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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum


"The Rock! Perfect in His work, for all His paths are justice. A G-d of faith without iniquity, righteous and fair is He." When you will listen to Hashem your G-D...when you shall return to Hashem your G-D, with all your heart and all your soul. (30:10)

Hashem's judgement is perfect! The fact that we may not understand His ways does not in any manner affect the righteousness of His judgement. We must view every decree that Hashem issues as perfect. The essence of emunah is our belief that Hashem in His infinite wisdom knows what is best for us. We find this concept expressed in the Talmud Avodah Zarah 18b in an incident concerning Rabbi Chaninah ben Tradyon. Together with his wife, he recited these pesukim as he was led to a most terrible and painful death. It is difficult for a human being with limited perspective to comprehend. We have lived in the spectre of the greatest calamity in Jewish history -the European Holocaust. We have heard stories from eyewitnesses who experienced the most inhuman and bestial persecutions. Is it any wonder that so many people ask the question, "why"?

Yet, those who adhere to a Torah orientation do not dare to question the ways of Hashem. The answer is - silence. Just as Aharon Ha'Kohen accepted Hashem's decree, when he faced the tragic death of his two sons with silence, so, too, must we trust in Hashem and remain silent. Chazal relate that when the Romans took the Asarah Harugei Malchus, ten Tanaim who were killed by the Romans, out to be executed in the most cruel manner, the angels screamed out as they witnessed the terrible torture, "Is this the reward for Torah learning?" Suddenly a Heavenly voice rang out, "If I hear another voice, I will return the world to emptiness and void. This is My decree and no one may ask any questions."

This may be a hard concept for many to accept, but the Jew does not question. He believes, he trusts, he has faith in the compassionate Father. We hope one day that Moshiach Tzidkeinu will arrive and reveal to us the secrets that are beyond our human ability to understand.

A very thoughtful analogy from the Chofetz Chaim demonstrates the degree to which Hashem's perspective is disparate from ours. A man once travelled to a distant community on a business trip. He entered the local synagogue to attend the Shabbos minyan. When it came time for Krias Ha'Torah, he noticed to his surprise that the aliyos were given out to the "common" people, as opposed to the more distinguished Rabbinic and lay leaders. He waited until the end of the davening to question the gabbaim, synagogue heads, regarding what he felt was their lack of respect toward the more eminent members of the congregation. They responded with a simple retort, "Had you been here last week you would have seen that the distinguished members of our synagogue were accorded the honor they are due. This week it is someone else's turn." One cannot make a decision or enter a criticism based upon incomplete information. We must closely examine the entire picture before we are qualified to express a critique.

So, too, comments the Chofetz Chaim, is man's sojourn upon the earth. We are here but for a short life span. Yet, we expect to be apprised of all the workings of this world retroactive to Creation! Indeed, we criticize, complain and disparage without being cognizant of all of the considerations involved in Hashem's decision.

This writer once heard a poignant analogy which attempts to address some of life's more trying situations. Life is compared to a needlepoint. One side has a beautiful tapestry, while on the other side are knotted strings of thread, some long, some short, most in disarray. What is in the disarray on one side becomes a beautiful picture on the other side. That represents the essence of life. What we observe here upon this world during our temporary stay is the disheveled side of the needlepoint. We hope for that glorious day when - - with the advent of Moshiach -- we will be able to see the beautiful picture of life wholistically.

"Is He not your Father, your Master?" (32:6)

Horav Chaim Berlin, zl,translated the word "kanecha," as a derivative of the word "ken," nest. This would then mean that Hashem is Klal Yisrael's nest, their home, their source of sustenance and protection. He rendered this interpretation in light of an interesting story that occurred when he was Rav of Moscow. One day a Jew came to him and implored him to circumcise his newborn son - secretly. This strange behavior aroused the Rav's curiosity, and he questioned the man regarding his desire to keep his son's circumcision secret. The man responded that he was a totally assimilated Jew who had absolutely no desire to publicize his ancestry. "If you are so ashamed of your Jewishness," asked the Rav, "why do you want to circumcise the baby altogether?" "You are right," answered the man, "but I do not want to close the door to Judaism for my son." This poignant response indicates the reality that after all is said and done, every Jew, regardless of how far he has strayed from his people, maintains a spark of Yiddishkeit. His neshamah still glows with the warmth of Judaism. Horav Berlin then interpreted the phrase in Shir Ha'Shirim 1:15 "your eyes are like doves," in the following manner: A dove will stray from its nest only so far that it can still keep its nest in sight. The nest serves as a base. The nest radiates a sense of security which renders it indispensable to the bird. The same is true concerning Klal Yisrael. Although the individual Jew will, at times, surrender to his evil inclination and stray away from his roots, he never distances himself to the point of no return. He always leaves the option of teshuvah, repentance, open. This is the interpretation of our pasuk, "Is He not your father - your 'kanecha,' your nest": Regardless of how far you go away, your "nest" is always there - willing to take you back when you have acknowledged your errors. This awareness serves as a security so that the wayward Jew does not to wander too far from home.

"Ask your father and he will relate it to you, and your elders and they will tell you." (32:7)

The people are reproved for their unwillingness to take counsel, to listen to the voice of experience. Those who have lived through ordeals, who have experienced the ups and downs of life, who have seen the reward and punishment incurred by the behavior of previous generations, have advice for us. We must seek out their guidance and listen to their opinion. The voice of experience is not hypothetical. It has lived through various situations and has learned how to handle them.

Horav Aharon Walkin, zl, supplements this idea. The determining factor by which one can discern who is a chacham, wise man, or a rasha, wicked person, is the individual's ability and desire to question. The chacham seeks knowledge, delves into the profundities of Torah, leaves no stone unturned in his quest for perfection. The rasha, on the other hand, believes he has all of the answers. Attempting to "justify" all of his nefarious deeds, he offers an excuse for every one of his iniquitous actions. If he were to ask, he just "might" discover that the Torah frowns upon the action that he is contemplating. The rasha is no fool. He is aware that when he questions the permissibility of a given endeavor, he might receive a negative response. Thus, he refrains from asking.

This disparity between the chacham and rasha is manifest in the difference in attitudes between these two of the "four sons" mentioned in the Haggadah. The chacham questions, while the rasha just makes himself heard. He has no concern for the advice of others.

The pasuk advises us to "ask your father and he will tell you." When you have the sense to ask your father, he will tell you to approach "your elders and they will tell you." Your own father will encourage you to go to his father, your grandfather, for advice. Your own father will not render his own decision as long as he is aware of a voice of greater experience than his. One who has a great mind is inclined to take counsel from the individual who has more life experience than he.

"And Yeshurun became fat and wicked, you became fat, you became thick, you became corpulent. And it deserted G-d its Maker, and was contemptuous of the Rock of its salvation."(32:15,16)

Why is the text redundant? The Dvar Avraham explains that the second part of the pasuk states the reason for the nation's rebellion. What occurred that catalyzed Klal Yisrael's corpulence? What transformed them from G-d fearing, decent, refined human beings into ox-like personalities who would