The camp of Israel must be clean. This is an important torah in this week’s Parasha. Israel received Torah in order to practice for the return to Gan Eden. A clean camp is the basis of the conditions which define the godly people Israel is called to be. Most of us live in a home and not in a tent nor do we live in a camp. How do we apply his torah in our lives?
All of Torah was given to Israel in order to know how to serve the G-d of Israel. Also by Torah do we know who G-d is and how He operates. We know about our toledot, our history, about our enemies and our friends. We know by Torah how G-d’s schedule looked like when He created the world and how He waited 10 generations before He called Noach and another 10 generations before He called our father Avraham to establish the Jewish people. Through Torah we know how we messed up our gracious time in Gan Eden (Paradise) and Torah teaches us how to get back to that divine place. A clean camp translates to a clean life and a clean kehilla or congregation as the basis for getting back to Gan Eden. It is one thing to know G-d and to serve Him and obey His commandments. It is much more to love Him and to respect and trust Him for everything in our lives.
We have to realize that we can only count on eternal life in the Olam haba, the world to come, when we believe that only G-d can raise us from the mud we have been created from. We then start serving Him, as obedient mud. The way we are to serve the Lord is stated in Pirke Avot so well: Be not as servants who serve the master on condition of receiving a reward. Be rather as servants who serve the master without condition of receiving a reward. And let the fear of heaven be upon you (Antignos of Socho in Pirke Avot 1:3).
About this fear of heaven: Said R. Mathia b. Heresh to him: Rabbi, all this stated above was done only to overawe him, that he might receive the words of the Torah with awe, terror, fear and trembling, as it is written [Psalm 2 “Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.”]. The New Testament, which is a Jewish document as some know, repeats and confirms this: “Work out your salvation out with fear and trembling” [Phillipians 2:12].
Back to the words of Antignos of Socho in Pirke Avot. He says that our serving will have to be “without condition or receiving a reward”. This means that we do this out of trust, love, affection, surrender and relationship with HASHEM. “And let the fear of heaven” … means that besides love there also needs to be fear. That is because this relationship is not between equals. It is between Father and child. And because Father is close and His Shechina is there we need to keep our lives, our congregations, our “camp”, clean.
Rabbi Lion S. Erwteman, Rosh Kehilla of Beth Yeshua