Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Parshas Eikev 5770: Character traits for worshipping Hashem

In this weeks Parsha three verses show the progression in the character traits to?
worship G-d- from the least desireable to the most desireable. Whar are these verses and how do they show this progression?

This weeks Parsha is Eikev Devarim (Deuteronomy) 7:12-11:25

The three traits beign discussed here are the following;
1) Fear Hashem
2) Love Hashem
3) Cleave to Hashem

Now, the most fundamental aspect as a start to believing in Hashem and following the Torah is expressed very clearly in the brachot as we get up in the morning “Reishis Chochma yirhas Hashem sachel tov l’chol oseihem tehilato l’ad. Baruch shem kavod malchuto l’olam va’ed” “The beginning of wisdom is fear (awe) of Hashem. Clear understanding of what is right (is granted) to all who perform then (the mitzvot) with pure motives. His praise is forever. Blessed is his mighty name and glory (rulership/kingship) for all eternity” (as a side note- the phrases in brackets are added by me to make it more understandable.)

So here we have the basic understanding that we need to fear G-d outlined- though fear here is not as in running in fright, but rather being in awe and fearing his might and punishment as we would any ruler with the right to punish us.

So, now to the verses in the parsha. the firset verse is in Devarim Chapter 8:

6. And you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, to go in His ways, and to fear Him. ו. וְשָׁמַרְתָּ אֶת מִצְוֹת יְ־הֹ-וָ־ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לָלֶכֶת בִּדְרָכָיו וּלְיִרְאָה אֹתוֹ:

This is essentially what the resihis Chchma blessig states- when we follow the mitzvos and do as hashem says, we will come to fear G-d

The next verse is Devarim Chapter 10

12. And now, O Israel, what does the Lord, your God, demand of you? Only to fear the Lord, your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, and to worship the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul, יב. וְעַתָּה יִשְׂרָאֵל מָה יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ שֹׁאֵל מֵעִמָּךְ כִּי אִם לְיִרְאָה אֶת יְ־הֹ-וָ־ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לָלֶכֶת בְּכָל דְּרָכָיו וּלְאַהֲבָה אֹתוֹ וְלַעֲבֹד אֶת יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכָל לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל נַפְשֶׁךָ:

Here we see the next step in the progression- from fear to love which is a higher way of serving G-d- where dowe see this? In the phrase “Only to fear the Lord, your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him”- so if you fear G-d, you walk in his ways, you will come to love him

The last verse is in Devarim Chapter 11

22. For if you keep all these commandments which I command you to do them, to love the Lord, your God, to walk in all His ways, and to cleave to Him, כב. כִּי אִם שָׁמֹר תִּשְׁמְרוּן אֶת כָּל הַמִּצְוָה הַזֹּאת אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם לַעֲשֹׂתָהּ לְאַהֲבָה אֶת יְ־הֹ-וָ־ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם לָלֶכֶת בְּכָל דְּרָכָיו וּלְדָבְקָה בוֹ:

Here we see the final step in the progression- if we follow the commandments, love Hashem, come to enulate his traits by walking in his ways- we will come to cleave to him.

What does “cleave” imply? As in Bereishis 2:24 where it is that a man and his wife become like a single unit- here the same is implied- by cleaving to hashem, man elevates himself spiritually to the point where his will and actions refeltc the will of Hashem

Essentially, at the highest level we see the promise of the Reishis Chochmah belssing fulfilled- we are one with Hashem and therefore, when we fulfill the mitzvot, it is a complete fulfillment that is entirely pure in its motivation and it is as if the will of Hashem and our will is as one. Of course we cannot understand the will of hashem or what it implies completely- but by striving to fulfill this, by striving to walk the path from fear, to love to cleaving- we elevate ourselves and come to fulfill the commandments that hashem has placed before us.

This is based on a shiur found in Biurei HaChofetz Chaim on Devarim parshat Eikev

Note: I welcome corrections, comments, additions to the above.

July 26, 2010 Posted by | Parshah, Torah, Weekly Question/Issue | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Parshas Devarim 5770

Parsha question: How does this weeks Parsha teach us about how studying the Torah heals?
This weeks Parsha; Devarim Devarim (Deuteronomy) 1:1- 3:22

The answer to this is from the Midrash Tanchuma Devarim 2. It brings an interesting idea: At the time of the burning bush, Moshe stated to Hashem that he wcould not speak before Pharoah because of his speech problems.  The Midrash sees in this more than an admittance of a physical problem;  that at the court of Pharoah it was expected that those considered wise could speak in the 70 languages of the 70 nations of the world. However, at that point in time Moshe could not.

Now, as he starts his recap of the Torah this idea is revisited “V’Elu haDevarim” “And these are the words”: though for the subject matter here “Elu Devarim”- these words are the focus. Why? At the start Moshe was concerned about appearing before Pharoah and speaking even for a short time, now, after learning Torah for 40 years in the desert, he begins a discourse before the entirety of Bnei Yisrael that lasts for 30 days! More than that, the Midrash records that this discourse was given in all the 70 languages of the nations of the world thus when he calls on the Earth and sky to witness.  They also witness that when Moshe expounded on the Torah at the end of his life, it was not just in a fashion that could be understood by the Jewish nation, but in a way that could be understood by the entire world.  Yet for all that, the rest of the world still rejected Judaism and clung to idolatry.

July 14, 2010 Posted by | Parshah, Torah, Weekly Question/Issue | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Parsha Matos Masei 5770: Question

Parsha Questions: 1) In this weeks parsha G-d commands Moshe to gather the army to fight Midian as a last?
act prior to his death. How do we know the tribes were reluctant to go to war knowing it would lead to Moshe leaving to his death?

2)Eleazar states that items should be purified according to its use- i.e. items used with fire are cleansed with fires, items normally cleaned with water are cleansed with water. This seems immenently logical, yet Elazar calls these laws a “chok”- a category of law that implies there is not a logical reason for them. Why is the term chok used here?

This weeks Parsha; The double portion of Matos Masei Bamidbar (Numbers) 30:2-36:13

The answer for the first question is from Midrash Tanchuma on this parsha. The midrash states that Moshe could have extended his life by postphoning the battle with Midian. Moshe was always zealous to carry out the commandments and will of G-d thus he immediately gave the order for the tribes to send 1000 men each to go to war. However, the men did not wish to go as they did nto want Moshe to die- thus first it states that a thousand were given from each tribe and then in Chapter 31 6. Moses sent them the thousand from each tribe to the army, them (…) ו. וַיִּשְׁלַח אֹתָם מֹשֶׁה אֶלֶף לַמַּטֶּה לַצָּבָא אֹתָם(…)

Why did Moshe have to send them even though it had been recorded that he had already ordered them to war? Because the army delayed to try and extend Moshe’s life!
Question 2’s answer is from” Darash Moshe “- commentary on the Torah by HaRav Moshe Feinstein zs”l on Parshas Chukas. there he makes an interesting observation: it does not say “This is the chok (decree) of the red heffer” but rather “This is the chok (decree) of the Torah”. Now, a chok is a specific category of law that is seen to not have a rational explanation, but is rather something that is decreed by G-d and thus we do it regardless of whether or not we understand it. This is the epitomy of the statement that Bnei Yisrael made when they stood at mount Sinai when they received the Torah “We will do, and we will understand”- in other words, we will do the entire Torah regardless of out undertsanding. HRav Feinstein points out that this statement encompasses the entire Torah, not just the parts referred to in chukim- thus at the parah adumah (red heffer), the Torah reminds us that we dedicated ourselves to follow the ENTIRE TORAH as a decree from hashem regardless of our understanding! every law, every commandment in the Torah is as much a chok, a decree, from G-d that we have undertaken to perform regardless of out level of undertsanding.

Now this explains why the Torah explictly calls the Parah adumah a chok- it is an example of a decree we cannot understand but perform since the entire Torah is a chok we agreed to uphold, and why the Torah calls the purification of utensils a chok even though it appears to be sological, because it, too, is part of the chol fo the Tprah and thus something we do regardless of whether or nto we understand or agree with the understanding of the law.

At a more esoteric level, the association of a seemingly logical law with the term chok serves to remind us of something else: the law seems logical to us, but do we truly understand it? Can we understand a law that was given to us by G-d/ Does our understanding truly reflect every aspect of the law as understood by G-d? Can us, as finite beings, understand what G-d intends from the law? Do we have a full understanding of the ramifications and every nuance of this law? Obviously these questions have to eb answered: NO, we cannot understand G-d, his thought processes, his intentions etc. Thus we have to treat each and every law as a chok regardless of how logical it seems! Why? Imagine if we decided that some laws can be fully and completely understood and that nothing was lacking in our understanding. So, with our complete understanding we look around and decide that the reason for the law is gone and thus we can ignore it- after all, we have fully understood it and every nuance, why do something not necessary? Thus the Torah calls a logical law a chok, why it calls iteself a chok- our understanding can never be perfect- and thus we have to continue to do each and every law regardless of whether or not it makes sense to us!

July 6, 2010 Posted by | Parshah, Torah, Weekly Question/Issue | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments