‘What good is a lamp in the sunshine!’
Our characters have been marked with Poland, Hungary, Germany, Spain, Amsterdam, Morocco and Turkey.
All of our ancestors have traveled through the desert. Our character has been altered – how could it not be?
In this week’s parsha, we find the Jews journeying deep into the desert. They were between countries. They were not Egyptians anymore and they were not yet Israelis.
G-d warned them: “After the doings of the land of Egypt, where you lived, you shall not do, and after the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do” (Lev. 18:3). The Jews were expected to develop a national character from the Torah, and then live by it in their own country, Eretz Yisrael.
Egypt, the place from which we came was the most immoral, depraved country in the world! Canaan was inhabited by seven nations that were even more immoral and depraved than the Egyptians.
So the Jews had a tremendous job on their hands. To rise above the moral level of the Egyptians and the Canaanite nations and EVERY nation on Earth, “to be a light unto the nations”!
We started off with quite a handicap. If G-d wanted us to become so great, why didn’t he supply us with a more conducive atmosphere to holiness instead of sandwiching us between the bad and the worse?
G-d’s view of environment is not quite the obvious. The Jewish Neshama had to learn to shine in even the darkest places. Our souls had to be trained to sparkle in its uniqueness. This is the only way we can fulfill our historic mandate. Indeed the Talmud charged, ‘What good is a lamp in the sunshine!’
The Jewish people all possessed beautiful souls; souls that they inherited from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We needed to be Jews; not Egyptians and not Canaanites. We needed to get in touch with what WE are and bring that to the world.
Our own souls have traveled far and wide, but the characteristics they have assumed are mere prisms by which our Jewish character can be viewed. We have to teach our children to find their own souls and make them shine.