Friday, September 3, 2010

Parshas Netzavim–Vayeilech

Something to say

Gather together the people – the men, the women, and the small children (31:12).

In this parshah we learn about the commandment of Hak’hel, for which the entire Jewish nation was required to assemble in the Beis Hamikdash to hear parts of Deuteronomy read by the king.

Rashi cites the Sages’ comment that the men came to study, the women to listen, and the children were there so that those who brought them would be rewarded. At first, this seems difficult to understand. Young children can be noisy and disruptive, and they would probably prevent their parents from being able to listen closely and concentrate. Along these lines Rabbi Nosson Adler asks why the parents had to go through the trouble of bring their little ones to Jerusalem. Would it have been better to leave them at home so that the parents could fulfill the mitzvah undisturbed? He answers that the reward for bringing the children to Hak’hel was greater than any loss or difficulty it entailed. When a child is placed in an atmosphere of holiness, it creates an everlasting impression in his young heart and brings him closer to God. The value of such an experience is incalculable.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Parshas Ki Savo

Something to say

I have not transgressed any of Your commandments, and I have not forgotten (26:13).

Why the apparent redundancy? One who does not transgress obviously has not forgotten. The Sfas Emes answers that sometimes we may perform a mitzvah only out of habit, forgetting the reason behind it. While we may fulfill the commandment, we lack the proper kavanah, intent. Therefore we declare in this verse, “I have not transgressed and I have not forgotten”; we have not only fulfilled the mitzvah, but we have also not forgotten its meaning.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Parshas Ki Seitzei

Something to say:

Forty [lashes] shall he strike him (25:3).

Although the prescribed punishment for one who has committed certain sins is forty lashes, this is actually reduced by one in practice, so that the sinner receives only thirty-nine. The Ma’ayanei Chachomim discusses one reason for this. He says that if a person were to receive the full punishment of forty lashes, he would feel that his sin was totally wiped out, and he might not be careful in the future. The Chachomim therefore reduced the number of lashes, so that the person would continue to examine his ways.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Parshas Shoftim

Something to say:

Our hands have not spilled his blood (21:7).

In the discussion of the Eglah Arufah which we read in this parshah, we are told that when the community’s elders find a murder victim between two cities, they must make the declaration that their hands did not spill the victim’s blood.

The Gemara asks, “Would anyone possibly suspect that the elders of the beis din committed the murder?” The Gemara explains that the elders were actually declaring that they were unaware of this person’s presence in their city, which is why they did not escort him properly and attend to his needs for the road. The implication is that if someone feels that he is alone and uncared for, it can be so depressing that it affects even his will and ability to survive.

The Maharal explains this Gemara further by teaching that every individual has an inner need to feel part of a community, to know that he is not only an individual, but an integral part of the Jewish family. By escorting someone even a few steps from our homes we create an attachment between him and us, and this can provide him with the Heavenly protection extended to the nation as a whole. This intense feeling of belonging something we can provide the guests we host in our homes, and the effort it requires is worth our while.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Parshas Re’eh

Something to say:

And [God[ will give you rest from all your enemies all around, and you will dwell securely (12:10).

The Gelilei Zehav comments that while these two phrases, referring to rest from one’s enemies and security, may appear redundant, in truth they are not. Resting from one’s enemies, rather than being synonymous with dwelling in safety, is a result of the latter. If we dwell securely, harmoniously, and respectfully with our fellow Jews, we will have nothing to fear from the enemies around us. Our sages tell us that if t he Jewish nation would live in harmony, no other nation could rise against us.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Parshas Eikev

Something to say:

It will be that if you hearken to My commandments… (11:13).

In this, the second paragraph of the Shema, God promises that we will be blessed with prosperity beyond the bounds of natural law, if we obey His commandments. Why does the Torah use the expression Shema, to hearken? Shouldn’t it have said, “I f you will perform My commandments”? Rabbi Avigdor Miller comments that taking action is not always in a man’s power, whereas listening sincerely, with the intention to do, certainly is. When one decides to listen to God’s commandments, he demonstrates his willingness and his genuine intention to perform them. It is according to the “listening,” the effort to learn, that God measures one’s acceptance of the Torah and therefore provides him with innumerable blessings.

There’s a famous saying “It’s the thought that counts”. So long as we are sincere in wanting to do Hashem’s commandments, then we get credit for it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Parshas Va’eschanan

Something to say:

And you shall love Hashem, your God (6:5).

The Sfas Emes asks how e can be commanded to love. Is love not an emotion, felt spontaneously rather than produced on command? What should a person do if the doesn’t feel that emotion?

Actually, he explains, a love for God is embedded deep within everyone. The command we are given is to allow this love expression, and to bring it out into the open by doing actions that promote it. One should involve himself in activities that will strengthen this natural spark of love and maintain it in his awareness.

Our actions have a great effect on us. They say if you do not like a person you should do good deeds towards them. This helps you like the person. With Hashem, we already have feelings of love towards Him. We just need to do Mitzvos and engage in activities that bring out our love towards Hashem. So that we feel closer and more in love.