Parshas Matos – Massai

The War with Midian

   When Moshe sent the Israelites to wage war with Midian he picked out the greatest tzaddikim to send, the ones who were the most holy. As it is written, “Arm men from amongst yourselves for a legion” (Bamidbar 31:3). On this verse, Rashi interprets men as referring to tzaddikim. These men were at The Giving of the Torah and had seen Hashem face to face. They chose people who had never opened their eyes [to look at a woman] in their lives. When they went out to war they would need to enter the houses of the Midianites, and they were terribly afraid. They were afraid that they would see a forbidden sight since they had to take captive both men and women, and so they were worried that they wouldn’t be able to properly guard their eyes. Each one took with him cartons of soot and when they entered the houses they would pour buckets full of soot on them so that they wouldn’t be able to see them at all. As it is written in the Midrash Rabbah (Shir HaShirim 1, 3), “When Israel went to war with Midian, they would go in pairs. One would cover the women’s faces with soot, and the other would remove her nose ring.”
   The whole world knows that Am Yisrael is the holiest nation. They just need to guard their eyes, to go with their eyes cast down. A person needs to know that the Angel of Death is to be found in each and every street. The Angel of Death is made up of eyes, as it written in the Gemara Avoda Zara, “The Angel of Death is composed of eyes.” He is a mass of eyes. All of his 248 limbs and 365 sinews are made out of eyes. According to the forbidden gazing a person has fallen into, so will his Angel of Death be for him. If a person fell down in a million forbidden sights, his Angel of Death will have a million eyes. Every forbidden sight that a man sees, if he doesn’t cry over it immediately and make teshuva immediately, then he builds another floor in his Angel of Death. Rav Eliyahu Lopian said that when a person goes out from his yeshiva or his home, the Angel of Death is waiting to make him sin, to burn up his mind and his heart. Each one of us, before he goes out from the Beis Midrash, before he leaves his home, should know that he is now going out to war. Just like in a war, when a person know that there is live fire outside, then he doesn’t go out, but rather waits until the shooting has stopped. If he has no choice and needs to bring food and water, then he goes out crawling on the floor. If bullets fly at his head, then he crawls even lower until he is practically flat on the floor. One needs to know how to bend down and how to crawl and how to stoop so that the bullets won’t hit him. Similarly, when one goes out into the street he has to realize that they are firing magazines at him, they are firing non stop at him and he has to find a way not to stumble in any forbidden sights. You don’t just jump into the street without thinking! A person needs to go out with presence of mind. Which is why, each person, before he goes into the street, before he leaves his home should stand still for a while, stop and think to himself, “Now I am going out to war.”
   Reb Nasan says that all of a person’s free choice is in his guarding his eyes. A person says, “I am religious. I put on tefillin. I get up for vasikin. I get up for chatzos.” These are all wonderful things, but they are not the essence of his free choice. The real free choice is in controlling one’s eyes. The moment that a person will guard his eyes he will achieve all the levels in the world. He won’t speak lashon hara. He won’t be intolerant of others. He won’t hate anyone. David HaMelech prayed, “Avert my eyes from seeing futility” (Tehillim 119:37). Master of the World, make me blind! Take out my eyes. I don’t want to see anything in the world. The moment that a person guards his eyes he returns to the level of before creation. He merits knowing that “There is nothing else but Him.” He merits knowing that Hashem is one and His name is one. When he doesn’t see anything in this world, then he nullifies creation. He negates this world. He has no fear. There is no creation. There is no evil. There are no Nazis. There are no terrorists. They do not exist. They are completely nonexistent!
   Reb Nasan says that even if a person has already merited closing his eyes physically, he needs to know that there is more work involved! He needs to close the eyes of his mind! Not only does he need to close his physical eyes, but he also needs to close all the types of eyes that he has. He needs to close the eyes of jealousy, the eyes of hatred and the eyes of honor, because even though he physically shut his eyes, he can still be yearning for honor. He wants honor! Because now that he is already closing his eyes, he thinks that he is a tzaddik. He wants to be given honor for doing this. The eyes of wanting to receive honor are the worst of all. So he needs to close all the types of eyes that he has, so that no element of looking at this world will remain in him. He needs to disconnect his senses from all the vanities of this world so that he shouldn’t have any interest in any subject in the world—only feeling for Hashem Yisborach. He needs to sanctify all his senses for Hashem Yisborach and to believe in Hashem’s hashgacha. When a person turns off his senses, he will automatically not have any feeling for anything other than Torah and prayer and clinging to Hashem Yisborach. He has no desire for anything physical. He has no desire for anything other than Hashem Yisborach in His honor alone. And then he will merit understanding all the wonders of the world, all the secrets of the world, as it is written, “Unveil my eyes that I may see wonders from Your Torah” (Tehillim 119:18). If a person merits closing all the different aspects of his eyes, then all the secrets of the Torah are revealed to him because all of the lights and all of the secrets are found in the eyes. All the secrets of creation will be revealed to him—how to create heaven and earth and how to change nature—all of the lights and all of the secrets will be revealed to him.
   A person doesn’t have to travel outside Israel for an income. There is an infinite amount of money in Israel—an absolute abundance. It is from Israel that the influx comes down for the whole world! A person just needs to hold up a vessel to receive it in. This vessel is called holiness—guarding one’s eyes—because the moment a person opens his eyes he loses his income. He loses the influx, and falls into debt. The Rebbe said, “There is one sin whose punishment is to be permanently in debt (Sichos HaRan 112). The moment that his eyes are opened, he becomes a debtor. If a person were to start guarding his eyes from seeing forbidden sights then he would see such miracles, such wonders, such marvels—HaKadosh Baruch Hu would do great miracles for him.
   For anything in holiness there are 10 preventative klippos. Any movement towards holiness has 10 klippos fighting against it. Every effort made to guard one’s eyes has many preventions. A person closes his eyes and they spring open! He closes them again and they spring open again. In truth, this will happen to him a million times a day, until one day he’ll merit keeping his eyes closed. Even if he falls a billion times, he shouldn’t get discouraged because on the billionth and first time he will succeed. A person has to constantly fight for such things—24 hours a day. And according to how hard a person fights, so will his reward be doubled and quadrupled. It is an unending war and the reward will be infinitely great.

   Master of the World, You can do everything and nothing is beyond Your abilities. Please, Merciful and Compassionate One, help me to successfully guard my eyes so completely that I shouldn’t ever see any forbidden sight, and let me merit serving You for Your own sake, that I should only think of You day and night. Let me be holy with the awesome holiness of Rabbeinu and fulfill the verse, “Avert my eyes from seeing futility” (Tehillim 119:37). Merciful Father, all of my life I have worked hard to fulfill the verse, “Be holy because I, Hashem, your G-d, am holy” (Vayikra 20:26). “Praiseworthy is he who contemplates the needy; on the day of evil Hashem will deliver him” (Tehillim 41:2).

B’Ohr Pnei HaMelech
   All the good feelings we have in our hearts is the result of our being able to leave our own narrow perspectives and think about something higher, about the soul. This is what gives us true joy: being able to connect with our pure souls.
   The soul is the source of strength that comes from HaKadosh Baruch Hu. It is itself a part of G-d and it is drawn down to us from Him. It is not so easy for us to see beyond ourselves and to think about G-d all of the time. But whether we look for it or not, we can feel our souls inside us and we know that when something is very hard or very painful, it is something that is connected more with our souls than our bodies. Then we are forced to remember that there are things on a higher level, that we are connected to high worlds. We are part of the Jewish nation, the eternal nation. We are attached to eternity.
   Only when we elevate ourselves to something higher, when we look at reality from another perspective (like when we photograph someone from above and we see his form in a completely different manner from a frontal photograph), only then do we see the real truth. The light is the truth. The truth lights up the path for us. All other things—when we feel darkness, all our prejudices, our sadness and pain, hurt or difficulty—all these things do not represent the truth. They are our one-sided perspective—how it looks to us. But if we elevate ourselves to the truth, there we truly have light, not darkness. “Dispatch Your light and Your truth; they will guide me” (Tehillim 43:3).
   Light is truth. Light is joy. Light is the reality in which the soul can exist and feel good, where the soul can stand up to tests and connect to something higher.


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