The following is based in part on the Sefer Mima’amkim and discussions with my dear friend Rav Nati Yefet. Please feel free to print this out and read it over Shabbos - just not during Tefilos!
In this week’s Parsha we encounter the Megadef, a man who was killed for cursing Hashem. In order to understand how the story of the Megadef applies to us we need to understand where he went wrong, so that in contrast we will learn what to do right.
The verse that introduces us to the Megadef opens up with the interesting phrase that seemingly comes out of nowhere. “VaYeitzei Ben Isha Yisraelis -and a man, son of a Jewish woman went out…” Meaning, as the verses go on to describe; he went out into the camp, got into an argument, cursed God and was subsequently put to death for his deeds.
If he ‘went out’ then it must mean that he was somewhere previously and then left that place into the scene that the Torah describes. From where did he leave? Rashi brings down the Midrash which says that Mei’Olamo Yatza - he left his world. This means that he entered a scene where he committed a sin that would cause his removal from this world (being put to death). VaYeitzei means that he left the status of justified existence.
But there are two problems. First, MeiOlamo Yatza is an awfully ambiguous way of saying that he was Chayav Misa (incurred a death penalty). Second, why does it say that he left Olamo - his world. MeiOlam Yatza - that he left the world would have been enough. What, the world belonged to this Megadef?
In order to reach the depth of the matter we need to learn about what caused this man to curse God out. The Torah already tells us that this man’s mother was Jewish, but his father was Egyptian. This leaves him in an uncomfortable situation. In Judaism you need a Jewish mother to be in the religion but you are associated with a tribe based on where your father is from. Therefore this man is Jewish, but without a tribe. Therefore when he tried to set up his tent amongst Shevet Dan (where his mother was from) they kicked him out. He took them to court and Moshe Rabbeinu went with the members of Dan.
This man felt like now, without a place to pitch his tent, he had no place in the world. He had no physical base onto which he could settle his life. He felt like he didn’t belong, but on a more philosophical level - like he didn’t have a place in this world. This caused an emotional downward spiral until he eventually made the fatal mistake of cursing HaKadosh Baruch Hu.
This stemmed from a very deep mistake: Ein Licha Davar SheEin Lo Makom - There is nothing that doesn’t have it’s place. Everyone has a place in this world, we all have a place where we belong - but this place is not physical. Let’s explain.
Hashem is called in many places by the title of HaMakom which literally means “The Place”. This means SheHu Mikomo Shel HaOlam, V’Ein HaOlam Mikomo - that He is the Space in which the world exists and not that He exists within the world. As the Rambam explains – if we would cease to be, God would be just fine, but in the impossible situation that He would cease to exist – we would stop existing as well. A vessel without water is just fine. But water without a container can’t stay in place. Hashem’s title as HaMakom is a reference to how His Ratzon, His will justifies our existence. Inasmuch He wills us to be we have a floor to stand on.
And it goes a step deeper. The fact that I take on a physical form is only due to the fact that Hashem has found a Makom for me, a place within His masterplan to reveal Himself in this world. I am a physical manifestation of my mission. We all have our contribution to make. The fact that our role exists gives way to our physical continuation to manifest. And obviously no one has the same role. Every person – every creation for that matter – has its unique role to play.
This is true meaning of Ein Licha Davar SheEin Lo Makom - ‘There is nothing that doesn’t have it’s place.’ Like we just explained, the term Makom is not necessarily physical space on which to stand - Makom is a reference to God as He gives justification to all creations to exist. And therefore Ein Licha Davar SheEin Lo Makom teaches us that there is nothing in this world without a unique, justified existence. If it’s here in this world then it has an exclusive place – a relationship to HaMakom within the plan. The fact that something exists is merely a sign, a reference to the fact that it has a lofty purpose – for if that purpose, that Makom wasn’t there neither would the object itself. There is nothing in this world that doesn’t have a unique connection to HaMakom, and now we can say that the intrinsic existence of any given object is testimony to this concept.
And perhaps this is the meaning of the famous premise that every person must believe that Kol HaOlam Lo Nivra Ela Bishvili - the whole world was created just for me. First off, if taken out of hand this can become a very egotistical outlook! Secondly, how can it even be true? The whole world can’t be created just for Joe and just for Bob. But in light of what we said perhaps we can understand. If I am the manifestation of one facet of God’s will, then the relationship that I have to everything that I come in contact with, the desire of the outcomes had by God for those relationships, is totally different than every other person. The way I relate to any given object is wholly unique in light of my Makom.
Chazal bring down a parable to what this is comparable. A king enters a town with three of his officials: a General, a Tax-Collector and a Wiseman. The General enters the town and sees how this roof is good for archers; this is a weak spot in the wall and therefore a good entrance for storming the city. The Tax-Collector sees how certain areas have a denser population, how there he’ll need to be more careful. He sees where the rich live and organizes when to approach whom. The Wiseman sees the infrastructure merely as a reference point to greater sociological issues. He analyzes the plight of the needy. Even though they all see the same physical space – their relationship to it is completely unique based on their roles.
What emerges is that the reality of each creation in the context of Ein Licha Davar SheEin Lo Makom creates the possibility in which the world can be perceived through the lens of Kol HaOlam Lo Nivra Ela Bishvili.
My ‘place’ in this world is not a physical one. My ‘place’ is the point of expression where I fit into the greater plan. My Makom is my purpose. This is how we are to approach he world with the eyes of Ein Licha Davar SheEin Lo Makom.
This was the mistake of the Megadef. He thought that his Makom was a physical set-up, that with out it his life would fall into disarray. This was a self-fulfilling prophecy. When he was forced out of his physical space, namely the Tribe of Dan, he took it as a sign from God that he didn’t have a unique spiritual role in the world. It was this that led to his spiritual demise.
Now we understand why the Midrash tells us that MeiOlamo Yatza - he left from his world. His basing himself on his physical space caused him to lose touch with his perspective of Kol HaOlam Lo Nivra Ela Bishvili - the world ceased to be his own. He stopped seeing his place in it. By cursing God, the Megadef took HaKadosh Baruch Hu out of the picture. And like we said from the Rambam, if there is no God, then automatically the creation can longer exist – the floor to stand on disappears. Thus MeiOlamo Yatza, is a reference to his death sentence.
God was telling the Megadef ‘Relocate’ not ‘You don’t matter’.
Inasmuch as we tap into the extreme importance of what we said we will always be filled with nothing but inspiration. Because if I know that there is a purpose for me no matter where I go, then I can always fall back on the questions of, “What does God want from me right now?” “What is the HaKadosh Baruch Hu want to emerge from my relationship with this sandwich?” Knowing that God has a specific plan for me, a unique desire for every moment of everything empowers me to make the right decisions all the time. It gives me the strength I need to overcome the most difficult of situations. Knowing that I am a physical manifestation of a very specific manifestation of God’s will gives me courage to know that my most challenging situations are in reality moments of specified Divine intervention and attention.
HaKadosh Baruch Hu should give us the strength to live with such a lofty mindstate, for if we do there is no doubt that we will live lives in which we achieve Sheleimus and live with Simcha, moving closer to the Creator and ultimately the Geulah Sheleimah!