What’s wrong with a Cadillac?

Friday, 1 January, 2016 - 5:33 am


Dear Friends,


I love to drive at night. Something about the quiet in the car when everyone else is asleep, plus the empty streets and the dark, create a special atmosphere. I experienced it last night when we got on the toll road from Basel to Paris. The whole family was asleep already; 500 km separated us from my sister who lives in the Parisian suburb of Brunoy. I put the car on “cruise,” at 130 km/hr, and that was it. All I had to do was sit back and drink in the quiet and the dark. 

I thought about the comparative comfort of riding in a modern, spacious car. I tried to imagine how it used to be, in the old cars and on the old roads, or when transportation was still by horse-and-carriage, on dirt paths. I went back even to those days when people rode donkeys to get from place to place. We have come so far since then.

I understood, suddenly, while cruising between trucks on the dark A5, that every stage had meaning, and every stage formed the basis for the future developments, from donkeys to horses to cars.

In this week’s Parasha, when the Torah describes Moshe’s leaving Midian with his family, on his way to Egypt to perform the mission Hashem entrusted him with, it says, “And Moshe took his wife and sons and mounted them on the donkey.” Rashi, in this case, relates to the donkey and says, “That was the same donkey that Avraham saddled for the Akeidah of Yitzchak, and it is that donkey that the Mashiach will be revealed upon.”

It’s clear that the donkey has a role in moving the world in the direction of Redemption. Avraham had a donkey when he went to the Akeidah with his son. Moshe has a donkey in this week’s Parasha, and the Mashiach will have a donkey. But what is this donkey? And why a donkey? What’s wrong with a Cadillac?

The Rebbe explains, that the Chamor (donkey) symbolizes the Chomriyut (materialism) of the world, which hides the Heavenly light that enlivens it. A material existence, by its nature, covers up the spiritual truth that makes it exist. Avraham, Moshe and the Mashiach – each one deals with the materialism in the world; each one represents a stage on the way to turning the world into one in which the words of the prophet Yeshayah will come true: “And the land will be filled with the knowledge of Hashem.”

So – Avraham, who was the first to deal with the materialistic world, had to “saddle” his donkey, in other words, to harness and stop the materialism of the world, because, as a first step, it was important to understand that the physical and the material are not all that there is.

After understanding and internalizing that the physical has another essence – a true, inner essence – whose source is the Word of Hashem that is behind its existence, Moshe’s tackling of the issue was different. By Moshe, it doesn’t say that he saddled the donkey, rather that he “mounted them on the donkey”. Not harnessing and stopping; now the time had come to use the “donkey”, for the Torah that was given by Moshe gave us the power to use the material world and elevate it to holiness, for instance by taking the hide of a cow and making Tefillin from it.

As opposed to Avraham and Moshe, the work of the Mashiach will include a different approach. He will not relate towards the donkey as something negative that has to be harnessed, or ridden on. The Mashiach is going to be “revealed upon it,” says Rashi. At the time of the Geulah (Redemption) the inner essence of materiality will be revealed, and all of us will see the Heavenly light that enables the material, physical world to exist. This truth will be “revealed upon it.”

And then, I thought to myself, as we sped through the darkness at 130 km/hr, perhaps the fact that today we can travel faster than ever before – faster than anyone ever dreamed of traveling – can teach us that our dealing with the “donkey” – the materialism of the world – is moving forward nicely?


From Brunoy, right outside Paris,


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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