Friday, July 28, 2017

Parshas Devarim Messages 5777

Baruch Hashem, we have the privilege of beginning to learn Sefer Devarim together, which is largely a speech and words of Mussar from Moshe Rabbeinu:  As one of my brothers shlit”a pointed out, we can learn from here the importance of learning Mussar.

 The Sages Say:

 These are the words that Moshe spoke to all of Israel on the other side of the Jordan, in the plain, opposite the [Sea of] Reeds, between Paran and between Tophel, and Lavan and Chatzeiros and Di-Zahav.’ (Devarim 1:1)

 Because they were words of rebuke, and it counts here all the places that they caused anger before the Omnipresent, therefore, the words are vague, and it mentioned them in a hint, because of the honor of Israel. (Rashi HaKadosh).

I.e. Moshe Rabbeinu was rebuking the Jewish People for sins which they had committed, but in order not to humiliate them, he merely alluded to their sins with names of places -- (see his commentary to them). 


A “Lamdanishe” Insight: 

These are the words that Moshe spoke to all of Israel…’ (Devarim 1:1) 

According to Chazal (our Sages), there is a fundamental difference between Sefer Devarim -- which is also called Mishneh Torah -- and the rest of the Torah.  So, what is the difference? 

The Dubno Maggid (HaRav Yaakov Krantz זצ"ל) posed this question to his great teacher, the Vilna Gaon זצ"ל.  Answered the Gaon:   

With the first Four Books of the Torah, the words were heard straight from Hashem, in His Glory, just through Moshe Rabbeinu’s mouth.  As Chazal say “The Shechinah spoke from the midst of his throat.” This level of prophecy was only reached by Moshe.   

But, with the prophecies of Sefer Devarim, they were told over to Bnei Yisroel in the same form as later prophecies.  Moshe Rabbeinu would receive a Prophetic Revelation, and then he would tell it over to the Bnei Yisroel. (Ohel Yaakov, quoted in Talelei Oros). 


Mussar Message: 

How can I alone carry your trouble, your burden and your strife?’ (Devarim 1:12) 

In the annual cycle of Parshiyos, says HaRav Avraham Leib Scheinbaum שׁליט"א, we always read Parshas Devarim, on the Shabbos preceding Tisha B'Av, our national day of mourning.   

An obvious connection to Tisha B’Av, he notes, is the word ‘Eicha’, ‘how’ (in the above quoted verse), which appears in Megillas Eicha, the Book of Lamentations, that is read on Tisha B’Av.  The Vilna Gaon zt”l sees a deeper connection between this Parsha and Tisha B’Av in the third word of our verse ‘levadi’ (alone) -- ‘Eicha esa levadi’, ‘How can I alone carry?’ He noted that a form of this word appears in the beginning of Megillas Eicha, ‘Eicha yashvah badad’ -- ‘How the city sits alone.’ This gives us a clue to the essence of our national tragedy. 

Alone, loneliness, isolated, forsaken, deserted:  Says Rav Scheinbaum שׁליט"א, these synonyms may shed light on Moshe Rabbeinu’s critique and, by extension, Klal Yisroel’s tragedy.  Moshe was used to bearing the nation’s burden.  His complaint was that he was alone.  We may add that certainly Moshe did not need any assistance.  He was quite capable of leadership -- even alone (with Hashem’s Help, of course).   

Is anybody aware of the responsibility placed on the shoulders of our leadership, a responsibility which they shoulder all alone?  Do we empathize?  It would be so much easier to shoulder the responsibility, if he knew that he was not really alone. 

This same problem occurred in Yerushalayim.  In the first chapter of Eicha, a variation of the phrase ‘ein menachem lah’ -- ‘there is none to comfort her’ (Yeushalayim), occurs no less than four times.  This is what we mourn.  Yerushalayim is alone, without anyone to comfort her.  We may suggest that the loneliness which Yerushalayim experienced was not only a product of Klal Yisroel’s seclusion from the other nations.  It was the separation from within, their divisiveness and discord resulting from the Sinas Chinam, unwarranted hatred among them, which was the cause of the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. 

We cannot change what has happened.  We can, however, focus on the source of our suffering, the reason for our misery, in order to attempt to correct our problem so that it happens no more.  Perhaps, with a little more Ahavah, love, for our fellow people, we can reverse the trend of isolation from one another which has caused so much of our suffering.  Let us share the burden with our fellow, ease their plight, or just be available for moral support.   

When we are present for our fellow, he concludes beautifully, we can hope that Hashem will, likewise, be present for us. (The Peninim Anthology). 


Chassidishe Vort: 

These are the words that Moshe spoke to all of Israel…’ (Devarim 1:1) 

The Nikolsburger Rebbe (Rebbe Yosef Yechiel Michel Lebovits שׁליט"א) brings a beautiful story on this verse:   

One day, during the imprisonment of the Baal HaTanya (Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Liadi זצ"ל), an influential Russian minister who was well-versed in Scriptures came into his cell and asked if he could present a question on the Torah that had been bothering him for a while.  

The Torah relates that after sinning with the Tree of Knowledge, Adam and Chava hid out of shame, and Hashem called out to Adam and said to him: "Ayeka -- where are you?" (Bereishis 3:9). "How could it be that Hashem, Who created the entire world and knows exactly what goes on everywhere, had to ask Adam where he was?" the minister asked. "Didn't He know? 

Reb Shneur Zalman replied: "Before answering your question, please tell me if you believe with all your heart that the holy Torah is not a storybook or history book; each and every word in the Torah has an eternal message that is applicable to each person in every generation." 

"I believe," said the minister, "that the Torah is eternal and applies to everyone at all times."

The Baal HaTanya said: "Now you'll be able to understand this verse.  Hashem created each person with a purpose.  Every person has a mission to fulfill, and as the years go by Hashem calls to him and asks: 'Ayeka -- where are you?  What have you accomplished?  What have you done to fulfill your mission?'" The Tzaddik continued: "You are so many years old, with so many months and so many days.  G-d is asking you, 'Ayeka -- where are you?’ What have you done with your life?"

The minister was very moved by Rebbe Shneur Zalman זצ"ל’s explanation, and even more so when he heard the Tzaddik tell him his exact age to the day.  The penetrating question of ‘Ayeka - where are you?’ shook him to the core.  He promised the Tzaddik to do everything possible to free him from prison.

Says the Nikolsburger Rebbe שׁליט"א:  The same applies to all of us.  When Hashem created the world, He had an exact plan for each creation.  Everything He created serves a special purpose.  We must ask ourselves:  What purpose do I fulfill?  When Hashem created the world, He made a special spot for me, so what am I doing about it?  A person who thinks this way will utilize his time in this world and try his utmost to accomplish his life's mission.  Each year that goes by serves as a reminder to listen to Hashem's call. "Another year went by," we tell ourselves, "But Ayeka -- where am I?  What have I accomplished?"
               Each year as we approach Tisha B'Av, he continues beautifully, we must make a collective reckoning:  Another year has passed, and another, and we are still in exile.  The Beis HaMikdash still hasn't been rebuilt.  What have we done this year to change that?  What have we done to bring the Redemption, to spread the glory of Hashem's Name throughout the world and rebuild the Beis HaMikdash?

And now the Rebbe שׁליט"א brings this all to the verse:  The first letters of the Hebrew words for ‘הדברים אשׁר דבּר משׁה אל כּל ישׂראל -- ‘The words that Moshe spoke to all of Israel’ (if you mix them up) spell two words; אדם (Adam), and איכּה (Ayeka):  Moshe Rabbeinu is telling us that Hashem is calling every single person individually -- every Adam -- asking the searing question: "Ayeka -- where are you?!" The word איכּה (Ayeka) has the numerical value of the word לוֹ -- to him.  This question is being asked of every single person individually.  Hashem is speaking to him directly!
                   The word איכּה has the same spelling as the word איכה (Eicha), concludes the Nikolsburger Rebbe, the sorrowful question with which the Tisha B'Av Lamentations begin.  If only we would have paid more attention to the question of Ayeka and thought more about our purpose in life, we wouldn't have to mourn this Tisha B'Av by sitting on the floor and saying Eicha!
May Hashem help all of us that we should be able to fulfill our purpose in life.  We should finally merit seeing these days transformed into days of joy. ‘Call upon me a holiday.’ (Eicha 1:15).  The day will come when Tisha B'Av will be transformed into a Yom Tov, a day of rejoicing.  When will this happen?  When we will all hear Hashem's call; when we will realize that He is "calling upon me!" The time will come when "the lost ones in the land of Ashur will come, as well as the dispersed ones in the land of Egypt; they will bow down to Hashem on the Holy Mountain in Jerusalem" (Yeshaya 27:13).  Everyone will do Teshuva and each person will be helped with whatever he needs.  May we indeed be zoche to greet Moshiach together, may it be speedily in our days, Amein. (
Chazak V’ematz:
One of the overall themes of Sefer Devarim (see above) -- and especially Parshas Devarim -- is Moshe Rabbeinu giving Bnei Yisroel Mussar: 

We can actually see a big Chizuk just from the concept of Mussar -- self-improvement -- itself:  A person is not stuck in one place; we can always get better!  You can be one way, and, with hard work and Hashem’s Help, scale to a much higher level!   

We all have faults; but they do not have to stay -- and we do not have to continue in their path.  A person can erase past sins with Teshuva, and change themselves into a whole new person.  And learning, and following the path of Mussar helps us with this, and also to continue to improve.

What a joyous thing it is to know that we are never “out of reach” or forever stuck with a certain bad way! (Tal U’Matar).


Maaseh B’Rabbi… 

One time, HaRav Leib Chasman זצ"ל was invited to the Chofetz Chaim's  home for the Shabbos evening meal.   

To his surprise, upon returning from Shul, the Chofetz Chaim זצ"ל did not sing the customary Shalom Aleichem (welcoming the Angels which Hashem sends to escort you from the Shul to your home on Shabbos), and he recited Kiddush immediately.  Only after they had eaten the preliminary Gefilte fish did Rav Yisroel Meir start to sing Shalom Aleichem.  

Rav Chasman couldn't help but ask why he had changed the customary order of things.  The Chofetz Chaim זצ"ל smiled, and answered "You were surely hungry, and I wanted you to eat a little something first.  But the Angels (that escort Jews home on Shabbos eve) are not hungry, and they can wait a little." (Sparks of Mussar). 


A Gut Shabbos and a meaningful Tisha B’Av to all!

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