If you don’t see this week’s issue by the end of the week, check http://parshapotpourri.blogspot.com which may be more up-to-date
Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues
Parshas Eikev - Vol. 3,
Compiled by Oizer Alport
Eretz asher Hashem Elokecha doreish o’sah tamid einei Hashem Elokecha bah me’reishis ha’shana v’ad acharis shana (11:12)
Parshas Eikev contains a passage which extols the many virtues of the land of Israel, which the Jewish people would be entering shortly. The section concludes by proclaiming that although Hashem controls the entire world, His primary attention is constantly focused on the land of Israel. However, a careful reading of the verse seems to reveal a glaring lack of parallel structure. The verse mentions the beginning of “the year”, but concludes by referring to the end of “year.”
The Satmar Rebbe explains that Parshas Eikev is read near the end of the summer, as our vacation periods come to an end. The realization that the Shabbos on which we bless the month of Elul is only one week away serves as a wake-up call that the time for examining our ways is just around the corner.
Every year, a person gets excited about this opportunity for spiritual rebirth, eager to improve his deficiencies. He convinces himself that this will be “the year” of all years, the year in which he is finally successful in addressing the issues which have haunted him throughout his life. He makes a list of the areas he plans to rectify. Upon its completion, he becomes filled with enthusiasm, convinced that he is on the home stretch to becoming the new person that he always dreamed of.
Unfortunately, the sad reality is that the evil inclination is only too happy to let him repeat the process he engages in every year. It knows that with the passage of time, his dreams will be forgotten for another year as he becomes distracted by the responsibilities of everyday life. As the year draws to a close, he will look back with disappointment and realize that the year which he was sure would be “the year” was in reality just another ordinary year. The Torah hints to this phenomenon by referring to the start of the year as the beginning of “the” year and the end of the year as merely the end of (yet another typical) year.
However, the Rebbe provides an insight full of consolation. In the Kedushah said during Mussaf (Nusach Sefard) the chazzan declares, “He is our G-d, He is Our Father, He is Our King, He is Our Savior. He will save and redeem us a second time, and will tell us in His mercy for all to see: ‘I have redeemed you at the end (of time) as at the beginning, to be to you for a G-d.’”
The Rebbe homiletically suggests that Hashem hints to us that we will be redeemed from the current exile “acharis k’reishis” – when the end (of the year) is like the beginning (of the year). The time will come when we won’t just begin the year excited that this will be “the year,” but when we will be able to look back at the end and declare proudly, “This was indeed ‘the year.’” When that time comes, Hashem will bring the ultimate redemption, may this be “the” year!
V’haya im shamoa tishm’u el mitzvosai asher anochi m’tzaveh eschem hayom l’ahava es Hashem Elokeichem ul’avdo b’chol l’vavchem uv’chol nafsh’chem (11:13)
The Torah commands us to serve Hashem with all of our hearts. The Gemora in Taanis (2a) derives from here the obligation to pray, which is considered the service of the heart. The Gemora in Bava Kamma (92a) teaches that if a person prays on behalf of somebody else when he himself needs that same thing, he will be answered first.
It is traditionally understood that this procedure works as a reward for the selflessness demonstrated by somebody who desperately needs something himself, yet is able to magnanimously overlook his own personal needs to pray for another person in need of that very same thing. Will this technique still be effective when a person needs something and knows of somebody else who needs the same thing and prays for that person only out of a hope that doing so will cause him to be answered, or must the prayers for the other be genuine in order for this method to work?
A man once approached Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein to ask him this very question. Rav Zilberstein answered based on the explanation given by the Maharal of this concept. The Maharal writes that Hashem is the source of all blessings which come to the world. However, in order for His blessings to descend upon a person, there must be a conduit which connects that person to the Heavenly source of goodness and facilitates the transfer. One such channel is prayer. When we pray to Hashem, we connect ourselves to Him and allow Him to bestow His bounty upon us. When one prays on behalf of another and his prayers are answered, he becomes the channel which links his friend to the Divine source of blessing.
When a person uses a hose to water his lawn, the hose – which serves as the conduit for the transfer of water – becomes wet even before the grass does. Similarly, a person who merits serving as the medium by which Hashem bestows blessing upon another becomes “wet” with the goodness even before it reaches its target. Therefore, although it may be contrary to conventional wisdom, the power of prayer is so great that one who prays for his friend, even for ulterior motives, will still merit to be answered first!
V’limadtem osam es b’neichem l’daber bam (11:19)
Rashi writes that when a child learns to speak, his father should teach him Torah so that his first words are words of Torah. He adds that one who neglects to do so is considered as if he has buried his son. Although it is admirable to begin a child’s education with holy matters, why is one who fails to do so judged so harshly, especially when he can fix his error by subsequently teaching his child Torah?
Understanding the following Medrash will help us answer this question. The Medrash relates that on the night after the construction of the first Temple was finished, Shlomo HaMelech got married. The combination of the two celebrations was a cause for tremendous joy.
In order that Shlomo shouldn’t wake up early in the morning, his new wife hung a sheet on top of his bed and drew on it pictures of the moon and stars so that when he would wake up, he would think it was still the nighttime and would continue to sleep. On that night he slept uncharacteristically until four hours after sunrise, and the Jews waiting eagerly to offer the morning sacrifice had to wait until that time, as the keys to the Temple were underneath his head.
When his mother heard that the sacrifice was being delayed due to his sleeping late, she went to woke him up and rebuked him quite soundly. Although it would have been nice to bring the sacrifice at the earliest possible time, nothing was lost as it was offered four hours after sunrise, which is still within its acceptable time range. Further, Shlomo did nothing wrong as he was rejoicing with his new bride, and he had only slept late as a result of her deceiving him. Why, then, was his mother so upset with him?
Rav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro answers that Shlomo’s mother understood the importance of a proper beginning, both to the Temple and to one’s marriage, as everything which happens subsequently is an outgrowth of that foundation. She therefore wanted to emphasize to Shlomo that no excuse in the world justifies damaging the foundation of a new project.
Similarly, Rav Yerucham Levovitz explains that the entire success of a tree’s growth is determined by its beginning – the time of its planting. Rashi is teaching us the power of the beginning, which forms the foundation for a child’s entire life. Everything which will transpire subsequently is an outgrowth of that basis. Although it is possible to undo the damage which was caused by poor “planting,” the strong and solid foundation will still be missing for life.
As the summer draws to a close, we return to our daily lives. Whether we are returning to a new zman in yeshiva or the new school year, to our jobs or caring for our families, we should internalize this lesson, making sure to plant solid foundations which will help ensure success in all of our endeavors throughout the year to come.
the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) The Baal HaTurim writes (8:8) that the verse extolling the land of Israel for its seven unique species contains 10 words, which correspond to the 10 mitzvos which were involved in the production of the bread. How many of these mitzvos can you name? (Yerushalmi Challah 1:6, Baal HaTurim 8:8, Tur Orach Chaim 167)
2) While rebuking the Jewish people for the sin of the golden calf, Moshe mentions (9:17) that upon seeing the calf, he “grabbed the Tablets and threw them from his hands to the ground. Why did he need to grab the Tablets when he was already holding them? (Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh)
3) Rashi writes (9:20) that Aharon’s sons died as a punishment for his role in the sin of the golden calf. How can this be reconciled with Rashi’s comment (Shemos 24:11) that they died for inappropriately gazing at the Shechinah at Mount Sinai and with the explicit verses (Vayikra 10:1-2) which say they died for offering a foreign fire in the Mishkan? (Rav Eliyahu Mizrachi)
4) The Gemora in Menachos (43b) derives from 10:12 that one is required to recite 100 blessings daily. Are women included in this obligation? (Halichos Shlomo 22:25, Shu”t Shevet HaLevi 5:23, Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 2:129, Shu”t Rivevos Ephraim 3:47, Piskei Teshuvos 46:8)
5) The Gemora in Taanis (2a) derives from 11:13 the obligation to pray to Hashem. It is the opinion of the Rambam (Hilchos Tefillah 1:1) that this is a Biblical obligation, although he maintains that one is Biblically required to pray only one time daily at any time of the day. Why isn’t the Rabbinical enactment to pray three times a day at fixed times considered a violation of the prohibition (4:2) against adding on to the mitzvos? (Halichos Shlomo Tefillah Vol. 1 pg. 1)
© 2008 by Oizer Alport. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute as long as credit is given. To receive weekly via email or to send comments or suggestions, write to email@example.com
Shema Yisrael Torah Network