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One “Very” is not Enough: By Shmuel Sackett

There is a Mishna in Pirkei Avot that teaches us to be humble and modest. The Mishna is short and directly to the point. While the lessons are great, the words are few. It is the 4th Mishna in the 4th Perek and it starts with a basic teaching; “Rabbi Levitas of Yavneh says, ‘Be very, very humble in spirit’…” Nothing fancy, nothing complicated, just some wise guidance to be very humble. There’s only one problem… it doesn’t say that we should be humble. Rabbi Levitas teaches us to be very, VERY humble. Twice? But the Torah – yes, even the Oral Torah – never repeats words. Every word is calculated and precise. Why the need to write “very, very”?? Hold that question for a minute as we change focus.

 In this week’s Parsha, 12 men are sent to spy the Land of Israel. We are all familiar with this story of how 10 of them came back with a negative report. Their 40 days of spying the land turned into 40 years of wandering in the desert and we remember this tragic event each year by fasting on Tisha B’av. But what did the 2 good spies have to say? They were Calev and Yehoshua and their report was not negative at all. They simply said; “The land that we passed through, to spy it out – the land is very, very good” (Ba’midbar 14:7)

 One second. What did they say? “Very, VERY”?? Correct! This was the first time that this expression was used and then, about 1,400 years later, Rabbi Levitas used that exact same expression; “Very, VERY” when teaching us about humility. There has to be a connection… but what is it? A connection between being humble and Eretz Yisrael? Puzzling, indeed!

 This riddle was solved, Baruch Hashem, by the Slonimer Rebbe in his masterpiece “Netivot Shalom”. The Rebbe writes that there is a deep connection between humility and the Land of Israel. He states that when one comes to live in Israel, he must come with his humility and leave his pride in his old country. Far too many people expect to see the red carpet – after all; “Do you know who I am???” They come to Israel and always manage to find problems with the education, the health care or the price of food. They have difficulty feeling comfortable in their new surroundings because of one thing; they forgot to pack their “humility” in their suitcases! The Rebbe says that the land is indeed very, VERY good but you will only realize it, if you are very, VERY humble.

 Dearest friends; this is a powerful lesson for us all. With all the wonderful things about Israel, the modern state is just 70 years old and in many ways, is still a “work in progress”. The reason I want you to come here is for that very reason! I want you to help build the country. I want you to plant trees, develop ideas, strengthen the army and bring dreams to fruition. All these need to be done because Israel is young and still growing, maturing and developing. Don’t come to Israel and expect to be served. Life here is not a “Pesach program” in Miami Beach, but on the good side, it’s not over in 8 days.

 Regarding Calev, the spy who saw the good in Israel, Hashem clearly says the following; “I will bring him to the land to which he came and his offspring will drive out (its inhabitants)…” (Ba’midbar 14:24) Do you understand those words? Because Calev saw the good, his descendants will merit to drive out the enemy. This means they will merit to fight for Israel! The Torah doesn’t say that his offspring will sunbathe on the beach or shop in Mamilla… no it doesn’t, because that’s a life for people who forgot the 2 lessons of “very, very”.

 On one hand, “The land is very, very good” but on the other hand, when you come here, you need to be “very, very humble in spirit”. Humble people work hard, sweat in the heat as they build the land, train night and day to fight the enemy and are always ready to give and not receive. THAT is the attitude a Jew needs to have when fulfilling his/her destiny in making Aliyah.

 Come home my brothers and sisters. Come to the very, very good land and bring your very, very humble spirit. You will be very, very happy you did!

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