In אז ישיר it says נטית ימינך תבלעמו ארץ that through Hashem’s chesed the earth swallowed up the Egyptians who drowned in the Yam Suf (Rashi). The Keli Yakar proposes a different explanation and that it was the Yidden who were swallowed up by the earth. This passuk is referring to an event many years before the geulah upom the Egyptian decree that all male Jewish new born must be killed. The Jewish women went into the fields to give birth and miraculously the earth swallowed and covered them over. The Egyptians ploughed and dug on top of the earth hoping to kill them but it was to no avail for they were already protected by Hashem. In the earth they lived and grew and were nourished by malachim in the presence of the Shechinah up until the time they were ready to leave. Referring to this miracle the Chasam Sofer interprets the passuk ותמלא הארץ אותם that the land of Mitzrayim was full of them literally.
Even though this miracle occurred during the hardships of the bondage it is mentioned at the time of the geulah in the song of redemption. The reason being, that it was these same Yiddishe Kinderlach who were the ones who sang זה אלי ואנוהו as they pointed to the Shechinah. “We recognize You Hashem as You appeared to us many years ago under the ground”.
At Matan Torah we find a similar experience shared by all of Klal Yisrael. The passuk says ויתיצבו בתחתית ההר. Chazal interpret this to mean that they literally stood under the mountain. This teaches us that Hashem placed the mountain on top of them with an ultimatum that if you accept the Torah fine and if not, you will be buried right here. The Maharsha interprets this Chazal to mean that the mountain was not held in suspension over their heads but rather the mountain was hollow and Hashem placed it totally over Am Yisrael surrounding them from all sides. According to the Mahasha, Yisrael accepted the Torah literally under the mountain and under the earth.
Why was this fashion of accepting the Torah necessary if Yisrael already said נעשה ונשמע? The answer is that the Jewish Nation has a destiny and an all-encompassing mission to bring to fruition, not only for themselves but also for the entire world. Their avodah is to spread the light of Hashem through fulfilling His Torah and mitzvos, and thereby bring to Tikkun Olam. To successfully complete our journey in the world, we must have tunnel vision. This is defined as the tendency to focus exclusively on a single goal or point of view. For Am Yisrael to partner with Hashem in every single aspect of their lives (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim Siman 231) is not a display and sign of narrow-mindedness and weakness. To the contrary, it is a daily “breath taking” experience rooted in the most spectacular event of creation when Hashem blew into Man’s body His neshamah in order to serve as his guide to safely lead him through the perilous jungle of life.
If one thinks about it, the game of pool is a mashal to life. The “pool sharks” know very well that before every shot one must always keep his eye focused on the eight ball in order to win. We take cues from many no matter from which side of the table his cue (the white ball with which he hits the other balls into the pocket of the table). all the other color is situated. The Maharal writes that the number 8 expresses the supernatural. The game of pool teaches us that by Hashem’s selection of us as the exclusive ambassador to Hashem in this world we must make every move without ever losing sight of our essence which is our supernatural connection to infinity and Olam Habah.
One time the Belzer Rebbe ztl was travelling in a train with his gabbai. He turned to his gabbai and said I want you to do me a tovah. When the train goes into the tunnel please wake me in case I fall asleep. When they were approaching the tunnel the gabbai woke up the Rebbe and then watched him fervently begin to say the Shemah Yisrael. The gabbai couldn’t comprehend why the Rebbe wanted to say Shema in the tunnel. After the train exited from the tunnel the Rebbe said to the gabbai “We say in davening כי ה’ הוא אלקים בשמים ממעל ועל הארץ מתחת אין עוד that Hashem is Elokim in the heavens above and the earth below there is nothing else. Why say the earth “below” since that is understood by everyone? The answer is that if one has a rare opportunity to go underneath the earth and accept upon himself the yoke of Hashem even there, grab it with tremendous joy and excitement.
The definition of “underground”, besides beneath the earth, also means a group or movement organized secretively to work against an existing regime. The first Jewish Underground was in Mitzrayim. These Yiddishe Kinderlach from birth had the unique experience of being nurtured by “tunnel vision” basking in the splendor of the Shechinah grooming them for their historic lifetime mission. With such holy preparation they were enabled to live their future lives looking at the world through the lenses of זה אלי ואנוהו this is my Hashem and I will build Him a sanctuary to dwell in every step of the way (Targum Onkeles).
The truth be said, even today every Jewish newborn is also nourished with the same holy preparation of nine months in a spiritual “tunnel” called a uterus. During this period the embryo is taught Torah by a malach with a radiant spiritual light over his head, with which he can see from one end of the world to the other. We too must emerge from our infusion of tunnel vision, and focus on the eight ball, to recognize that we too must point and say זה אלי ואנוהו that let this experience will be a sanctuary to Hashem. שויתי ה’ לנגדי תמיד It is in this Shechinah tunnel called the uterus that one is taught to be selfless and live a life of chesed to transform his focus from “u to us” by following the light of the Torah and the Shechina.
Through life we experience ups and downs with Hashem hiding His presence. We must realize that hester panim is not here to stay. It is only to stir and awaken us to return to the life track of fulfilling our mission in this world. There are times that we can lapse into sinking so low spiritually that we feel as if we are buried in the grave. Yet Dovid Hamelech who felt this way, writes in his Tehillim (30,4 – 49,16) ה’ העלית מן שאול נפשי Hashem elevated me from the grave. Note the acronym from the words העלית מן שאול נפשי which spell נשמה backwards. No matter how backwards, down, and rejected from Hashem one becomes, he must nevertheless realize that he has a neshama that is yearning to fulfill its purpose to be your GPS. One only has to believe in his neshamaand he will exit the self imposed shackles and be free to continue on the path to meet his destiny.
An interesting observation is that the letters ofשאול grave are the same as שואל the borrower, the fourth of the shomrim watchmen who is the most vulnerable for liabilities for the object that he is watching. However, there is a clause that states if the owner is there with him while he is watching the animal then he is פטור free from paying damages. Similarly, in a deeper understanding, every Yid was given a neshama to watch carefully. Even if one is neglectful and shortcoming occurs under his watch, the sefarim tell us that ה’ אלקיו עמו Hashem is always with him even if He is in hiding. This means that the shomer isפטור he can still “free and loosen” himself from the clutches of his yetzer harah who is holding him in the שאול .
In these weeks of Shovavim this is a fundamental realization and segulah to understand clearly. Even if one struggles with matters of kedusha such as Tikkun Habris which is hinted in the gematriah of שאול in the acronym of שז”ל 337, one has the power and special siyatah dishmaya to overcome his yetzerharah.
This week is Tu Bishvat. Man is likened to a tree האדם עץ השדה. The foundation of the tree is its roots. The length of the branches of the tree, parallel the length of its roots. Tu Bishvat is the time when we see a techiyas hameisimand the sap begins to go upwards from its roots even though the roots are lying deep under the ground. Klal Yisrael also have roots called the Avos. Even long after they passed away and are lying under the earth they still nourish Yisrael with their spiritual genes within us to keep in healthy spiritual form. When we are in doubt which road to take, our deep roots can re route us back onto the correct path that will help lead us to our destiny. Together with our tunnel vision and focus, we can bring Moshiach, build the Beis Hamikdash, and bask in the glory of Hashem forever.