More Than the Hand of Man
By Rabbi Label Lam
According to HASHEM the Children of Israel traveled and according to
HASHEM they camped, all the time the cloud resided upon the Mishkan
(Tabernacle) they rested. (Bamidbar 9:18)
Why does the verse go to such great length? In order to counter that which
the nations were saying that Israel is lost in the desert and Moshe is
himself lost and doesn’t know where to lead them…Therefore the verse comes
to explain that all their travels were according to the Divine Presence,
and even though they rested in this place for a night and this place for a
month…all was according to the Divine Presence and when the cloud moved
from this place to a different place they would travel to that place.
From ground level and from the outside one can fall prey to the false
premise that the Jewish People are lost based upon their erratic patterns
of movement. As it turns out it is not true. Each step is calculated the
way a chess master moves pieces on the board. So The Almighty guides us on
our way. What role do we play? Are we mere participants on a
predetermined path? That’s hardly the message!
King Solomon pens the following; “Trust HASHEM with all your heart and
upon your own understanding do not rely. In all your directions know Him
and He will make straight your ways”. (Mishlei 35-6) What is the wisest
of all men telling us here? He is advising us on how to create the most
beautiful life. How do we do that? Simple! Just follow the ways of
HASHEM! How do you do that and how does that help to create a masterpiece
Imagine a man working on a scaffold high above the ground. He is painting
on a giant billboard seventy rows high and three hundred and sixty five
spaces across. He wears myopic glasses that allow him to see only that
which is in front of him and to be blind to the square ahead. He has a
paint-by-number formula that instructs him to color within certain defined
spaces with great care according to the number in that space. Green is
five and Blue is three for example.
So he completes his small tasks dutifully and daily before moving to the
next giant space. At the beginning of a new year he begins a new row and
so it goes for seventy years. After that time he is made to step far back
from his larger than life canvas and observe what he had accomplished. A
beautiful portrait beyond the scope of his imagination stands before him.
However, the fellow who painted only according to his own artistic
instincts is made to face a chaotic sequence of furious strokes signifying
nothing. So King Solomon cautions us not to rely on our limited minds but
rather yield to a Superior Intelligence Who sees the bigger picture.
I heard directly from Rabbi Mordechai Schwab ztl who was known as “The
Tzadik of Monsey” a story from more than seventy five years ago. He had
gone to see the sainted Chofetz Chaim who was quite elderly at that time.
When it came time to take leave he shook hands with the Chofetz Chaim who
grasped his hand firmly. Then the Chofetz Chaim seemed to dose off. The
young Rabbi Schwab tried to gently remove his hand. The Chofetz Chaim held
on even tighter as he appeared to be slumbering. Reb Mordechai called out
to the sleeping Rabbi that he needed to go to catch his train but his grip
was firm and so he remained. After a period of some time he awakened and
released the young would-be Tzadik. He hurried to town only to discover
that he had missed the train. Later it was learned that the train he was
hoping to travel on was in one of the worst train accidents in Poland’s
When doing our best to discover “what is the right thing”, living
carefully within the four cubit of Hallacha, to act optimally appropriate
at each moment for a whole lifetime, a pattern of perfection emerges that
transcends human intellect manifesting more than the hand of man!
Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.