It’s not easy to have faith. The Communists mocked emuna,
calling it the opium of the masses. Unfortunately there are certain groups today
who believe the same, at least when it comes to emuna in Moshiach’s
coming. These people think that our emuna ignores the reality of Gimmel
Tammuz. They would be right if they were speaking about blind faith, which is
not based on anything and leads nowhere. Pure faith, however, which is based on
the sichos of the prophet and leader of the generation, is not a faith
that is meant to protect the believer from the harsh truths of reality; rather,
it is meant to penetrate reality’s deceptive veneer by revealing the eternal
truth, the revelation of Moshiach.
Since true emuna seems to be at odds with reality, the
life of a believer in general, and a believer in the coming of Moshiach and the
realization of the Rebbe’s words in particular, is quite challenging. It’s hard
to constantly fight reality, and doubly hard when the Torah even seems to
acknowledge the reality of the concealment. During this difficult time-period,
regular emuna, which exists in the heart of every Jew, just won’t do. We
need to reveal deeper powers, powers that draw their strength from shtus
d’kedusha (folly of holiness).
In order for this emuna to stand up to intellect,
including "holy intellect," which threatens to overtake it, we must strengthen
our utter bittul to the Nasi and Navi HaDor. We must have
the bittul of kabbolas ol, i.e., the bittul of a soldier.
These two concepts - emuna that transcends reason and
utter bittul to the Nasi HaDor - appear in the paryshiyos
of Korach and Chukas.
We all know Nachshon ben Aminadav for his courageous act at
the Yam Suf. Every child identifies Nachshon - the man who doesn’t flinch in the
face of a vast ocean - with complete faith. When Nachshon heard the order to
move on, he did just that. It’s not hard to imagine what all the intellectuals
thought about Nachshon’s move, but his faith persevered, and even when the
waters reached his neck and nearly drowned him, he kept going.
Based on the above, it seems utterly bizarre that Nachshon
was one of the 250 men who stood at Korach’s side to fight against Moshe and
Aharon! (See, for example, Me’or V’Shemesh on Korach p. 164.)
We know from Rashi’s commentary that these 250 men were not
just riffraff from the marketplace. They were the elite of the Jewish people,
leaders of the Sanhedrin. But how did Nachshon, the master of faith, come to
By reading Rashi we can learn what it was that broke the
great believer. Rashi describes Korach’s initial move as follows: "What did
Korach do? He stood and gathered 250 heads of Sanhedrin...and dressed them in
tallisos that were completely t’cheiles [wool, dyed blue with the
blood of the chilazon]. They came and stood before Moshe Rabbeinu and
said to him, ‘Does a tallis that is wholly t’cheiles need
tzitzis?’ Moshe said ‘it does.’ They laughed, ‘is it possible that one blue
thread discharges the obligation of a tallis that is of a different
color, yet a tallis that is completely blue does not discharge itself?!’"
Korach was a wise man. He knew that in order to carry out his
plan he had to get the establishment, the 250 heads of the Sanhedrin, on his
side. He had a serious problem, for among the 250 men were certainly men of
principle who would not be easily persuaded to turn against Moshe. He decided to
lure them into his ‘campaign,’ by telling them he had a Torah question that he
wanted to pose to Moshe.
The question of the entirely blue tallis was utterly
rational, for really - what logic can there be, even according to Torah, for a
blue tallis to require a blue thread?
Nachshon, the great believer, got entangled in the rational,
blue threads of Korach’s net. The great believer, who withstood the waves of the
ocean, did not withstand the waves of intellect, and once he began his downward
slide, his intellect continued to pursue him until his tragic death in the fire
that consumed him and the other 249 men. That was the sad end of a great
believer, who in a moment of weakness allowed his intellect to overcome his
The Rebbe once said that our generation has to rectify the
errors of the Generation of the Desert. Let us learn from the story of Nachshon,
that nobody’s faith is unassailable, and we must, therefore, constantly stand
guard to protect it. Even if we’ve been all right up until now, we have to keep
a constant vigil against the constant tests presented by our intellect. The only
way to protect our emuna is through bittul. Had Nachshon had only
a tiny bit more bittul to the Nasi HaDor, he wouldn’t have fallen.
Only if we have bittul and accept everything that the
Rebbe said with kabbolas ol, are we assured that our faith won’t be
weakened in these final moments of galus.
Parshas Chukas begins with the necessity of faith that
transcends - and even contradicts - intellect. The mitzva of para
aduma (the red heifer) is full of incomprehensible contradictions, so much
so that the wisest of all men said, "I said I would be wise, but it [the
understanding of para aduma] is far from me."
Rashi begins his commentary on Parshas Chukas by quoting the
arguments that the Satan and the nations of the world make against the Jewish
people’s fulfillment of Hashem’s chukim, and he says that from a strictly
rational point of view, their arguments are actually correct. The mitzva
of para aduma has no rational explanation. The Torah calls it, "Zos
chukas ha’Torah" - a decree of Hashem, which we have no right to question.
Since the Torah says that we have no right to question the
statutes of Hashem, it is obvious that we have been given the power to refrain
from doing so. The Torah expects us to utilize that power.
The mitzva of para aduma, with its absolute
incomprehensibility, expresses the greatness of the Jewish people and their
supernatural connection to Hashem more than any of the comprehensible mitzvos
do, as explained at length in the maamarim of the Rebbeim.
In Tractate Kiddushin (31a) it says, "They asked R’ Eliezer
how far one needs to go in fulfilling the mitzva of honoring parents. He
said, ‘Go and see how one idol worshipper, in Ashkelon, behaved toward his
father. Dama ben Nesina was his name. The sages sought precious stones for the
efod and would have paid a very handsome sum for them. The key, however,
was under the head of his sleeping father, and Dama would not wake him.
"The following year Hashem paid Dama back and a red heifer
was born into his flock. The sages went to him and he said: ‘I know that if I
ask you for all the money in the world you would give it to me, but I ask of you
only the money I lost in honoring my father.’"
There’s something odd about this story. Hashem does not
withhold reward from His creations, and so He had to repay the gentile for
honoring his father, but Hashem has many means at His disposal, and could have
arranged for a treasure to be found. Why did Hashem repay Dama by requiring the
Sages to go to Ashkelon in order to pay him back?
Perhaps this second meeting between the Sages and Dama was
arranged by Heaven in order to underscore the difference between the gentile
approach and, l’havdil, the Jewish approach, and to emphasize the
greatness of the Jewish approach. The gentile was completely devoted to honoring
his father, to the point of suffering great loss for his sake - but this
devotion was based on reason. The gentile’s logic obligated him to honor his
father. Perhaps he had to use his intellect to overcome his emotions, but the
bottom line is that his actions were motivated by rationality.
The Sages on the other hand, came a year later and presented
a completely different position. They paid the gentile the amount he had lost
for honoring his father, but they paid this huge sum for a cow in order
to perform an irrational mitzva, i.e., para aduma.
Divine providence - in order to demonstrate the superiority
of the Jews over the gentiles - brought about a situation that compelled the
Sages to go to Ashkelon, to a gentile. The difference between the gentile
approach and, l’havdil, the Jewish approach, is that even when gentiles
are willing, occasionally, to forego huge sums of money for the sake of a
mitzva, it’s still a rational calculation. The Jewish people, on the other
hand, as a result of their emuna, are willing to do even irrational
Faith that transcends intellect is what Gimmel Tammuz is
about. It’s a day of emuna and utter bittul to the words of the
Nasi and Navi HaDor. Since this is the avoda of the day, we
certainly receive special kochos with which to carry out the avoda
until the concealment over the Geula reality (which already exists) is
Emuna and bittul are also the essence of two other
major events that occurred on Gimmel Tammuz, i.e., the standing still of the sun
for Yehoshua, and the ‘beginning of geula’ for the Rebbe Rayatz.
The juxtaposition of the two parshiyos dealing with
transcendent faith strongly alludes to the role demanded of us now.
The Rebbe said many times, that the hiskashrus between
Rebbe and Chassid is super-rational, thus we are confident that every Chassid
will ultimately find his way, and the super-rational will overcome the rational,
and we will immediately find ourselves standing before the Rebbe MH"M shlita
proclaiming, "Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu V’Rabbeinu Melech HaMoshiach L’olam