Friday, August 12, 2016

Parshas Devarim Insights and Tisha B'Av

Parshas Devarim and Tisha B'Av:

This week’s parsha is Devarim, and it begins the Book of Devarim.  It is noteworthy that the Sages tell us that this Sefer/Book was spoken by Moshe himself, however, it was not quite Moshe.  Explain the Sages, the Shechinah/Hashem’s Presence spoke from Moshe’s throat.  Now, this book is mostly Moshe Rabbeinu recounting things that happened in the Wilderness to the Jews, and giving them rebuke and Mussar.  It is very fitting that this parsha comes right before Tisha B’Av, because we get this Mussar and rebuke, to think about trying to change our actions.  Maybe what we have been doing is wrong.  Maybe we have been rebelling against Hashem.  This is something that we are supposed to get from rebuke.  It is telling us what bad we have done, so we can fix it!  Now, if a person is, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid haughty and arrogant, then they likely won’t want to listen to the things that people have to say about them, unless they are saying something good about them.  But if somebody tries to give them rebuke, then they will probably not listen to it, not take it to heart, argue with the person, and defend themselves – thinking almost nothing bad of themselves.  How will they then get better?  How will they repent to Hashem for their misdeeds?  They most likely won’t realize or think bad things about themselves, so they won’t think about things to repent for, and so they won’t repent wholeheartedly, thinking ‘What have I done wrong?’ or ‘I am so great’, etc.  A person must be able to recognize their own faults, and realize when they do a bad thing.  Don’t let your Yetzer hara/Evil inclination get hold of you, so that you will, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid not realize your faults.  It is even worthy to Daven/pray to Hashem to reveal your faults to you.  And now we see one of the great things of rebuke:  If you haven’t realized all of your faults (or even close to all) then this rebuke will help you realize them.  Then you can fix them!  So don’t, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid get angry at a person who gives you rebuke (even if they don’t do it the right way), learn from it!  If you can get good out of something, get it, because you might not have that opportunity again.  This is, in effect, one of the concepts which the Bostoner Rebbe (Rebbe Mayer Alter Horowitz shlita) told me:  He basically told me not to look too, too much into the future, but more in the present, because the opportunities I have now could be once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, and I can’t pass them up.  Also, that right now is right now, and if I spend too much time looking into the future, I will waste right now!  And then I will have wasted so much precious time for possible growth!  And, in fact, this goes for everybody and for all times.  And, on the topic of rebuke and realizing faults, Tzaddikim/righteous people used to (and likely still do) Daven/pray to Hashem to reveal their faults to them.  Why don’t we?  Don’t we want to realize our faults too?  Ah, but it seems to me that most people don’t actually want to hear their faults, or bad things about themselves.  Either this, or we don’t look deep enough at our actions, and we might, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid be blinded by our Yetzer hara/Evil inclination into not seeing our faults, and only seeing the good things about ourselves, as we discussed earlier.  There are many instances in history where people would not accept rebuke, and so they even got violent.  Such as when people tried to beat the Noam Elimelech (Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk zt”l) for rebuking them, and I believe it happened a descent amount in the Books of Neviim and Kesuvim.  We all need to be able to take rebuke, and learn from it, so that we can correct our failings, B’Ezras Hashem Yisbareich/With the Help of Hashem, He is Blessed.  And, since Parshas Devarim always falls on The Three Weeks, (this year it is the day before the Fast of Tisha B’Av), let us discuss how we can connect this idea to Tisha B’Av.  How?  Let me try to give a possible answer:  As we know, both Batei HaMikdash were destroyed because of the Jews’ sins, and Tisha B’Av is the day on which both of them were destroyed.  And we know that if we had taken rebuke better, realized our sins more, and actually tried to fix them(!), then the original Beis HaMikdash likely would have never been destroyed.  But what can we do about it now?  What is done is done, right?!  Ah, but this thing is not done.  Because, as we know, with the coming of the Mashiach, Hashem will rebuild the Third Beis HaMikdash (may this come very speedily in everyone’s days).  And if every Jew repented to Hashem, then it would come right now!  So this is how we can all rectify what happened in the past:  By all of us returning to Hashem with all our heart, and serving Him in truth!!  And, in this merit, we will be able to greet the Mashiach very speedily in our days, and we will see the Third Beis HaMikdash, built by Hashem – which will never be destroyed – very speedily in our days.  May Hashem help everyone to do this, and may He make this happen very speedily in everyone’s days, Amein!  Let us all try to repent fully to Hashem, and may this be the last Shabbos in Galus/Exile, Amein!  These are some good thoughts and intentions for Tisha B’Av and the Nine Days. 
Ok, now on to the parsha:  The first passuk/verse is ‘Eileh HaDevarim asher diber Moshe el kol Yisroel, bi’eiver haYardein, bamidbar, ba’aravah, mol suf, bein Paran u’vein Tophel, vi’Lavan va’Chatzeiros, vi’Di Zahav/And these are the words that Moshe spoke to all of Yisroel, on the other side of the Jordan, in the Plain, opposite (or towards) the [Sea] of Reeds, between Paran and between Tophel, and Lavan and Chatzeiros, and Di Zahav.’ 
There are many commentaries on this, which I will quote:  1) First, Rashi quotes from Sifri, which explains that these “places” that the Torah enumerates here actually refer to the times when the Jews angered Hashem, but Moshe did not want to say the sins explicitly, so as not to embarrass the Jews.  We will, B’Ezras Hashem/With the Help of Hashem, enumerate the explanations soon. 
2) Why would Moshe speak the words to ‘all of Yisroel’?  Rashi quotes from Sifri, which explains that he did this, so that there wouldn’t be people who could say that if they were there, they would have listened to the rebuke, but they weren’t.  Therefore, he rebuked ‘all of Yisroel’. 
3) Asks Rashi; why does it say ‘in the Wilderness’, if they were, at the time, in the Plains of Moav?  So he explains that the Torah here is referring to when the Jews had done bad things and angered Hashem ‘in the Wilderness’, when they said (Shemos 16:3) ‘If only we had died [by the Hand of Hashem]’. 
4) Rashi quotes from Sifri, again, which explains that by saying ‘in the Plain’, the Torah here is referring to when the Jews sinned in the Plains of Moav with worshiping Peor (Bamidbar 25:1-9). 
5) Rashi quotes this time from Gemara Arachin 15a, which explains that the Torah says ‘opposite (or towards) the [Sea] of Reeds’, as a rebuke to the Jews, because of the fact that they rebelled at the Sea of Reeds (twice!). 
6) Rashi quotes from the Midrash, where Rabbi Yochanan says that we have received the entire Torah, but we have not seen any place called Lavan or Tophel!  And he explains that they refer to when the Jews complained about the Mon/Manna, because they spoke foolishly (Taphlu – from the same root word as Tophel) about the Mon/Manna, which was white (Lavan).  And he also said that it could refer to when the Jews sinned with the Miraglim/Spies. 
7) Rashi quotes from the Midrash, which explains that ‘Chatzeiros’ can refer to the sin of Korach and his assembly, which took place in Chatzeiros.  And he also quotes from Sifri, which explains that it could also be referring to the sin of Miriam when she spoke against Moshe, which happened in Chatzeiros, yet the Jews did not learn from that not to slander, and they slandered Hashem! 
8)  Rashi now quotes from the Midrash, Sifri, and Gemara Berachos 32a, which explain that ‘Di Zahav’, can mean ‘Enough gold’.  And this can refer to the Cheit HaEigel/Sin of the Calf, where Hashem had granted the Jews ‘enough gold’, but they used it for a sin!  We should never use anything that Hashem has given us (which is essentially everything!) for bad, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid. 
9) So, also, Rabbeinu Ephraim ben Shimshon zt”l explains that the word ‘Eileh/These’ has the Gematria/numerical value of 36.  And the word Devarim has the same spelling as the word dabarim/leaders.  So he says that, as we know, there have to be (and are) 36 special Tzaddikim/righteous people in each generation.  And this verse teaches us, if we take the Gematria/numerical value of the word Eileh/these (36), with translating the word Devarim as dabarim/leaders, that the real leaders of each generation are the 36 special Tzaddikim/righteous people that we have.1 
10) Now let us get into some Chassidishe Mefarshim/commentaries:  The Alter Rebbe (Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Liadi zt”l) explained that when, in Parshas Bereisheis, after Adam and Chava sinned, they hid, and Hashem called out to them, asking where they were (איכה), it is the question that He asks every person.  Hashem knows where everybody is, of course, so he could not have been asking where in the Garden Adam and Chava were hiding.  But, as Reb Shneur Zalman zt”l explains, Hashem asks every person, ‘Ayeka/where are you?’ meaning; where are you in life?  Are you doing what you are supposed to and moving forward?  Where are you?  Hashem knows where we are, but He wants us to recognize where we are and come back to Him in truth.  So, what does all this have to do with this passuk/verse here?  Explains the Nikolsburger Rebbe (Rebbe Yosef Yechiel Michel Lebovits shlita):  The first letters of the words ‘הדברים אשׁר דבּר משׁה אל כּל ישׂראל’, if you switch them up a bit, spell ‘Adam ayeka/Adam, where are you’?  And he adds that this that the Gematria/numerical value of the word ‘איכה’ is 36, which is the same as the word ‘לו’, which means ‘to him’.  This teaches us, he explains, that Hashem asks this question to every single person directly – to you!  Where are you in life?  And he even continues, and explains that the word איכה’ (Ayeka) has the same letters as the word ‘איכה’ (Eichah), as in the thing which we read on Tisha B’Av.  This teaches us, explains the Nikolsburger shlita, that if we all had only asked ourselves ‘ayeka/where are you’ before, then we would not be mourning now, and reading Eichah on Tisha B’Av.  We would we really good people, and Mashiach would have already come!2  But now, we must start with this (if we haven’t already been doing it), and we must keep asking ourselves this question, and continue moving forward in serving Hashem.  Hashem should help everyone to do this, Amein, vi’Amein.  This is  such a big lesson for Parshas Devarim, Tisha B’Av, and really, all times!  And we must take it to heart, and, With the Help of Hashem, put it into action.  
11) There is a Chassidishe Master, who explains that the words ‘vi’Lavan va’Chatzeiros/and Lavan and Chatzeiros’, come and teach us a lesson:  He explains that we learn from these words that if somebody thinks that they are lavan (which means white), meaning that they think that they are clean of sin, then they are only in ‘Chatzeiros’, which can come from the word for courtyard.  Meaning that if a person thinks that they are a great person, then they should know that they are only in the outer courtyard of serving Hashem and sanctity, and they are not even close to the inner, and higher levels.3  This is a big, big lesson.  Don’t think that you are great:  Realize your faults!  This is like what we discussed earlier. 
12) Okay, one more Mefaraish/commentary for this passuk/verse:  So in this verse, one of the “places” enumerated is Di Zahav.  There is a Chassidishe Master, who explains that this can mean ‘enough gold’ (as we saw in the Rashi earlier).  However, this can come to teach us, he explains, that a person must realize that they have ‘enough gold’!  Meaning that whatever Hashem gives you, is enough, and it is what you are supposed to have.  So don’t get ungrateful and always want more (in material things), be happy with what Hashem gives you!  We have ‘enough gold’, as it were, and we need to start appreciating what Hashem gave us, and gives us.4 

Ok; that was the first passuk/verse of Parshas Devarim, with a lot of commentaries. 
Have a wonderful, wonderful Shabbos everyone!
Refoel Berel

1©.  'Parashat Devarim Gems 5775.'  Shiur given by HaRav Moshe Meir Weiss shlita. 
2©.  'Parshas Devorim, Shabbos Chazon - Where are we?'
3©.  'Chassidic Gems Devarim3 24.'  Shiur given by HaRav Elyakim Rosenblatt shlita. 

4©.  'Chassidic Gems Devarim3 24.'  Shiur given by HaRav Elyakim Rosenblatt shlita. 

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