June 18, 2020 10:41 am at 10:41 am #1873856abukspanParticipant
Shelach 3 — Climbing the Ladder
ויהס כלב את העם אל משה ויאמר עלה נעלה וירשנו אתה כי יכול נוכל לה
Calev hushed the people toward Moshe and said, “We shall surely ascend and conquer it, for we can surely do it!” (Bamidbar 13:30).
Why did Calev say, “Aloh naaleh ve’yarashnu,” with a repetitive phrase, rather than just saying, “Naaleh ve’yarashnu”? Based on Sotah (35a), Rashi tells us that Calev was saying to Bnei Yisrael, “We will go up under any circumstances, regardless of where Moshe tells us to go. Even if he were to tell us to make ladders and go up to heaven, we would be successful in fulfilling all he instructs us.”
Rav Moshe Feinstein (Darash Moshe ad loc.) asks: If Calev was advocating climbing all the way up to the sky, a seemingly unattainable undertaking, how would ladders make the job any easier? Rav Moshe explains that the Torah added in the aspect of ladders to teach us that we must do whatever we can to complete any given task, as feeble as our attempts may be. Merely asking for Hashem’s help without being willing to do the hard work is insufficient. Only if we make a reasonable effort and show that we really desire to achieve a specified goal will Hashem enable our success, which would otherwise be beyond our grasp. As Rashi writes (Bamidbar 3:16), Hashem said to Moshe (when counting Shevet Levi), “Aseih atah shelcha va’Ani e’eseh es sheli — You do yours and I will do Mine.”
Without Hashem’s help, the conquest of Eretz Yisrael was as ludicrous as ascending to heaven. Yet when Bnei Yisrael committed to doing their part, Hashem completed the task and enabled them to conquer the Land.
Rav Meir Yechiel HaLevi Halstock, the Ostrovtzer Rebbe (Beis Meir, Shelach; see also Le’Shaah U’Le’Doros from Rav Isser Frankel), takes the concept of ladders one step further. The Torah is teaching us that we can ascend to heaven, we can conquer Eretz Yisrael, we can do what appears impossible — but only by building ladders and going step by step. Each rung on the ladder is arrived at by having stepped on the rung beneath it. Success comes at the end of hard, consistent progress; there are no shortcuts. But rung by rung, the distance is shortened. What at first seemed impossible can be accomplished.
Bnei Yisrael had to realize that their conquest of the Land also required slow, steady, and deliberate steps. It would take time and it would not be easy, but at the end, they would settle the Land and even build the Beis HaMikdash. As Lao Tzu used to say, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
The Meraglim had demoralized the nation, making them think that Eretz Yisrael was way beyond their reach. Calev, with his imagery of a ladder, counteracted the poison of the Spies by telling Bnei Yisrael that while there would be hardships and challenges, rung by rung, they would succeed.
In Parashas Nitzavim (Devarim 30:12), Moshe told Klal Yisrael that the Torah is not in heaven, and Rashi cites the Gemara (Eruvin 55a), where it says that if the Torah were in heaven, it would be our obligation to climb up after it in order to learn it. When it comes to limud haTorah, the ladder approach applies, as well; true success can only be achieved by progressing rung by rung. Attempting to learn at too fast a pace is a recipe for failure. As with any challenging endeavor of study and growth, it is a marathon and not a sprint.
Shlomo HaMelech says in Mishlei (24:7), “Ramos le’evil chochmos ba’shaar lo yiftach pihu —To a foolish one, wisdom is an unattainable gem; he will not open his mouth at the gate.” The Midrash (Devarim 8:3) explains that the fool at the gate who does not open his mouth is the person unwilling to take the small rungs and baby steps necessary to learn Torah. This fool walks into the synagogue and sees people learning Torah. He asks them how to learn Torah, and they respond that it must be learned in stages. First one learns Chumash, then Navi, slowly progressing from one point to the next. When the fool hears this, he thinks it’s too much for him and gives up. He leaves the “shaar,” the gate mentioned in the pasuk, i.e., the shul where people are learning, because he can’t open his mouth; he can’t keep up with them — because he hasn’t even tried to reach the first rung.
Rabbi Yannai gives a mashal to explain this. A loaf of bread is suspended in the air, and it is noticed by a foolish man and also a wise one. The fool says, “How on earth am I supposed to get that down? Forget it; it’s impossible.” The wise man, however, says, “It had to have gotten there somehow.” And he proceeds to figure out how to get the loaf down from midair. He then fetches a ladder, climbs up to the top, and retrieves the loaf of bread.
Similarly, the fool says, “How on earth am I supposed to learn the entire Torah? Forget it; it’s impossible.” But the wise one uses the ladder approach. He learns one chapter one day, another one the next day, and continues to climb higher until he reaches his goal of finishing the entire Torah.
A very similar thought is brought by Rav Chaim Mordechai Katz, rosh yeshivah of Yeshivas Telz (Be’er Mechokeik, maamar 12). On his way to Lavan, Yaakov had a dream in which he envisioned (Bereishis 28:12): “Sulam mutzva artzah ve’rosho magia hashamayimah — A ladder was set earthward and its top reached heavenward.” Rav Katz writes that this specific dream of Yaakov was in answer to his lifelong quest to achieve ever greater understanding and recognition of Hashem, and to be revealed the ethereal mysteries of Heaven. As Chazal (Berachos 55b) tell us, one is only shown in his dreams the thoughts of his own heart. To that end, he was shown — via the ladder that reached the heavens — that one can indeed ascend to heaven and that nothing is beyond our grasp.
This path to greatness takes the shape of none other than a ladder, a metaphor of the constant need of a burning ambition — sheifah — to keep taking step after step and not being satisfied with remaining in place. Nothing happens at once, and nothing happens without work; one cannot will himself to greatness. To the extent that one is prepared to toil with temidus, constancy, so will Hashem assist him.
The Tanna Devei Eliyahu (Chapter 23) states that every Jew must say, “Masai yagi’u maasai le’maasei Avraham Yitzchak ve’Yaakov — When will my actions reach the level of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov?” While one may never truly reach the level of the Avos, we can learn from and pattern ourselves after Yaakov Avinu in this nevuah. Though we may not make it to the very height that he was capable of, we can take those same tools in hand. And with a sheifah to not settle for mediocrity but to keep climbing the ladder, the dream of Yaakov can be ours. (See Maharsha Succah 49b for a similar discussion.)June 18, 2020 11:33 am at 11:33 am #1874035
Adam Harishon was told Ayeko where are you on the ladder?June 18, 2020 11:33 am at 11:33 am #1874033
The Ksav Sofer compares the ladder to the potential of the human being who has to ability to climb step by step from ground to the heavens. This idea is indicated by Bas Paraoh’s hand growing even though she knew she cannot reach him but she did whatever she could. The Chasam Sofer interprets the pasuk of lo saaleh bemalos al mizbechi, don’t try to skip steps because then your faults will be revealed. The Mesilas Yeshorim demonstrates how to do this climbing step by step.June 18, 2020 1:24 pm at 1:24 pm #1874053
The ladder also depicts unity by keeping all the rungs together. We need the help of others to climb the ladder.June 18, 2020 2:12 pm at 2:12 pm #1874093abukspanParticipant
niceJune 18, 2020 3:17 pm at 3:17 pm #1874110
Sulom complete with vov is begatmetriah 136 as kol, tzom, mamon being teshuva, tefila and tzedakah the means to climb the ladder. Bezos yova Aharon bezos 408 all three together which is the Torah.June 18, 2020 3:54 pm at 3:54 pm #1874139
With zos which is 408. There is a Midrash which asks what is an atonement for a sinner? The Torah says to bring a karbon like a Aharon above.June 23, 2020 3:40 pm at 3:40 pm #1875753hujuParticipant
I thought shelach was a clear coating for wood.June 23, 2020 5:40 pm at 5:40 pm #1875796
huju, that is shellac.
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