Donny walked up to the podium. It was his high school graduation, and he was the valedictorian. After thanking his classmates, teachers, and family, he paused for a moment before sharing the following story:
Right now, I’m standing here as the valedictorian of my high school class. I excelled in my studies, I am good friends with my classmates, and I am heading toward a bright future.
One day, as I was walking home from school, I tripped, and my books scattered all over the street. As I bent down to pick them up, I heard a voice. “Hey Donny, would you like some help?” It was Moshe. Wait, Moshe? I thought to myself. He was so popular and fun, everyone liked him. Why would he be talking to me? But as I looked up, I saw Moshe heading toward me. He bent down and helped me pick up my books. “Wow, these are a lot of books. I’m happy to help you carry them back home.” I tried to tell him that it was OK, that he didn’t have to help me, but he wouldn’t hear it. He was so nice and so friendly. On the walk back, he told me all about his dreams and aspirations and how he would never give up until he achieved his goals. He asked me about my own dreams as well. No one had ever asked me about my dreams before, and I began to feel hopeful for the first time as I began sharing them with him. As we arrived at my house, he invited me over to his house later that night to meet his other friends. Before I could respond, he said, “I won’t take no for an answer. See you there!”
After that, everything changed. I got along with all of Moshe’s friends and started to pick up the language. I began to excel in my classes and genuinely enjoyed school. I had friends, I was learning every day, and I was beginning to pave my path. As the years passed, Moshe and I became best friends, taking on the world together, as a team.
As I stand here today, I want to share something with you – something that I’ve never shared with anyone before. That night, when I was carrying my books home, I wasn’t just heading home. I was heading home for good. I was absolutely lost and completely alone. The previous night, I had decided to end my life, to finally escape my misery. The reason I was carrying all my books home was to make it easier for my parents so that they wouldn’t have to show up at my school to collect all my things. I was on my way back when Hashem sent me Moshe. If not for Moshe, I would not be here right now. Moshe saved my life. He was the first person to care about me, to make me feel like I mattered, and to show me that I’m important. He was the first to ask me about my dreams and to actually listen when I shared them with him. Well, because of Moshe, I’m still here; because of Moshe, I’m still dreaming.
Sometimes, there’s more to greatness than meets the eye.
In our previous article, we began exploring the deep and inspiring ideas relating to the greatness of Eretz Yisrael. In addition to the kedushas ha’aretz and the unique mitzvos of Eretz Yisrael, there is another fascinating phenomenon in the Torah that relates to the uniqueness of Eretz Yisrael. There are several instances where Chazal mention the concept of kefitzas haderech, literally translated as “jumping the path.” This refers to the unique ability to travel at a pace quicker than the laws of nature would normally allow, thereby enabling someone to travel extraordinary distances in mere seconds or perhaps even instantaneously. How and why does this occur?
[There are several options regarding the nature of kefitzas haderech. The first is that when one experiences kefitzas haderech, they transcend the nature of time, moving at an extremely fast pace close to the speed of light. One would be moving through space at a transcendent pace. The second option is that one transcends the nature of space, gaining the ability to disappear and then reappear somewhere else. In this second option, it is most probable that no time passes between the disappearance and reappearance. One could suggest that this works as a worm-hole within time and space; one would enter at one end of time and space and instantaneously exit from the other side at a different point in space, but with no (or little) time having passed; see Ramchal, Derech Hashem. The third option is that both time and space are a single connected concept (space-time), and both of these are “bent” in order to achieve kefitzas haderech. While Einstein is credited for discovering space-time, the Maharal (Tiferes Yisrael 26) discussed this topic centuries before Einstein was born, stating that time and space are not two separate concepts, but deeply and intrinsically connected.]
Chazal mention a few cases of kefitzas haderech. One is when Yaakov travels from the house of Yitzchak, narrowly escaping Eisav’s clutches. Another is when Eliezer embarks on a journey to find a wife for Yitzchak. There are several others as well, but what do these cases have in common? Do they share any deeper connection?
Transcending Time and Space
Kefitzas haderech enables one to transcend the laws of time and space. Why is this possible? It is due to the unique location in which kefitzas haderech always occurs: Eretz Yisrael, the land that transcends the bounds of time and space. (Or at least on one’s way to Eretz Yisrael. For example, Rashi, at the beginning of Parashas Vayeitzei, quotes the Gemara in Chullin, which says that Yaakov returned from Charan (chutz la’aretz) to Eretz Yisrael through kefitzas haderech.) Yaakov’s return from Beis El back to the makom haMikdash took place within Eretz Yisrael and was a journey to the root of creation itself. This journey completely transcended time and space.
When Yaakov awoke the next morning, he states: “Mah nora ha’makom ha’zeh – How awesome is this place” (Bereishis 28:17). Nora spelled backwards is “aron” (the holy ark), the vessel that would later be housed in that very same spot, i.e., the Kodesh HaKodashim, a place beyond space and time. Yaakov traveled to a place beyond place, a time beyond time. As such, he was able to transcend space and time through kefitzas haderech.
The same was true for Eliezer when he traveled to find Yitzchak a wife. After the Akeidah (the binding of Yitzchak), Yitzchak became a paradoxical being, living both beyond and within this world. The Midrash (Pirkei D’Rabi Eliezer) states that Yitzchak’s ashes lie on the mountain, at the spot of the Akeidah. This is because Yitzchak was sacrificed. He then returned to life, becoming the first person to experience techiyas hameisim (resuscitation of the dead). This is why the second beracha of Shemoneh Esreh, which is connected to Yitzchak, mentions techiyas hameisim: Yitzchak brought this concept to the world. Chazal note that the letters of Yitzchak’s name spell “keitz chai” – he who lives (chai) while [paradoxically] existing beyond life (keitz). Yitzchak is rooted beyond time and space, and yet, paradoxically, lives within it. And where did he take on this unique nature? On Har HaMoriah – the very same spot where Yaakov slept, the very same spot as the Kodesh HaKodashim, and the meeting place between the physical world and its transcendent spiritual source. The journey to find a wife for Yitzchak occurred just after this episode, and it was a journey beyond time and space to find a wife for Yitzchak, who himself was beyond space and time. (Marriage as well is a connection that exists beyond the limitations of time and space. The nature of Eliezer’s journey – namely, to find a wife for Yitzchak – is another factor that contributed to kefitzas haderech, a journey beyond time and space.)
Moving vs. Stationary Mikdash
It’s interesting to note that there were two forms of Mikdash within Jewish history. The first is a moving, traveling Mikdash, i.e., the Mishkan in the midbar. The second is a static, set Mikdash, i.e., the Beis HaMikdash in Eretz Yisrael. What is the meaning of this? Why are there two, what are the differences between them, and what can we learn from this?
While we generally think of the Mishkan as the precursor to the Beis HaMikdash, the Beis HaMikdash actually predates the Mishkan, in a sense. The roots of Beis HaMikdash appear at the beginning of Sefer Bereishis by Akeidas Yitzchak and when Yaakov slept at the makom haMikdash (place of the Temple). This was the root of our connection to the transcendent and of our ability to bridge the gap between the finite and the infinite. This unique ability is most powerful in the makom haMikdash, at the heart and center of Eretz Yisrael, above the Even Shesiyah.
However, as we have explained many times, every process has three stages:
- The first stage is the high, the inspiration, and an experience of perfection and clarity.
- Next comes the second stage: a complete fall, a loss of everything that was experienced in the first stage.
- Following this is the third stage: a return to the perfection of the first stage. However, this third stage is fundamentally different than the first. It is the same perfection and the same clarity, but this time it’s a perfection and clarity that has been earned. The first time it was given to you; now you have worked to build it for yourself.
Our foundation was the makom haMikdash – the gift our Avos gave to us. We then had to rebuild toward that ideal through the Mishkan in the midbar. Then, we were finally able to reconnect to that original perfection through the Beis HaMikdash in Eretz Yisrael.
Now that we have lost the Beis HaMikdash, it is our job to rebuild it, beginning within ourselves. This is the meaning of the phrase: “Bilvavi Mishkan evneh – Within [myself], I will build a Mishkan [for Hashem]” – not a Beis HaMikdash, but a Mishkan! This is because when the Beis HaMikdash is gone, when we have lost that ideal, we are called upon to recreate that light within ourselves. We transform ourselves and our lives into a vessel that connects us to Hashem, receives His light, and projects it into this world. We thereby connect the physical to the spiritual, the finite to the infinite, and the limited to the transcendent. In transforming our lives into a Mishkan, we work our way back to the perfection of the Beis HaMikdash.
Levels of Spirituality
We can now understand the sin of the Meraglim on a much deeper level. The spies not only spoke lashon hara; they rejected the uniqueness, holiness, and transcendence of Eretz Yisrael. While the entire world is infinitely spiritual, Eretz Yisrael possesses a fundamentally higher spiritual quality. Eretz Yisrael has no equal; there is nothing that can be compared to it. May we be inspired to continuously deepen our connection with Hashem and Eretz Yisrael, and may we become the ultimate vessels for Hashem in this world, fully fulfilling the words of “bilvavi Mishkan evneh.”