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Go towards the lands of the Amorites

Friday, 9 August, 2019 - 6:10 am

Enough of sitting here near Mount Sinai – get up and go towards the lands of the Amorites, the Ammonites and Moabites. That’s what Moshe Rabbeinu said to the Jewish People at the beginning of parashat Devarim, thousands of years ago: “Enough of your dwelling by this mountain. Turn yourselves around and journey, and come to the Amorite mountain and all its neighbors.” Leave the pure and holy place where you are now living; get up and come to a place that is considered to be distant, alien and even against Torah and mitzvot.

So said the Lubavitcher Rebbe to his chassidim over sixty years ago.

In a wonderful letter to the directors of the younger faction of Chabad, dated Rosh Chodesh Shevat, 5718 (1958) the Rebbe encouraged them, based on the above-mentioned passuk from Devarim, not to remain at home but to go out and be active; not to stand, but to walk. In today’s language we would say, “Step out of your comfort zone and go seek challenges.”

As usual, the Rebbe says it better than me, and therefore I will quote: “’Enough of your dwelling by this mountain,’ even though this is the place where the Torah was given, because a person should go from strength to strength, and also – not be satisfied with his actions and self-decoration, but also influence others, including the others who are outside. Therefore, ‘Turn yourselves… and journey’ – but the journey in itself and passing through a place is not enough, rather ‘come’ – in pnimiyut.”

But wait a minute, the Amorites and their neighbors symbolize the opposite of kedushah, holiness. They symbolize a place where there is distance from, alienation and even resistance to Torah, kedushah and anything holy. But is there a place in the world that we can define as such, like the Amorites and their neighbors? One who is familiar with the Rebbe’s Torah knows already that by him there was no place that was distant, no place that was alien, because the world belongs to Hashem. Moreover, the Shluchim of the Rebbe in the world know that every place they arrived in and was considered cold and alienated, pretty soon showed itself to contain kedushah and the warmth of Torah and mitzvot despite what it looked like to anyone who lived in what is generally called a “city of Torah” and the like. Therefore, one should pay attention to the wonderful careful reading of the Rebbe’s words, when he is defining a place that is like the Mountain of the Amorites: a place where in face of the nation, all of whom are tzaddikim, it seems to them “the Amorite mountain and all its neighbors.”

It is clear from the letter that he doesn’t want all its readers to get up physically and change their geographic location. It is also clear that the Rebbe is asking every one of his readers to move a bit, to advance, to walk, to be a walker, to leave the place he is used to, his comfort zone, and move along.

The letter opens with praise to the addressees for the many activities they are already engaged in, but as usual, the Rebbe immediately warns them that the place they have arrived at and that has become a spiritual comfort zone, like Mount Sinai was for those who left Egypt, is a place where one can stagnate, and therefore he immediately mentions the passuk: “Enough of your dwelling by this mountain. Turn yourselves around and journey…” Move on, don’t stay in place.

The Rebbe concludes with the rest of the passuk, wishing them well but also guiding them to a destiny: And by doing so they will fulfill the destiny of “When Hashem your G-d will broaden your boundary until the great river, the River of Prat (Euphrates).” In other words, the goal they should aim for is the complete and true Redemption.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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