Weekly Torah Portion – Parshat Hashavua Devarim
By: Rabbi Nissim Mordechai Makor
Parshat Hashavua Devarim in a nutshell: Moshe reviews the Torah before the Jewish people. He tells them about the exodus from Egypt and everything that happened while they wondered in the desert for 40 years and he encourages them to observe the Torah and the mitzvot.
“She weeps bitterly in the night, and her tear is on her cheek.” (Eichah 1:2)
Immediately following the destruction of Jerusalem, the great philosopher Plato came to visit the ruins of the Temple. While inspecting the ruins he noted a man crying bitterly. He walked over to the man and asked him who he was. “I’m Jeremiah, the prophet of the Jews.” Plato couldn’t believe what he heard. “Jeremiah, your wisdom is known throughout the world. I must ask you two questions. Firstly, how could you cry over stones and mortar? Second, why do you cry over something which has already happened?”
Jeremiah looked the man squarely in the eye and said, “Plato, wisest of men, are there any philosophical puzzles you haven’t answered?” Plato asked his most difficult questions to Jeremiah and the prophet answered them immediately. Jeremiah then said to the astonished Plato, “All this wisdom has come from these bricks and mortar. As for your second question, I’m afraid there is no way for you to comprehend this.” (Rama, Quoted from Lev Eliyahu vol. I pg. 29)
The Rambam tells us regarding the redemption that there are two obligations: We must believe in its coming and await its arrival. What is the difference between these two things? The Hazon Ish writes that there are two concepts, emunah and bitahon (belief and faith). The Hazon Ish says that these two are the same thing, but emunah is the theory and bitahon is the practice. A man can be a great philosopher about G-d but not put it into practice. It’s all theory. The same is true here. Believing is the philosophy of the geulah, awaiting it is the practical reality. To cry is not to analyze or contemplate, to philosophize or to interpret. To cry is to feel. To shed a tear is practical
Nothing To Fear
Og, King of the Bashan went out towards us…and Hashem said to me, ‘Do not fear him.’”(Debarim 3:1-2)
Rashi cites the Midrash which explains that Moshe was apprehensive that the merit which Og earned in assisting Abraham Abinu would shield him from defeat. How did Og assist Abraham? When Lot, Abraham’s nephew, was captured, Og brought the news to Abraham. The Midrash explains that the merit did not help Og, because his intention was actually to hurt Abraham, not to help him. He hoped that by informing Abraham of Lot’s imprisonment, he would entice Abraham to be drawn into a war which would eventually cost Abraham his life. Thus Og would be enabled to marry Sarah. Since Og’s intention was malicious, Hashem decreed that Og would be killed by the descendants of Abraham.
Rav Chizkiyah Cohen z”l derives a profound lesson from this Midrash. Although Og’s intention was unscrupulous, the merit of his deed was sufficient that Moshe feared its effect. This is remarkable! An individual performed a wonderful deed motivated by a nefarious intention. Nevertheless, he was entitled to a reward on the level that the great sadik Moshe, the unparalleled leader of Am Yisrael, stood in awe of this merit. Obviously, one tiny merit swimming in a sea of evil overcomes its environment and retains its positive quality.
Yet another lesson can be gleaned from this pasuk which defines the essence of a gadol, Torah giant. Hazal has recounted Og’s extraordinary physical prowess. He was a giant who could uproot mountains with his bare hands. Yet, this did not phase Moshe Rabenu at all. Man’s physical strength, his ability to overpower others, was not sufficient to frighten Moshe. The material success man enjoys is subject to Hashem’s approval.
If Hashem desired that Moshe emerge triumphantly, then no one, regardless of his physical/material might, would defeat him. Moshe only feared his contender’s spiritual merit, for this warranted a reward which could decide the conflict in his favor. We derive from this pasuk that Torah and misvot – and only Torah and misvot – give us the power and sustenance to succeed in life. (Peninim on the Torah)
Speech, which differentiates man from all other creatures, is very often taken for granted, and abused. It’s so easy to talk, so natural, that we give it little thought. Consequently, almost all of us say some pretty foolish things during the course of a day. And sometimes we get so caught up in trying to express our own thoughts that we don’t listen to what others are saying.
The trick to being a good talker is to learn how to be a good listener. Everyone works at teaching children to talk, but you have to search far and wide to find someone who spends any time at all teaching their children the art of listening.
To improve your ability to listen, try these exercises:
1) Don’t finish other people’s sentences for them. It is written (Abot 5:7), “A wise person…does not interrupt his friend…”
2) Don’t answer until you have heard the complete question.
3) Don’t pre-judge a conversation. Don’t jump to conclusions about its outcome before even having the conversation.
4) Listen to your children carefully. Count to six before answering them.
Everyone agrees that you should look before you leap. It is just as important to think before you speak! (One Minute With Yourself – Rabbi Raymond Beyda)
Pearls of Life
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov teaches that income is generated from the illumination of a wife’s soul [Likutei Moharan 1:69], for “Money comes to a person by virtue of the wife [Zohar- Tazria 52]. The Pearls of Life now bring R’ Shalom Arush who explains that a happy and joyous wife has an illuminated soul which serves as a spiritual catalyst for her husband’s income. Therefore, there is no greater mistake than saddening or constricting the wife, arguing with her about money, or withholding her needs. When a wife can’t buy what she needs or use money as she sees fit, the illumination of her soul is dulled and income is constricted. A husband that argues with a wife about money axes the very limb that he sits upon. By saving a few cents, he loses hundreds and possibly thousands of dollars. By dulling her soul’s illumination, he loses the income that her soul’s illumination generates. Even if he thinks he’s saving thousands of dollars by limiting her spending, his income problems will only increase.
Yeshiva Pirchei Shoshanim.
As learned from my Torah Masters
With Torah Blessings
Rabbi Nissim Makor