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Parshas Eikev

It's D`je Vu All Over Again.
by Rabbi Yosef Levinson

"It will be that if you hearken to my commandments that I command you today" (Devarim 11:13.)

Chazal (the Sages) teach us "B'kol yom yihiye b'einecha k'ilu hayom nitra- every day we should look at the Torah as if it is being given today." This concept is alluded to in this week's parsha and in many other places in the Torah. This week's parsha contains the portion of V'haya im shamoa ,the second section of Shema, , in which we affirm our acceptance of the mitzvos. Even though Moshe taught the Bnei Yisrael this parsha over three thousand years ago, we still recite daily 'It will be that if you hearken the mitzvos that I command you TODAY.' The Torah uses the present tense to give the reader the impression that he is not reading an historic account, rather he is presently experiencing this passuk.

It is commonly understood that Chazal's statement to look at the Torah as if it is being given today is an exhortation to always approach Torah and mitzvos with freshness and enthusiasm. Every mitzva should be valued and cherished for one acquires eternity through its fulfilment. Chazal teach 'better one hour of repentance and good deeds in this world, than the entire life of the world to come' (Avos 4:22).

It is related that in his last moments, the Vilna Gaon began to weep. Even though the Gra knew what treasures awaited him in the afterlife, he held his tzitzis and said, "I bought this garment for such a little bit of money, yet every day when I wore it, I was able to fulfil such precious mitzvos. In Olam Haba, even this simple mitzva is not possible to fulfil. I am weeping for this is my last opportunity to fulfil mitzvos."

This is true in regard to any mitzva - all the more so with Talmud Torah, learning Torah. The Gra writes that we fulfil the mitzva of Talmud Torah with each word that we learn and each mitzva of Talmud Torah is equivalent to all the other mitzvos combined (Peah 1:1). No matter how much wealth one accumulates, one always desires more "Mi sheyeish lo manna rotzeh masain" - when someone has one hundred dollars, he then wants two hundred (Makkos 10a). We must realise that Torah is the ultimate treasure. Each time we review our learning or repeat a mitzva we are accumulating wealth. We should be excited to be presented with this opportunity.

There is also an additional meaning to this Maamar Chazal (teaching of the Sages). Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv, the Alter of Kelm, writes that in our youth we are taught the fundamentals of Judaism, namely, Yetzias Mitzrayim - the Exodus from Egypt, Matan Torah - receiving of the Torah, the basic mitzvos, Shabbos, tzitzis, tefillin and many areas of Chumash and Gemara. As we grow older and mature intellectually, we learn new subjects and mitzvos with our advanced abilities. Yet, we still approach the mitzvos and learning of our youth as we did then. The Gemara says it is harder to learn something old than something new (Yoma 29a). When we learn something new we know we do not know this subject and we use all our mental abilities to grasp the topic. However when we review something that we already learnt, we feel we understand the subject matter completely and do not concentrate fully on our studies.

The Alter says this is what Chazal meant. We should constantly view the Torah as if it is being given today. No matter how many times we have learnt something or performed a particular mitzva, we should try to approach it as if it is the first time we are learning or observing it. Often when we really apply ourselves, we raise difficulties and wonder why we never asked these questions before. When we view the Torah and mitzvos as something new we will come away with a wealth of insights and in that sense, it IS a new Gemara or a new mitzva. No matter how well we master a particular passage, there are always new insights to be gained and new meanings to be learnt. (Chachma U'Mussar 1:83).

Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky zt"l brings out this point beautifully with the following mashal (parable). A boy who turned three received his first tallis katan (pair of tzitzis). The child looked adorable in the small tallis katan, it fitted him well. At the age of four, it was no longer a perfect fit, but he could still wear it. If the boy were to don the same tallis katan at the age of ten or bar mitzva, he would rightfully be the subject of derision. For an adult to continue wearing the same garment would be ridiculous. If we do not re-evaluate our approach and knowledge of mitzvos, then we resemble the child who continues to wear his first tallis katan into adulthood.

May we always view the Torah as something new. This should be reflected both in our enthusiasm and joy for learning and mitzvos and in our search to deepen our mastery of Torah and make our fulfilment of mitzvos more meaningful.

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