Weekly Torah Portion – Parshat Hashavua EIKEV
By: Rabbi Nissim Mordechai Makor
Parshat Hashavua EIKEV in a nutshell; Moses encourages the Israelites, cautioning them not to fear the Canaanite armies for G‑d will wage battle for them. Moses reminds the Israelites of their many transgressions. The commandments of prayer and Grace After Meals are mentioned. The second part of the Shema is also found in this portion.
We have been selected against our will to be players in the game of life. Right from the very beginning, the “conspiracy” began. The first humans, created in the idyllic Garden of Eden, were expelled because they exercised their powers of free choice improperly. Life after the Garden entailed making choices for right or for wrong .
In the ten generations from Adam to Noach (Noah), mankind generally chose improperly and a new world was formed. After that time, all of mankind was required to live by a set of seven laws, the “Seven Noachide Mitzvot [Commandments]” that became and still is the basis for all human behaviour:
1. Belief in G-d 2. Do not murder
3. Do not steal
4. Do not commit adultery
5. Do not blaspheme
6. Setup a court system
7. Kill your food before eating it.
In the ten generations from Noach to Avraham (Abraham) again, the world chose improperly. The former single world-wide nation became splintered into seventy different nations and languages and dispersed around the planet. Avraham and his future offspring were “chosen” to be the examples of how to chose correctly.
After receiving the Ten Utterances (Commandments), the Torah (with its 613 Mitzvot) and after spending 40 years in the desert absorbing the Torah and its many regulations and lessons, the Children of Israel thought themselves ready. But prior to Moshe’s death, just as Am Yisrael (the Nation of Israel) was about to enter Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel), he gave three discourses of admonition to his flock, so that they might learn from mankind’s history and from their own, how to LIVE successfully in Eretz Yisrael. And it is here, in his first discourse that Moshe makes known the essence of the Torah.
In chapter 10 verses 12 – 13, Moshe rephrases the nature of the Torah into just a few words:
“And now Israel, what does Hashem your G-d demand of you? Only this: to revere Hashem your G-d, to go in His ways, and to love Him and to serve Hashem your G-d with all your heart and soul. To guard the commandments of Hashem and His statutes, which I enjoin upon you today, for your own good.”
Two very important teachings are learned from these verses. Rashi (an acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, France, 1040 – 1105) cites the famous Chazal (Rabbinical teaching) from the Talmud (Brachot 33) based on these verses: “All is in the hands of Heaven – except the reverence of Heaven.” Mankind can only serve Hashem properly if it has reverence for Him. No matter what situation one faces one must first have a sense of reverence for Hashem in order to be able to choose correctly. Without it, one may be swayed either by the temptation of the action or by the fear of punishment (which isn’t really free choice). Only a highly developed sense of reverence allows one to exercise true free will.
The second lesson, reciting 100 blessings per day, was incorporated into the Seven Mitzvot of the Rabbis (while the Rabbi’s enacted thousands of ordinances within the framework of Jewish Halachah [law], only seven had the same stature as G-d given commandments. They are:
1. Lighting candles each night of Chanukah,
2. Lighting candles each night of Chanukah,
3. Reading the Scroll of Esther on Purim,
4. Giving gifts of food and charity on Purim,
5. The use of an ERUV [to carry on Shabbat, or to cook on a festival in preparation for Shabbat],
6. Reciting Hallel on Holidays and New Moons,
7. Reciting 100 blessings per day.
The Talmud (Tractate Menachot 43) records: “…every person (Jew) is obligated to recite 100 blessings per day, because it says [in the Torah] ‘And now Israel, what does Hashem your G-d demand of you?’ ” Rashi comments: “when the Torah wrote “Mah” (what – does Hashem…) read instead Me’ah (100).” In other words, instead of reading “And now Israel, what does Hashem your G-d demand of you?” One should read, And now Israel, 100 does Hashem your G-d demand of you?
The S’fat Emet (Rabbi Yehudah Leib Alter, 1847-1905, the second Gerer Rebbe and leader of Polish Jewry) commented on this Rabbinical Commandment: “Since everything that happens to mankind, stems from a blessing from Hashem, the more one is reverent [of Hashem] and fortified [by the performance of His Mitzvot], the more one can connect to His blessings.”
(The Crowns of the Torah, by A.I. Greenberg, page 72)
By making at least 100 blessings per day, we become aware of the many blessings that Hashem showers upon us. The more we are aware of how many blessings we receive, the more appreciative we become of all the good that comes our way.
Gathered around the Shabbat table at a Kiddush invChutz Le Aretz we ate, we sang, and we related stories of the many blessings that Hashem has provided us. Someone told the story of how he approached a wealthy man in the community and asked him to sponsor an upcoming Kiddush (a post prayer light reception during which we bless Hashem and sanctify the Shabbat or Holiday).
The man pointed at others eating herring and asked my father why he didn’t ask any of those people to sponsor the Kiddush?
Hashem created two types of Jews. To one group He gave checkbooks, so they could write as many checks as they desired and none would ever bounce. To the other group, He provided as much herring as they desired. The man told this wealthy man that if he was unhappy with the checkbook, he could trade it in for some herring. Put in this light, the man happily agreed to provide for as many Kiddushim as were needed.
In order to see Hashem’s many blessings we must bless Him so that we can literally, “count our Blessings.” Every time we pray, or make a blessing before or after we eat food, or see a rainbow, or witness a beautiful landscape, we become conscious of the great gifts that He bestows upon us.
Hashem doesn’t need our blessings, we do. Those whose attitude toward life is negative, are unaware of the many blessings that surround them.
Traffic Lights of the Soul
“Communities have adopted red, yellow and green traffic signals to help insure the safety of people and their vehicles. We need to marvel at the many thousands of wonderfully complex devices that have developed to make people’s lives better.”
The Torah and its laws are traffic lights of the soul, which maintains our physical and spiritual health. (Norman D. Levy; Based on Rabbi Miller’s, Duties of the Mind)
The Pearls of Life
The Pearls of Life presents: THE HEAVENLY COURT DECIDES
A trial or court case is a classic test of emuna (faith). Like in any other challenging situation, remembering the three basic laws of emuna (faith) is the key to success. Whether or not a person is guilty of wrongdoing in this world, by contractual, federal, or state law is immaterial; the fact that he or she is faced with a court case is an indication from Heaven of outstanding spiritual debits that need rectification.
One should know that the outcome of a trial or hearing is actually determined in Heaven. A person that appears in the flesh before a judge and/or jury is simultaneously being judged in the Heavenly Court, which scrutinizes the individual’s credits and debits. Once the Heavenly decision is reached, Hashem subsequently instills the “upstairs” verdict in the hearts of the judge and/or jury members in the “downstairs” courtroom.
Even though a person tries his or her best to succeed in court by hiring the best legal counsel, seeking the best witnesses and evidence and carefully preparing arguments a true believer knows that one can’t fool the Heavenly Court. No fast talking attorney can alter the truth of one’s deeds or misdeeds as recorded in the Heavenly Court register. The verdict upstairs will dictate the verdict downstairs. Therefore, to win a court case, one’s plea bargaining should be first and foremost with Hashem.
Sometimes, a person feels that he or she has an open and shut case, with complete success assured. Other times a person may feel that there are no chances of success. Both feelings are false; Hashem decides the outcome, of the case in every event. Therefore, the best way to prepare for any day in court is to carefully examine oneself, confess any and all wrongdoing to Hashem, express remorse for one sins ask for Hashem’s forgiveness, rectify one’s actions and make a firm commitment to improve from this point onward.
Even when a person makes a sincere effort of repentance (teshuva) something that will undoubtedly help one’s case or ease a severe verdict – he or she should be emotionally prepared to accept an unfavorable outcome. One’s efforts at repentance [teshuva] don’t always suffice to clean the entire list of Heavenly debts.
Yeshiva Pirchei Shoshanim
All honor to my Torah Masters
With Torah Blessings from Rabbi Nissim Makor.