In a chassidic parable called The Exchanged Children, a prince (our spirituality) and a slave’s son (our physicality) are lost in a forest. After much wandering, the prince merits to receive a powerful gift: the ability “to distinguish one thing from another (BINaH)”.1
When the comrades finally return to civilization, the prince is challenged to solve the mystery of a strange garden where anyone who enters runs out screaming in terror.
Because through his traveling he gained the power of discernment, the prince calmly reasons out how to exit the maze in peace. By rearranging the garden just a bit here and there, order is restored within the maze and all the invisible terrors dissipate.
Through the divine gift of BINaH, the wandering of the prince ends and he assumes his true regal status.
Finding A Way
When Hashem commanded Israel to build the MiSHKaN, he filled Betzalel with Divine Inspiration “BeCHoKHMaH – through knowlege, UViTHVuNaH – through understanding and UVeDAaTH – through knowledge”.2
CHoKHMaH — knowledge — is received from others. BINaH – Understanding — is the ability to extract new information from previous knowledge, similar but superior to deduction.3 . It is “rearranging conceptual furniture” to facilitate DAaTH – true wisdom. 4
CHoKHMaH is received from the past. BINaH projects what we know into its application the future. Through the gift of BINaH, the prince was able to place the mysterious elements of the maze in their proper order. By rearranging the MiTaH, SHuLCHaN, KiSAy, NeR he creates a MiSHKaN – a place from which peace and harmony emanate into the world.
The story of the prince and the maze describes finding a way back to Hashem and thereby to our most essential self. At first we are terrified by invisible “demons” that chase us from the “garden” of our own potential.5
Only by empowering CHoKHMaH (Torah study) through BINaH (facilitated by tefilah – prayer) can we merit the ability to rearrange our priorities – the “furniture” of our lives – to create a MiSHKaN – a dwelling place for Hashem’s Presence.
“Not a Man was Missing…”
The tribes of Reuben and Gad wanted to settle on the far side of the Jordan, outside the border of Israel. They proposed building “pens for our cattle and cities for our children.”6
Moshe Rabeynu agrees to this, but notices through the wording of their request that concern for their wealth took subconscious precedence over the establishment of their children. He corrects their priorities gently, with compassion, simply by reversing their word order in his response: “Build cities for your children and pens for your cattle.”7
May Hashem provide us with leaders who have the wisdom and compassion of Moshe Rabeynu to help us navigate the “media maze” so not one of us falls “missing” in the war to establish priorities in Torah education, as in this week’s parasha:
וְלֹא נִפְקַד מִמֶּנּוּ אִישׁ
“…not a man was missing from among us.”8
The Midianites numbered “as many as there are grains of sand” but only 12,000 Jewish soldiers were sent to fight against them.
Through Hashem’s miraculous protection, Israel was victorious even though greatly outnumbered and there was not a single Jewish casualty. So may it be His will now, in these confusing, maze-like times, omen v’omen.