There is a question that has always troubled me about the Parshiyot we are currently in the midst of. The Midrash tells us, “A simple maid servant at the splitting of the sea, saw more than the Prophet Yechezkel did in his days.” Yechezkel is the prophet who describes to us the Maaseh Merkava or “Chariot of Hashem”, he gives us some of the most esoteric looks at the Divine of all the prophets – Yechezkel had a very clear picture of the Divine and is regarded as one of the greatest prophets. But, a simple maidservant saw more than he did. The Jewish People, at the crossing of the sea and at the subsequent revelation at Har Sinai, had more clarity about Hashem than Yechezkel – how is it that within a few weeks or days they were practicing what may have been Avodah Zarah, committing terrible sins with the daughters of Midian, and in general being pretty challenging toward Moshe and Hashem? How can someone be witness to such amazing events and remain unchanged?
Rav Chaim Shmulevitz addresses this question in his famous Sichos Mussar – he explains that this is product of a phenomena that we are all familiar with, “easy come, easy go”. The maidservant who crossed the sea did nothing to earn or deserve the immense vision she received. Yechezkel spent his life developing himself, working on growing closer with Hashem, developing his ability to see, etc. This growth changes a person. The development of a relationship, of one’s self, which culminates in an amazing connection or understanding is far more valuable and life-changing than simply being handed that understanding.
I have spoken many times about being “Shomer Negiah with Hashem”. The concept of being Shomer Negiah has many taamim, but one of the ideas is that it is challenging to develop a deep, meaningful relationship with another person if we are distracted by the physical, and even emotional, pleasures and highs that come from physical contact. Often times we can be blinded bythese “highs” and never build a deep, real relationship. As the mishna in Pirkei Avot tell us, “Regarding love which is dependent on something: When the something goes away, so does the love.” If we don’t focus on developing our relationship, and merely go from “high” to “high”, then when the “high” is gone, so is the “relationship”.
This concept is true for all relationships, particularly our relationship with Hashem. If our whole Judaism and Avodat Hashem is merely based on “spiritual highs” – that amazing kumzitz, or that time I davened on Masada at sunrise, or that Havdalah – we may be neglecting to build a real relationship with Hashem. And, frighteningly enough, when those kumzitzes, havdalahs, and sunrises are gone, so too might our connection with Judaism and Hashem. Life, and Judaism, can be hard sometimes, bad things happen, life gets monotonous, time is short, we get tired, but if we have spent time building a real relationship, not been blinded by the “spiritual highs” and tricked into thinking that those highs are what it is all about, we will be able to endure, to maintain a relationship, and to develop ourselves and those around us into better, stronger, and truly spiritual people.
Now, I won’t deny that those highs are valuable, but they can’t be the foundation, we can’t allow them to blind us. They can help us, but they are merely tools. We need to focus on building a real, deep, meaningful relationship with our Judaism and with Hashem – because if not, we will end up just like the simple maidservant, who attained the highest heights, but fell so quickly to the lowest depths.
Let’s all strive to be like Yechezkel, maybe we won’t see as much, but at least it will be lasting and meaningful.