Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ki Savo: putting things into perspective

Parshat Ki Savo

In 29: 4-5 as Moshe is describing how he led them through the desert, and Hashem performed miracles, etc.. he says our clothes did not wear out... You did not eat bread, wine and beer you did not drink..

Why not just say Hashem took care of your needs by providing the manna every day? Why mention the foods they did not eat? The miracle was the giving of the manna - why not mention it?

We get used to what we have and consider them necessities. I heard once a saying that what we consider a luxury, our children will consider a necessity. What they consider a luxury, their children will consider a necessity..

Hashem fed us the manna for 40 years in the desert.That showed us we could rely on Him to provide for our needs. That was a very important lesson, especially now that they are going into Eretz Yisrael and going to have lead normal lives.

But here Moshe wanted to point out a different lesson from the same incident. He tells us that we need to approach the incident with an attitude of "Look at what I survived without". All those things I thought were necessary for my daily survival - look at that, I survived 40 years with them. I did not get a new suit every year or two. I did not get new sneakers. I did not have my special foods and drinks. No cranberry juice or Cherry Coke. No steak and Italian breads.

"You did not eat bread or drink wine in the desert" - and you survived without them.

You need to realize what is really a necessity and what is a luxury and look at things properly and with the proper priorities and attitude. Keep things in proportion and do not give too much importance to things that are not really so important.

It is not just that Hashem took care of us, but He also showed us that we can survive without the things we thought were important.

Ki Savo: serving with joy

Parshat Ki Savo

While the Torah is writing about how the people were commanded to write the Trah on stones by the Jordan River and build an altar, etc. it adds in 27:7 וזבחת שלמים ואכלת שם ושמחת לפני ... - you should slaught sacrifices and eat there and rejoice before Hashem.. and then it gets right back to saying that they should write the Torah on the stones.

What does this happiness have to do with what's going - writing down the commandments, etc.? Why is this mentioned right here in the middle of this discussion?

I think this shows how integral joy and happiness is in the serving of Hashem and fulfilling the Torah. As it is telling us to write and keep the Torah it is telling us we have to be joyous.

This thought is enhanced by what is written in the "tochacha" in 28:47 where it tells us the various punishments that will befall the nation in the even that they do not keep the Torah. It says there, "Because you did not serve Hashem with simcha" - Even if you did serve Hashem, but if you do not do it with the joy and happiness, that means it is lacking in its dedication and truth.

A vital component of service is the joy.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ki Seitzei: znus and adultery

Parshat Ki Seitzei

In 22:21:22 we go through various situations of adultery and rape, etc.

When the husband accuses the wife of not being a virgin, and they subsequently find the claim to be true, the Torah says she did a depraved deed and gets punishment of death. The Torah then says , "ובערת הרע מקרבך" - you should remove the evil from amongst you.

When the man has an affair with a married woman, they both get killed. There the passuk says, "ובערת הרע מישראל" - you should remove the evil from Israel.

What is the difference? Why does znus have to be removed from amongst you, while adultery has to be removed from all of Israel?

I do not have a good answer, so leave your suggestions in the comments.

The thought I did have is that adultery is a more serious offense than znus. Therefore the effect it has is not just on you and your community, but on all of Israel. Znus is more private and the offense is not as great. Therefore the effect it has on the people is more limited.

Any thoughts?

Ki Seitzei: biting your lip

Parshat Ki Seitzei

In 21:11 the Torah allows us to take a captive woman from battle as a wife. This was called אשת יפת תואר.
Rashi says that had the Torah not allowed it, this man would have married her anyway, despite the prohibition - so the Torah allowed it. But you should know it is not a healthy relationship and he will end up hating her and having a rebellious child, etc.

Sometimes a person has to bite his lip and keep silent even if he knows someone is doing something wrong and dangerous, and even if you know that that person will regret it later. Sometimes people need to make their own mistakes and learn on their own.

The Torah here does not even suggest don't do it, it is a bad idea and will end badly for you. It just says you want to marry her, go ahead. The Torah is keeping silent on the pitfalls in this situation because it knows the desire is so strong, no matter what it says this man will go ahead and marry her anyway. He needs to learn on his own how bad the situation is, and maybe others will learn the lesson from seeing his mistake. But the Torah stays silent. And sometimes, so must we.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Parshat Shoftim

The Torah tells us that when you appoint a king, he should not accumulate horses or wives. In 17:17 it says, "וכסף וזהב לא ירבה לו מאד" - silver and gold he should not accumulate too much. By the others it just says not too accumulate to many but by money it adds the word מאד - too much.

What is the difference between them that money gets a stronger warning?

It costs a lot of money, and requires a lot of money, to run a country and government. A king does not require a lot of wives. He does not even require so many horses (some for his army, but not so much). But he does need a lot of money.

This is alluded to in Rashi who brings a drasha that he should not have an abundance of money - for himself, but for "achsanya" it is ok. "Achsanya" is defined as money needed to pay for army and servants and the like - i.e. basic functioning of government and the necessary services for the country.

So it is ok for him to accumulate the great sums of money he will need for the functioning of the government, just not for personal needs.

So a king needs a lot of money for the functioning of his government, but he should not look to accumulate too much (מאד). It will become a burden on the nation (via taxes). He should not be looking to increase his personal wealth by being king.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Re'Eh: Eretz Yisrael and mitzvos

Parshat Re'Eh

In various sections of the parsha, and of neighboring parshiyot, we are introduced with intros such as "When you enter the Land of Israel" or "When Hashem expands your borders" etc.. and the Torah proceeds to explain various mitzvos.

I think this indicates to us how important Eretz Yisrael is as a prerequisite to fulfilling the mitzvos properly.

Some of the mitzvos described in these pesukim are mitzvos related to eretz yisrael, but just as often they are general mitzvos, yet the Torah connects them to our being in Eretz Yisrael.

Being in Eretz Yisrael is the way to fulfill all the mitzvos properly and completely.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Eikev: that's all He wants from us?

Parshat Eikev

in 10:12-13 Moshe tells the people "What does Hashem want from you?just to fear Him, to go in His ways, to serve do the commandments... for your good"

Oh, that's it? Just to fear and serve Him? Oh, that's not such a big deal!!??All He wants from us is to keep the 613 commandments as written in the Torah and explained in the voluminous Talmud and codified in the voluminous shulchan aruch? That's it? Why didn't you say so??!! That's nothing!! So easy!! All we have to do is fear Him??!!

I think the key word is the concluding words of the verse "fro your good".

It is like a studious student in college. Sure he has plenty of work to do, homework, lessons, study, tests, labs, internships, etc. to get his good grades and succeed. But he does not think of it as so hard. He knows it is all for his benefit so he does it because he needs to do it for the success he is looking for in the future.

But we are more like the non-studious student. He looks at the work and does not realize that it is their for his benefit. He complains that it is too hard or the teacher gives too much work. Everything is a big deal.

It is a matter of approach and attitude. If we approach the Torah and mitzvos like the studious guy, with the knowledge that it is really for our own benefit, than it is easy. All He wants from us is x, y and z. But if we approach it looking just to get it done, than it is hard.

Eikev: not all at once

Parshat Eikev

In 7:22 the passuk tells us that Hashem will remove the nations [from the Land of Israel] little by little. You should not get rid of them too quickly, lest the wild animals should become abundant and overtake you.

When you take on a big project, you have to do it slowly. You go through stages of planning and deployment. You don't just do it in one day. A recipe for failure is trying to do something, especially something big, too quickly.

Everything needs planning and consideration. Take things slowly. Do things with planning and deliberation. If you do it without getting too excited and anxious, but have patience and thoroughness, you can be successful in your efforts.