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Climbing Ladders to Heaven

Friday, 19 June, 2020 - 12:41 am

“What is your ultimate goal here, Rabbi?”

A friend blurted out the question in the midst of an intense conversation about community challenges. I answered him honestly, but I continue to contemplate the question often. Whatever I am doing, is it leading to the ultimate goal?

In this week’s parsha we learn of the dramatic events that lead to the greatest tragedy in our history. The Israelites, poised to enter the Promised Land a little over a year after being redeemed from Egypt, inexplicably demanded Moshe send spies to scout out the land before conquering it.

Reluctantly twelve representatives were sent and upon returning, ten of them declared “mission impossible.” The cities are strongly fortified, giants abound and everything about the land is so strange that attempting to take it would be certain suicide.

Two of the spies insisted their colleagues were terribly mistaken. Yehosua and Kaleiv, appalled that the people had so easily lost their trust in G-d by the foreboding report, courageously attempted to sway public opinion. After reminding them of Moshe’s credentials as G-d’s undisputed messenger, Kaleiv movingly declared, “If Moshe would instruct us to build ladders and climb them to heaven - we would certainly succeed!”

The statement about climbing ladders to heaven sounds like poetic license, but a deeper understanding of this episode reveals that Kaleiv was making a precise declaration, relevant to us today more than ever.

The Israelites were instructed to transform a land inhabited by depraved and immoral nations into a holy land. This is a microcosm of creation’s purpose; to reveal the divine brilliance hidden within the mundane and meaningless reality of our world. To bring heaven down to earth or bring earth closer to heaven.

Ten of the spies worried that the Jews would succumb to the spirit-numbing mundane realities of life settling the land would inevitably present and disconnect from the Torah they had recently received at Sinai. “The land will consume them,” they fretted. Better to remain ensconced in the spirituality of desert life, surrounded by the Clouds of Glory, nurtured by the heavenly bread called manna while studying Torah directly from Moshe.

But Kaleiv proclaimed that since the mission of imbuing divinity into the humdrum of regular life was coming from G-d through Moshe, it was certainly attainable.

In the winter of 1951 as the Rebbe formally accepted the mantle of Chabad Lubavitch leadership, he declared our generation is charged with the urgent mission of ushering in the era of Moshiach. To cause the long awaited redemption to actually happen by revealing the divine brilliance hidden within the mundane and meaningless reality of our world. To bring heaven down to earth or bring earth closer to heaven.

Everything was imbued with this urgency, and the Rebbe educated and inspired tens of thousands of Chassidim to devote their lives to this mission and millions more to get involved as well.

As we observe the Rebbe’s 26th Yartzeit this coming Thursday, the Third of Tammuz, Kaleiv’s immortal declaration serves as an inspiration for us all. Even when the job of revealing goodness in every detail of reality seems impossible and perhaps far-fetched, realize that we are truly empowered to make our world more heavenly by adding in Torah study, doing an extra mitzvah, increasing our Tzedakah giving and connecting with each other in the true spirit of Ahavat Yisrael.

The Rebbe continues to lead and inspire our way towards redemption and we need to keep climbing “the ladder” one mitzvah at a time.

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