Camps or Fortresses?

“The Blue House” by Marc Chagall

A teaching of Rebbe Zusya of Hanipol, as told by Aharon of Karlin in Beis Aharon, Likutim.

Moses sent them to scout the Land of Canaan, and he said to them, “Go…see what kind of land it is, and the people who inhabit it. Are they strong or weak, few or many? What of the land? Is it good or bad? And what of their cities? Are they in camps or in fortresses?” Numbers 13:17-19

It is written, “The brazen are destined for Gehinom; the meek are destined for the Garden of Eden” (1). If you are brazen in your pursuit of holiness you can descend to spiritual depths in order to lift up the divinity you find there, and you can go to the most unseemly places with no fear of the evil urge. But if you are meek, then you have to stay in the Garden of Eden, spending all of your time studying and praying and protecting yourself from temptation. This is the meaning of “camps or fortresses” — you have to know yourself and discern if you are able to go out to the unwalled camps, or if you have to stay within your fortress.


A teaching of Rebbe Zusya from Israel of Kozhnitz in Avodas IsraelShlach.

Speak to the Children of Israel, saying: “When you come into the land to which I am bringing you, and you eat from the bread of the land, lift up an offering to God.” Numbers 15:18-19

If God had wanted us to live without eating and drinking, surely God could have made it so. But since God wants us to live by eating and drinking, let us be sure to eat and drink in purity and holiness so that we can do God’s will, and through this we raise the holiness that is within the food and return it to its root in God. This, then, is the meaning of our verse. When we eat and drink, we should remember that hunger and thirst are from God, and so too is satiety, and thereby lift up the holiness within the food as an offering to God.


1) Pirkei Avot 5:22; Gehinom, named after a valley beside Jerusalem where idol-worshipers sacrificed their children, is the place of trial and tribulation in the afterlife where sinners suffer for their unatoned sins for a limited time (almost always less than a year) before passing on to the Garden of Eden, where they bask in the presence of God.

This entry was posted in Aharon of Karlin/ Beis Aharon, Hasidic Masters, Israel of Kozhnitz/Avodas Israel, Meshullam Zusya of Hanipol/ Menorat Zahav, Parsha, Pirkei Avot, Shlach, Talmud and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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