By Rabbi Label Lam
And you shall not defile the land where you reside, in which I dwell, for
I am HASHEM Who dwells among the Children of Israel. (Bamidbar 26:34)
…in which I dwell: You should not cause Me to dwell amidst its
…for I am HASHEM Who dwells among the Children of Israel: Even when
they are unclean, the Divine Presence resides with them. (Rashi)
We are treated here to “good news” and “bad news”. The “good news” as
spelled out in the verse is that HASHEM dwells in the in our land, in the
Land of Israel. Furthermore, we find out that HASHEM dwells in the midst of
the Children of Israel “even when they are unclean” as Rashi spells out.
Not only is that “good news” but it is “great news”! There is no way to rid
ourselves of the Divine Presence. Hope beats eternal! Now we can march forth
with nothing but confidence and good cheer.
After all, King David had said, “As for me, being close to G-d is my good…”
(Tehillim 73:28) Therefore we are already living in a state of success in
proximity to Divinity. Just as in real estate the three most important
ingredients that factor into the value of a property are “location,
location, location”, so too it is in spiritual terms. What raises a person’s
esteem and true value in this world and the next is “closeness to HASHEM”.
I know a person who rented a summer apartment with a window looking directly
out onto the plaza of the Kossel. The view was stunning beyond words. It is
impossible to imagine the value of that piece of property, on so many
levels. Why then does King David say that that’s what’s good for him, his
being close to HASHEM? Is it not also what’s good for everyone else also?
Why is “my good” my being close to HASHEM? And what’s the “bad news”
associated with knowing that HASHEM is amongst his people even when they are
There’s a Mishne in Pirke Avos that says, “Let your house be a meeting place
for sages…” (Avos 1:4) Rabeinu Yona confirms the notion that one’s home
should be a place where the wise congregate. However, we confront a
practical difficulty when trying to implement the overt meaning of the
Mishne. There will always be more homes than sages to fill them up. Can each
and every home be expected to host the Torah Shiur or the parlor meeting?
How can everyone share a mandate that their house should be a meeting place
for sages? How are all of us to fulfill this universal maxim?
When we look carefully at the words of the Mishne the answer appears. It
states, “Yehi Beis’cha…Let your house be…” Your home should be the type of
environment that the sages would feel as comfortable entering as you would
be hosting them. Imagine that the Chofetz Chaim or the Steipler is coming
over, not to visit for a day or a week but to move in. How much of an
adjustment would that be? What would we have to hide or hinder to host
comfortably? How ashamed would we be to wildly misbehave in their presence?!
The pursuit of that standard may be the source of the common practice
amongst Jews world-wide to hang pictures of Gedolim on the walls, if only to
remind us of the company we keep.
Therefore the “good news” is that HASHEM is in our midst and the “bad news”
that HASHEM is in our midst. We can forget about HASHEM but we are
reminded that HASHEM never forgets about us. HASHEM can be so close to me,
but am I to HASHEM close enough?
DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.