana Women's Institute of Higher Learning PO Box 16547 S. Paul, MN 55116 (800-656-KNOW - ) Rabbi Friedman, is the author of "Doesn't Anyone Blush Anymore - Love Marriage and the Art of Intimacy" The book and Audio and Video Tapes on Jewish and other topics are available from "Torah Forum" at the above address (c) 1994 Torah Forum
When the Jews came out of Egypt, they saw many miracles with their own eyes: the splitting of the sea, food falling from Heaven, water coming from a rock, and Torah from Sinai.
So when G-d said, "Observe the Sabbath Day and keep it holy," the Jews said, "Of course." When G-d said, "Honor your father and mother," they said, "Of course." And when G-d said, "Go into the land," they again answered, "Of course." After all, they were a saintly and righteous people.
But when G-d said, "Go," and the Jews responded, "We'll go," it was because they were accustomed to having no opinion.
Truth was something which came from Heaven; behavior and actions meant doing as you were told.
That was faith as they knew it; that was G-dliness and truth.
Then Moshe said to them, "Go spy out the land. Check it out."
Spying out the land meant coming back with an opinion, an assessment, a judgement.
This confused them, particularly since G-d already said to go.
Nevertheless those who were chosen to serve as spies went into the land and returned with a judgement and an opinion: "The land eats up its inhabitants - there's no virtue in land."
Why did Moshe choose the spies in the first place if they turned out to be lacking faith?
Were they wicked after all, not righteous?
Couldn't Moshe see that they were on the verge of apostasy?
The answer is, Rashi tells us, "V'oso sha'a, kesherim hayu," meaning to say, they had the G-dliness and the faith of the previous hour.
They were prepared for truth as they had known it up until then, the truth of the desert. At the time that Moshe sent them, they were righteous men.
What was the faith of the previous hour?
That Torah comes from Heaven, and that their job was to say, "We will do and we will hear." At that they were very good. Only when they were told to have an opinion about the land, were they not prepared.
Not that they suddenly became wicked.
On the contrary, the faith, piety and self-sacrifice which they learned in Egypt, in crossing the Red Sea and at Sinai was so strong that they could not make the adjustment to living in the land of Israel, or in any land, with an opinion of their own. It was because of their wonderful faith and piety that they couldn't go into the land of Israel.
But among the spies there were two, Calev and Yehoshua, who countered the rest with, "The land is very, very good. The land is G-dly."
The others answered: "We cannot go up against these people for they are too strong for us."
Yehoshua then said, "What's the matter with you? Why are you so confused? There's no problem. We'll go into the land and it will be wonderful." Why will it be wonderful? "If it's what G-d wants, it must be wonderful."
Calev got up and said, "I don't understand any of you. I went to the land, and it - the land - is simply wonderful."
The Torah tells us that Calev was allowed to go into the land, "ruach acheres imo," because he had a different spirit. Although Yehoshua was also allowed into the land, Torah doesn't say that he had a different spirit.
Yehoshua's spirit was the same as the other spies and the Jews who remained behind in the desert: everything comes from above, through faith and self-sacrifice; all you have to do is to obey.
Yehoshua merely took it a step further: take the faith that everybody had in the desert and apply that spirituality to going into Israel. That is, when G-d tells you to spy out the land of Israel and return with an opinion, you should obey that, too.
Calev had a different spirit entirely.
How was he different?
Not that he had an opinion because he was told to, but that he saw the virtue and the greatness of the land of Israel for its own sake.
The Rebbe once explained that Moshe changed Yehoshua's name and prayed for him when he left to be a spy that he wouldn't get confused in his thinking.
On the other hand, Calev stopped by a holy site and prayed for himself not to become confused.
The difference between them is that Yehoshua's ability to go into the land came from Moshe; Calev's ability came from his own effort.
Calev saw for himself - not because he was told - that it was good to go into the land.
When the Rebbe said, "Go tell the people that Moshiach is coming," we, the Chasidim, went out and told them that they should believe Moshiach is coming.
The Rebbe was saying, "Moshiach is what we want. Moshiach is what we demand. And Moshiach is what we are starting to see: in the world, in nature, in people, on the street, in the papers, in Gorbachav !" And we said, "Yes, we agree. We all believe in Moshiach."
But the Rebbe was telling us, "I'm not talking about believing in Moshiach. I'm talking about seeing Moshiach!"
And we thought he meant that we should believe more. Or, that he wants Moshiach so much that we should also want it, for him.
So we went out in the world, made a big campaign and said, "The Rebbe says Moshiach is coming, so believe it."
That's not what the Rebbe wanted.
That's like Yehoshua saying, "The land is good because Moshe said so. This is the Redemption because Moshe said so."
Nobody even knew what he was talking about.
Calev had a different spirit and therefore nobody, even the most pious souls of his generation, knew what he was talking about. Not because they were evil. But because they were holy. Because they had faith and self-sacrifice and so on.
But their spirit wasn't the spirit of that time.
It was the spirit of a previous time. It was the spirit appropriate to an hour ago, but not to this hour.
Calev said, "Why do you have to quote Moshe? I saw, I was there, and it's a good land. To serve G-d in the land is very good."
Before the Ba'al Shem Tov's famous story, "Mach doh Eretz Yisroel" ("Every land can be holy"), nobody knew or understood that there is a virtue and greatness to every land for its own sake.
That carries over into other areas also.
Before the Ba'al Shem Tov taught otherwise, we thought that the body, physicality, was the enemy. It was bad, it was evil, there was nothing good about it.
The Ba'al Shem Tov said, "Your body is not your enemy; it's a holy thing. G-d wants the body even more than the soul."
What's more, the labor of a simple man may be in some ways greater than the labor of a scholar.
The businessman who sees Divine Providence every day with his own eyes may be on a higher level than a rabbinic student who sits and learns about Divine Providence from a text.
When the Rebbe said, "We want Moshiach now. Moshiach is coming, open your eyes and see. Moshiach is here," the Rebbe wasn't talking about a heavenly Moshiach. When the Rebbe said, "Ad mosai," ("until when must we wait for Moshiach) he was thinking on a completely different level of spirituality than the way we were taking it.
The Rebbe wasn't screaming "Ad mosai," at the evil inclination. He wasn't complaining that the animal soul doesn't want go out of exile. The animal soul is very willing and ready and has been looking forward to Redemption because what it wants is a peaceful, pleasant, comfortable, uninterrupted life, where everybody has enough to eat and can sit under their vineyard and their fig tree. What else would an animal soul want? What could be better?
But the G-dly soul has been told for 2000 years to suffer silently.
The G-dly soul is resigned to thinking that every tragedy is for the good, every delay is only a test of faith, and that it has to come down into a miserable place in order to go higher, so the lower it goes, the better.
With this true and G-dly attitude, the Jewish people survived a most horrendous Exile. That was the spirituality appropriate, and necessary, to that hour.
Then the Rebbe said, "No more!"
"Enough with the coming down in order to go up and the tests and `All is for the good' and the elevating of sparks. That's Exile. We don't want Exile; we don't want the spirituality of Exile."
The Rebbe was saying, "Ad mosai," to us, to our G-dly souls.
"Ad mosai, how much longer are you going to have the spirit of before, and not the spirit of now? Ad mosai, how much longer are you going to say you want Moshiach because I'm telling you to. Ad mosai, how much longer are you going to say you want Moshiach because you believe in Moshiach?"
That's what the Rebbe meant about polishing the buttons: how much can you polish the buttons?
And Chasidim, in their piousness and in their old style spirituality, went and polished the buttons some more.
Stronger faith, bigger faith, tell the world to have faith, run around and tell people that they should believe in Moshiach. That's not what the Rebbe meant.
The Rebbe was thinking, "Ad mosai - how much longer are you going to fail to see Moshiach?" And every time he said it, we strengthened our belief in Moshiach.
What did Calev see?
Calev went into the land and he saw goodness.
He saw that there was a G-dliness to the body that the soul doesn't have.
He saw that there was a G-dliness to earth that heaven doesn't have.
He saw that the body has more life than the soul, and that when Moshiach comes, the body will give life to the soul.
That's the Rebbe's whole legacy.
That's the virtue of the Rebbe: that he was very eminently physical.
He liked earthy things. He liked the body. He liked nature.
The Rebbe told us that there's no reason for Jews not be healthy and there's no reason for Jews not to be wealthy, and there's no reason why nature won't give you all good things, because nature is good.
Who says that the world is good?
Who says that there will be no war, no jealousy and no animosity because all good things will be available to everybody without miracles, because in the days of Moshiach there are no miracles, according to the Rambam? Moshiach says that.
And in that, the Rebbe is Moshiach. Ruach acheres, a different spirit, a unique spirit, and we didn't appreciate it.
The Rebbe told us in his first maamar (on 10 Shvat 5711) that the seventh generation is unique and precious because the seventh brings the shechinah down to earth.
So although we had an Alter Rebbe, and a Mitteler Rebbe, and a Frierdicker Rebbe, even compared to them this Rebbe is unique and precious. So uniquely great that we, his own Chasidim, have not understood him.
It's true of all great people that no matter how much we think we know their greatness, we never appreciate their greatness until much later. It's even more true of one who is not only great but uniquely great.
When the Friedicker Rebbe was a little boy, he often listened to the older Chasidim farbrengen.
Once, when he was around seven, he overheard a group of them discussing, "What is a Chasid?" He was surprised that these great scholars didn't know what a Chasid was. At seven, he already knew; his father had told him the year before.
He approached his uncle, Reb Zalman Aaron, and said, "How can it be that they don't know and I know because my father told me?"
His uncle answered, "Your father told you what a Chasidl is. They were speaking about what a Chasid is."
This confused the child further.
He sought out his father, the Rebbe, and said to him , "I don't understand the difference. A Chasid is a Chasid; what does it matter if he's young or old?"
The Rebbe explained to him that a Chasidl is someone who is devoted to the Rebbe, and wants to please the Rebbe; a Chasid is someone who is devoted not only to the Rebbe but to the Rebbe's projects as well.
Until now, we had the option and the luxury of being Chasidimlach.
We could go to the Rebbe and he'd smile at us and give us a dollar, and then we could tell him good news and make him smile still more. Now we have no choice but to be the Rebbe's Chasidim. We can no longer be merely Chasidimlach.
What do we need to do, in order to be the Rebbe's Chasidim?
We need to know that the Rebbe had a different spirit.
He had a Moshiach attitude, a Moshiach view, a Moshiach spirit.
He set into motion, and to large degree accomplished, a world according to Moshiach.
If we keep on the right track and take the Rebbe's message to ourselves and to the world, then the Rebbe will have brought the shechinah down to earth. And that is Moshiach.