Making Things Happen

Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Parshas Mattos-Masai

Some people wait for things to happen – some people make things happen.

Yaakov’s son Reuven saw that his mother Leah was barren. It was harvest time and Reuven was walking through the fields. He stumbled upon some ‘dudaim’, a medical herb that he thought would improve the Shalom Bayis situation at home. He picked them and gave them to his mother.

Chazal question this harshly. If Reuven thought it was important for his mother to have these herbs, why did he just stumble upon them? Why wasn’t he out there aggressively searching for them? Why wasn’t he using every search engine available to try to locate a source for them? He chanced upon them and he changed history. He waited for circumstances. He stumbled upon them.

Yaakov saw in this an intrinsic character fault. A fault that would plague Reuven and his children for generations. At the end of his life Yaakov told Reuven, “You could have been the Bchor, you could have been the Kohain, you could have been the king but your attitude lost them all!. (B”R 99) This attitude ultimately disqualified the family from having space in Eretz Yisroel. They were too fainéant, too casual. If something is important – don’t wait for it to happen, make it happen.

Generations later, when everyone was excited and ready to enter Eretz Yisroel, the children of Reuven approached Moshe. “We stumbled upon a land which is good.” Again they stumbled upon something. (B”R 72) They were leaving the desert and they started to see green. “It’s good here. Who knows what it will be like on the other side of the Jordan? In the meantime we found this – we want to just stay here!”

What is wrong with this picture? Let’s ask the tribe of Reuven some questions. Did you leave Egypt so dramatically just to stumble upon a land? Did you walk for forty years, have bread fall from heaven, water miraculously spring up from the dry sand, and hear G-d talk just to chance upon a green place? Where is your deliberate sense of mission? Where is your sense of purpose? Moshe admonished Reuven once again.

As Jews we cannot afford to be a laid back people. We have to be deliberate. We have to make things happen. We are the Bchorim, (“bni bchorie Yisroel”), we are the Kohanim, we are the Royalty. (“Mamleches Kohanim”)!

The nine days of longing for Yerushalayim begins. We are sitting shiva.

I am in mourning for Yerushalayim. My clothes are not fresh. I can’t eat properly. I can’t enjoy myself. I can’t sing, I need to talk about my tzaar. I am so fixated on Yerushalayim that I can’t function until I get there. If we mourn it means we are related. In a house of mourning we are close to each other. Some of the sinas chinam goes away. People treat each other differently in a bais ha’avel. Families sit together! People make commitments to each other. People wish each other that they should get together at simchas. For the next week we are in a bais avel.

The Bnei Reuven were willing to pull their weight. They never thought of absolving themselves from their responsibilities as Jews. They wanted to do everything right, yet - they were not fixated on Yerushalayim. We are all willing to fulfill all the technicalities of the next week. We will eat salmon for dinner, we will only listen to acapella. We will make our swimming instructional and health related. We will all become istinis (finicky). We will keep the nine days.

In these troubling times in Jerusalem we have to do more. At this critical time in the history of Israel and the Jewish people we have to become mishpocha. If we stay focused on Yerushalayim we will al be privileged to dance at the simcha of Yerushalayim – speedily in our days.

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