Sunday, September 23, 2007

V'zos habrachah: learning or working

V'Zos Ha'Brachah

Moshe is blessing the tribes before they enter into the Land of Israel without him. In 33:18 it says, "שמח זבלון בצאתך ויששכר באהליך" -
Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out, and, Issachar, in your tents.

Rashi says that Zevulun is mentioned first because he supported Yissachar, ergo Yissachar's Torah was only via the merit of Zevulun.

Our society has become one in which we do not give the due respect to those who support Torah. We consider them to be necessary, but on a lower level. Those learnign Torah, we think, are doing a higher calling and are the pinnacle of Judaism. Those who work are lower class of sorts.

The Torah says otherwise. The Torah puts Zevulun, the merchant, before Yissachar. The Torah says that those who support Torah are at least of equal calling, if not greater. Zevulun was mentioned first because he enables Yissachar to learn.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ha'azinu: studying history

Parshat Ha'Azinu

In 32:7 the "song" says "
Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will tell you, your elders, and they will tell you."

You have to study history and understand the events of the earlier generations. Contemplate the miracles. And the passuk adds to ask your father, ask the elders.

You can study history from the books and still get all the technical details of your history. The major events will be transmitted fine like that.

But that is not enough. You have to also ask your father for his stories. Ask the elders what they know and what they have seen. They will give you a picture of our history that the books are not able to give.

If you want to learn, for example, about the holocaust, by all means, get a few good books and read up on the Holocaust. But that will still not give you the full picture. Speak to your grandmother. Find other survivors. Ask the children of a survivor. You will get the stories and the small details you just cannot get in the books. They will transmit what really happened. What life was really like.

The same is true with any historic event. Study the history. Learn your roots. And speak to the elders. Find out everything, from the greater picture to the smaller details and stories.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Va'Yelech: leading via the Torah

Parshat Va'Yelech

The whole transfer of power from Moshe to Yehoshua was intermingled with Moshes writing down the "shira" and the Torah.

In 31:7-9, Moshe calls Yehoshua and gives him a motivational speech (be strong...) and then Moshe writes the Torah.

In 31:14-19, Moshe and Yehoshua get some instructions from Hashem for the passing of the baton, "And now write the shira and teach it to Israel..."

I think the success of the transfer of power was predicated on Moshe being able to show Yehoshua that an integral part of his leadership is remaining true to and incorporating the Torah as a basis for life. It is not just he, Yehoshua, who needs to be powerful and smart and strong, etc in order to lead the nation into Israel. Rather that strength, that leadership comes from the Torah. It comes from Hashem. It comes from leading with the values of the Torah.

Moshe is showing Yehoshua that if his foundation is the Torah, if his every move is based on the Torah, if the Torah is so ingrained in him, then he will be able to lead Israel successfully.

N'Tzavim: learning in chu"l

Parshat N'Tzavim

In 30:12-13 the Torah says, "
לֹא בַשָּׁמַיִם, הִוא: לֵאמֹר, מִי יַעֲלֶה-לָּנוּ הַשָּׁמַיְמָה וְיִקָּחֶהָ לָּנוּ, וְיַשְׁמִעֵנוּ אֹתָהּ, וְנַעֲשֶׂנָּה. וְלֹא-מֵעֵבֶר לַיָּם, הִוא: לֵאמֹר, מִי יַעֲבָר-לָנוּ אֶל-עֵבֶר הַיָּם וְיִקָּחֶהָ לָּנוּ, וְיַשְׁמִעֵנוּ אֹתָהּ, וְנַעֲשֶׂנָּה" meaning "It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say: 'Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?' Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say: 'Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?"

It is not just a matter of where you can learn better. It is not just saying, dont say I have to cross the ocean to learn Torah, rather you can even learn it where you are (in eretz yisrael).

No. The passuk says ,"and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?"

Some say I can learn better in the US so I will not come to Israel, or some even leave Israel saying he can learn better in the US.

But it is not a matter of where you can learn better (or should I say, where you think/claim you can learn better). Rather, where better will you be able to perform the mitzvos. Where better will you be able to learn and put into action that learning in the form of mitzva observance. For that one need not leave Israel. There is no place better for mitzva observance than in the Land of Israel. There are tens of mitzvos one is simply unable to perform just by the nature of his being abroad.

וישמענו אותה ונעשנה

The learning on its own is important. But it is not the ikkar - the main aspect of Jewish life. If one can learn better abroad, then it might be a valid reason to remain outside of Israel. But the passuk is saying that one cannot claim that he will perform the mitzvos better abroad.

Ki karov aylecha hadavar m'od....

There is nowhere better to learn Torah and perform mitzvos than in Eretz Yisrael