Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Parshat Vayeilech

In 31:13 Moshe is instructing the people regarding the mitzva of Hakhel. Every shemitta year when the people will come to the Temple during the Festival of Sukkot, the king is to read the whole Torah so they should hear and listen and learn to fear Hashem and keep His Torah. In passuk 13 Moshe then says "And the children who did no tknow will listen and learn to fear Hashem, etc.."

Why did the children not know? We educate our children all year round? We send them to school to learn Torah every day and describe the miracles of the exodus from Egypt and the desert? Why do they not know? Are we only to instruct them once every 7 years?

"The children who did not know" - sure we teach them. We send them to the best schools for them to learn Torah. We fulfill the mitzva of "And you should tell to your children" every Pesach seder. We teach them all the time. But they still do not know - it is not firsthand knowledge and cannot really be categorized as knowing it internally.

The next generation (and all subsequent generations) learns and hears and studies, but it is never going to be firsthand knowledge like that of those who experienced it, and therefore do not internalize it the same way.

By coming to a mass meeting once in 7 years with the whole nation to learn Torah together and review the events of the Torah that is the best and closest way to convert all that information they had learned into a sense of being together as one nation with a common goal of serving Hashem and developing this knowledge and sense of awareness.

Just a role

Parshat Vayeilech

in 31:7 Moshe tells Yehoshua that he will be taking over and bringing the nation into the land of Israel. Instead of using the word to bring, "תביא", he says to come, "תבוא". Moshe says Be strong and courageous for today you will come [with?] the nation into the land... Why does he not say you will bring them in, as he says later?

Moshe says Tavo, you will come, because he is telling Yehoshua that he will not really be the leader. He will not be leading them into Israel. Hashem will be the leader. Sure, Yehoshua will have a role to play in directing them and being the go-between between the people and Hashem, but Moshe wants to make sure Yehoshua never forgets that he is not the leader, rather just one of the people despite his important role.

Life in the Land

Parshat Nitzavim

In the last section of the parsha, Hashem is informing the nation that they have a choice between good and evil, between life and death. In the last passuk of the parsha, in 30:20 He suggests to the people that they choose life so you will live and to love Hashem to listen to His words and to adhere to Him, for that is [the source of] your life and longevity, so that you will live on the land that He has promised to your father, etc.."

Keeping the Torah is synonymous with loving Hashem, as that is what it means "to listen to His words and to adhere to Him".

Loving Hashem is the source of your life and doing so will bring about the ultimate goal of living in the land, for that is the only way we can fulfill out potential as a people.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

curses and blessings

Parshat Ki Savo

In Chapter 27 Moshe is setting the nation up to receive a set of blessings and curses. The representatives of the tribes are setting up on the mountains of Gerizim and Eval and when the Levites called out a blessing towards those on Mt. Gerizim and they respond amen and then the corrsponding curse towards Mt. Eval and those standing there would call out amen.

The interesting thing I noticed is that the Torah, when listing the blessings and curses, only lists the curses. If it was going to choose one or the other, why did it choose the curses and not the blessings? Another reason for the assumption is that the blessings were mentioned first and the curses second, so the first item (blessings) is what should have been listed in the Torah, if only one was going to be listed? Furthermore, a few verses later the Torah lists a number of generic blessings for listening to the word of Hashem and then it lists the corresponding curses for not listening - if it listed both the blessings and the curses there, why not here as well?

I have not thought of a satisfactory answer yet at this point. Maybe one of my readers can suggest an answer... if you do please post it in the comments.

When searching through the commentaries, I noticed that the Seforno deals with the issue of why only the curses were mentioned.He suggests the reason to say it in the form of the curse was to separate the curses so only the people deserving of the curse will receive it, rather than all of Israel. I did not completely understand hsi reasoning and why it is true, and am still looking for an answer..

Good for nothing

Parshat Ki Savo

In 28:68 the Torah is nearing the end of the "tochecha" section. This is a big warnign containing a long list of horrible calamities that will befall the nation if they stray from the path of Torah observance and dedication to Hashem. The pasuk says, "And you will be returned to Egypt in boats in the way I had said you would never see again and there you will be sold as slaves and maidservants, yet there will be no buyers."

What is the great calamity? After reading about horrific tragedies waiting to befall us such as going crazy, eating your own children, destroyed by the enemy, crops not growing, among many others. After all that, not being bought as a slave does not seem like such a horrible punishment! So what is the big deal that this is the final threat in the warning?

I would like to suggest that this really is a real threat. It is a threat to a persons psyche. everybody wants and needs to know that his life and being has some sort of value. If I cannot even be sold as a slave that means I am pretty much worthless. I am a good for nothing.

By warning us that nobody will even by you as a slave, Moshe is warning the nation that they will be made to feel worthless and good for nothing. That, as we all know, can lead to depression and a horrible state of mind.

That is the threat of the passuk and that is how it fits into the context of the tochecha.