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Parashat Eikev

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi Yosef Shemtov

In this week’s Parasha, Moshe Rabeinu continues encouraging people not to be afraid when they enter Eretz Israel. He assures them that the Almighty will defeat their enemies and Israel will take over the country.

Moshe Rabeinu tells them, “But bear in mind you won’t defeat enemies quickly rather you will take over the country little by little.” In fact, it took them seven years to conquer the land. The Torah states the reason you don’t take over the land quickly is “Lest wild animals will increase on you.” The simple explanation is that if you take over the cities and you don’t dwell there, wild animals will enter the cities because there is nobody there.
This reason doesn’t make so much sense. God could prevent animals from entering the cities, and even if they did come, the animals would leave when people start coming back.
The deeper understanding of this is “Lest the animal nature will increase within you,” meaning if you keep on fighting and killing without stopping to charge your batteries like praying and learning Torah, you become like an animal whose nature is to kill other weaker animals. Because of this Moshe is telling Beni Israel that Hashem will not let you conquer the land quickly.

Golda Meir once said something interesting to the Arabs. She said that “We can forgive you for killing our children, but we cannot forgive you for forcing our soldiers to kill.”

Parashat Vaetchanan

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi David Cohen

You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor shall you subtract from it. (4:2)

The Torah is Divinely authored and, as such, it is perfect. When Hashem commands that Tefillin have four parshiot, He does not mean that four is a minimum, allowing for us to add a fifth parsha at will. Every number that Hashem gives us is the requisite for this mitzvah.This idea would seem valid if one were attempting to subtract from the Torah. Why should the devout, observant Jew who wants to add to the mitzvah be held in contempt?

Simply, one who adds suggests that the original mitzvah is imperfect. We can look at it in another way. Horav Lazar Brody, Shlita, suggests an often-used parable which lends practicality to this prohibition. It also explains why those individuals who attempt to impugn the Torah with their own perverted ideas of religious observance not only lack clear perception in their understanding of Torah, but are also deficient in their religious observance.

A man visited his doctor complaining of chest pains and trouble breathing. The doctor put him through a battery of tests to confirm that nothing was seriously wrong with the man. The diagnosis came back as pneumonia, a lung infection that was treatable with antibiotics. The doctor was well aware that in order to rid the system of infection effectively, the patient would require 20,000 units of antibiotics. To swallow the entire dosage all at once would kill the patient. On the other hand, to spread the dose over a period of thirty days would not provide enough fighting power to eradicate the bacteria. Thus, the doctor wrote a ten day prescription, dividing the dosage over four times a day, providing the patient daily with 2,000 units of bacteria-fighting antibiotics. In ten days, the patient should be cured of his pneumonia.
The doctor took all of this into consideration when he wrote the prescription. He was not going to hold the patient’s hand to make sure that he took the correct amount four times daily for the allotted time period. A patient who does not follow the doctor’s instructions and misses a dose or doubles up on his dose either will not recuperate or will become sicker. Anyone with a modicum of common sense understands that the doctor knows what he is doing, so that to undermine his authority would be foolhardy.

Is it any different with the Torah’s mitzvot? Hashem is the Rofeh kol basar, Healer of all flesh, the Supreme Physician, Who knows what is best for us, because He is our Creator. Hashem has determined that the Jewish neshamah, soul, requires four species for seven days – no more, no less. Those who are clueless concerning the spiritual anatomy of the Jewish soul should not attempt to change the age-old, hallowed traditions of our people. Changes in halachah to conform with contemporary society were attempted by the secular streams of Judaism two centuries ago. We all know how successful they were. Now we have those who call themselves Orthodox attempting to do the same. They will meet with the same success as their secular mentors. To add or subtract from the written word of G-d is to imply that it lacks perfection and is somehow not applicable in all venues or under all circumstances. To add or subtract is to distort and demean the pristine nature of the Torah. To do so is to deny its Divine authorship.
May we all be Zocheh to follow Hashem’s Torah in the purest sense.

Shabbot Shalom!

Parashat Devarim

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi David Shasho

The second Bet HaMikdash was destroyed for the sin of baseless hatred. Does that mean that if we have a reason to hate another Jew then it is justified? In this week’s Parashah Moshe Rabeinu rebukes the Jewish people through very vague words by listing the places they sinned in order to protect the honor of Bnei Yisrael and avoids mentioning the actual sins. Before the Jewish people went into Eretz Yisrael, they were not responsible for each other’s sins. Once they crossed the Jordan river, all the Jewish people became united as one and were responsible for one another. (This is detailed in Yehoshua when the Jews crossed the Jordan river and stood at Har Gerizim and Har Eival.) Therefore Moshe Rabeinu did not write the sins openly because each individual person would be judged differently.

There is no question that one of the most important foundations in Judaism is that we are responsible for one another. If this is true then it is our obligation to treat every Jew we meet with respect and to go out of our way and help everyone like family. The Afikei Yehudah on this week’s Parashah says that the Jewish people are compared to the sand in the sea and to the stars in the heavens. The nature of sand is that it travels together with every movement always united. Whereas the stars by nature are very far apart from one another and are like entire worlds on their own. When the Jewish people were unified together Moshe said I can lead you all, but when they were far apart from each other וָאֹמַ֣ר אֲלֵכֶ֔ם בָּעֵ֥ת הַהִ֖וא לֵאמֹ֑ר לֹא־אוּכַ֥ל לְבַדִּ֖י שְׂאֵ֥ת אֶתְכֶֽם׃ Thereupon I said to you, “I cannot bear the burden of you by myself”. “For Hashem has multiplied you as many as the stars in the sky”. Moshe was saying you were so separate from one another I could not lead you myself. אֵיכָ֥ה אֶשָּׂ֖א לְבַדִּ֑י טָרְחֲכֶ֥ם וּמַֽשַּׂאֲכֶ֖ם וְרִֽיבְכֶֽם׃ How can I bear unaided the trouble of you, and the burden, and the bickering! Due to so much quarreling the Seforno says Moshe had been forced to appoint a large number of judges. In order to take control there had to be one judge for every ten people.

The Torah says – לֺא תִשְׂנָא אֶת אַחִיךָ בִּלְבָבֶךָ “You shall not hate your brother in your heart” . There really is no reason to hate another Jew. Whether he hurt you, hit you, stole from you, or embarrassed you. No one can touch you or anything that belongs to you unless it is Hashem’s will. If someone does steal from you it was written in Shamayim that you were supposed to lose that money. Hashem used that person to carry out his will. If you will ask, isn’t this person sinning by stealing? Yes he is and because perhaps this person is a habitual thief Hashem causes him to sin again. Doing one sin leads to another ”עַבֵירָה גֺורֶרֶת עַבֵירָה“ and they will be punished later for it. Hashem has sent this person to to make you lose the money to atone for something you have done.

The most important thing we need to work on during the 9 days is our relationship with our fellow man, how we treat other people. Hashem is more concerned when it comes to the relationship between us and our friends than the relationship between us and Hashem. Many people’s main focus in life is working to get close to Hashem. In Shamayim the focus is on how we treat each other. A relationship with Hashem is difficult to grasp and He easily forgives us if we don’t reach our spiritual goals. But with man we have the ability to understand each other and are therefore responsible for how we care for one another.

Bearing hatred upon someone will only lead to more hatred and many sins in the process.The Orchot Tsadikim says ”It is proper for a person to separate himself from all these evils and receive with love all that the Creator decrees for him. And he should not place his trust in man but should think, ‘If I were indeed worthy in Hashem’s eyes, He would give my needs to me regardless of the refusal of man to give or loan me anything.’ And if he is poor and in distress or if he is ill and severely pained by great pains, he should think that the Creator has decreed this for his good that he might learn to receive Hashem’s will with love. And there is no doubt that, when he does this, all hatred will depart from his heart. This acceptance of God’s will with love is a great foundation and mighty pillar for Torah and Commandments. He who disciplines himself to receive everything with love and to say at every occasion and mischance, גַם זוּ לְטֺובָה “This, too, is for good” (Ta’anith 21a), with meaning this in his heart and while rejoicing in the judgment of the Creator will be saved from hatred, enmity and jealousy.”

Let us rid ourselves of the quarreling, the bickering, and hatred of each other. Let us rather accept what Hashem has planned for us and treat every Jew with love and respect, like family. We are all responsible for one another. Let us unite like the sand in the sea and no matter what wave hits us we will always come back together. Through this great unity we will bring the Mashiach speedily in our days.

Shabbat Shalom