My wife and I were driving on the Garden State Parkway at around 1 a.m. on Motzae Shabbos. We were in the right lane in a dark section of road. Suddenly, looming up out of the night, I saw a black car, with no lights or reflectors, parked halfway in our lane. Fortunately, I was able to swerve just in time. We missed it by inches. Baruch Hashem, there was no traffic, because -- if there had been a car in the next lane -- there would have been a serious crash, G-d forbid. “Hodu l”Hashem ki tov … Thanks to Hashem, for He is good!” This was miraculous. We had said “tefillas ha Derech.” Hashem had protected us.
The Dark Night of Golus is filled with danger. As we travel at high speed down the road of life, life-threatening danger -- trouble, tzouris, even evil -- can suddenly loom up out of the darkness.
Recently, we met someone with a seemingly innocuous physical condition which is torturing him. My friends, can we comprehend the infinite mercy of Hashem, Who protects us from countless dangers and troubles, many of which we do not even know about it!
Korach had everything, but he did not appreciate what he had. He wanted more than his portion, and – because he wanted too much – everything was taken from him. Instead of reward, he received eternal humiliation and the ultimate tragedy of eternal alienation from the Master of the Universe.
One is tempted to look down upon him and wonder, “How could he be so blind, so ungrateful, so insulting to Moshe Rabbeinu!”
In fact, one could say the same about the entire generation in the Midbar.
“They complained every day, but they had it all: Moshe Rabbeinu was their teacher; they were surrounded by the Ananei ha kavod; everything was supplied: water, food. Their clothes were cleaned as they wore them! All dangers were nullified! They were the envy of the world! What on earth were they complaining about?”
It is easy to look down on them … until one looks at oneself with honesty. When I examine myself, I see that I have the same ingratitude as the generation of the Midbar! Baruch Hashem, my life is filled with bracha. But I still complain!
I can kvetch over nothing!
That is perhaps why the Anshei Knesses Hagdola began our day with brachas: I have the seichel to differentiate difference between day and night. I am a Jew! I am not a slave! I can see! I have clothing! I can move! I can stand up straight (especially when my wife reminds me about my posture)! I can walk! I have strength! I wear tefillin and keep mitzvos …. The list is endless.
What do I have to kvetch about? Am I better than Korach?
I do not think that we can absorb the lesson of Korach unless we apply the test to ourselves and ask whether we are on a superior level? Hashem is giving us everything at every moment. “Posaich es yadecha … You open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing” (Tehillim 145) If we take pains to comprehend the infinite goodness of Hashem, I believe that He will bring healing to this world.
On that note, let me tell you the end of the “Garden State Parkway” story.
Shortly after the near-miss which – G-d forbid – could have been fatal, we stopped at a rest area. Remember, this was the middle of the night, and one never knows who is lurking in the darkness. Inside the rest area, a black man came up to me and opened the conversation by saying, “I hope that I am not being disrespectful.”
I said, “You are certainly not disrespectful. I see that you are a respectful man!”
“Could you tell me, please, where did you buy that wonderful hat?”
Do you hear this, my friends?
This man saw a Jew dressed in a dignified manner, and he wanted to be that way. By our very appearance we can be m’kadaish Shaim Shomayim! So I gave him the address of a hat store in Borough Park, for which he was so grateful. I also gave him a
bracha, for which he was even more grateful!
“Mi k’amcha Yisroel, goy echad b’aretz …. Who is like Your people Israel, one nation on earth!” (II Shmuel 7:23) There is no other nation like us. It is our privilege to represent Hashem in this world. May we merit to live up to our exalted role and soon experience the Geulah Shelemah with the coming of Moshiach ben Dovid and the Bais Hamikdosh!
Ananei ha kavod: Clouds of Glory surrounding the Children of Israel in the Biblical Desert
Anshei Knesses Hagdola: The Great Assembly of rabbis which composed our prayers
Bais Hamikdosh: Holy Temple
Baruch Hashem: Blessed is G-d
Geula Shelemah: Final Redemption
Midbar: Biblical desert
Mkadaish Shaim Shomayim: Sanctify the Name of G-d
Motzae Shabbos: Saturday night, after Shabbos
Tefillas ha derech: The blessing for travelers