“Behold a people that rises up as a lioness, and as a lion lifts himself up; he shall not lie down until he eats of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain.” (Bamidbar 23:24)
In the world of “kiruv rechokim” there is always a dilemma of risking one’s own stability when moving into an area that is devoid of the necessary services of a religious community. Yet, time and time again we have seen those families who put themselves on the front lines and seemingly, against the odds, succeed in raising healthy, religious families. I have heard that Rav Aharon Kotler sometimes told those who went to help in towns and villages far from cities that they need not be concerned that their children would suffer. Though I was not able to verify this, I once heard from one of his close talmidim the following question and answer: How did Reb Aharon himself go to America, which was “a desolate wasteland” at the time, when he had the opportunity to go instead to Jerusalem. It is said that he made the gorel of the Vilna Gaon, and it came out on verse 4:27 of Shemos that he should go to greet Moshe (meaning Moshe Feinstein) in the desert (meaning America).
Yet, the Rishonim explain that there is a concept with regards to foods’ ability to expel and absorb flavor. As long as the food is expelling its own flavor, it is not capable of accepting new flavors. Thus, Reb Aharon went to America with the mindset to generate enthusiasm and to teach and disseminate Torah and therefore he was not concerned with his being put in danger of absorbing the empty culture of America.
This week I saw this idea echoed in the Kiddushas Levi. He goes through the stages of a person’s spiritual growth, starting when klal Yisrael was “like a lion cub”, a small baby which can only understand its own self-pleasure. He compares this to one who serves Hashem with the intent of receiving a reward. As klal Yisrael grew and developed, it became stronger, as the Torah refers to it “like a lion it will lift himself up”. At this stage, one can graduate to the level of being robust and determined like a lion to serve Hashem because it is the right thing to do. Only after that can a person come to a third level in which one is able to take on opposition and to tear people away from wallowing in the lust of this world. One must therefore be two steps removed in order to affect those people in a positive way.
This idea is also found in the Sforno in last week’s parsha, where he explains that a person who is not on the proper level, though involved with the red heifer, can actual contaminate himself while helping to purify others.
We all have an obligation to help our brethren, but first we must be sure and secure that our own spiritual health will not be damaged by our endeavors. May Hashem give us the strength to grow to the level that enables us to inspire others.
In my opinion we do not have to go out to the middle of nowhere to inspire others, for if you are “on fire” right here in Ahavas Shalom, the person next to you may catch it!