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Climb the MountainMoreinu V'Rabbeinu Rav Zeidel Epstein, zt"l, Ha'aros, vol. V, parshas V'zos Habracha, ma'amar 42.
And this is the blessing, with which Moshe, the man of God, blessed the people of Israel before his death. (Devorim 33:1) Who shall ascend into the mountain of the Lord? Who shall stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands, and a pure heart; who has not taken My name in vain, nor sworn deceitfully. (Tehillim 24:3,4)
"Who shall ascend into the mountain of the Lord?" This refers to Moshe, as it says, "And Moshe went up to God…" (Shemos 19:3). "And who shall stand in His holy place?" This refers to Moshe, as it says, "For the place on which you stand is holy ground" (Shemos 3:5). "He who has clean hands." This refers to Moshe, as it says, "I have not taken one donkey from them…." "And a pure heart" This refers to Moshe…. (Devorim Rabba 11:2)
Moreinu v'Rabbeinu the Mashgiach of Grodna, the Gaon and Tzaddik R. Shlomo Harkavi, zt"l (Hashem should avenge his blood), commented that this Midrash is not merely a general praise of Moshe. Rather each detail was a separate quality. "Who shall ascend" represents the quality of a steady and constant climb, undaunted from all obstacles and unmoved by all distractions around him.
"And who shall stand in His holy place?" Climbing is not the only issue. Once one has ascended, one has to stand firm in his place. This quality was personified in Moshe Rabbeinu on his lofty pinnacle. After the Giving of the Torah at Har Sinai the people were instructed, "Return to your tents." Even the holy Aharon went back home. Moshe was the only one who merited being instructed, "And you shall stand here with Me." This was his quality of "stand in His holy place."
There are many levels of "standing in one's place." A person needs much encouragement in order to remain in his place. Rashi (Bereishis 6:9) tells us that the difference between Noach and Avraham was that Avraham was the master of personal inspiration; Noach required constant support.
The Mishna relates that "the original Chassidim used to meditate an hour before tefilla and an hour after tefilla" (Brachos 30b). We understand that they needed time before davening to prepare themselves to "stand before the king." But why did they have to wait after prayer? And why so long? What did they need an hour for? The answer is that they had to come down from the lofty height that a person attains while praying, a plateau called "the height of the world - øåîå ùì òåìí. They were standing before Hashem, face to face. To descend from this pinnacle to the material world was very dangerous and might harm them in some way. Therefore, they needed to proceed with caution and slowly lower themselves to take their tefilla with them into the world of action and physical life.
This status of "Who shall stand in his holy place" is of course a very lofty one. But even on our lowly plane we have an obligation to see to it that we stand firm and not be blown away by just any gust of wind which is liable to change our conduct or our footing.
"For a tzaddik falls seven times…" (Mishlei 24:16). This is usually explained that a tzaddik should be ready to pick himself up as soon as he falls. This is a misunderstanding. "The tzaddik falls seven times," is an integral part of his spiritual ascent. It is expected that he will stand up and then fall, and then stand up again. "Many are the afflictions of the righteous" (Tehillim 34:20). He is constantly sent difficulties in order to conquer them.
This is the difference between the tzaddik and the rosha. The tzaddik also encounters difficult times and failures. However, he immediately stands up and inspires himself with self-encouragement. The rosha, however, "Evil shall slay the wicked" (ibid. 34:22). He wallows in his one downfall and collapses, totally giving up on life.
This is a person's job in this world: always remember that this world is like a short wedding. Enjoy it while it lasts. Don't surrender to the yetzer and remain there defeated for any duration of time. Immediately gain strength and return to your work. Be happy and praise HaKadosh Baruch Hu for giving you the opportunity to attain everlasting life. Rav Avraham Pam, zt"l, once explained the possuk, àùéøä ìä' áçéé - "I will sing to Hashem in my life" (Tehillim 104:33). This doesn't mean I will sing only while I am alive. Rather, I will sing on my life. (áçéé can be translated either "in my life" or "on my life.") If HaKadosh Baruch Hu gives me the gift of another day, and I am still alive; on this alone it is worth singing. One has to realize that he cannot lie there fallen, thinking that he has time to get up later. Hurry and get up immediately. The Mirrer Mashgiach, Rabbeinu Maran R. Yechezkel Levovitz, zt"l, developed this idea from the Mishna: "R. Tarfon said, 'The day is short and there is much work to be done. The workers are lazy, and the boss is pushing'" (Avos 2:15). Simply taken we understand that the boss is urging us on to do our job. However, there is another explanation. We have to hurry because the Shechina is hurrying. It is, so to speak, as if HaKadosh Baruch Hu won't wait for us. He is in a hurry and will not wait for anything. He is skipping over mountains, jumping over valleys (Shir Hashirim 2:8) and cannot wait for even a second. We can picture this like a person who wants to go somewhere with his friend. He sets a time when he will be passing by his home to come pick him up. Knowing the fellow would not wait for him he was very anxious. Any time he hears a knock on the door he quickly hurries to answer it, even if he was in the middle of his meal or doing something important. He knows that if he hesitates his friend will pass by and he will miss him. This is what R. Tarfon was encouraging us to realize. A person's attitude in his job in this world must be to perform mitzvos and good deeds promptly knowing that "the boss is in a hurry and is pressing for time." [It is a fascinating fact that this was the last speech R. Yechezkel gave in the yeshiva. "He didn't see, but his mazal saw" (Megillah 3a; Sanhedrin 94a).]
This is what Rabbeinu Yona remarks (Sha'are Teshuva, Sha'ar 2:19), "Even if a person would live many years, even several thousand years, still, his days are numbered, and eventually will run out…. Man's days are like a fleeting shadow. 'The days of our years are seventy; and if we are strong, they are eighty years… it is soon cut off, and we fly away' (Tehillim 90:10). 'Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow' (Tehillim 144:4). Chazal comment on this (Bereishis Rabba 96:29; Koheles Rabba 1:3): 'Not like the shadow of a tree, nor like the shadow of a wall. But like the shadow of a flying bird which quickly passes.' This means that a person must imprint in his heart that this world is like the passing shadow of a flying bird and in a short moment passes."
Rabbeinu Yona has produced a powerful thought for us to contemplate: a person must internalize the feeling of the briefness of this world. He must constantly remind himself that his whole life is merely a small fleeting shadow that passes and is gone.
Gut Yom Tov!
Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
Yeshiva Gedolah Medrash Chaim
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